The Utah Taxpayers Association says as long as Utah County did not pay for radio advertisements promoting last month's special bond election on the special events center, the organization will not pursue the matter.
The association became concerned when ads promoting the election ran on KSL and KALL radio saying they were sponsored by the Utah County Travel Council. The Travel Council has contracts for ad time on both stations, and the election ads ran during those slots.Soon after the ads ran, Howard Stephenson, president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, contacted Travel Council Director Michael Mack and said using taxpayer money to pay for the ads violated election laws.
Mack said he researched the matter and discovered that Stephenson was probably correct. Using Travel Council funds, which come mainly from the transient room tax, to promote the special events center is not inappropriate, but using tax money to support a bond election is, Mack said.
"When I ordered the ads I didn't consider all the implications our support would have," Mack said. "But I later found out that with an election involved, the ads were inappropriate."
Mack ordered the ads after being asked by Commissioner Malcolm Beck to do something to help the committee promote the special events center. Both Mack and Beck said they did not realize there was a problem until they were contacted by Stephenson.
"The Travel Council's job is to promote tourism and how else are you going to do that other than by advertising? I don't think it should matter if we're promoting a function or a building, as long as they both benefit tourism," Beck said.
Last week the Travel Council received bills for the 25 ads totaling about $1,600. Mack gave the bills to Beck Thursday. Beck said the bills will be paid for with private donations.
Stephenson said the taxpayers association was not attempting to make the matter public or negate the election. He said the association hoped the county would solve the problem internally, which appears to have happened.
"I am encouraged from what I have heard. The county realizes that it wasn't appropriate and is correcting the problem. We are not saying that this in any way changes the outcome of the election," Stephenson said.