NORTH OGDEN -- The city responded in a big way to petitions delivered Friday night -- it filed a lawsuit with the 2nd Judicial District Court, asking the court to decide whether the petition drive conformed to applicable state law.
Residents and candidates for city council Justin Fawson and Kent Bailey delivered slightly fewer than 3,000 signatures on a petition to the city offices late Friday afternoon. The petition called for the city to put the issue of the council approving a $10 million bond parameter for a new public works complex on the November ballot rather than accepting the council's 4-1 vote on July 12.
City Attorney Dave Carlson said there are several things about the petition the city finds to be in error or unlawful.
"We want a decision from a judge, and we want it to be a matter of law," Carlson said, adding that the city doesn't want to make that call and would like a neutral party to be involved.
Carlson said one of the first mistakes was that the petitioners had to apply to the city for a petition within five days of the July 12 vote. At that time, City Recorder Annette Spendlove would have supplied the petition and wording to the petitioners. That was not done, Carlson said.
Those circulating the petition also needed to have the wording that would appear on the ballot on the petition, or at least state exactly what the petition pertained to in black and white.
Once the signatures were gathered, Spendlove would have had to turn them in to the county to verify the signatures, and then the county would have turned them back to Spendlove. After that, the city would have then decided if the signatures were obtained lawfully and would have proceeded from there.
None of those procedures were followed, both Spendlove and Carlson said.
Regarding petitions and revoking ordinances, Carlson said, "The law is quite technical."
Carlson also wants to know that each person who signed the petition was completely clear on what he or she was signing for and was given the correct information. According to what is noted on the petition, there is no proof of that, he said.
According to the complaint filed by Carlson on Monday afternoon, at least 10 errors were cited by the city regarding the petition. Carlson said North Ogden wants to give the petitioners the benefit of the doubt, and that is why the city believes it is in the best interest of all parties to get the courts involved.
The defendants have not been officially served at this point. Carlson thinks that will happen by the end of the week. Once served, the defendants have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.
"They could recognize the problems," Carlson said, "but I don't know if they could start over, because some of the time deadlines have passed."
Carlson expects that the defendants and the city will file briefs regarding the complaint, and things will move forward.
He thinks it will take at least two months to have a decision from the court.
"I am totally surprised and shocked that the city would proceed this way and spend taxpayer dollars in this way," said listed defendant Kent Bailey in a phone interview Monday night. He noted that he feels attacking the petition is attacking a side issue rather than looking at the issue of residents not wanting an expensive public works facility.
"Petition or no petition, the city leadership was not listening at the public hearing," Bailey said about the many voices who spoke about the complex at the city's public hearing Aug. 9. He said he can't believe the city is so determined to move forward with the project.
As for the public works complex, it is up to the city council how it will proceed.
"There is no legal impediment to the city moving forward," Carlson said of the complex.
The council is scheduled to vote on one of the four options presented for the complex and then will vote for or against approval to give Mayor Richard Harris and Finance Director Debbie Cardenas the go-ahead to move forward with the bond process on Aug. 23.