Group meets with attorney, Kaysville officials on initiative petitions

Mar 21 2011 - 11:13pm

KAYSVILLE -- On two separate occasions, Kaysville city officials have turned away three initiative petitions aiming to change the city's government.

Instead of possibly rejecting those petitions a third time, city officials met Monday with members of the group submitting the petitions in order to fix what was holding them back.

"We are certainly respectful of the initiative process and want to do everything we can within our ability to ensure its process through an expedient manner," said Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt.

"Part of our dilemma is, it's become very apparent that one of the applicants, Mr. Richard Lenz, has drafted the language himself. As a result, it has become unadoptable, and we would hate for them to go through all the trouble of gathering signatures just to find out that it's something that can't be adopted as city ordinance."

Hiatt, Kaysville Finance Director Dean Story and legal counsel Felshaw King, who serves as the city attorney, met at King's office Monday afternoon with Lenz and Orwin Draney, members of the group Kaysville Citizens for Responsible Government, and the group's lawyer, Lisa Watts-Baskin.

Hiatt said Watts-Baskin told the group at the meeting that she had been hired Friday.

The purpose of the meeting was to make sure the language in the initiatives was agreeable to both parties. The city rejected the previous petitions because the language of the initiatives did not comply with state law.

Lenz, who admitted at the meeting that he wrote the first two drafts, said the meeting was helpful, but the group is frustrated that the initiative process is taking so long.

"There is some legal precedence to say they really didn't have a right to turn (the previous petitions) down," Lenz said.

"But we're trying to work with the city to make sure that these legal drafts will pass muster and be able to fly through, assuming we're able to prove our case and get them passed, (and) that they will become law without any kind of challenge to them."

The petitions seek to change the city's form of government from a city manager form to a strong mayor form; to district five of the six council positions; and to establish a public service commission to oversee how revenue from the city's power company is being used.

Lenz said the group would revise the petitions Monday night and resubmit them to King today.

Should the language be correct, King will approve the petitions and Kaysville Citizens for Responsible Government will turn the petitions in to the city so the city's budget director can evaluate the fiscal impact the changes, if approved, would have on residents.

State law allows the budget director up to 25 days to perform that analysis.

Hiatt said the city will not take that long and will do everything possible to expedite the process because the group's time to collect signatures is dwindling.

Once the analysis is complete, the group will need to collect 1,177 signatures by 5 p.m. April 15 in order to place the petitions on the 2011 Kaysville ballot, which will be voted on in November.

"We are in the process of setting up organizations so that, once we have (the petitions) back, we can go right to work collecting signatures," Draney said.

While the city is figuring out the legality of the initiatives, Hiatt said, it is not the right time to take a position on them.

"I have some real concerns with the initiatives and the overall impact on the city, but I think there's a time and a place to debate that," he said.

Hiatt said once the initiatives are certified, many people on the city council will begin taking positions.

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