LOGAN – North Logan City Mayor Lyndsay Peterson publicly responded to a judge’s May 29 ruling on an alleged Utah Open Meetings Act violation on KVNU’s “For The People” with Jason Williams, Friday evening. 

“What (the judge) ruled in this situation is that we should have used the word ‘closed session’ rather than ‘executive’ in noticing those meetings,” Peterson told Williams on the daily news radio program.

At the end of May, First District Court Judge Spencer D. Walsh ruled partial summary judgment in a case stating North Logan City violated state law by failing to properly announce a closed meeting, according to court documents. Judge Walsh required North Logan City to publicly make available recordings or minutes of the illegally closed meetings within 30 days. 

North Logan can comply with that order or request the court provide an in camera review, which is where the court would look at the 18 months of closed meetings in question and decide if confidential information was discussed. If so, it would not need to release those recordings to the public under the Utah Open Public Meetings Act.

Peterson suggested the case, at its core, involved a word choice.

“That’s a procedural issue, it’s a semantic issue,” she told Williams.

That’s where North Logan resident Brett Robinson, the plaintiff in the case who made the complaint, disagrees.

“It’s not just semantics – it’s a lot more,” Robinson told Cache Valley Daily in an interview. 

He suggested some of these closed meetings were as long, in duration, as the open meetings.

“There are reasons to go into a (closed) meeting, I agree with that,” he said. “But not to protect politicians.”

Robinson, who said he frequently attends city council meetings, agrees there are things in a meeting that need to be closed to protect individuals. If that is the case, then he agrees with the reasoning to go into a closed meeting. 

“I’m fearful we will discover that much of that content (in the closed meetings) was to protect politicians,” Robinson added. 

Peterson believes what was in the recorded closed meetings is not an issue.

“I am confident that based on that review that we are in the confines of OPMA,” she said.

North Logan has 21 days to request an in camera review of those recorded meetings, which the court would “undertake the laborious task of reviewing the recording in camera to determine whether any of those particular subsections apply to the specifically identified recordings,” according to court records. 

The law allows three exceptions for a city to close a public meeting: to discuss pending litigation, the sale of property, and personnel issues. 

Peterson discussed with Williams that if a city is holding a closed session, sometimes the perception is that alone is evidence of impropriety or secrecy. She challenged that theory and suggested closed meetings are the opposite.

“If your city is not holding closed sessions and (it is) seemingly making decisions in open sessions without much discussion, I think you have to ask yourself – when are they deliberating about that?”

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