The Grand County Council approved past minutes during its Tuesday, Jan. 16 meeting. Normally, that would hardly be news. But the approval of a month and a half’s worth of minutes at one time was somewhat noteworthy, if only because it had been so long since the council had approved any minutes at all — and because having waited so long to do so is illegal under Utah law.
Until this week, the council had not approved the minutes for any meeting since September. At its regular meeting, the council approved minutes from five meetings between Oct. 3 and Nov. 14. Minutes of meetings after that, up to and including the last council meeting of Jan. 2, remained unapproved.
And that means the county is still in violation of state law.
According to Utah statute, a public body “shall … make pending minutes available to the public within 30 days after holding the open meeting that is the subject of the pending minutes.” Approval of those draft minutes is required to take place at the next meeting of the body that held the meeting.
Why the wait?
“Because our county clerk has not provided them,” said Grand County Council Chair Mary McGann.
County Clerk/Auditor Diana Carroll provided a reason for that.
“I’ve been a little busy with the budget,” Carroll said on Tuesday.
The gap in approved minutes does follow the recent budget process’s timeline of October-December. “I’ve just got a lot of work to do,” Carroll said. “We’re just catching up.”
Ultimately, the responsibility is the council’s. But, McGann added, ‘It’s out of our hands,” since preparing the minutes is under the purview of another elected official.
The county is also out of compliance with a state law that requires minutes to be posted online. As of 1:43 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, no minutes were online for any meeting since June 6, 2017, either on the county’s website or on a website maintained by the state for that purpose.
The county is also required to post audio recordings of meetings within three days of the meeting. Those recordings were current on the county website’s agenda center.
The council is not the only county body that is shy of compliance with the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act, which sets laws regarding government meetings and the official record of them. The Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency says it does not provide agendas to the media prior to each meeting.
Contacted Wednesday to clarify that position, GWSSA Manager Dana Van Horn said, “I’m not going to say anything. I’m going to contact my attorney,”
But in previous discussions with The Times-Independent, Van Horn maintained that the once-a-year publicizing of a year’s meeting schedule in the newspaper satisfied public-notice law. However, according to The Times-Independent publisher Zane Taylor, the agency has failed to do so since 2008.
The open meetings act specifies that public agencies must publish, through published newspaper content, a yearly schedule of their meetings.
They do not have to pay for publication of each meeting’s agenda, but they do have to provide those agendas to a news outlet or media correspondent, or post them to Utah Public Notice Website, at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
The GWSSA has failed to do either.
Editor’s note — The Times-Independent has filed a formal request with Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald regarding GWSSA’s legal requirements for posting agendas and meeting notices.