Katie Witt City Council

Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt offers an apology to Kaysville City Council members over a controversial concert proposal during the City Council meeting on Thursday, May 21, 2020, held via an online video platform. Meeting participants, clockwise from top left, were City Council members Andre Lortz, Mike Blackham, Michelle Barber and Tamara Tran, Witt and Council member John Adams.

KAYSVILLE — Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt offered up an apology to the Kaysville City Council stemming from the uproar over a proposed COVID-19 protest concert that had been planned for the city.

She also expressed regret for not involving council members more extensively in organizing it.

“I regret that I did not lean on you as my council members. There’s a reason why we have a council, to gather the wisdom from multiple people, and I apologize for that,” she said during Thursday’s Kaysville City Council meeting, which stretched late into the evening.

More notably, perhaps, she offered a mea culpa to the council, after facing a strong rebuke earlier for her role in the matter from numerous Kaysville residents and after the council passed a resolution of non-support for the concert plans. “I did not misspend money. I did not take money. I did not do anything illegal. But I did hurt your feelings and I apologize for that,” she said.

Plans announced last week by Utah Business Revival for a country concert at Kaysville’s Barnes Park, with Witt’s support, prompted an uproar in the city and opposition from many residents. They worried, in part, that such an event could foster spread of COVID-19. Similarly, council members had voiced opposition, worried about health considerations as well as the failure of organizers to seek the proper permits to hold such an activity.

All along, the aim of organizers was to call attention to what they see as the heavy-handed government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the adverse impact restrictions on movement meant to curb its spread have had on business. Bowing to the pressure, though, Utah Business Revival announced Thursday morning that the event, featuring country singer Collin Raye, would be moved to Tooele County, where it’s now facing scrutiny from officials there.

Still, the concert plans were already to be discussed during the City Council meeting later Thursday, and Witt, also a candidate for Utah’s 1st District U.S. House seat, used the occasion to address the matter. Her tone was less defiant than earlier in the week when she had defended the concert plans, though she reiterated her contention that coronavirus restrictions represent a challenge to First Amendment U.S. constitutional rights of assembly. And it came after she faced a chastising from numerous Kaysville residents during an earlier public comment session that preceded Thursday’s meeting.

“It was my mistake that I did not loop in the council sooner. It was my mistake that I did not get information ahead of time and include the council members,” Witt said. Her original hope, she continued, was that the event would “meet the regulations because they wanted to have this be something that could be a model that could be implemented across the state. That fell apart with the exit of a member of their team.”

Councilman John Adams was the only council member to respond to Witt after her address. “Mayor, I just want to thank you for that and tell you I accept your apology,” he said.

Witt’s address followed passage by a 5-0 council vote of a proclamation “disavowing support” for the concert plans, even though it had already been moved to Tooele County.

Councilman Mike Blackham noted the health danger posed by the coronavirus. “This is a real deal. This pandemic is real,” he said.

Councilman Andre Lortz noted the failure of Utah Business Revival reps to submit a formal plan outlining how they intended to safely carry out the event. Witt earlier in the week had said no formal permit was required, that permission for the event was outlined in First Amendment rights to assembly and free speech.

The proclamation also targeted Witt for her seeming use of the event as a campaign tool in her bid for the U.S. House. She has rebuffed that charge.

“The Kaysville City Council does not support any use of city resources or influence to promote or imply affiliation with Mayor Witt’s congressional campaign or any other political campaign. Further, we do not support or endorse campaign strategies that imply city promotion or affiliation with specific candidates,” it reads.

Earlier in the meeting, the criticism was also pronounced, with 17 people speaking against the concert plans and Witt’s role. Just one person voiced support.

“This is not about the Constitution,” said Mike Flood, suggesting Witt was more interested in mustering support for her congressional bid. “It’s all about your congressional race.”

Sherri Jamieson called the concert plans “a political stunt” and said Kaysville residents “were made to be pawns in a game.”

Brandon Barnedt said he had mustered 2,600 signatures on an online petition to have the concert canceled. “It was not a fringe group or a bunch of crazy people that were trying to have this cancelled. I believe due to the results of the survey that a good majority of the people of Kaysville from all walks of life were opposed to this event,” he said.

Also Thursday, the City Council approved implementation of a moratorium on granting permission for special events in the city. It’s to stay in effect until the COVID-19 health risk declines to the green “new normal” level as determined by Gov. Gary Herbert, the Davis County Health Department rescinds its health orders on the matter or Sept. 30, whichever comes first.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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