BLUFFDALE CITY

14350 South 2200 West • BLUFFDALE, UTAH 84065 • (801) 254-2200 • FAX (801) 253-3270

Vaughn R. Pickell, AICP
City Attorney

November 1, 2013 John E. S. Robson Fabian & Clendenin 215 S. State Street, Suite 1200 Salt Lake City, Utah 84111-2323 Via E-mail: jrobson@fabianlaw.com

Re:

Alleged violation of Utah Election Code

Dear Mr. Robson: I write in response to your letter accusing the Bluffdale Mayor and City Council members of violating the Election Code by se nding a letter to Bluffdale residents rega rding the Jordan School District's ("District" ) proposed tax increase. The City of Bluffdale ("City" ) did not make an "expenditure from public funds" beca use the letter was funded personally by Derk Timothy and other Council Members, not the City of Bluffdale. Moreover, the City did not take any other actions that required an expenditure of public funds. The actions of Mr. Timothy and the mem bers of the City Council in se nding the letter are not illegal, but are political speech that is protected by the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution and by the State Constitution. The Election Code specifica lly provides, "Nothing in this chapte r prohibits a public official from speaking, campaigning, contributing personal money, or otherwise exercising the public official's individual First Amendment rights for political purposes." Utah Code Ann. § 20A-11-1203{2) (emphasis added). Fu rthermo re, it provides, " Nothing in th is chapter prohibits an elected official from campaigning or advocating for or against a ballot proposition." !d. § 20A-111203{6). Therefore, the letter constitutes protected political speech of elected officials in campaigning or advocating aga inst the ballot proposition. I am concerned that the District also has not complied with the Election Code, despite your statement that it has. The City of Bluffdale has received school emp loyees and board members to

our city council meetings. These Jordan School District personnel have lobbied us for a politica l purpose and in an effort to influence the ballot proposition. I can only assume that such attempts at political influence were also undertaken at other local city counci ls and elsewhere. I hope that the evidence will show that Jordan School District employees were not paid wh ile advocating for the passage of Proposition #1. If they were, it would be a clear violation of the same statute you quoted to us, Utah Code Ann. § 20A-11-1203. In addition to the direct lobbying of our city council, it appears that the Jordan School District has also spent funds on various media advocating the passage of Proposition #1. I would be interested to learn the source of funding, entirely divorced from public funds, which support jordanbond.org, the flyers, and the signs in Bluffdale and elsewhere. I hope that such attempts to influence a ballot for political purposes are 100% privately funded or I fear that Jordan School District might also be in violation of the statute. Notable among the various forms of lobbying for the passage of Proposition #1 are the videos seemingly produced by Jordan School District and advertised on their official website. These videos, one of which is almost ten minutes long, are far removed from the statutory allowance of disseminating "factual information ... that grants equal access to both the opponents and proponents of the ballot proposition." Utah Code Ann. § 20A-11-1203(3). Indeed, these videos only portray the "YES" side of Proposition #1 . If public funds were used in any w ay to produce these videos, it might also be a violation of the statute. I will not presume to demand the District's compliance with the Election Code. How ever, I hope that the concerns I mentioned will be addressed. While writing this response to you, I received a hand-delivered letter from Richard Osborn, Board President, again accusing the Mayor and City Council members of acting illegally. I am surprised and disappointed that accusations would be levied by you and by Mr. Osborn without a complete knowledge of the facts. Rather than making unfounded allegations of criminal conduct, perhaps the best forum for the issue is the election booth, where voters may cast ballots and the proposition will either succeed or fail on its own merits. Please contact me if you have any questions.

CC:

Sim Gill, Salt Lake District Attorney Richard S. Osborn, Jordan School District Board President Jordan School District Board of Education

BLUFFDALE CITY
14350 South 2200 West • BLUFFDALE, UTAH 84065 • (801) 254-2200 • FAX (801) 253-3270