Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Eagle Mtn. City Council Seals Documents

"The City Council has approved a settlement with a property owner for a power-line right of way and land for a power substation.

But don't expect to find out how much it's costing taxpayers anytime soon.

The council, without public discussion, unanimously voted on May 5 to seal the settlement documents, saying the paperwork was protected under the state Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).

City Attorney Jerry Kinghorn said the settlement had to be sealed because the city is still in talks with other property owners.

The settlement was worked out with the help of the state's property rights ombudsman, and the city is in talks with five other land owners, said Administrator John Hendrickson.

Said Kinghorn, "We are allowed to protect [the settlement agreement] while we are acquiring similar properties."

In a memo to the council, Kinghorn said each property needs to be handled independently, and the other property owners shouldn't be able to use the settlement as evidence in their negotiations.

But that doesn't sit well with Joel Campbell, a Brigham Young University journalism professor and open-government advocate.

While the law allows property appraisals to be kept out of public view during real-estate negotiations, Campbell said they should be public once the deal is done.

"The city has a right to know how much the city settled for," Campbell said. "Under GRAMA, out-of-court settlements are public documents."

Kinghorn said the record will be disclosed -- eventually. When the rest of the property disputes are settled, all the information will be released." -Salt Lake Tribune

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