WVC Council openly reprimands Winder for actions with the press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 6 2011 8:32 p.m. MST

WEST VALLEY CITY — The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to issue an open letter of reprimand against Mayor Mike Winder, saying his dishonest actions with the media were outside the scope of his authority.

"We are disappointed in the actions that you took with respect to the press and the additional measures you took to hide your initial misconduct," reads the letter of reprimand, which Winder also voted for favorably.

"While we appreciate your tireless efforts to promote the positive side of West Valley City, we do not condone dishonesty in any of its numerous shades of gray," the letter said.

The vote in Tuesday's City Council meeting came after Winder read a letter of public apology directed at residents as part of the meeting's official opening.

He said his intentions to promote what's good in the city "backfired" when he began writing articles under a false name, or pseudonym, for online media outlets such as www.ksl.com through Deseret Connect, a freelance contributor network that funnels stories to partners that also include the Deseret News.

Winder created a false identity and began writing under the name Richard Burwash after he said he was frustrated by the lack of local community news in the Deseret News other than negative stories off the crime beat. His works first appeared in the Oquirrh Times in September of 2010 and a photo credited to R. Burwash appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune in October 2010.

He fessed up to the ruse after he said he learned the Deseret News has a policy against using pen names for any of the articles it publishes.

"This public confession has not been comfortable," his letter reads. "But the most painful part of this whole process is any embarrassment I have caused to the city I deeply care about. ... I have learned a good lesson and will never do something like this again."

Winder, who had been the public relations director of The Summit Group, resigned from his post in mid-November, saying he had "tarnished the reputation of the agency and its employees," with his actions.

On Tuesday after reading his apology letter and receiving the reprimand, Winder said he hopes the city can begin to heal from the controversy.

"We turned a page as a city tonight," he said.

Carolynn Burt was the only City Council member to address the scattered residents in the crowd and she said she wanted to be on record to explain why a reprimand was appropriate.

"I want the people to know this is not something we've taken lightly," she said. "This is not for the purpose of punishing the mayor ... he's a good man. This is to separate the council form the actions of our mayor which were incorrect and unauthorized."

Resident Connie Prows said she was disappointed in the cavalier way the meeting was handled and believes it is appropriate for Winder to resign.

Winder said he has no intentions.

"There was nothing criminal done. It was mischief."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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