Salt Lake City Mayor Spokesman Outed for Anonymous Comments on Salt Lake Tribune Website
A long-time spokesperson for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has been placed on paid administrative leave for making political statements under a pseudonym on the comment section of the Salt Lake Tribune’s website.
An employee with the Salt Lake Tribune linked several comments posted under the name WhiskeyPete back to Becker’s Spokesman Art Raymond, by way of his city government email address. Raymond’s comments criticized Becker’s opponents in the Salt Lake City Mayor’s race as well as the city government reporter who writes for the paper, which some equate to campaigning on the city’s dime.
Helen Langan is director of communications for the mayor.
“You know we were surprised because Art’s been a really great city employee,” Langan says. “And this is clearly uncharacteristically poor judgement on his part.”
Becker’s opponents were quick to respond to the blunder. Mayoral candidate Jackie Biskupski said in a statement Becker failed to set proper standards of behavior and systems of accountability within his administration.
Mathew LaPlante is an assistant professor of journalism at Utah State University and a former journalist for the Salt Lake Tribune. He argues no one should expect privacy online, especially public figures. He believes Raymond could have expressed himself in an ethical way.
“If Art on his own time, on his own computer, in his own space says hey look I work directly with the mayor, and not speaking as an employee of the city but speaking as somebody who sees the mayor from day to day, let me tell you how this person who is criticizing the mayor is wrong. It’s so much more powerful,” LaPlante says.
The administration has directed the city’s human resources department to determine if Raymond violated any laws or city polices.
Art Raymond was not available for comment on Friday.