Lawsuit challenges residency of Alta councilman and ski patroler
They say you can't fight city hall. But don't tell that to Alta resident Guy Jordan.
He's scheduled to have his day in Judge Keith Kelly's 3rd District Court on Monday, when his attorney will argue that Steven "Piney" Gilman is not a resident of Alta and therefore cannot serve on the Town Council.
Jordan filed suit against Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen in November 2010. The legal action is based on a law passed earlier that year by the Utah Legislature that allows citizens to appeal a county clerk's decision on voter eligibility.
The outcome may set legal precedent for residency qualifications of those seeking to vote and to hold elective office in Alta and elsewhere.
Gilman has been an Alta ski patrolman since 1979 and is serving his third term on the council. His re-election bid in November 2011 ended in a tie with Merebea Danforth. But Gilman won a coin toss that kept him in office.
Jordan had earlier filed a challenge of Gilman's voter status with Swensen. She subsequently found that Gilman met statutory requirements as an Alta resident.
"I have been challenging nonresidents' right to vote for years in Alta, and those challenges have always ended up dead-ended with the town clerk or the county clerk," Jordan said in an earlier interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. "People should vote where they live. There is no reason that Alta should be an exception."
But Gilman and other longtime Alta denizens say that it's not that simple. Dozens of those veteran ski resort hands moved to Salt Lake Valley to raise families while continuing to work at Alta where some still vote.
Among them is Mayor Tom Pollard. And like Gilman, he has a place in Alta where he sometimes sleeps. And his driver license and tax return identify Alta as his home.
"When we have talked to the election officials about this, they have said you are pushing it right to the line, but we think you're in compliance," Pollard said. "We're certainly not trying to defraud anyone."
Gilman said he spends most of his waking hours in Alta and occasionally spends the night there.
"The statute doesn't say anything about beds," he said. "The courts have determined that you can be a resident wherever you want to be a resident, as long as you pick one place and stick with it."