NORTH OGDEN -- Despite pending litigation, the city council is still scheduled to vote on the options for the controversial public works complex and to give authority to the city manager and mayor to pursue a bond agreement.
The city filed a lawsuit in 2nd District Court last Monday against Justin Fawson and Kent Bailey regarding the petition signed by just under 3,000 residents who want to vote on the bond parameters for the public works complex which were set on July 12 not to exceed $10 million. The complaint with the city's suit cites at least 10 errors the petitioners made with the petition.
City Attorney Dave Carlson said although there is nothing that impedes the council from voting, no financial institution will issue the bonds while there is pending litigation. "They can only do what they have the money to do," Carlson said regarding the complex.
Another suit was filed Friday in Second District Court, but this time it was against the city and filed by former City Councilman Steve Huntsman, who alleges a violation of the open meetings law.
Huntsman claims the council did not follow due process when it voted on the resolution regarding the bond parameters and purchase of the land for the complex. In a news release sent by Fawson, Huntsman states, "The discussion and/or vote on the purchase of property was not published on the meeting agenda and the discussion of how to purchase the property before voting on the bond parameters should not have been part of the closed meeting."
Councilman Wade Bigler, who started the petition campaign, sent out several emails Friday afternoon taking issue with statements made to the news media about voting on Tuesday night.
Bigler said he understood that the council should not proceed with the vote. Carlson maintains that the council can vote but that no bonds can be issued. He sent Bigler a copy of the statement given to the defendants' attorney.
Since being served, the defendants have retained an attorney. On Friday Bailey and Fawson released a statement: "We maintain that the petition was conducted according to state law and in accordance with the guidelines laid out in the bond resolution itself. We find it appalling that we're in a situation where we would need to legally defend the voice of the people with our own city.
"We've repeatedly tried to convey to city officials that we are not willing to pay what has been proposed for this complex, but they have turned a deaf ear and have left us with no other alternatives. We do recognize the need for a Public Works upgrade, but we're expecting to pay what comparable cities our size has paid for their facilities."
City Manager Ed Dickie said the city could have just not accepted the petition and then moved forward with the vote and the issuance of the bonds.
"We decided to give them (the petitioners) the benefit of the doubt," Dickie said.
There has been confusion over what people were told before signing the petition, which is part of the reason the city filed the suit.
"We have heard different reports from a lot of different people," Dickie said. Some residents who signed the petition have called and asked to have their names removed from the document after they have gotten information that counters what they were originally told by petitioners, Dickie said.
Carlson said the city wanted to file the suit to get an official statement from a non-partisan party.
"You can't ignore 3,000 residents," Carlson said as to why the city didn't just throw out the petition and proceed.
"We are holding on to the hope the city will hear the voice of residents," Fawson said. "It was not our intent to start a battle in court."
He said the city is moving in the right direction with the complex options, the highest of which is $7 million. He hopes that the council looks to a city like Saratoga Springs that built a complex for around $3 million. Its population is comparable to North Ogden, he said. He also would like the city to consider outsourcing services like snow removal or combining services with Pleasant View.
"We just want them to consider other options," he said.
Dickie believes that because all the options are well below the bond parameter of $10 million, the petition is now a moot point. The highest amount to bond listed in the options is $7 million.
Fawson said he can't speak for 3,000 people who signed the petition as the whether the petition is invalid because the cost is now lower.
"I don't really know what to say about that," Fawson said.
The council will vote on the options and the issuance of bonds at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers, 505 E. 2600 North.