Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Davis County Clipper Party Lines: Should county pay flouridation fee?



DEMOCRAT: Last month, the Utah Supreme Court ordered Davis County to pay court fees to Utahns for Better Dental Health (UBDH) from the failed fluoridation re-vote of 2002. In short, it was a victory for “the little guy”. The top court made their decision based on the private attorney general doctrine (PAGD) from a similar Utah case in 1994. In both cases, it was determined that citizens should not be discouraged from challenging any law in the courts because of the high cost of litigation.

Todd Weiler, more than likely, will argue the legal aspects of government paying court fees as well as the illegal initiative that started the litigation process. However, it is doubtful that he will mention the political abuses of our elected Republicans that resulted in a lawsuit.

Our County leaders should have known better and should have stopped the pursuit of a re-vote. But, the County’s indifferent attitude towards the citizens of Davis County has shown us yet another example of the taxpayers being betrayed. Consequently, the attempted re-vote procedures made by our elected county officials have brought up some important points.

One question that should be asked, who is running our government?

In May of 2001, a petition was initiated and illegally signed by Steve Rawlings, Dannie McConkie, and Mel Wilson. Clearly, these elected officials went beyond their duties as public officers. The re-vote petition had numerous flaws which made it illegal. Those actions included the absence of a petition application from the State of Utah and the petition should have been filed as a referendum, not as an initiative. When UBDH challenged the illegal petition, the court found in favor of the plaintiffs, but did not allow UBDH to collect court fees from Davis County. UBDH then appealed the court fee decision, all the way to the Supreme Court.

During the appeal process, County Clerk, Steve Rawlings, decided to not use our county attorneys and hired an outside law firm to represent Davis County. Of course, this action only increased of the cost of litigation and is now being paid by us, the taxpayers. Furthermore, Rawlings met privately with the hired attorneys without any County Commissioner present.

Whether or not someone is for or against fluoridation is irrelevant. The point is that our County Government is broken.

Over the years, I have constantly pointed out the hazards of keeping a one-party government in place. The actions from our County Clerk’s office and the inaction from our County Commissioners, unquestionably has shown there are no checks and balances in Davis County. Fortunately, citizens can challenge our one-party government abuses with PAGD. But, the real solution is more obvious. Elect more Democrats.

Of course, some will ask, why should I vote for a Democrat, just because he is a Democrat? A point that could be valid, except for this question: why should anyone vote for a Republican, just because they are a Republican?

Integrity and most of all, open debate, has to return to the people’s government.

Richard Watson,

Chair, Davis County Democratic Party

REPUBLICAN: In November 2000, Davis County voted 52-48 in favor of adding fluoride to the public water supplies. A group of citizens opposed to fluoridation subsequently sought to have a 2002 revote on the issue. Treating their petition for a revote with almost 10,000 signatures as an initiative petition, the Davis County Clerk submitted the petition to the Davis County Commission, which took no action. He then stated that he would place the opinion question on the ballot for the 2002 general election.

Utahns For Better Dental Health (UFBDH) challenged the constitutionality of revote in 2002 on the basis that the petition was actually an untimely referendum, and filed a lawsuit to prevent it. It won, and the 2002 revote was nixed. At that point, the battle for attorney’s fees began. Five years later, the Utah Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision that the County has to pay UFBDH’s attorney’s fees pursuant to the private attorney’s general doctrine.

The private attorney general doctrine applies to societally important public policies. The threshold issue is whether an important right affecting the public interest has been vindicated. The court ruled that a revote based on an untimely petition for referendum would undermine the majority vote in favor of adding fluoride in 2000.

The county was placed in a difficult position when it received a petition with almost 10,000 signatures calling for a revote. The law at that time was unclear on how often a revote could take place, and it has since been clarified. It is hard to fault county officials for erring on the side of allowing the citizens to vote – but the court found that a second vote under those circumstances would undermine the first one.

Since the court found that all of the elements were satisfied, I believe that the county should pay attorney’s fees for the lawsuit. But for the filing of the lawsuit, the county would have allowed the 2002 revote based on an untimely, and therefore flawed, petition.

I do not believe that attorney’s fees should be blocked in all such instances. I will admit that I am biased to the extent that I make my living off of attorney’s fees and I am currently pursuing a case against a private individual pursuant to the private attorney doctrine. I fear that too many important cases would never see the light of day if the possibility of an attorney’s fee award was taken off the table in these instances.

We do, however, have draw the line to protect the public’s treasury. Although this case was arguably a close call, UFBDH did jump through several hoops before it was awarded fees: (1) it showed that the county was acting on an untimely petition; (2) it won in court (and on two appeals); and (3) it prevailed on an issue that was one of significant public interest.


Todd Weiler

Vice Chair, Utah Republican Party

7 comments:

WP said...

Democrats have no chance in Davis County in this generation or at least this decade. A bunch of folk, moderate R's, have been meeting in NSL to discuss ousting Rep. Neuenschwander because of his too conservative and pro voucher agenda. When asked why don't you support or put someone on the Democrat ticket to run against him? It was 'oh no, we could not do that.' Democrats are forever (almost forever maybe) associated with the abortionists, supporters of the Gay and Lesbian agenda and I am certain medicinal uses of marijuana if not other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The two party system we have here is one R candidate running against the other in the county convention. All Democrats ought to consider abandoning their ties to national and start running as R's, at least in Davis County. Rob Miller would be Commissioner Miller if he had.

Richard W. said...

wp:
That arguement that Democrats should break ties with the national party is absolutely bogus. That lame arguement is what got us into this mess we have in Davis County.
And for the life of me, can not figure out why LDS members continue to be Repubs with all of the anti-mormons inside the national party.
But it's always that idiotic arguement about platforms. In my opinion, party platforms should never be used in choosing a candidate. That is saying that every candidate should be in lock step with the party and should not think for themselves. But,if that is the only criteria Utahns vote on, then we will be stuck with a one-party government for a long time and continue with an out-of-control government.

WP said...

Hopefully Richard there will be enough impetus from the likes of Huckabee and others jn the R party coupled with enough people tired of R wars that some will switch. However, based upon my conversations with many very close and numerous Mormon R friends, I can say to you, using that tired cliche, that Hell will freeze over first.

Bogus or pragmatic, that is the question. As long as Dems are associated with choice and Gay issues here in Davis County and Utah the R's will continue to rule as the Lords on the Hill.

WP said...

One more thing Richard, most folks don't care about a one party state considering the alternative in their minds, i.e. Democrats. Those that do care are looking to get less conservative R candidates through the county convention out here. Your party and mine is the embodiment of evil.

You have some people like that emeritus professor of law, whose grandfather was Hugh B. Brown, blasting the General Authorities at the drop of any hat. He does as much to insure that Mormons keep their distance from his vitriol and the Democratic party as any single person in Utah. There is a real perception that Dems in this state are the anti Mormon party. Eddie and others do not help that perception. I do not need to tell you this as you already know it better than I. Its why you make the big bucks as party chair, right?

Richard W. said...

wp:
I think you'd be surprised in how many Mormon Democrats there are. And not just in Utah. The Church leadership has told everyone that platforms contain some good in both parties.
Meaning, we still have to determine who the better candidates are and not who is associated with a particular party.
But there is hope. More and more moderates are turning to the Democratic Party. Also, for the first time in decades, younger people are more involved with politics and most of them are becoming Democrats.
I have to admit, I am surprised at the youth participation because of the apathy they have had over the past 20 plus years.
But, change is happening and the pendulum is now swinging to the left.

WP said...

You are correct. Last year I called Elder Marlin Jensen's office and got an original transcript of his interview with the media/Trib encouraging Mormons to participate with the Democrats, assuring we have more balance and better government here in Utah. It turns out that he was directed to do the interview by Elder Maxwell. That according to Bruce Hafen's biography. The reaction from my Mormon R friends was predictable, largely dismissed because it did not come from President Hinkley etc.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts for Mr. Watson:

In short, it was a victory for “the little guy”.

It was also a victory for hungry attorneys.

“One question that should be asked, who is running our government?”

Those who are elected to run it.

“Over the years, I have constantly pointed out the hazards of keeping a one-party government in place.”

I agree with this ; but the voters of Davis County know what they are doing ; and we shouldn’t question choice of voters – after all wasn’t that what the pro-voucher advocates said after the referendum on vouchers, “Utahans failed an intelligence test” – it works both ways.

“Integrity and most of all, open debate, has to return to the people’s government.”

And your point is what?