A Salt Lake City councilwoman questions why Council Chairman W.M. "Willie" Stoler helped select the investigator to probe a rumor of illicit deal-making between the council and a local bank when Stoler admits his name is connected with the rumor.
Stoler, however, said that although he was present at a meeting Monday where names of investigators were discussed, he was not involved in the selection of the investigator.Former assistant state attorney general and one-time Salt Lake City Commissioner James L. Barker will investigate rumors council members promised a bank would win a $23 million financing package worth $40,000 in fees.
The City Council serves as the RDA's board of directors.
Last week the RDA ordered a probe of a rumor aired by Councilman Tom Godfrey that one or more council members cut a deal with Zions First National Bank giving it the $23 million bond package for developing Block 57.
The investigation is supposed to locate the source of the rumor and determine whether it's true, according to a measure passed by the RDA.
Stoler and Councilwoman Florence Bittner both say they have been named in the rumor but deny they made promises to the bank. Zions officials also deny the rumor.
Stoler, RDA Director Mike Chitwood, RDA attorney William Oswald and RDA Vice Chairman Wayne Horrocks selected the candidates for the probe, Horrocks told reporters Tuesday. Other City Council members were not included, he said.
Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck questioned Stoler's involvement.
"Why was he involved in selecting him when the first part of the investigation was to find out if it was true? And Willie already said he's part of the rumor," she said.
Stoler said he wasn't involved in the selection process but was at the meeting where a list of four candidates was drawn up because of his familiarity with investigations as a former police officer and deputy police chief.
Barker was a police commissioner when Stoler was a member of the force and has also served in the Salt Lake City attorney's office. "I think with that kind of background, I think Mr. Barker is above reproach," Horrocks said.
Horrocks called the investigation a "fact-finding" probe and said no subpoena powers likely will be necessary. "If no one has anything to hide, there's really no need for subpoena powers," he said.
One city department head has already been contacted by Barker, and Mayor Palmer DePaulis said the administration will cooperate with the investigator.