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Centerville holds special city council meeting to address fundraising controversy involving mayor

Posted at 5:36 PM, Aug 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-07 19:49:09-04

CENTERVILLE, Utah — The Centerville City Council held a special meeting Saturday to address an issue involving Mayor Clark Wilkinson.

At a recent city council meeting, a resident raised concerns about a Facebook video shared on the page called “Centerville Cares.”

Wilkinson is the director of Centerville Cares, a nonprofit dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

The video appeared to support his campaign for reelection.

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Centerville Cares is an organization that benefits from city fundraising.

The issue raised by the resident indicated a potential conflict of interest of a nonprofit led by the mayor appearing to support a political candidate.

Saturday’s meeting began with the mayor explaining how the video was shared to the Centerville Cares Facebook.

“One of the members of the Centerville Cares community, on the Facebook page of Centerville Cares, thinking that they were in their own personal Facebook page, posted that video to Centerville Cares,” the mayor said. “We are regretful that took place. It was taken off the Centerville Cares Facebook page and in talking with legal counsel, this should not affect the foundation of the city at all.”

George McEwan, a member of the city council and candidate for mayor, believes the video speaks to a broader issue.

He raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest when an elected official is a director of a nonprofit that receives funding from the city.

“It’s doing some great things — there is nobody that disputes it’s done great things for the community. However, its relationship with the city has remained murky,” McEwan said.

The Centerville city attorney indicated Centerville Cares should remove all branding that would connect the organization to the city. She said items like the logo, address and e-mail address should not be the same as those of the city since the nonprofit is not operated by the city.

The council agreed and voted unanimously to require the mayor to change the logo, e-mail address and physical address of Centerville Cares.

They set a time frame of one month to as soon as possible for the changes to be made.

One council member indicated why he was not comfortable placing any more limitations on the nonprofit.

“If you take this down the wrong road, you curtail the ability for people who have been successful to make contributions to organizations that would significantly benefit from that leadership,” said Councilman Bill Ince. “I don’t want to do that.”

The outcome of the special city council meeting appears to resolve this issue just days before the primary election.

“Today, the council spoke clearly that it is a good organization,” McEwan said. “However, it does need to be separated from the city, which is the right outcome.”

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