Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good News for Advocates of Open Government

Judge orders Ogden City to to describe withheld records in more detail

Regular Weber County Forum readers will recall the pending Second District Court GRAMA lawsuit, wherein the Ogden Sierra Club has sought production of Ogden City administration records pertaining to the Godfrey/Peterson gondola project. So far the administration has stonewalled both the plaintiff and the court, by inadequately describing documents which it has withheld from GRAMA document production.

In this connection, we're delighted to report that The Sierra Club achieved a major victory in the District Court yesterday, with a ruling from Judge West, ordering the administration to describe these withheld records in sufficient detail to justify the record's exemption from disclosure under Utah's open records law. We link this morning's Sierra Club press release below:

JUDGE ORDERS OGDEN TO DESCRIBE WITHHELD RECORDS IN MORE DETAIL

We'll refrain from making our own editorial comments on this, in the interest of not killing off the robust reader discussion in the lower thread.

Suffice it to say however that we're proud of the Ogden Sierra Club for vigorously pursuing this expensive and time-consuming litigation. Hopefully this new development will result in the production of documents which will shed more light on the secret back room dealings of the Godfrey administration, in connection with the boondoggle that so deeply divided our community for several years.

A Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to the Ogden Sierra Club, for their demonstrated diligence and persistence in promoting the principles of open government.

Added sodden humor bonus (Click to enlarge):


Update 10/17/08 8:45 a.m. MT: The Salt Lake Tribune has a short article this morning on this topic. There's still nothing from the Standard-Examiner.

15 comments:

danny said...

Now this is more like it, Dan S.

Moroni McConkie said...

Ed Allen should have told his cousin Vaughn (Page 1-B, today's Standard) that his new horse-boarding facility competes unfairly with the mayor's clever plan to lure the horsey set to downtown Ogden with free stabling at Lorin Farr Park.

danny said...

Gasoline should be retailing at about $2.20 per gallon right now.

This is one of the many advantages of depressions. Things get cheap for those who have dough to spend.

I just hope we didn't blow a nice development on 24th street thanks to the council vote. They need to stay on top of this. The developer needs to know we are interested, just waiting a few months. We don't need more desolation in East Central.

My sources tell me the only reason Godfrey vetoed the project is the developer has not agreed to his kickbacks (campaign cash) yet. Godfrey apparently tricked the city council with his usual skill.

Monotreme said...

Dan S.:

This is an exciting and positive development.

Let's hope that the stonewalling will stop.

It's often said that sunshine is the best disinfectant. That maxim applies here.

Orkin Man said...

Cockroaches don't like the light of day, and will scurry away when you pick up whatever it was they were hiding under.

Bill C. said...

Good grief Dan, you're jeopordizing the total salvation of our rundown decrepate Ogden. Lying little matty won a landslide election and mandate after proclaiming that an urban gondola to a non existant, world class, west facing ski resort offering about 500 verticle ft of if'y ski terrain was the only way to save us. He claimed this vision came from the almighty and no one of faith should have the audacity to question him.
Now your persistence could work just like the devils hand placing all our salvation in jeopordy.
All true believers know that sometimes the work of the almighty may require tactics that cannot pass the smell test, and ethical, moral and legal paths are insufficiant. Your gramma has the possibility of exposing some transgressions that may even approach criminal hieghts, these may have been the only avenue to get around some of the obsticles in the path of our righteous communal salvation.
This we know from refering to such reliable webpages provided by the truely blessed Ogden Properties llc, Ogden Chamber of Commerce (until recently) and of course the truely beloved, Ogden's own citizens favored, Brandon anally Stephenson.
Gondolas can save the world!!!!!!

Curmudgeon said...

Congratulations to Dan for pursuing this, and winning.

And the Administration that likes to complain about other people's refusal to communicate sank scarce public funds into an attempt to conceal, yet again, and in violation of the GRAMA statutes, what it was... and is... up to.

And people wonder why there's a lack of trust in Ogden regarding the Godfrey Administration? And who's fault that is?

OgdenLover said...

Reader comment bumped to top shelf

curious like a cat said...

It is refreshing to find one judge in District Court who sees it like it is.

Judge West saw the issue very clearly and ruled accordingly. The issue was whether Ogden has to comply with existing law.

Too bad West was not the judge instead of Judge Parley Baldwin in the court case brought by Littrel and 60 some other Plaintiffs before Ogden's last municip[al election. Parley Baldwin ruled that Littrel and bunch had to pay $15,000.00 of the fees charged by the Salt Lake attorneys who defended Ogden City Attorney Williams and Ogden City Recorder Mansell in the case.

Both City Attorney Gary Williams and City Recorder Cindy Mansell should have been fired for refusing to do their duty as outlined in the Ogden City Municipal Code which is the governing law and which required them to look at Matthew Godfrey's campaign records which was the whole purpose of the suit..

It would be interesting to know how much of a cut went to Judge Baldwin of the $15,000.00 attorneys' fees paid by litigants because of his ruling.

I am of the opinion that Baldwin was paid off in some fashion for that ruling.

But now Judge Baldwin is retiring so we may never find out.

Let's hope the replacement judge is of a higher caliber than Parley Baldwin turned out to be.

The attorney for the litigants, Brian Barnard, has taken his case to the Utah Supreme Court regarding Baldwin's ruling that Brian personally has to pay a$10,000.00 fine for daring to bring the the case for the litigants.

All of this reflects on Mayor Matthew Godfrey's administration and the fact that he was the person responsible for firing and or hiring both Williams and Mansell. So course, they refused to look at his campaign records.

Mayor Matthew Godfrey's administration will known for a long time by the stench it will leave behind.

disgusted said...

curious like a cat
dont get to excited about parley baldwins retirement. my bet is his replacement will be reed richards. i think reed is bernie allens cousin. not too far from the godfrey family tree.

dorrene said...

Danny,

Please tell me what's going on with the 24th St development. Please email me at jeske4ogden@comcast.net. We don't want to lose that project either.

Thanks!

dan s. said...

Here's the Trib's brief write-up of this story.

I expected to see something in today's Standard-Examiner as well, but I don't. Perhaps they're working on a more in-depth article to appear over the weekend.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

Do you suppose the SE's coverage, when they get around to it, if they do, will answer this nagging question: why wasn't it the SE that brought this suit instead of leaving it to the Sierra Club?

dan s. said...

curm:

The short answer, of course, is "no".

I wouldn't have expected the S-E to get involved in this particular lawsuit, because they need to avoid any perception that they might be allied with the Sierra Club (a laughable notion, to be sure, but still a potential issue with some readers).

But more broadly, it should be the newspaper's job to fight for open government and to take the city to court when necessary. It would be interesting to know how many records requests the S-E has filed with the city over the last few years, how many of these have been denied, and how often the S-E has responded to a denial by initiating legal action.

The only recent example of a legal battle that I know of was over access to the files of the applicants for the city council vacancy two years ago. The dispute was quickly settled out of court, but I know that the S-E hired an outside attorney and they may even have filed a formal complaint. I'm glad the S-E pursued that one, but I'm bothered that their open government campaign seems to be aimed only at the city council, not at the administration. As we both know well, there are plenty of other cases they could have pursued, including the Ogden Community Foundation and the city's cooked books of crime statistics.

Keep in mind that the courts normally move at glacial speeds, so by the time a legal battle is resolved, the records in question may no longer be newsworthy. Also keep in mind that going to court is very expensive, and more so for a newspaper than for a nonprofit like the Sierra Club that has access to pro bono or "low bono" attorneys.

Nevertheless, a good newspaper should be willing to go to court occasionally to establish good precedents. The Utah Supreme Court recently set an excellent precedent in an open records case between the DesNews and Salt Lake County.

burned bad said...

Reed Richards was Asst. Utah Attorney General if my memory serves me right.

He made an unsuccessful attempt at running for Utah Attorney General.

He was not outstanding in his state position.

Then there is Maurice Richards who seems to be the current patriarch.

He served as the Weber County Judge for domestic disputes (divorce cases) for years.

My experience with him in that capacity was a disaster.

There is political incest without providing judicial incest.

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