- Erin Mendenhall and Kyle LaMalfa
I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm pretty sure the most touching thing I've ever read in a local newspaper occurred yesterday. With but six short words, The Salt Lake Tribune brought me to tears. They were attributed (as in purely sourced, true as best they can ascribe, and certainly not anonymous because the Tribune doesn't do that. Ha!) to Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa.
"I want to be with Erin," read the Tribune headline, followed by the secondary and less-engaging news that "Salt Lake City Councilman LaMalfa giving up seat to be with Councilwoman Mendenhall." I didn't know whether to pee or to cry, so I cried. With laughter.
You might recall that on Nov. 13, 2014, our online news section revealed that Kyle and Erin (yeah, let's go first name here; screwing the public trust is an informal matter, you know) were involved in a not-so-secret tryst over at City Hall. Tongues were wagging enough for some to begin a slightly noisy whisper campaign about the propriety of two elected officials sitting on the same council having a dalliance that may have interfered with their judgment on citywide matters. One day, we got information that all but challenged us to look into the matter.
So our reporter, Colby Frazier, began asking questions. Nothing happened. A month went by, then nearly another, when whoosh, what can safely be called a cascade of new information was presented to Colby. Apparently, City Hall became embroiled in a sudden bit of a panic, and plenty of people wanted the media to know about it.
Call him crazy, but Colby is just one of those guys who thinks taxpayers should be apprised of conflict-of-interest matters, no matter whose bull is gored. As it turned out, it was our bull that was gored after the story ran. People who failed at catching wedding bouquets and garter belts from all over the state chided City Weekly online and on social media for having the temerity to probe (no pun) into matters they believed should have remained private. Let's put it simply: If Kyle or Erin had been sleeping with anyone outside of public office, we would agree that no violation of public trust had taken place. We just would have laughed and whispered, and called it a day.
We might even have turned our heads if their horizontal cha-cha partner in question were a religious figure, a convicted criminal or a feral animal, since, you know, lots of that happens in Utah already. Their partners were each other, though, winking and nodding. Brazen enough even to take a trip together to study some non-important issue in some distant location on the city's dime. Did anything improper occur on that trip? Dunno. Only two people know. But it sure stinks to high heaven. Why? Because until yesterday, when one said he would not seek reelection so that both of his hands could be in the cookie jar, they were each public servants. That means they have our trust, and it cannot be blended with their own lack of it.
Fortunately, a goodly number of people think that matters. Soon after our goring in the spiderweb of social-media public opinion, a different and very vocal set of persons began commenting. They, too, agreed that if you are elected to public office you are held to a higher standard—even if the standard is the low bar set by the Salt Lake City Council. City Weekly was taking the hit on something that was really quite obvious—the story was true. The two parties knew it, and everyone around them knew it. For their supporters who remained in the dark, learning that the white-picket-fence existence of their council officials was a mirage became almost too much to bear.
Soon enough, an apology or confession of sorts came via an article in The Salt Lake Tribune and on social media (where Kyle revealed his teenage propensity for shallow thinking about women, followed by an insipid Facebook post about his affection for Erin).
That was the first time the Tribune took a potshot at City Weekly for running with a story citing anonymous sources. They've whacked us enough on that one—it's like they're trying to give us greyscale. Barely able to withhold their joy at getting the scoop on Kyle's "wanting to be with Erin" moment, the Trib noted yet again in its May 11 story that our anonymously sourced story precipitated all this. Damn! If we had just kept quiet, Kyle and Erin could be farting rose petals and living happily ever after. The Tribune did not seem to regard Kyle's departure from the City Council as a fall from grace at all, but as a love story, a veritable fairy tale (one comment-board writer compared Kyle to King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne of England in 1936 in favor of his amour. Yech!).
No. It was a calculated statement falling just one day after Mother's Day. Ya gotta love politicians, eh? Saving Glendale Golf Course can wait.
Kyle was previously regarded as a man of the west side, a person who worked hard for his district, come hell or high water. Some saw him as an aspirant to higher political office. But high water came, revealing him as a putz like the rest of us. And here's something: Erin is regarded as a very attractive catch. If she were not, Kyle would be getting spanked. But, in our beauty-crazed world, Kyle is canonized for his ability to make such a catch. No one faults Erin, not even for her crappy taste in west-siders. And most certainly, not the Tribune.