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Judge: Mountain Accord subject to open meetings law

Judge: Mountain Accord subject to open meetings law

(Ravell Call, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A court has ruled that a now-defunct organization of ski resorts, transportation managers and local governments planning the future of the Wasatch Front canyons is subject to Utah's open meetings law.

Utah Judge Laura Scott issued the decision in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court Monday. It likely clears the way for a state audit of the Mountain Accord proposed by a pair of state legislators.

The ruling comes roughly nine months after the Cardiff Canyon Owners Association and property owner Norm Henderson in October sued the Mountain Accord. They accused the group of wrongfully excluding people from its executive committee meetings, failing to publicize the meetings and taking final action without the proper procedure.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben 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.

But Scott in her order disagreed, saying the first phase of the Mountain Accord included only public entities, which largely laid the groundwork for the group's efforts and were on the hook to provide funding. The private entities, she said, had no such contractual obligations.

The section of Utah's code requires state and local government groups to post their meeting notices 24 hours in advance and open them to the public.

But the impact of the ruling is limited.

The Mountain Accord has given way to a new government entity, the Central Wasatch Commission, which formed late in June. The group says it will figure out how to balance recreation, environmental, economic and transportation needs on the Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake County.

It includes representatives from Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Sandy and Cottonwood Heights.

The creation of the new group has not quelled frustration for two West Jordan Republican legislators, Rep. Kim Coleman and Rep. Ken Ivory. The pair has asked the state to audit $8 million in Mountain Accord spending and whether it adhered to accountability and bidding requirements in state law. Of that money, $5.6 million was state money.

The state auditor's office was expected to conduct an audit after the court case was resolved.

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