A Vernal man is suing Uintah County School District and its school board, alleging they failed to give proper public notice and gather comment before approving the district’s 2017-2018 budget, which included a $3.5 million tax increase.

James Drollinger filed a complaint Friday in 8th District Court, asserting that the district violated Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act on several counts and seeking to nullify its June 20 budget approval.

“Due to the deficient and inadequate notice of the hearing,” the suit claims, “Uintah County residents, including Drollinger, were deprived of the opportunity to be heard and present public comment regarding the proposed budget.”

Attempts on Tuesday to contact Drollinger through his attorneys in the case were not immediately successful.  

District Superintendent Mark Dockins said Tuesday he could not comment on the lawsuit’s claims with the litigation pending, but he defended the district’s adherence to open-meetings laws.  

“Uintah School District believes in the public‘s right to know and works diligently to try to conduct all district business in accordance with state open records laws,” he said. ”We look forward to presenting our case in court if it becomes necessary.”

State open-meetings laws requiring school board to hold a hearing for public comment on their proposed budgets prior to approval.  

Drollinger claims in his lawsuit that the district did not provide adequate public notice that its budget was up for comment and possible approval at the June 20 business meeting in question, and did not offer prior access to copies of the document on its internet site.

A notice published May 30 did not include the meeting’s agenda, Drollinger says, nor details on how to review the budget online.  The board still adopted the proposed budget, which included a planned $3.5 million tax increase. 

Once members of the public learned of the approval, according to Drollinger, many attended the board’s next meeting ”and expressed substantial concern regarding the budget and tax increase. However, the budget had already been adopted.”

Drollinger’s suit seeks to void the board’s vote and to recover ”reasonable attorneys fees and costs.”