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Paul Rolly: Ken Ivory defenders can’t get their lawsuits straight


| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Jun 03 2014 04:42 pm • Last Updated Jun 04 2014 07:29 am

Public officials occasionally make statements so egregiously false and misleading, they can’t go unchallenged — even when they are made to disagree with me.

My column May 24 made the point that Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, the state Legislature’s most ardent supporter of states’ rights issues regarding public lands, has a habit of making money from his passionate leadership of those causes.

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He has a paid position with the American Lands Council, which lobbies for those positions. At the same time, he pushes legislation consistent with what that organization is trying to do. He promoted his book "Where’s the Line?" at Republican gatherings and at events he organized while introducing legislation consistent with the arguments made in the book, and he filed a frivolous lawsuit against West Jordan, trying to wrest $100,000 from the city.

Demar Dahl, Doug Heaton and Grant Gerber, county commissioners and founding board members of the American Lands Council, wrote an opinion piece published May 31 in The Tribune, challenging my assertions.

Arguing that Ivory’s work, his book and the cause are worthwhile, the column didn’t effectively dismiss the notion that Ivory has had the ability to capitalize on his legislative passions, just like the dormant Patrick Henry Caucus in the Legislature attempted to make money on their tea party causes.

But they are flat out wrong that I was mistaken about the lawsuit and its blatant attempt to suck money from city coffers for Ivory’s personal benefit.

The commissioners wrote that Ivory sued the city at the request of his neighbors to block the city from selling public park lands for commercial development.

"Mr. Ivory sued city hall — and won," they wrote.

That’s true. Ivory prevailed in that case.

But that was a different lawsuit.

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I wrote about his suit in federal court in which he demanded $100,000 from the city for violating his First Amendment rights because he was removed from a City Council meeting after he kept talking beyond the three-minute limit during a public comment period.

Early in the litigation, he offered to drop the suit for $30,000.

Ivory’s countless motions and affidavits cost the city more than $52,000 in litigation costs after several years, and in the end, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ruled against Ivory on every point. She dismissed the case "with prejudice." That means that Ivory’s claim was so pointless, he couldn’t redo the complaint and bring it back to her court. It was a dismissal with an exclamation point.

That’s not winning. That’s losing.

Even after all that, Ivory filed an appeal with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. That would have cost the city tens of thousands of dollars more. So the City Council agreed to pay him $10,000 as a nuisance settlement. He agreed to drop all claims and the city adamantly denied any wrongdoing as part of the deal.

The county commissioners were either deliberately misleading, or they don’t do their homework very well.

Speaking of Ivory • He was the most vocal opponent last year of going forward with a House investigation of then-Attorney General John Swallow.

He also was one of just three House members who voted against funding an investigation of Swallow, who has since resigned under a cloud of suspicion and is in the cross-hairs of a criminal probe.

Right around the time that Ivory was vigorously fighting an investigation of Swallow, he was invited by Swallow to make a presentation at the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) in Colorado Springs last July.

Chris Coppin, legal director for CWAG, says Ivory was not on the agenda, but at the breakfast meetings, attorneys general can bring up issues informally. On the second day of the conference, Swallow introduced Ivory, who then made his presentation about the American Lands Council.

The American Lands Council signs up counties and other entities as members for a fee. A Gold Level membership costs $25,000.

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