It’s not wildflower season yet in Little Cottonwood Canyon, but it’s still the season of wild politics in Alta.
Despite a legal challenge, Alta Mayor Tom Pollard and City Councilman Paul Moxley said Monday they will seek re-election.
They must declare candidacy during the first week of June.
Their decisions come in the wake of a declaration by the Town of Alta that a claim by Mark Haik under Utah’s government liability act is without merit. The claim calls into question the legality of Pollard’s and Moxley’s eligibility to sit on the Town Council.
Haik owns four platted lots within Alta’s municipal boundary.
In 2012, he filed suit in federal court against Salt Lake City and Alta over water: “Salt Lake City Corporation and the Town of Alta combined to accomplish the objective of using denial of water as a means of controlling development within Albion Basin Subdivision,” the still-pending suit states.
In a related matter, Merebea Danforth has replaced Steven “Piney” Gilman on the Town Council.
Danforth and Gilman tied in the 2011 election with 60 votes each. Gilman was seated on the council after he won a coin toss.
Alta resident Guy Jordan filed a challenge against Gilman with Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, arguing that Gilman’s physical residence is in Cottonwood Heights — not Alta. When Swensen ruled in Gilman’s favor, Jordan appealed to 3rd District Court. The court ruled with Jordan and stripped Gilman of the Town Council seat.
At the time the Mark Haik complaint was filed, Paul Haik, a lawyer who represents his brother, said that based on the ruling in Gilman’s case, Alta officials should realize that three of the five members of the Town Council may be serving outside the law and therefore “may be harming our interests.”
Although he filed his claim with the town, Haik has not challenged either man’s eligibility with the Salt Lake County Clerk, as is the norm for questioning eligibility.
Danforth said Monday that such bare-knuckle politics are unusual in the tiny town that abuts the famous ski resort.
“I think it’s all been rather unfortunate,” she said. “Piney served us well. I was sad to see that case go against him.”
Moxley, a Salt Lake City-based attorney who represented Gilman, echoed that sentiment, but said he would run again.
“I feel confident that I’m a lawful resident of Alta,” he said. “Let the people decide [at the ballot box] what they want.”
Pollard, who has served two terms as mayor in addition to 16 years on the council, said he, too, would seek re-election.
“As soon as we file for candidacy, [Haik] may come back at us,” he said. “But I care about this community. It’s my home.”
Monday, Haik said he would wait to see if either man files for candidacy before taking further action.