Mysterious ad, Web site make political waves
October 7, 2008
Creators of an anonymous Web site and newspaper advertisement are making political waves in Park City by accusing county officials of favoritism and dubbing the controversy "TDRgate."
TDR stands for transfer of development rights and refers to rules that allowed landowners in the Snyderville Basin to transfer density from one parcel to another.
"The County lost millions of dollars when it sold back TDR lots at a steep discount to favored developers without a public process," a Wednesday advertisement in The Park Record stated. "The County cannot accurately account for public assets over the past 10 years created by [TDRs]."
The ad states it was paid for by Bob Benidetto and also appears at the anonymous oursummitcounty.org Web site.
But Park Record Publisher Andy Bernhard said he could not confirm Benidetto even exists.
"The ad came from an agency and I had assumed that the agency understood the requirements and regulations that pertain to political advertising, and that the agency verified and identified the advertiser," Bernhard said. "When it came to my attention that the identity was in doubt, I contacted the agency who was unable to satisfy my concern."
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Friday a woman from the ad agency named Carla Pitcher agreed to pay for the advertisement.
The controversy comes as Summit County voters prepare to elect the first five-member Summit County Council to replace the County Commission.
Republican Summit County Attorney David Brickey said he "would take exception" with the "TDRgate" reference.
"I’m old enough to have sat through and watched the Watergate hearings and when you attach the phrase ‘gate’ to governmental action, it’s attributable to being criminal in nature," Brickey said.
He rejected accusations that TDR transactions have lined the pockets of private developers at the expense of taxpayers.
Brickey said he searched the Internet and was unable to find somebody in Utah named Bob Benidetto.
"I then checked the yellow pages, white pages and I checked our voter registration [Benidetto] should write a book on how to disappear," Brickey said.
Brickey said the first person he heard use the term "TDRgate" was Greg Ericksen, an attorney who is battling Summit County in court about a development project at Quinn’s Junction.
"It was probably first utilized by Mr. Ericksen," Brickey said. "That is the first time I heard it used within that last year."
But Ericksen denied knowing about oursummitcounty.org or the advertisement this week when reached via e-mail on Friday.
"I don’t know what you’re talking about," Ericksen wrote when asked about the scandal.
Brickey countered that "Ericksen has real incentive for pushing what he is."
"[Ericksen] has represented, as of late, that he has no property interest in that Quinns’s Junction partnership," Brickey explained. "I can tell you unabashedly that during the (summer) arbitration hearing [his partner] under oath identified Mr. Ericksen as a property owner."
Meanwhile, Summit County Council candidate Bill Miles, a Republican vying against Democrat Sally Elliott for council seat A, mentioned "TDRgate" at a debate in the Basin Sept. 18.
"I’d ask Mr. Miles, ‘Where did you come up with that phrase?’" Brickey said. "He is an adult and has to be responsible for what he says."
Miles denied involvement in placing the advertisement this week or the creation of oursummitcounty.org.
"I read a transcript of [a KPCW] interview with (Summit County Commissioner) Bob Richer. Bob made the statement that the county has 51 TDR lots in The Colony worth $50 to $75 million," Miles said when asked how he learned of the scandal.
Miles said he met Ericksen in person but couldn’t recall when or where. Miles said Ericksen has not contributed money to his campaign.
He has only received campaign funds from a construction company he wouldn’t name and a lawyer in Salt Lake County, which was arranged by Summit County GOP Chairman David Ure, Miles said.
Miles said he does not know anyone named Bob Benidetto.