SALT LAKE CITY -- The spokesman for Mayor Ralph Becker has been put on leave while the city investigates a series of online comments he made.
Art Raymond was outed by the Salt Lake Tribune as a commenter on its website, criticizing stories and some of the mayor's re-election campaign opponents. The Tribune reported on Friday that it traced his pseudonym "Whiskey Pete" to an IP address at City Hall. Raymond told the newspaper he commented while on breaks and did not believe it violated the city's policies.
"It's really hard to watch what we think are bullies saying things that we don't think are true and fair, so from a human standpoint we understand where he was coming from but unfortunately, he used poor judgment," said Helen Langan, Becker's Director of Communications, said in an interview Friday with FOX 13.
Raymond is on leave while the city's human resources department investigates if any laws or policies were violated with the use of city computers or taxpayer-funded time. City policies do allow some minimal use of equipment for personal use.
"Mayor Becker has always conducted himself -- and it's really something he imparts on the staff -- in a way that's civil and respectful," Langan said.
Raymond declined to comment to FOX 13 on Friday. In a statement, Becker campaign spokesman Matt Lyon said they "had nothing to do with this."
"We've been running a campaign talking about Mayor Becker’s success and merits to be re-elected. Although I understand that individuals close to candidates get frustrated by political spin and the loose use of facts, the campaign certainly does not condone or support this type of behavior," he wrote.
In a series of statements, Becker's four challengers placed blame on the mayor. Below are parts of their remarks:
"Over the years, Mayor Becker has created an atmosphere of pettiness and a lack of transparency. He has surrounded himself with like minded people with his immediate staff and certain department employees. They believe they are the exception and unaccountable and Mr Raymond's behavior reflects that. Yet another reason why we need a new Mayor."
"News today of unethical and possibly illegal activity by a key member of the Mayor's senior staff is yet another example of the Mayor's failed leadership. Add to this the claims of sexual harassment in the police and fire departments and it is clear the Mayor has failed to set proper standards of behavior and systems of accountability within his administration. As the Mayor of Salt Lake City, I will convey a clear message to all staff about what is acceptable behavior and the ethical standards expected of all city employees."
"Sometimes elected officials do something so dumb that you have to laugh and move on (after thinking 'how dumb are you Ralph?'). I think that Art Raymond's actions are in that category. Just tell the Mayor to release all emails (as if he would release any) and let's laugh and move on (unless there is something else in the emails like all those sexual harassment allegations that we hear rumors about)."
"So can we stop talking about Whiskey Pete and billboards and talk about issues?"
"The line between the Mayor’s Office and Ralph’s campaign has been blurred for months. When you see city announcements immediately followed by campaign messages on the same issue, it’s not hard to sense the coordination. David Everitt, the Chief of Staff, has been heard around city hall saying that everything they do must be considered through a campaign lens."
"The Tribune caught Art Raymond playing both sides of the game, illegally I might add, and Ralph’s poll numbers are slipping. Like with Chris Burbank, the Mayor and his chief of staff have no problem passing responsibility onto someone else and throwing them under the streetcar."