OGDEN -- The Sierra Club said Friday it has reached a settlement with the city in a four-year legal battle over access to government records regarding a once-proposed and controversial gondola project.
The city has released 43 of 46 withheld documents originally requested by the Sierra Club in 2007, the environmental advocacy organization said in prepared statement.
The Sierra Club's attorneys, Joel Ban and Patrick Shea, were allowed to examine the three remaining records under a confidentiality agreement and determined that those three records were legitimate attorney-client communications that could be withheld under the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act, or GRAMA.
The released documents, which include emails, detail involvement of Ogden officials as well as others in promoting the gondola and provide other information about the project, according to the Sierra Club.
Plans called for a gondola to extend from the intermodal hub at 24th Street and Wall Avenue to Weber State University on Harrison Boulevard. A second gondola would have run from the university to a hillside resort once planned by developer Chris Peterson, son-in-law of Snowbasin Ski Resort owner Earl Holding.
However, the two gondolas never were built.
The Sierra Club sought access to a variety of records in 2007 and the city released a number of requested documents, the statement says.
However, the city withheld a few dozen records -- mostly emails -- citing several statutory exemptions under GRAMA, according to the Sierra Club.
After the city's Records Review Board upheld the decision to withhold records, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in 2nd District Court in Ogden.
Initially, the city refused to list the withheld records or even to disclose the number of records being withheld, the Sierra Club said in the statement.
Second District Judge W. Brent West ruled that the city had to provide an index of the withheld records that was sufficiently detailed to allow the opposing party to assess the applicability of each GRAMA exemption that was being claimed, the statement says.
As part of the settlement, the city has reimbursed the Sierra Club for $10,000 in attorneys' fees.
Mayor Matthew Godfrey and Dan Schroeder, an official with the Ogden Group of the Sierra Club, could not be reached for comment.
Released records including emails posted on the Sierra Club's website at www.utah.sierraclub.org/ogden/OgdenFront/GRAMA-lawsuit/ DocIndex.html details a number of issues involving the gondola, including Godfrey's strategy for gaining public support for the project.
An Aug. 16, 2006, email from Godfrey to "team members" Michael Joseph, Edgar Allen, Dave Hardman, Dan Musgrave, Larry Hansen, Bob Geiger, Kent Petersen, and Jennifer Jones praised the group's work and urged them to continue to promote the gondola project.
"We will need to keep up with the mentoring work," the email says. "That is a sustained effort we all need to engage in when we have the chance to influence (city) council members and we also need to enlist others to talk to council members about supporting this project."
Joseph acknowledged Friday that he served as the head of the team to encourage public dialogue regarding the gondola project. In addition, Joseph added it was his goal that the project receive a "fair hearing" from the community.