KAYSVILLE — What began as a gesture to help a neighbor last winter has devolved into a $10,000 court battle between a Kaysville councilman and the city's public works director.
Councilman Dave Adams, who was embroiled in controversy last year, is now taking Joshua Belnap, the public works director, to court, alleging that Belnap did thousands of dollars of damage when he cleared the councilman's driveway over the winter.
Belnap has responded in court filings saying the claim is political retaliation.
According to a small claims affidavit filled out by hand and filed in Davis County Justice Court last month, Adams claims Belnap did $10,000 in damage to his concrete driveway when he used a tractor to plow it on Dec. 26.
The affidavit, naming Belnap and his father, Paul Belnap, provides no additional details about the incident.
The three men all live in the same neighborhood.
Brian Arnold, an attorney representing Adams, said his client denies Belnap's allegations that the claim is retaliatory. Instead, after approaching the Belnaps about the damage, Adams simply took the claim to court in hopes of quickly mediating the case and getting the money he needs to fix the driveway, the attorney said.
Adams never asked Belnap to clear the driveway, Arnold said, noting that even though it appears the plowing was done with Belnap's personal equipment while he was home for the Christmas holiday, Adams believes it was inappropriate for Belnap to be doing so when city streets still needed to be cleared.
"Basically what happened in this incident is it looked like (Adams) was getting preferential treatment," Arnold said. "We had bad snowfall here in Kaysville, and they came over and plowed his driveway. He never asked for that, he never told them he wanted that done, and to the best of his knowledge, this was being done before the streets were even plowed."
Basically what happened in this incident is it looked like (Adams) was getting preferential treatment.
–Brian Arnold, Adams' attorney
In fact, Arnold said, Kaysville residents had been taking pictures in an attempt to demonstrate that cul-de-sacs where City Council members live were at the top of the list to be plowed, an issue Adams had tried to expose, but "nobody was listening."
"It really seems like the retaliation is coming from the other side," Arnold said.
Adams said he does not believe Belnap plowed the driveway to do a good deed, Arnold said.
Joshua Belnap does not dispute he plowed Adams' driveway but insists in a counterclaim filed Aug. 2 that he isn't responsible for any cracking or damage to the concrete.
Instead, the response alleges Adams filed the claim in court as retaliation after he was admonished by his fellow City Council members earlier this year and was later removed from supervision over the public works department.
According to a three-page letter presented at a Jan. 19 City Council meeting by Councilmen Jake Garn and Larry Page, Adams violated the city's rules of conduct for elected and appointed officials.
Among the claims in the letter, the councilmen said Adams had sent an email to council members, the mayor, city manager and public works director alleging the public works department was preferentially plowing a council member's neighborhood and the neighborhood of a specific resident ahead of other streets.
That resident, the letter notes, had been vocally critical of Adams, leading to a review by the Utah State Auditor.
Last year, the auditor's office found that Adams had inappropriately used nearly $6,000 of the city's funds to repair a personal firetruck, which he used annually in Kaysville's Fourth of July water parade.
The City Council later ordered Adams to pay the money back. Adams maintained the expenditure had been approved by the city's parks and recreation director to ensure his iconic firetruck could participate in the parade.
Belnap's counterclaim to the driveway lawsuit says that after Adams was admonished and removed from his supervisory role over the public works department, Adams "began communicating to defendant Joshua Belnap, as well as publishing to certain others, that defendant Joshua Belnap was somehow involved or influential in the City Council's decision, which Joshua Belnap assured (Adams) was not true."
The counterclaim goes on to argue that Adams' claim against the Belnaps is an improper use of the legal system and was filed with an "ulterior motive" to retaliate against Joshua Belnap.
Arnold denied the allegation, pointing instead to Adams' efforts since his 2015 campaign and election to reform politics-as-usual in Kaysville, such as bringing an inquiry into the public works department turned up $13,000 of unexplained cash in a safe.
"Overall, Mr. Adams is trying to change the culture and the politics here in Kaysville, and he feels like this has been escalated and almost used against him when he's really just trying to expose and be transparent so people don't think he's receiving any preferential treatment," Arnold said.
While Adams' claim was initially filed in Davis County Justice Court, the Belnaps have had the case transferred to 2nd District Court, where they have requested a jury trial and are seeking attorney fees and other damages.
The Belnaps are also asking to have Paul Belnap removed as a defendant in the case, noting that he was never mentioned in the allegations laid out in Adams' claim.
Arnold said Adams still hopes to quickly resolve the issue without a trial.
No hearings have been scheduled in the case.
Paul Belnap, who is also an attorney and is representing himself and his son in the case, declined to comment about the dispute.