The La Verkin City Council has met several times in closed sessions in apparent violation of the state's open meetings law, a newspaper says.
The Daily Spectrum in St. George reported Friday that agendas for four of the past five council meetings show the La Verkin council meets in closed session before the regular public meeting for the stated reason of discussing personnel matters.However, some members of the council say they meet to discuss the meeting agenda and how they will vote on issues, the newspaper said.
Councilwoman Fae Reigle said the closed meetings actually are used by Mayor Terry West to promote his views on agenda items and to attempt to influence the vote of those council members opposed to him.
Under Utah law, the only time a council can go into closed or executive session is to discuss the character, competence or health of an individual; to discuss strategy for collective bargaining, litigation or real estate purchases; or to discuss a security measure or criminal investigation.
The law further states a meeting can be closed only by a recorded public vote of two-thirds of the council members present at an open meeting, not before the open meeting.
West acknowledged the closed meetings, or executive sessions, may have "strayed" into areas other than those technically allowed under state law.
"If anybody wants to press it we'll have to be more careful. All the cities do the straying," West said. "We haven't done it deliberately."
In addition to using the closed meetings to promote his views, Reigle said West had come by her house on three different occasions to discuss city financial matters.
Reigle said that on July 9, West came by her house to discuss a proposed $6-per-household tax. As West was leaving her house, he told her he wanted to buy a Monopoly game for the women members of the council so they "could learn something about money.
"As if we were little kids and didn't know anything about money." Reigle said. "I talked to a couple of people about that and they told me I shouldn't stoop as low as he did and to just forget it."
That meeting left her offended, Reigle said, and since then, on the advice of her attorney, she will not allow West into her home.
Councilwoman Charlene Mendoza also confirmed the closed meetings were used to discuss agenda items.
"We do go over the things that are on the agenda," Mendoza said. "We talk about if we are in agreement or how do we feel and what we are going to do when it comes up."
Mendoza said West has implied several times he wishes she would resign.
Reigle said the closed sessions were not taped, as are the regular public meetings, and that no notes were taken or minutes kept.