Matt Kimmel, a Syracuse City councilman who has a background in commercial real estate, recently referred a real estate agent to a North Davis Sewer District official to represent the district in buying land. Kimmel, who is a member of the sewer district board, recused himself from a vote on the deal because he expected to receive a business referral fee for his small but integral part in the deal.
After a sewer district member complained about Kimmel's role, the Davis County Attorneys Office is now reviewing Kimmel's part in the deal. Kimmel, in response, says that if the finder's fee violates any criminal or ethical statute, he will not accept any money for his role in the transaction.
In our opinion, it's unlikely that any criminal statute, or perhaps even a rule, was broken by Kimmel. However, the transaction underscores a persistent problem in Utah politics where inside information or insider connections can, and sometimes do, lead to pols either profiting themselves or allowing friends and family to make a few dollars.
The solution is simple: Under no circumstances should a pol's public, taxpayer-funded position be used to advance his or her private job or interests, interior or exterior.
In other words, keep business out of politics.
We see similar ethical lapses in jobs being created for elected officials' family members, unlimited campaign cash being dumped on legislators and ethical loopholes that allow large numbers of pols to gather with lobbyists without proper scrutiny. In Kimmel's case, he says he would have offered disclosure earlier "had I known the land sale was going further."
The best solution is to make sure that Utah has tough ethics rules in the state. So long as the Legislature dithers on ethics, passing Band Aid-type laws every once in a while and ignoring other unethical behavior, the type of incidents that have crept up in Syracuse will occur elsewhere.