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Voters will decide winner in angry Bluffdale mayor-county clashes
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

BLUFFDALE - On Tuesday, voters here could end a power struggle that has spiraled into one of the biggest showdowns in the city's 29-year history.

In one corner: a mayor who, in 2005, won the right to run Bluffdale and hold the city's executive powers.

In the other: five City Council members who appointed a city manager and changed Bluffdale's form of government, giving the new manager control of the city's day-to-day operations after saying the mayor abused her power. Then, faced with mayor-initiated lawsuits, the council reversed that decision, saying it would call a special election and let voters have the final say.

Now, voters in this southern Salt Lake Valley suburb will play the part of referee when they decide:

* Was the council justified in taking Mayor Claudia Anderson's executive powers?

* Or should the CEO they elected in 2005 run this 8,000-resident city?

The issue peaked last September when the council stripped Anderson of her executive powers and changed the city's form of government after she fired Bluffdale's longtime administrative-services director.

Under the council's revised ordinances, the mayor would perform ceremonial and administrative functions, but a manager would hold the executive duties of running the city. The Legislature even got involved in the political brouhaha.

Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights, called that move "neutering the mayor" and sponsored legislation that would have required a popular vote to change the form of municipal governments. Her bill would have overturned the Bluffdale council's change.

Instead, lawmakers slapped a moratorium on changing forms of government without a popular vote, and Anderson regained control of the city's executive gavel until the referendum.

Bluffdale resident Linda Robertson helped force the council to put its ordinance before the people. She hopes residents will vote for the mayor retaining her powers because the council "overstepped its bounds" and "disenfranchised the vote of the people," who elected Ander- son.

But some residents say the council simply dealt with an out-of-control mayor.

Al Halbert publicly called on Anderson to resign earlier this year, saying the mayor had used her money and lawsuits as a "de facto veto."

"She's bringing the city to a standstill," he said, "with lawsuits that have no standing."

Anderson twice sued the council - once after it stripped her executive powers and once after it challenged her authority to unilaterally fire an administrative-services director. She lost the latter suit, and the referendum surfaced from the former.

But Halbert and Robertson agree on one thing: Tuesday's vote might not stop Bluffdale's bickering.

A hopeful Robertson wants the council to enact principles that unify - rather than divide - the city.

Halbert is less confident.

"If the citizens say, 'Enough is enough,' I hope the mayor will live by that and withdraw her lawsuits," he said. "But I have a terrible feeling that she won't - in which case the election may be for nothing."


Where to vote

Registered Bluffdale voters can go to the polls Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The city's six precincts will be assigned to three stations:

* Precincts 3802 and 3806: City Hall (14175 S. Redwood Road)

* Precincts 3801 and 3803: Bluffdale LDS Stake Center (2742 W. 14400 South)

* Precincts 3804 and 3805: Bluffdale Elementary (14323 S. 2700 West)

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