Summarized by Kent Larsen
ACLU Can Look For Evidence Of Main Street Collusion
Salt Lake Tribune 20May00 N1
By Rebecca Walsh: Salt Lake Tribune
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart ruled Friday
that the ACLU can amend its lawsuit challenging the restrictions on
the block-long Main Street plaza. The amendment, filed March 1st,
claims that Salt Lake City gave the LDS Church preferential treatment
during the sale of the block, and that the public easement granted to
the city was a charade. The lawsuit claims that Church and City
attorneys together drafted the rules behind the scenes. The ruling allows
the ACLU to look for and collect evidence of a collusion between
the Church and the City.
"What's still not known is how, when and why material changes were
introduced into that transaction to the sole benefit of the buyer and
to the detriment of the plaintiffs and the public," said the ACLU's
attorney, Stephen Clark. "The government can't impose one-sided
But the LDS Church's attorney Von Keetch says that Clark is trying to
bolster his weak case by throwing around "inflammatory language." He
says that Clark's amendment is too little, too late, "The plaintiffs
made a decision. Now, they ought to have to live with it," Keetch
said. "A plaintiff shouldn't be able to line up his claims and bring
a new theory in if another doesn't go as planned."
A lot of the controversy surrounds a City Planning Commission
suggestion that the easment require the Church to regulate the block
like a public park. However, the Planning Commission's suggestion
disappeared from the deal that the City Council reviewed April 13,
1999. "That's the critical period," Clark said. "It was a collusive
effort that was intended to obscure from the public the process of
dropping that condition."
But the current City Council, which has some different members from
last year's council, affirmed the decision last week, insisting that
the council didn't mean for the plaza to be treated like a park.
In Friday's hearing, the first court appearance for the case, LDS
Church attorney Von Keetch, backed up by three colleagues and two
city attorneys, argued that Clark's amendment is grasping at straws,
"That's a futile claim. It leads nowhere," he said. "The sale came up
for a public hearing. The ordinances and conditions of closure were
there for all to see."
But Judge Stewart ruled that Keetch's argument was premature, His
ruling allows Clark time to subpoena and collect evidence of a
collusion between the Church and the City to remove the term from the
easement. "I am sensitive to the constitutional issues as well as the
practical issues," Stewart said. "The court is going to do everything
it can" to move the case along.