Though they sit next to each other on the City Council bench, Councilwoman Renee Coon and Mayor Bob Linnell couldn't be farther apart in the courses they've been traveling to oppose a natural gas pipeline.
Their courses will likely collide Wednesday night in a City Council meeting.Coon plans to blast Linnell for "compromising his integrity" in the pipeline issue. (Please see box.)
And Linnell plans to counterattack Coon's charges, which he said are characterized by "outright inaccuracies and statements taken out of context."
Under pressure by the mayor and City Council to substantiate her repeated claims of "corruption," Coon released a statement over the weekend, outlining what she feels has been "morally unsound" conduct on the part of Linnell.
"I am tired of a mayor who cannot bring himself to fulfill the charge he has been given and who is saying one thing while doing another," Coon said.
Linnell has publicly stated that he opposes the pipeline but has done little to stop it, Coon said.
The pipeline - which would carry natural gas from Wyoming to Southern California - is being built by Kern River Gas Transmission Co., which has already begun clearing rights of way in southern Utah.
Coon - who is also president of a citizens group opposing the pipeline - said there are still several opportunities to stop the project from using the "Wasatch Variation" route, which crosses Morgan and Davis counties before slicing through residential areas in Salt Lake County.
But each time a chance comes up for the city to join an appeal or an injunction or to delay the pipeline, the mayor finds a way to say "no," said Coon, who lives less than half a mile from where the pipeline would cross North Canyon.For example, Coon said she had been organizing a coalition of cities to oppose the pipeline only to find out that the mayor had secretly called some of the mayors to tell them not to work with her citizens group.
"While I was trying to build bridges between the cities, he was trying to blow them up as fast as he could."
She also questioned his past business dealings with the pipeline company and the propriety of having a Linnell family member employed by the company.
Out of town on business Monday, Linnell released a statement through his secretary, denying any wrongdoing and dismissing Coon's attacks as desperation.
"It is a frustrated person's attempt to find a scapegoat for her personal failure, her organization's failure and the city's failure to stop a pipeline."
Linnell reiterated his opposition to the project and said he will support legal means to oppose the pipeline when "we deem it appropriate."
Coon's citizens group "has yet to prevail on one legal issue, and they have not stopped or even slowed the pipeline down," he said.
Linnell said Coon's corruption charges have "impuned (sic) the actions of the rest of the City Council and damaged the good name of the City of Bountiful."
Indeed, the City Council, which three weeks ago sent Coon a strongly worded letter asking her to clarify or retract her allegations of corruption, is caught in the middle of the Coon-Linnell fight.
"I hope this will all open the eyes of the City Council," Coon said. "Or they may be very defensive of the mayor and take some action against me. But it's a risk I've got to take."
Points and counterpoints
Councilwoman Renee Coon accuses Mayor Bob Linnell of:
- Advancing pipeline company interests over those of the city.
- Discouraging city from filing legal action.
- Persuading other cities to drop their appeals.
- Misleading the public about location and safety of the pipeline.
- "I am . . . actively opposed to the pipeline."
- "We have not joined (Coon's citizens) group in litigation . . . (because) our motives and reasons for opposing the pipeline are different and much narrower in scope . . . In fact, Woods Cross and West Bountiful withdrew from the legal action because of this . . . The professional legal advice the city has received . . . is that legal challenges would be very costly, and we probably would not prevail."
- "It is a FACT: This pipeline never enters the city limits of Bountiful."