County officials say Wednesday's dismissal of a complaint seeking their removal from office vindicates their position that they have done nothing wrong and strengthens their contention it was a political maneuver.
Commissioner William L. Peters, one of three county officials named in the complaint, called Judge Douglas L Cornaby's 37-page dismissal "a total vindication of our action and a direct condemnation of the scurrilous, politically motivated and completely baseless charges" made against him, Commissioner Harold Tippetts, and former Commissioner Glen E. Saunders.Peters said he's disappointed the judge didn't award the county the legal fees it requested and said the issue is not dead yet; there may be a civil countersuit against those responsible.
Reed Oviatt, Farmington, one of the signers and main backers of the complaint, said he would not comment until he sees a copy of the judge's dismissal order. Oviatt has denied the complaint was politically motivated.
Gerald Hess, the deputy county attorney who handled much of the defense work, said he's pleased with the judge's decision and it "substantiates what we believe and have said all along: These are men of integrity, functioning in good faith to carry out the policies and business of the county."
Hess said he's also disappointed the judge didn't award court costs and legal fees, as requested by County Attorney Mel Wilson, and he's not sure if that can be pursued further.
"As far as the county goes, the matter is over," said Hess. "But the individuals involved could pursue their own civil actions, if they choose, against those who filed the action."
Hess estimates the legal costs of taking depositions, along with time lost by Davis and Weber county officials on investigations and fighting the suit, between $25,000 and $30,000.
Commissioner Peters, however, pegged the cost much higher, around $80,000.
Noting that Oviatt and several other backers of the action were also deeply involved in the tax limitation movement, Peters said it's ironic and sad that their actions have cost the taxpayers so much money.
"We estimate that the effort and hours required by Davis County officials to respond to this absurd lawsuit directly and indirectly cost the taxpayers of Davis County well over $80,000," Peters said.
"We also find it truly ironic that self-annointed tax protesters, who outwardly claim to be concerned about the level of taxation in the county, for political reasons filed this frivolous lawsuit which cost the taxpayers these thousands of dollars to get one of their people elected."
Peters referred to Dub Lawrence, whom depositions show conferred with the complaint's backers before the legal action was filed. Lawrence defeated Tippetts in the September primary in a close election four days after the complaint was publicized in a front page story in an Ogden newspaper.
In dismissing the case, Cornaby suggested the complaint's timing was probably political and its publication could have affected the election's outcome.