Incestuous lobbying? It's not a problem at least not yet several Salt Lake County officials said Tuesday, despite one councilman's concerns about the cozy relationship the county's longtime lobbying firm has with Real Salt Lake and the city of Sandy.
The Tetris Group is balancing the interests of all three groups, much to the chagrin of Councilman Mark Crockett. But despite his concerns, he said it's none of his business to pursue a criminal probe into the relationship.
"I apologize for appearing to lead some sort of jihad against this," Crockett said after the Salt Lake Tribune reported he was pondering a criminal probe. "I'm not suggesting wrongdoing. I'm just suggesting it would be very difficult for people to keep all these interests straight while representing all sides of an issue. That's problematic."
The majority of the County Council is happy with The Tetris Group's lobbying efforts so far, but the relationship could turn sour soon, Councilman Michael Jensen said.
So far, there hasn't been a conflict with the county, Sandy and the interests of the Major League Soccer team, Jensen said.
The only bill being considered now by the Utah Legislature that impacts all three sides is one the county is not lobbying heavily for or against. HB371 would allow Real Salt Lake to use hotel tax increment funds to pay for property and infrastructure costs for a stadium in Sandy.
"In the coming months we can argue that that's where the issue is going to come up, as we're sitting down with Real and we have Tetris at the table trying to negotiate with Sandy, Real and us," Jensen said. "Right now, up on the Hill, there is really not a conflict."
Still, Crockett and Councilman Jim Bradley said the council needs to review its lobbyist policies to ensure the county is receiving proper representation without conflict.
"We're not sure we're being disadvantaged," Bradley said. "This is something we need to look very closely at."
Councilman Joe Hatch criticized Crockett for speaking out in the first place, especially with one day left in the legislative session. He said most people on the council knew of Tetris' unique relationship with all three sides and that as of yet, no problems have come up.
"I don't know where you've been the last few months, but many of your questions have been dealt with," Hatch told Crockett at Tuesday's County Council meeting.
If Crockett has an ax to grind about the $41 million in public funding for the soccer stadium, so be it. Just don't openly criticize the council, Hatch said.
"I don't mind people being opposed to the stadium," Hatch said. "Attack the principles of the public funding for the stadium don't attack the process unless it's not fair."
And so far, it has been, he said.
Crockett said he only spoke out to shed light on what could be viewed as an ethical lapse in a county that has been plagued by scandals."I'm not sure something wrong was done, but it's time we look at this again," Crockett said. "If this is how our lobbyist situation ends up, I'm not comfortable with that."