Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said Thursday the decision by some 911 dispatchers to stuff envelopes with fliers in support of Proposition 1 was an "error in judgment."
Burbank said he put a stop to the envelope stuffing once he found out about it. But he said the dispatchers will not face disciplinary repercussions. Furthermore, he said the police labor union, who made the fliers, has agreed to not mail them.
"No propositions or new buildings are worth compromising the integrity of our organization," Burbank said.
Proposition 1 calls for a $192 million taxpayer-funded bond to pay for new public safety facilities in the city, including an emergency operations center and a new fire station for the west side.
Burbank classified the envelope stuffing as a case of poor judgment and not an attempt to abuse taxpayer dollars. If dispatchers had been stuffing fliers while they were off duty and outside the public safety building, Burbank said he would have had no problem with it.
"When employees are off-duty, they can advocate whatever political position they want," he said.
Nevertheless, Burbank said he accepted full responsibility for the actions of his employees, calling it an "inappropriate use of resources."
The incident began when an employee who works in a supervisory position, who was not identified by Burbank, asked if any dispatchers wanted to volunteer to stuff envelopes. Approximately 40,000 envelopes were filled with fliers. Only dispatchers that were on a break or had some down time put the fliers in envelopes, Burbank said. Emergency dispatch service was not ignored or compromised during this time, he said.
Fliers were mainly stuffed by people working the graveyard shift, Burbank said. Between 14 to 16 people normally work during that shift.
Burbank, who is a strong supporter of Proposition 1, said the department would like voters to make an informed decision when they go to the polls in two weeks but added that advocacy needs to be done in employees' off time.
None of the 40,000 envelopes that were stuffed were mailed out. Burbank said the labor union fully intended all along to pay for the shipping of the letters. Now, however, the letters will stay in a box in the police department. To avoid any more bad press, Burbank said the union has agreed to not mail the fliers.
If Proposition 1 is approved, the Salt Lake City police and fire departments would get the financial go-ahead to build five new public safety structures on three properties. The bond has come under fire from some who say it's too much and police have attached too many unnecessary extras.The police department is holding an open house today, inviting the public to see the agency's deteriorating facility at 200 South and 315 East for themselves.