A long time passed before a final decision came, but the Utah Supreme Court has ruled that the Richfield City Council acted within its legal rights nine years ago when it fired former Police Chief Boyd Ward.
The Supreme Court upheld a decision of the Utah Court of Appeals, which concluded that the council did not violate the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act as was claimed by Ward. He also sought a temporary restraining order and said his request for an administrative appeal was improperly denied.Ward also lost a suit in U.S. District Court, contending his civil rights were violated. He sued for $250,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in conspiratorial damages.
U.S. District Judge David K. Winder concluded in 1983 that there were unresolvable differences between Ward and city officials but that there was no conspiracy by the council, and the defendants had no personal animosity against the chief when they fired him. Ward had said the council met in a private session for the purpose of replacing him, constituting a conspiracy.
In its dismissal of Ward, council members said he was being terminated because of internal problems in the department but said he was an efficient department head.
Named in the suit were former Mayor Kendrick Harward, former councilmen Glen Ogden, Kay Kimball, Rex Warenski and Duane Wilson and City Administrator Woody Farnsworth. Harward and Warenski are deceased.
The State Supreme Court decision noted that the dismissal of Ward was not on the council's agenda when it took action on April 2, 1981, but that an executive session was held and the formal vote to discharge the chief was effective April 3. A June 5 public notice stated a special meeting would be held June 8 to ratify the action taken on April 2.
When a June 6 request by Ward to the council for an administrative appeal was denied, he notified city fathers that he would file legal action.
Ward served the council with a temporary order, but the 6th District Court concluded it had no jurisdiction to hear Ward's complaint. The state Supreme Court disagreed, however, and remanded the case back to the district court. A summary judgment by that court ruled in favor of the city.
The Supreme Court concluded that "the absence of an item of business on the agenda does not preclude its consideration." Justices admitted that the council violated a temporary restraining order but ruled this did not void the action taken at the meeting on June 8.