A 3rd District judge dismissed a suit filed by Sandy Mayor Steve Newton against the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District, calling Sandy's complaints "novel" but out of place.
The action comes several days after Gov. Norm Bangerter asked an expert water lawyer to intervene in the conflict.Newton said the judge's ruling is disappointing, because the city believes serious constitutional issues are involved that need to be resolved.
Sandy's City Council discussed the ruling in closed session Tuesday night, and City Attorney Wally Miller said he was told to appeal the case if the negotiations involving the mediator don't produce results by March 15.
"Sandy City has advanced novel and interesting arguments," Judge Timothy Hanson wrote in his decision, ". . . even though interesting and novel, the plaintiffs' positions are contrary to the clear, legal authorities that govern the issues raised."
Sandy's suit was filed in January after the conservancy district refused to let Sandy de-annex from the district to pursue an invitation to annex into the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake.
In the suit, Sandy and Newton wanted to be freed from any obligation to help repay a $23 million bond the district had planned to issue in January. The suit has blocked that bond issue, which will have to be reconsidered now that Hanson has issued a memorandum decision dismissing the suit, said David Ovard, the conservancy district's acting general manager.
Sandy also questioned the district's authority to levy taxes wanted the court to intervene in the district's construction of a $7.6 million headquarters complex.
"In summary, Sandy's challenge to the taxing powers of the district under the Water Conservancy Act is misplaced," Hanson wrote. "Clear Utah Supreme Court precedent is to the contrary."
Miller has said Sandy filed the suit to clarify legal questions before it calls an election to ask city residents to approve its annexation into the metropolitan district.
Attorney Ed Clyde said he has accepted a request from the governor to act as a mediator between the four parties involved in the conflict: Sandy, the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District, the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Salt Lake City.
Clyde said he doesn't want to get tangled up in the lawsuit but will concentrate on the more practical elements of water management. "Their lawyers will give them legal advice. I don't intend to do that at all."
Bangerter sent a letter Feb. 23 to the conservancy district and the other parties involved announcing he had asked Clyde to ". . . meet with representatives from each of your organizations for the purpose of reaching a negotiated settlement which would be in the best interest of all water users in the impacted areas."
Clyde said he has not talked directly with either Sandy or the conservancy district, but understands they have communicated to the governor's office their willingness to have him involved.
Legal services Clyde has provided for the county district over the years left him surprised the other players in the battle would want him involved. "I wear an awful lot of hats, I've represented the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District for an awful lot of years," he said. "I'm having a little bit of wonderment that any one of the four would want to have me involved."
The first meeting between Clyde and all of the players in the battle is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. "I want them to know what I want and how I want to proceed," he said.
"I have handled a lot of problems between (the county) district and Sandy that we've all been able to sort out in the past - I've worked closely with five past (Sandy) mayors," Clyde said.
Bangerter said there is no question Clyde has the experience, expertise and ability to help resolve the conflict.
Newton said he welcomes Clyde's involvement, because the lawyer is familiar with the entire water system in the valley.