Wednesday, amidst objections to the meeting's closure from a Jordan Board of Education member, the transition team for the remaining west side of the Jordan School district met in closed talks to mull over the latest proposal of how to divide the district's assets and liabilities.

In a written statement submitted at the beginning of the meeting, Jordan District board member Kim Horiuchi also objected to the closure of six other Jordan-west transition meetings in April.

"I have reason to believe that this committee will be discussing issues beyond the scope of the designated reason for closing," she stated, also objecting to the "hours-long, close-door meetings" held in April for the stated purpose of personnel.

But Jordan-west team members said they opted to close the meeting because they were discussing potential litigation in regards to the recent proposal — something that is allowed under the open meetings law.

They attributed the closed meetings in April to deliberations on whether to retain legal counsel, interviewing firms and hiring an attorney. Another meeting was closed, they said, when they were discussing personal issues with a former member of the team.

"The people's business should be done in an open meeting, but that doesn't extend to hiring an attorney, talking about litigation or personal reasons on why you want to leave a committee," said Melissa Johnson, Jordan-west board member.

Members of the public have also voiced concerns over the long closed meetings held by the Jordan-west team, who have met behind closed doors substantially more than the Jordan-east team.

But Johnson said Jordan-west had not been previously preparing for arbitration and they wanted to be thorough.

"It took us a long time to hire an attorney and a long time to decide who we wanted to hire," Johnson said. "We were not preparing for arbitration from day one and when the other team decided to hire an attorney we then had to begin the process."

In her statement Horiuchi urged the committee to remedy the situation and reminded them that the only personnel the committee should be discussing was its own, and the group "should not be meeting in closed session to discuss the personnel of Jordan School District."

Horiuchi works at the Deseret News as weekend wire editor.

But Ralph Haws, chairman of the team, called it a non-issue.

"Unequivocally, we have never talked about a single member of the Jordan School District, be it superintendent, staff, anybody — never once," he said, noting Jordan-west team members are very sensitive to the open meetings act.

Johnson said the reason for future closed meetings will be litigation discussions pertaining to arbitration.

As for any decision on the proposed plan submitted by a negotiating team, Haws said they plan to have a written response explaining their stance by the beginning of next week.

Monday the Jordan-east team signed off on the second proposal submitted by the negotiating team that maps out how to go about dividing the district's assets. The Jordan-west team rejected the first proposal last month.

Haws said though they agree with most of the provisions in the proposal, they don't like the idea of assessing the value of all of the buildings in the school district and then allocating the value 50/50. That would mean that the Jordan-west district could stand to owe Jordan-east millions, and would most likely lead to a tax increase.

Last fall east-side residents voted to split from Jordan and establish their own district.


E-mail: terickson@desnews.com