Former official fights subpoena seeking his testimony in Morgan ski resort referendum suit
MORGAN — A former state lawmaker is invoking legislative privilege in his effort to block a court subpoena amid a legal fight over the Wasatch Peaks Ranch ski development in Morgan County.
Logan Wilde, of Croydon, who was a state representative while the 11,000-acre ski resort project was being considered by Morgan County officials, filed an objection on Sept. 27 to a subpoena issued by attorneys for proponents of a voter referendum on the project.
After the Morgan County Council approved the resort development ordinance in October 2019, six residents soon filed a petition for a public referendum vote. The WPR developers told county officials they would sue if the county clerk did not reject the petition. The clerk nullified the petition, saying it did not comply with state law. The residents eventually appealed to the Utah Supreme Court. WPR warned the residents they would be sued individually if they went to the high court, and followed through with that threat eight days after the appeal was filed.
In 2nd District Court in Morgan, Judge Noel Hyde has upheld the core validity of the referendum, but the case remains up in the air because related issues are scheduled to go on trial in January 2023. Hyde dismissed WPR’s economic-interference lawsuit against the six residents — leading to the current dispute, a request by the residents to obtain information about WPR’s finances so they can pursue a claim for punitive damages against the developer. The residents assert the developer waged a coordinated intimidation campaign to thwart the referendum.
During the run-up to the residents’ motion seeking the financial information, the developer’s attorneys inadvertently shared exhibits in court that included a document outlining WPR’s confidential strategies for stopping the referendum.
Under a section titled “Back door efforts,” Wilde is referenced: “State Rep. Logan Wilde – Personal friends with the District Judge.” That is an apparent reference to Hyde. Asked about his relationship with Hyde, Wilde on Tuesday denied any impropriety and any close relationship with Hyde.
“I like the district judge,” Wilde said, chuckling. “I’ve never gone to lunch with him. I was a county commissioner and he was a judge at the same time.” Wilde was on the county council before being elected to the Legislature in 2016. In 2020, Wilde was named director of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food after Kerry Gibson of Weber County resigned. Wilde now works in his family ranch business.
Cindy Carter, one of the six referendum supporters who were sued by WPR, on Tuesday questioned why Wilde is fighting the subpoena. “I don’t know why anything Logan Wilde had to say would need to go underground,” she said.
Carter said that during the county’s consideration of the WPR project, Wilde was “trying to help WPR negotiate” with some residents in conservation easements related to the project. If he doesn’t want to be interviewed about that or other matters in a court deposition, “he looks really guilty,” she said. “What does he have to hide?”
Wilde said he does not want to testify “because I can’t side with one side or the other.”
“I wasn’t really directly involved” in the project’s consideration, Wilde said. “I really didn’t have a whole lot of conversations with Wasatch Peaks. I did set up a meeting, but I didn’t do it on behalf of Wasatch Peaks’ side.”
Asked for his personal opinions about the WPR project and the referendum effort, Wilde said, “I don’t want to say that.”
Wilde complained about community speculation surrounding the controversies. “I know there are rumors that the FBI has raided my house, and that’s not true,” he said. “The rumors have gotten out of hand.”
Wilde’s motion asking Hyde to quash the subpoena was filed by private practice attorney Todd Weiler of Woods Cross. Weiler is also a Republican state senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The motion cited Article VI, section 8, of the Utah Constitution, which Weiler wrote “provides that basis of legislative privilege.” Although there is a dearth of Utah case law interpreting the provision that prohibits members of the Legislature from being “questioned in any other place,” the motion said the U.S. Constitution contains identical language and that federal case law backs the claim of privilege.
“Mr. Wilde’s communications with Wasatch Peaks Ranch, LLC, was part of his legislative duties, as he was discussing the potential need for legislation. This immunity extends to all of a legislator’s ‘legislative acts,'” the motion said, quoting a 1979 federal case. “An activity falls within the legislative sphere when it is integral to the legislative process, according to the motion.”
Citing another federal ruling, also from 1979, the motion said, “Legislative immunity at federal common law protects a state legislator from having to testify in a civil action in federal court in which the legislator is not a party about the legislator’s motives for supporting the passage of a bill.”
The protection extends to legislators after they leave office, Weiler contended. Wilde said he expected the referendum attorneys would want his laptop and phone from his legislative service, but he no longer has them — he turned them in when he left the Legislature. He also said the personal phone he used during the time in question was later broken.
Meanwhile, WPR filed a motion recently asking Hyde to classify the mistakenly released company documents as protected, and therefore withdrawn from public access. Hyde granted the motion
Wasatch Peaks began construction on infrastructure for the resort soon after the county approved the project in 2019. The developer’s managing director, Ed Schultz, has said Wasatch Peaks is following all county ordinances and is confident about the project. He also has extolled the development’s anticipated addition to the county’s tax base and communities.
The Morgan County Commission last November approved the developer’s first subdivision, a 483-acre, 50-lot area, allowing WPR to begin selling the lots to future resort residents.