No one contested the point.
Even an attorney representing a grass-roots group trying to pry open the confidential "draft document" conceded that part of the city's claim.
"I know the city has relied on the idea that a city can be considered a person and we don't dispute that," said Jon Call, attorney for residents seeking to block potential development of the Mulligans Golf and Games resort.
Members of the Records Committee didn't disagree either — for good reason.
Utah's open-records law, the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), specifically defines "person" as an individual, a corporation or any other type of business organization.
That's not the only state law using that classification.
A corporation, association, business trust or other organization is defined as a person in Utah Code dealing with commerce and trade.
The same appears in the section concerning public utilities.
South Jordan cited Utah's GRAMA law in advancing its city-as-a-person argument because, like most cities, it's organized as a municipal corporation.
South Jordan attorneys also brought up Supreme Court rulings in Citizens United v. FEC and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores to bolster their case, citing those decisions as recognitions of a corporation's constitutional rights of free speech (with the ability to make unlimited independent expenditures on political campaigns) and religious liberty (with the right not to have to provide contraceptive insurance to employees).
Verne Cotton, a local organizer in the Move to Amendment effort pushing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, expressed disgust at the state of the law.
"Atrocious," he said when asked about the South Jordan argument and the business-friendly definition of personhood in Utah Code. He said this "legal fiction" is allowing "corporations to hide behind the Constitution."
He pointed to last year's nonbinding survey in Salt Lake City where 88 percent of voters agreed with the premise that corporations are not people and money is not speech.
Back in the state Records Committee hearing, South Jordan tried to cross a bridge too far when it pressed the city's legal status as a "person" to argue that a draft report on the finances of Mulligans Golf was confidential because it was created for the "personal use" of an individual — namely, South Jordan City.
"The city is not an individual," countered committee member Patricia Smith-Mansfield. "GRAMA does define 'individual' as a human being, not a corporation. … There's a difference between a person and an individual."