SALT LAKE CITY — Following a judge's ruling that the Mountain Accord is subject to open meetings laws, several Salt Lake County Council members plan to send a letter requesting the state auditor to investigate the organization's financials.
"We need to air on the side of transparency, not air on the side of secrecy," said Councilman Richard Snelgrove, who called for the audit.
Councilman Sam Granato, a Democrat, and Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, a Republican, also said they'd sign the letter calling for the audit.
"If we now have a legal opinion that it should be open, it's vitally important to have transparency in how the funds were spent," Newton said.
Monday's court ruling comes about nine months after Cardiff Canyon Owners Association and property owner Norm Henderson in October sued the Mountain Accord, accusing the group of wrongfully excluding people from its executive committee meetings, failing to publicize the meetings and taking final action without the proper procedure.
Canyon property owners — and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' challenger, Dave Robinson — last year raised concerns about how nearly $8 million of taxpayer money has been spent by the Mountain Accord.
Two West Jordan Republican legislators also wanted a probe of the Mountain Accord's budget. Rep. Kim Coleman and Rep. Ken Ivory submitted an audit request in April, calling for an investigation into whether Mountain Accord has adhered to proper bidding, oversight and accountability.
Public money basically has gone down a black hole and there's little to show for it and no one can clearly demonstrate what it's gone to.
–Richard Snelgrove, SL County councilman
Snelgrove said the group — which is now-defunct because it got approval last month to become the new government entity, the Central Wasatch Commission — has left an "$8 million trail behind it."
"Public money basically has gone down a black hole and there's little to show for it and no one can clearly demonstrate what it's gone to," Snelgrove said.
McAdams, who was chairman of the executive board, asked the court to dismiss the suit in January. He argued in front of the judge in May, saying the group involved private entities and was formed based on its own charter, so it wasn't subject to state open meeting requirements.
However, the mayor has argued that the Mountain Accord has been transparent all along and hasn't been secretive about its meetings or finances.
McAdams was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but his spokeswoman, Alyson Heyrend, said the mayor welcomes the audit.
"The mayor welcomes an inspection of the financial expenditures of the Mountain Accord," she said. "It was an open and transparent and accountable process."
She pointed to the Mountain Accord's website, which includes a link to a "financial transparency report" of the group's finances from 2013 to 2016, conducted in February by Zions Public Finance Inc.
The group's financial statements have also been posted on the Utah State Auditor's Office website, Heyrend noted.
Nicole Toomey Davis, the state auditor's spokeswoman, said the auditor's office will review the audit request like all others and prioritize it by comparing it's potential "weight in fraud, waste or abuse" to other audit requests.