A petition drive to have English declared Utah's official language was set to resume Thursday at the Salt Lake County Fairgrounds in Murray.
Two men circulating those petitions were ousted from the fairgrounds and cited for trespassing Tuesday after other organizations and a political candidate complained.John Slevin and John Guido said they had received permission to circulate petitions on Monday and asserted a constitutional right to continue the activity on the government-owned grounds.
But other unnamed organizations and a County Commission candidate complained that while they had to rent booth space at the fair, Slevin and Guido were allowed to conduct their political activities free of charge.
Following hours of negotiation Wednesday, Salt Lake County legal officials proposed a compromise that would allow the two men to continue their petition drive under certain conditions.
Attorney Brian M. Barnard, who is representing Slevin and Guido on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his clients will be required to pay a $20 registration fee and be restricted to certain locations but will not be required to rent booth space.
According to Barnard, the county has a right to establish reasonable "content neutral time-place-manner" restrictions on such activities in public forums but may not ban them altogether.
Slevin and Guido shouldn't be required to rent a booth, Barnard argued, because unlike other vendors at the fair, they aren't selling anything. The two men, who are employed by National Voter Outreach, are circulating a petition calling for a referendum requiring the Legislature to vote on a bill making English Utah's official language.
"What the law says is that an entity like Salt Lake County may enact content-neutral restrictions governing the time, place and manner of activities," Barnard said.
"For example, the county could say no more than 400 people will be allowed to circulate petitions, and they can't use bullhorns and can't stand in certain place. What we have here, however, is no rules."
And in the absence of specific rules, Slevin and Guido have the right to continue their activities, he said. However, he said he would recommend to his clients that they accept the county's restrictions and fee demand.
"Those are reasonable time-place-manner restrictions," Barnard said.
As for the unnamed political candidate who complained about having to pay $400 for a booth while Slevin and Guido sought support for free, Barnard said the candidate could have refused to pay.
"The candidate, for whatever reason, chose to rent a booth. I think that under the law - and in the absence of those time-place-manner restrictions - he could have walked around the fairgrounds wearing a sandwich board if he wanted to," Barnard said.
While Slevin and Guido were expected to return to the fairgrounds later Thursday, they still face a court date on the trespass citations issued by Murray police on Tuesday. Barnard said they will fight that battle later.