The Salt Lake City attorney's office declared an ordinance limiting the number of terms served by city board appointees named by the mayor void, calling it a violation of separation of powers doctrine.
Although City Council Chairman W.M. "Willie" Stoler previously said the council might hire an independent attorney to explore challenging such a ruling, Stoler said Monday the issue won't end up in court.The ordinance, passed unanimously Jan. 17, limited board appointees - chosen by the mayor with the advice and consent of the City Council - to two terms, thus providing broader representation on city boards.
DePaulis, calling it "serious infringement upon the separation of powers doctrine," allowed the ordinance to pass into law without his signature and directed City Attorney Roger Cutler to review the law's "legality."
In a memo dated March 27, Cutler said the ordinance "pre-screens" mayoral appointees by imposing the two-term limit, a move that modifies "the allocation of power" between the mayor and the council.
Utah law models Salt Lake City after the federal form of government, which embraces the doctrine of separation of powers giving independent powers to each branch of government, Cutler said.
"Neither (the council nor the mayor) may encroach upon the field reserved for the other," he said.
Cutler recommended several alternatives in dealing with the ordinance, including repealing it, ignoring it or seeking a judgment in court. Stoler said he foresaw no court action involving the issue.
"I don't think the council would be willing to do that," he said, calling Cutler's ruling ironic, however, given that DePaulis has expressed support of concept for the two-year limit.
Stoler did not rule out the possibility of seeking another opinion on the ordinance, even if only a minority of the body wanted to seek an opinion.
"I think even the minority should be entitled to an opinion . . . After, all, they're entitled to it," he said.
In his ruling, Cutler cautioned that "both the executive and legislative branches . . . evaluate the cost, both politically and economically," of seeking a remedy in the issue.
Cutler added discussion of the issue should not "carry with it unnecessary hostilities or baggage burdening other areas of governmental operations or cooperation."