40 years of City Weekly—Volume 13, 1996-1997 | City Weekly REWIND | Salt Lake City Weekly

40 years of City Weekly—Volume 13, 1996-1997 

City Weekly Rewind

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Many things were transpiring around Salt Lake City and Utah during Private Eye Weekly's 13th year. Judging from our news coverage, it appeared to be a period of rather blunted human compassion.

Utah families were feeling the effects of social program cuts and a disproportionate tax rate. Gnashing of teeth continued among state Republicans over the national monument designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante. And there were other tensions, such as squabbles over planning a light rail system, a chemical weapons incinerator in Tooele and outcry against the Utah Department of Corrections following the death of inmate Michael Valent, who had been strapped naked to the "Violent Prisoner Chair" for 16 hours.

But not all was rancor and greed: pastor Wayne Wilson of the Salt Lake City Mission sheltered homeless citizens from a fatally cold winter; city local Richard Lee Larson rescued a 4-year-old child from a burning house; animal adoptions at the Humane Society outpaced euthanization; and the Lowell Bennion Center at the University of Utah began offering credit for service projects with local agencies.


For Private Eye Weekly, notable developments included food and internet directories ("Nibbles" and "Web.runner") and the additions of Bill Frost on the local music scene and Richard Barnum-Reece on sports. The paper hosted a convention for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN). And Tom Walsh departed as managing editor, with Christopher Smart succeeding him, capping off another significant publication cycle with one final announcement.

Commencing its 14th year on June 5, 1997, the paper would henceforth be known as Salt Lake City Weekly.

Remembering Vol. 13: In the mayor's office
"Deedee Walks," declared the headline for Lynn Packer's Sept. 12 cover story. Having been under the shadow of possible indictment since 1992—Mayor Deedee Corradini was informed by U.S. Attorney David Schwendiman that she was no longer a target of the Bonneville Pacific grand jury probe. Nevertheless, the close of one sorry tale opened the door to yet another scandal that would reverberate through 1996 and 1997: "Gift-gate."

"The government's Bonneville Pacific probe was the most extensive fraud investigation in Utah history," Packer wrote. "[It] uncovered a massive securities and tax fraud, which used offshore corporations and bank accounts to loot corporate funds, launder the money back into the United States and then evade taxes with the use of phony 'loans' to the principals."


Having indicted Bonneville CEOs Robert Wood and Raymond Hixson, company president L. Wynn Johnson and corporate attorney David Hirschi—with John Dunlop and Carl Peterson pleading guilty before indictments came—the investigation remained stuck when it came to Corradini and her then-husband Yan Ross. It was delayed for years in part due to interventions from Sen. Orrin Hatch and from Harold Christensen, Corradini's attorney. "I think the skids were greased a long time ago," said a source near the investigative task force.

Wood, Johnson and Hixson got deals in exchange for providing testimony. Dunlop pleaded guilty early and then provided contradictory statements, damaging his usefulness as a witness and effectively shielding Corradini from accountability by taking primary responsibility himself.

"In the end, Corradini had a lot going for her," concluded Packer. "Whether the game was fair and aware or fixed, Corradini won."

Saved from indictment, yet obliged to pay a settlement of $800,000 to Bonneville trustee Roger Segal, Corradini claimed the settlement would be "devastating," potentially forcing her to sell her home. "The settlement was not intended to leave them destitute," replied a confused Segal. "She had the resources to be able to pay it herself, from the analysis we did, from her assets."

The settlement amount was paltry compared to the estimated $1.7 million that Corradini and Ross took out of Bonneville Pacific. Rather than using only her personal finances to pay the debt, Corradini solicited over $200,000 from prominent Salt Lake business persons and local unions. The "gifts" were not public knowledge, but after inquiring for months and taking the mayor to court, Packer discovered how the settlement was being paid. Having ignored the Bonneville saga, the local dailies jumped to report on Corradini's revealed donor list, now a scandal in itself. "Gift-gate" was underway.

"I am honored that we had so many wonderful friends who were able to step forward and help us with no questions and no expectations," Corradini stated. Her reference to "expectations" no doubt referred to Utah's ethics law, which prohibited officials from soliciting gifts if it "tends to influence [them] in the discharge of [their] official duties."

Stonewalling media inquiries, Corradini was entering a "bunker mentality" by the end of 1996, in Christopher Smart's estimation. Hiring Ron Yengich for her defense strategy and requesting an investigation by then-county District Attorney Neal Gunnarson, the mayor was determined to forge ahead.

Corradini was indeed a fighter, Katharine Biele observed on Dec. 12, fighting for "a cause that few understand but many accept, apparently, because they think she's a good mayor—with enormous personal financial problems. How those personal problems intersect with her political and administrative duties is an important ethical issue for government, but appears to have little effect on the public as a whole."

Salt Lake City Council members Deeda Seed and Joanne Milner pushed an effort to retain counsel for the city's own investigation of "Gift-gate," hiring Rhode Island Ethics Commission Director Martin Healey for the job. Corradini ducked and delayed Healey's requests for an interview as well as attempts to obtain information from her staff.

Gunnarson concluded the law was too vague and there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing on Corradini's part. Healey, on the other hand, found that the "special privileges" prohibited in the law did indeed include the money she solicited from individuals and entities that were doing business with the city. Thirteen of the 27 gift-givers were not "friends," but rather strong-armed into currying favor with the mayor.

Corradini walked once more, but the Utah Legislature amended the ethics law in 1997 in response to the scandal.

"Yes, you have all been scammed to death by Deedee, and you don't care anymore, because nothing, not a single damned thing happens to her as a result of her misbehavior," John Harrington fumed on Aug. 21, 1997. "Well, apathy and greed created her, and that's how she gets away with it."

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In the ads
"Coming," promised an advert in the July 4 issue, "the almost paperless paper." The public could soon rejoice, for Private Eye Weekly was on the web! Designed by Eric Jacobsen and with access provided by aros.net, readers could check for daily updates at slweekly.com, this paper's original address. A simple notice, perhaps, but all vast and imposing outfits begin simply. Even us.

In the shops
Visiting Jim's Hat Shop (formerly in the Brooks Arcade Building at 268 S. State), Marsha Barber surmised in June 1996 that proprietor Jim Basamakis (1921-2000) did not wish to be seen as a novelty. But "it's not the press that is turning Basamakis and old-time small businesses like his into novelties," she added. "The high-impact corporatization of downtown that is currently taking place at a fever pitch is quickly accomplishing that task."

Department stores like Auerbach's and Paris, taverns like the Golden Gate, and mom-and-pop cafes like the Beehive and the Mint were long gone—casualties to redevelopment and shopping malls. By next year the beloved Deseret Gym would face the wrecking ball. At the time of Barber's story, mainstays such as Sam Weller's Bookstore, Lamb's Restaurant and Broadway Shoe Repair were going strong, but they were exceptional cases in a downtown once colorfully alive with foot traffic and quirky holes in the wall. Supplanted by Gallivan Plaza, the First Interstate Bank Building and American Plaza, these downtown spaces were, to Barber's observation, rather sterile.

"Unlike the blueprints for cities like Portland, Oregon, the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency's long-term plan for the core downtown city center does not allow for much balance between small and large, old and new," Barber wrote. "Consequently, the establishments that give the city its unique flavor just might not fit into the downtown that will welcome the world in 2002."

Basamakis' shop was but one example of holdouts from a bygone era. Another was Snappy Service Lunch (formerly at 57 S. State), which originated in 1902 and specialized in burgers, fries, meat pies and Spam-based dishes. For proprietor Morris "Morrey" Daras, the experience of losing a once-steady customer flow as a consequence of downtown closures had been difficult to witness.

"You hate to give the business up," Daras said, "even if you aren't making any money. And I still have a few of my regulars. But not enough to keep me alive forever."

When his lease came up in 2001, Daras' Snappy Service Lunch relocated to Jordan Commons in Sandy. Larry Miller—who owned Jordan Commons—had been a longtime customer. A Snappy Service sign still hangs on a wall of Jordan Commons' Megaplex Theatres, a reminder of what had once been a Salt Lake institution.

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About The Author

Wes Long

Wes Long

Wes Long's writing first appeared in City Weekly in 2021 and in 2023, he was named Listings Desk manager. Long majored in history at the University of Utah and enjoys a good book or film, an excursion into nature or the nearest historic district, or simply basking in the company of animals.

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