Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis allowed an ordinance approved by the City Council to pass into law without his signature Wednesday, signaling a possible dispute that could bring the council and the mayor to court.
DePaulis is concerned the ordinance, which limits to two the number of terms representatives can serve on city boards, may violate the separation of powers doctrine and wants a legal opinion from the city attorney on the matter.As mayor, DePaulis has the power to appoint representatives to city boards such as the Airport Authority Board. The appointments, however, are subject to the advice and consent of the City Council.
Although the council may have some powers over establishing procedures for nominating board appointees, City Attorney Roger Cutler questioned their right to "define the universe" from which appointees are chosen.
Although Cutler stressed his opinion was not yet formal, he said that by restricting the number of office terms mayoral appointees can hold, "the council is defining the universe from which the mayor makes his appointments."
"There's a serious issue of separation of powers," he added.
DePaulis said Wednesday he was unsure what "strategy" he would use should he choose to challenge the ordinance. But the matter could end up in court if he and the council come to loggerheads over the ordinance.
"I don't really believe the council would want to go to court on the issue," said Council Chairman W.M. "Willie" Stoler.
The council could, however, hire an outside attorney to review an opinion from the city attorney's office should the council disagree with it, he said.
"If their (the attorneys') opinions differ strongly then they would probably get together and knock heads and try and see where they differ. But I don't think it would end up in court," he said.
The council could rescind the ordinance, he said. But more likely, the council could simply rely on its power of advice and consent to exert control over the mayor's appointments, Stoler added.