LEHI The Lehi Chamber of Commerce does not endorse or campaign for candidates in the municipal election, a chamber official said Thursday.
Increasing tensions in the upcoming Lehi election have left the politically neutral Chamber of Commerce in the center of heated debate, with challengers complaining it is unethical for high-profile chamber members to be involved in incumbent campaigns.
Chris Jones, the chamber's vice chairman, joined chamber president Heather Miller in a political action committee called Citizens to Re-Elect Mayor Greenwood.
But Jones said his signature was not necessarily given as an endorsement of mayor Kenneth J. Greenwood's campaign for re-election.
Miller has been criticized for her role in Greenwood's campaign, given her status as a part-time city employee. She says she is campaigning for the mayor as a resident, on her own time and without city resources, and has not used her position in any way.
Jones said he has not worked on Greenwood's campaign in any way, even though he is listed as one of the PAC's members, He added that he would have joined a PAC started by the other candidates if asked to do so.
"I encourage political activity," Jones said. "If people are going to form a group to drive people to the polls and raise the issues, I'll sign off on it."
Jones denied allegations that as the moderator of a chamber-sponsored Meet the Candidates night he edited questions to give incumbents an advantage.
Supporters of Howard Johnson, Greenwood's opponent in Tuesday's election, say Jones omitted the second half of a question they submitted, which asked candidates why some campaign signs are illegally posted in the city.
Jones only read the first part of the question, which asked candidates if they believed in the rule of law.
Jones said the reason he didn't ask it was because of time concerns, not political ones. The question did not say it was for incumbents, and Jones said he did not know that some residents had accused incumbents of illegally posting signs.
"At that point, we were 35 minutes into the debate and already two minutes over (time)," he said. "With those multi-part questions, you don't have any idea how long it's going to take to get through them."
He also did not see the value of asking the question, even if some of the candidates were guilty of the accusation. "The second part of that question is more polemic," he said. "I mean, what do you expect them to say?"
Jones said he has moderated debates across the nation and his goal was to provide a fair and equal forum."I'm willing to state that I not only tried to do so, but that I succeeded in doing so, and that debate was conducted without any bias whatsoever."