Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Court Orders Ogden To Explain Status Of Missing Records

More progress in the Ogden Sierra Club's two-year GRAMA battle

We are delighted to report this morning that the Ogden Sierra Club continues to make apparent progress in its now two-year old legal battle with Ogden City, wherein the Ogden Sierra Club continues to seek full production of Ogden City administration records pertaining to the Godfrey/Peterson gondola project, and the city's legal relationship with FOM* Chris Peterson:

On June 11, 2d District Court Judge W. Brent West ordered that Ogden City must provide the Sierra Club with more information about several government records related to the gondola proposal and its business dealings with Chris Peterson.

In a ruling signed June 11, Second District Judge W. Brent West ordered Ogden to explain the status of eight separate “missing” records or groups of records. These records are related to requests filed by the Sierra Club two years ago, asking for information on gondola-related studies and the city’s dealings with UTA and Chris Peterson, who owns the Malan’s Basin property east of the city.

The missing records were not included in the city’s initial responses to the club’s requests, nor were they listed in an index of withheld records that the city provided, under order from the court, last October. Most of the missing records are attachments to emails that the city has already provided to the Sierra Club.

“We know these missing records existed at one time,” said Sierra Club volunteer Dan Schroeder, “and that they would have been responsive to our requests. But the city has been evasive about their status, refusing to say whether these records were inadvertently overlooked, or lost, or destroyed.”

The missing records include a budget and other data pertaining to gondola-related studies, a proposed development agreement between the city and Chris Peterson, and records related to Peterson’s purchase, under the name Bootjack LLC, of the former Bloom’s Recycling property on the 2100 block of Wall Avenue.

“It’s unfortunate that we had to go to court just to learn that the city had apparently overlooked these records,” said Schroeder. “If the city had provided us with a list of withheld records two years ago, as we requested, this all could have been handled less formally. Now the city has incurred tens of thousands of dollars of attorney’s fees, only to be ordered to release the information after all.”

Background information and a copy of Judge West's order are posted on the Sierra Club website:
Lawsuit vs. Ogden City to obtain records related to the gondola project
Who will be the first to comment?

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* Friend of Matt

Update 7/8/09 8:32 a.m. MT: As Dan S. has already noted in the lower comments section, Tim Gurrister further fleshes out this story with his morning Standard-Examiner writeup:
Judge orders Ogden to find information for Sierra Club

19 comments:

althepal said...

It would be interesting to find out just how many taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this two year old Godfrey song and dance. As we learned during Dorothy Littrell's litigation, Godfrey's private law firm, Snow Christensen and Martineau, don't work cheap.

Dan S. said...

Al,

My estimate of "tens of thousands" is based on what the Sierra Club's legal fees would be, if our attorneys were charging us their full rates (which they aren't).

The city's legal expenses are covered by its insurance, but just a couple of weeks ago we read that the city's premiums will be going up next year.

blackrulon said...

Why isn't the city legal staff working on this? Is this not something attorney Williams can simply announce as cured?

monotreme said...

Good job, Dan.

Milt said...

Looks like Ogden's insurance carrier, which is raising Ogden's rates, has a handle on Godfrey's frivolous litigation expense.

Any rate increase imposed by Ogden's insurance carrier should be deducted by the council from the little twit's annual salary, I think.

Curmudgeon said...

In re: public records: the standard that should be applied to public records by every public administration, every level, is very simple. It is this: any record produced by government is presumed to be available to the public, on request, unless the government involved can make a strong case for its being an exception and withholding it. Strong case. "It would embarrass us" is not grounds for withholding anything.

The Godfrey administration seems to be working on the opposite presumption: that government produced documents it wishes not to make public are presumed to be secret unless a court decrees otherwise.

This matter has been going on, as Dan says, for about two years now, and is still not resolved. An administration can thus conceal potentially embarrassing documents it does not want made public prior to an election [out of concern that it would cost votes] until long after the election had passed. That Utah legislators should have written the GRAMA statute in such a way as to nearly guarantee it will not produce embarrassing documents at electorally awkward moments have, this last session, revised the GRAMA statute to make it even more difficult to pry documents loose from public officials who might be embarrassed by their release.

Whoda thunk it.

althepal said...

Sooner later, I think, Godfrey's penchant for government secrecy will not only piss off judge West, but also the rest of the 2d District Court bench.

(Believe me. 2d District Court judges DO discuss their pending cases with their colleagues over lunch.)

It's fairly certain now that Judge West understands that Williams and Godfrey are just playing "cute" legal games; and we can be pretty sure that the other 2d District Court judges understand the issues too.

Harried Judges like Judge West don't look kindly to litigants like Godfrey, who mess with their calenders with frivolous excuses.

Look for Judge West to become VERY pissed-off VERY soon.

Dan S. said...

Tim Gurrister has written up this story for today's Standard-Examiner:

http://www.standard.net/live/news/177899/

The most interesting twist is that the mayor said he had not been advised of the judge's decision. Has he ordered Mr. Williams never to bring him any bad news?

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

I don't know what would be worse for Ogden --- that Hizzonah was being dishonest when he told the SE he didn't know about the decision [which was handed down a couple of weeks ago, wasn't it?]. Or that he's so out of touch with his own appointees and the city's business that he really didn't know.

Dan S. said...

Curm: My thoughts exactly.

Bill C. said...

Curm, it's quite simple. Lying little matty is just following his instinct and naturally just lied when questioned by the press. Had Schwebke familiarised himself with the content of that which he was reporting on, he would have realized that the ruling was sufficiantly old enough that godfrey couldn't possibly be telling the truth.

Dan S. said...

Bill,

It was Tim Gurrister, not Scott Schwebke. And he was well aware of the timing, as evidenced by an email inquiry that he sent me and our follow-up conversation.

Bill C. said...

Dan, I apologize to Schwebke, but is this a reflection on how the gondola examiners are told how to report? Surely lying little matty's claim of not knowing should sparked a response from the reporter.

Dan S. said...

Bill,

Sometimes it's best for a reporter to let the facts speak for themselves. Gurrister reported what the mayor said, and we can all come to our own conclusions. I suppose Gurrister could have pressed the mayor to explain how he could be unaware of the decision, but in the grand scheme of things it's not that big a deal.

RudiZink said...

Dan, I was interested to learn from this morning's Gurrister story that the bulk of missing documents seem to have been contained as email attachments. Many times in the past I've received hard-copy email printouts sent out by the recorder's office which clearly refer to attachments; yet never... and I mean NEVER... are the attached documents provided as part of the printouts.

This is probably attributable to the fact that the lower level 'clerks' who copy and transmit these documents don't carefully read and examine them.

Hopefully the administration has preserved not only the original hard-copy antecedents, but their electronic versions as well.

It would be a shame to learn that these 8 document sets may have been subjected to both electronic and mechanical "shreddings."

Curmudgeon said...

Rudi:

"It would be a shame to learn that these 8 document sets may have been subjected to both electronic and mechanical "shreddings."

Hmmmmm... are we soon, I wonder, to have a Godfrey Administration version of "the Rosemary stretch" trotted out for public consumption?

Bill C. said...

Surely Chris Peterson, UTA and the other outside parties still have their copies, and being such good citizens will offer to furnish them for public veiwing.

Dan S. said...

Rudi,

Yes, most of the "missing" records are attachments to emails that they gave us two years ago. We assumed at the time that the attachments were being classified as protected, but now it appears that the various city staff who responded to the GRAMA requests never even provided the attachments to the city recorder or city attorney for review. And we had no way of knowing this until last October, when we finally obtained an itemized list of the records that were being withheld.

For those who are interested, I've pasted below a list of the "missing" records, copied from the memorandum that we filed with our motion. All except items 2 and 8 consist of missing attachments to emails that we have. Item 2 consists of "charts" that were apparently sent by fax as a follow-up to an email that we have. Only item 8 is unrelated to any records that the city already gave us.

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1. “Cost and sales cost” information apparently sent by Scott Brown to Mayor Godfrey, David Harmer, and John Patterson on or about April 11, 2006, for use in the gondola fiscal impacts study being conducted by Lewis Young Roberson & Burningham, Inc. See email from Brown to Godfrey, Harmer, and Patterson, attached as Exhibit D. (The subject line of this email may indicate that the information was contained in a spreadsheet attachment titled “Book2.xls”.)

2. “Charts” apparently sent by John Patterson to Susan Becker on or about April 11, 2006, for use in the gondola fiscal impacts study. See email and attachment from Patterson to Becker, attached as Exhibit E. (“I am going to fax the charts I refer to in the document this evening.”)

3. The “drafts of two letters” and “draft of an agreement” apparently sent by UTA to Mayor Godfrey on or about April 14, 2006. See email from Jana Evans (signed “Michael”) to Matthew Godfrey, attached as Exhibit F. (“Attached are drafts of two letters … Also attached is a draft of an agreement …”)

4. The “gondola numbers” apparently sent by Mayor Godfrey to John Patterson on or about May 12, 2006, for use in the fiscal impacts study. See emails exchanged between Godfrey, Patterson, and Susan Becker, attached as Exhibit G. (The existence of a missing attachment to the 2:36 pm email is implied by the fact that this email has no other content, and by Becker’s acknowledgment of receiving “the Mayor’s changes”.)

5. The “draft Agreement” apparently sent by Mick Crandall to Scott Brown on or about December 4, 2006, and apparently forwarded to John Patterson on or about December 6, 2006. See email chain from Crandall to Brown to Patterson, attached as Exhibit H. (“Attached is a draft Agreement …”)

6. The “budget for the UTA grant that Scott Brown prepared,” which was apparently sent by David Harmer to other city officials and to Chris Peterson on or about December 20, 2006. See email from Harmer to Mark Johnson, John Patterson, and Chris Peterson, attached as Exhibit I.

7. The “development agreement” apparently sent by Mayor Godfrey to Chris Peterson on or about May 24, 2006, plus any attachments or exhibits to this agreement that were transferred between Ogden and Chris Peterson. See email from Godfrey to Peterson and reply from Peterson to Godfrey, attached as Exhibit J.

8. Records of communication between Ogden and Chris Peterson or his agents concerning the purchase of certain parcels of land from the Ogden Redevelopment Agency by Bootjack LLC, a company that is apparently owned by Peterson. See news article titled “RDA mulls ‘full disclosure’ policy,” Ogden Standard-Examiner, March 1, 2007, attached as Exhibit K. (“…would-be developer Chris Peterson owns Bootjack LLC, which has been granted an option to purchase three RDA parcels downtown.”)

cole said...

lets not forget that both petersen and godfrey are both taking their orders from the overlords in slc. i am glad the judge is not a mo, otherwise there would be no point in even fighting this, as the mos always get their way in utah.

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