A closed-door meeting where three Utah counties formulated a plan to fight potential federal efforts to limit leases for oil shale exploration was illegal.
The general public was closed out from the March 27 meeting, which also involved counties from Wyoming and Colorado.
However, pro-oil shale development lobbyists were allowed a prominent seat at the table for the meeting. Lobbyists included a representative from Red Leaf Resources, a Utah firm that has a lease designed to develop oil shale.
Simply stated, you can't have a meeting on this issue that is only open for lobbyists. The meeting should be open to all people, regardless of their viewpoints on the issue under discussion.
Organizers of the meeting claim they had the right to close the door to some would-be participants because they were discussing strategies against potential litigation. They claim Utah's Open Meetings Act gives them that right.
However, that claim is very cynical as well as a misreading of the act. According to Colorado Common Cause, the meeting records show that the counties crafted and later passed a resolution in opposition to plans from the Bureau of Land Management to limit oil shale development. Furthermore, the industry lobbyists helped the counties' officials craft the resolution.
While resolutions against the feds are not illegal, there must be an opportunity for all sides to have a say before the resolution is passed. This obviously did not occur. It's clear that there was no fair nor open debate. When officials who are paid via the taxpayers are taking positions that affect constituents, they must do their work in sunshine, not darkness.
We urge the Utah Attorney General's office to take a look into the illegal meeting that occurred in Uintah County, Our state leaders need to always be on the side of open meetings.