The Utah State University Board of Trustees has approved a $1-per-year lease of university-owned land during a telephone conference call, a transaction that will benefit the husband of one of the trustees.

USU President George Emert said that while the partnership that will lease the property will benefit from the transaction, the university will have an option to lease much-needed space in the research park.The Tri-Park Partnership, made up of three Raymond Construction executives, was granted the lease on Nov. 18. The partnership then began construction of a building on the property, which it could lease to private companies or the university.

One of the three partners is A. Spencer Raymond, husband of trustee Melanie Raymond. The public was not notified of the meeting.

Minutes of the meeting show Melanie Raymond was not present in the telephone conference call. She referred all questions to the chairman of the board, Booth Wallentine, who was not present at the conference call. Vice Chairman Jed Pitcher, who was present, told The Herald Journal in Logan he did not have notes of the meeting in front of him and referred questions to Emert.

Emert said Melanie Raymond did not participate in the discussion or in the vote and "absolutely did not" initiate the deal.

"She had nothing to do with it," he said.

In the discussion over the transaction, Emert said, trustees raised concerns over Melanie Raymond's relationship to one of the partners, but their concerns were satisfied.

Raymond Construction has built other buildings on university property, he said.

Under university policy, buildings or portions of buildings the university leases in the research park will become university property after 12 years. If the university does not lease a building in the research park, it will still become university property after a much longer period, Emert said.

Wayne Watkins, director of the research park, said the $1-per-year lease rate is an incentive to encourage construction in the park. The special rate is currently being reconsidered, he said, and should become a more competitive rate in 1994.

Emert said the meeting probably could have been classified as a closed meeting because real-estate issues were discussed.

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"I called the board, and I may have made a mistake by not posting it," Emert said.

The conference call meeting was held under somewhat pressing circumstances, he said, because the partnership wanted to start construction before winter set in and because Emert was scheduled to leave for a weeklong trip to Korea the next day.

The Utah Open and Public Meetings law states that though some issues, including the purchase of real property, may be discussed behind closed doors, all actions - including approvals - by a public body must be taken in an open meeting.

The law also requires public notice of a meeting within 24 hours of its taking place, though requirements for emergency meetings are less stringent and include only "the best notice practicable given."

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