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Ravell Call, Deseret News, File

Lawsuit claims Mountain Accord doesn't comply with state's open meetings law

By Ben Lockhart  |  Posted Oct 7th, 2016 @ 7:40am


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SALT LAKE CITY — A lawsuit filed Thursday against the Mountain Accord claims its decision-making body has violated the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act.

The Cardiff Canyon Owners Association filed the complaint in 3rd District Court. Any Mountain Accord resolutions made in improperly conducted meetings should be legally voided, the association claims.

The Mountain Accord was organized by about 20 private and public bodies in early 2015 with the goal of balancing economic, environmental, recreational and transportation priorities in the central Wasatch mountains. Its executive committee includes representatives from Salt Lake County, Summit County, Sandy, Park City, the Utah Legislature, Utah Transit Authority, Ski Utah, Save Our Canyons and several other organizations.

The Cardiff Canyon Owners Association identifies itself as a group of landowners who own about 1,100 acres in Big Cottonwood Canyon, particularly in the Cardiff Bowl area. The group's lawsuit cites a letter from the Office of the Utah State Auditor sent on Tuesday, saying the office "considers the Mountain Accord subject to Utah's Open and Public Meetings Act."

“There are several specific provisions found within the (the act) that must be conducted to ensure that public’s work is done in an open and honest manner," Wayne Crawford, president of the Cardiff Canyon Owners Association, said in a statement Thursday. "Simple things such as posting your meetings times, allowing the public to attend, and keeping a recording of those meetings did not occur. In fact, the public was intentionally prevented from attending Mountain Accord Executive meetings."

According to court documents, a statement posted to the Mountain Accord's website in January claims the accord "is not a formal public body and is not required to comply" with Utah's open meetings law.

"However, executive board meetings are open to the public and agendas and notes are posted on the website," the statements says. "Record(ings) of meetings may also be (posted) in the future."

Mountain Accord officials declined to comment Thursday.

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The lawsuit alleges no proper notice of Mountain Accord's meetings was given, that minutes of those meetings were not appropriately kept and that the accord's executive committee adopted policies in meetings held contrary to Utah law.

"Mountain Accord has excluded (Cardiff Canyon Owners Association) members and other individuals and organizations from attending Mountain Accord executive committee meetings on more than one occasion," the complaint states.

The lawsuit seeks judgements from the court requiring members of the Mountain Accord to abide by the Utah Public and Open Meetings Act and nullifying decisions made in meetings that were not in compliance with that law.

"Any and all final actions taken by (Mountain Accord members) should be voided by this court because those actions arose from meetings which did not comply with (the act)," the lawsuit says.

One of those actions that should be voided, the lawsuit contends, is a decision to form the Central Wasatch Commission. That commission is anticipated to be a more condensed version of the Mountain Accord's executive committee, which is its current decision making body, and would include government agencies only.

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