Under no circumstances should city officials in Brigham City, Layton, or anywhere else sign non-disclosure agreements with UTOPIA prior to being briefed on upcoming plans in the beleaguered high-speed fiber-optic Internet firm.
Any city officials -- and we know officials in Layton and Brigham City have done this -- who have signed non-disclosure forms with UTOPIA need to apologize for their actions and, of course, not engage in this secrecy again.
These officials are beholden to the taxpayers of their cities, not UTOPIA. Engaging in secret meetings, frankly, is anti-democratic. Randy Dryer, an attorney specializing in media and open government law, explains that meeting in secret can provide government officials the opportunity to discuss issues privately before voting on them publicly. That's wrong.
UTOPIA is trying to act as if it's a private entity, but it is not; it is a public entity, and must behave like one. We agree with Perry City Attorney Duncan Murray, who is outraged by the secret meetings. "UTOPIA shouldn't be putting us in a position where it's virtually impossible to be 100 percent honest and 100 percent legal. It hurts my conscience to be placed in these situations. ... UTOPIA organized as a public entity. And once you choose to organize as a public entity you have to act as one. You can't pick and choose which laws you want to obey," says Murray, who actually signed a non-disclosure agreement, although he described as a akin to a "mugging."
For the taxpayers of Layton and Brigham City, UTOPIA has so far been a disaster. Layton has to cough up $2.1 million a year in bond payments for the public company; Brigham City is strapped to $430,000 a year. Both cities have little to show for their very expensive taxpayer-funded investments.
Those city officials who are comfortable dealing in the dark with UTOPIA are justifying it by claiming that it's only briefings, and that the meetings are small enough that they don't violate the Utah Open Meetings Law. They add that any action taken will be in the open (we appreciate that gesture!). But the excuses are nonsense. The secret meetings violate the spirit of the open meetings law, and they insult taxpayers. They need to stop.