A representative from a Salt Lake development and consulting firm who says he was authorized to do $20,000 worth of lobbying for the Utah County Council of Governments was outnumbered Thursday night - five memories to one.
David G. Yurth, representing Ecometrix Corp., appeared before the council to request payment of $16,000 - his second request in as many months. The amount, he said, represents 80 percent of the $20,000 worth of work the Council of Governments authorized his firm to undertake in drafting, sponsoring, promoting and lobbying for SB77, the Utah Lake Authority Act of 1989.The bill, which never made it out of committee during the 1989 legislative session, would have established a lake authority to oversee the establishment and coordination of programs to develop land around Utah Lake.
The Council of Governments is expected to make a motion on Yurth's request during next month's meeting.
Yurth says the council, during its Jan. 5 meeting, unanimously authorized Ecometrix to proceed on the council's behalf and that it made a motion to fund his firm's efforts with $20,000 in proceeds from the sale of a dredge.
But County Commissioner Sid Sandberg and four members of the Council of Governments, comprising mayors from throughout the county, remember otherwise.
Lehi Mayor George Tripp said he was amazed when he learned of the $16,000 bill, which was accompanied by a letter stating that the firm actually had spent much more in lobbying for SB77's passage.
"I, at no time, heard anything like that," Trip said in reference to Yurth's claims regarding the Jan. 5 meeting. "Is that the practice of your company, to go ahead as a lobby group without authorization?"
Pleasant Grove Mayor David Holdaway said the council would never have granted any such authorization because the council has no budget.
Besides, he said, there was no written contract drawn up between the council and Ecometrix. "That's what amazed me," he said.
Without the council's authorization, Yurth responded, his firm would not have spent 500 hours and $73,000 out of pocket to promote SB77. He said a tape recording of the Jan. 5 meeting would clear up the misunderstanding.
Commission Secretary Cheri Murray said the tape recorder used during the meeting failed, but that she took shorthand notes of the proceedings.
"I'm far less interested in the minutes than I am in the tape," Yurth responded.
Minutes from the Jan. 5 minutes show that Commission Chairman Brent Morris made a motion "to support development of the Utah Lake Authority" and to have the county attorney's office "look into" using profits from the sale of a county dredge for study and preparation of the authority.
Deputy County Attorney Guy Burningham said money from the dredge, provided by the federal government, must be used in-house and cannot be used to pay outside firms for work.
No motion was made to pay Ecometrix for any work, Sandberg told Yurth. "That entity never arose in that discussion."
Highland Mayor Larry Miller and Alpine Mayor Ron Rasmussen also said they didn't recall any discussion about payment to Ecometrix. Rasmussen said the council discussed the possibility of using the $20,000 from the dredge to support the bill, "but it was stated that we didn't have anything to fund without going back to our city councils."
When questioned, Yurth said he hadn't registered as a lobbyist. "How can you approach us for reimbursement, then?" Sandberg asked.
Yurth said Ecometrix - which prepares feasibility studies, develops project designs and writes bond documents - would continue to push for a lake authority because of the firm's financial interest.