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Gay Salt Lake City Councilman receives threat, epithet over homeless shelter

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Freshman Salt Lake City Councilman Derek Kitchen received an angry message from a constituent over the location of one of the new homeless shelters recently announced by the city. The message contained a thinly veiled (if not overt) threat and an epithet.

“Hey Faggot,” the message began. “You proposed a homeless shelter two blocks away from a home I’ve owned for the past 20 years. Ask [Salt Lake attorney and Kitchen v. Herbert counsel] Jim Magleby if I can’t fuck you up. Watch your back and I promise to hire someone to see you soon.”

The message is signed by, and comes from an account using the name of, John Donovan. It also includes the address of a home that has been verified to be owned by a John Charles Donovan.

“When I took office, I promised to to represent all residents of District 4 and Salt Lake City, and that includes people living without a home, too. Just like everyone else in the city, they deserve a voice and someone to stand up for them,” Kitchen wrote in a Facebook post announcing the message. “I’m proud of our work thus far alongside the Mayor, the County, & State of Utah. We’re inching closer toward a solution. Our site selection was rigorous and thoughtful, and our proposal for the new shelters is designed to solve the problems head on. I understand your fears about a Road Home type facility in your neighborhood, but this is no such thing (think YWCA instead).

“This morning I received this threat in my inbox, and its the not the first time a council member has received such threats. It is completely unacceptable that we’ve devolved into threatening to hurt one another,” Kitchen continued. “For my safety, and the safety of my colleagues, in addition to filing a police report, I will be publishing those threats.”

Councilwomen Lisa Adams and Erin Mendenhall told the Salt Lake Tribune they have received “a torrent” of personal emails and phone calls. The Tribune reported that Adams “has never before been called some of the names directed at her and some emails were threatening,” and Mendenhall had also received “insulting emails and ‘creepy’ phone calls.”

The closest location to the address listed in the message is the shelter that will replace the Deseret Industries thrift store on Seventh South.

Kitchen was the namesake plaintiff in the Kitchen v. Herbert lawsuit that overturned Utah’s Amendment 3 and other Utah laws banning same-sex marriage. He was elected to the Salt Lake City Council to represent District 4 — downtown and central city — last November and took office this January. He and his husband, Moudi Sbeity, own Laziz Kitchen, a Lebanese restaurant on 9th South at about 150 West.

Salt Lake City police have confirmed they are investigating the message.

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