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Millard School District, taxpayers group, to provide more evidence in open-meetings case

Published May 20, 2013 6:41 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Fillmore • Two high school gymnasiums have been spared from demolition, at least until a judge decides whether Millard County school officials broke open-meetings law.

Fourth District Judge James Brady continued an emergency restraining order Monday barring the Millard County School District from demolishing the gyms at Delta and Millard high schools. He also gave the district and Millard County Taxpayers for Responsible Government time to provide evidence before he rules on issuing a temporary restraining order.

The taxpayer group, led by Steve Maxfield, argues that the district violated the Open and Public Meetings Act when it decided to raze the gyms and replace them with new buildings.

Maxfield considered Brady's ruling a victory.

"The [emergency order] is still in place," Maxfield said. Brady issued the order on May 13, a day before the district was going to begin demolishing the buildings.

He said Brady's statement that his ruling, which the judge expects to issue by May 31, will include an admonition to obey open-meetings laws was also a good sign.

The district had sought a public bond to replace the aging buildings. When that was rejected, the district chose to use other funds to pay for the work.

But Maxfield and Krista Iverson say the district never provided public notice that it would demolish the buildings. They maintain that plan was discussed in closed sessions, under the classification of "property issues."

R. Todd Macfarlane, the attorney representing the taxpayers' group, said the Open and Public Meetings Act allows public bodies to meet behind closed doors to discuss property sales or leases. The district, he said, did not plan to sell or lease the property, making any closed-door discussions illegal.

"The crux of the point is, these old gyms should not be demolished until [the district] has complied with the Open and Public Meetings Act," Macfarlane said.

But Millard Superintendent David Styler testified Monday that the district conducted public meetings, placed articles in a local newspaper and on the district website explaining that the district's plan was to "replace" the old gyms, which he said meant demolishing the old ones.

Iverson said she went through publicly posted meeting minutes and agendas to try to find where the demolition was discussed, but she said it was not there. She said there were no posted minutes from district work sessions, where Iverson said most of the debate actually happens.

Also, Brady has to decide when the district took "final action" on the demolition issue — at a July meeting when a contract for the new gyms was approved, or in March, when the board defeated a motion to reconsider the demolition plan.

Under the law, people have 90 days after a final action to challenge a violation.