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Council seat in Pleasant Grove filled improperly

The City Council's failure to properly fill a vacancy nearly two years ago could invalidate the appointment of one of its members.

A 4th District Court judge has ruled that Pleasant Grove improperly seated Glen Haynie because it didn't give would-be council members 14 days notice to apply for an open position in January 1996. The city's public notice was one day short of the requirement.Judge Howard H. Maetani's ruling followed a two-year battle between Coral V. Hicks, 65, and Pleasant Grove. Hicks' husband, Robert, died about a month after winning election to the council in November 1995. Hicks believed the seat belonged to her. She was among a dozen applicants the council passed over for Haynie.

Hicks filed a complaint in court against the city in April 1996 for failure to comply with the notice requirements in Utah law.

The judge notified Hicks Friday in an 11-page memorandum decision that he agreed with her contention.

Maetani concluded Hicks was "unable to exercise the right to participate in the appointment process" because the city failed to comply with notification requirements in the law. He said the city's assertion that repeating the process wouldn't change the outcome is without merit. Others may have participated in the appointment process had proper notice been given.

"Additional applicants could have applied and the vacant seat could have been filled by someone other than Glen Haynie," Maetani wrote.

A legal notice published in the Pleasant Grove Review ran only 13 days ahead of the meeting in which Haynie was selected. Although several additional announcements were published in three papers and argued "substantial compliance" was shown, Maetani said in an earlier hearing the specifications in the law are mandatory and absolute.

The judge granted Hicks' motion for summary judgment and denied Pleasant Grove's cross motion for summary judgment. Hicks is now responsible to prepare an order for the court to impose on the city.

Hicks contends Haynie's appointment is invalid and his votes over the past two years are null and void. Haynie currently is seeking election to his first full term on the council.

Maetani's ruling does not address the status of Haynie or his votes.

But Maetani warned Hicks earlier that overturning Haynie's appointment could cause financial and legal ramifications for Pleasant Grove.

Hicks said Monday she doesn't believe there will be any ramifications.

"I don't think it'll cause much," she said. "I went to City Council meetings for quite a while and almost every decision is usually unanimous."

Pleasant Grove city recorder Charmaine Childs said the city has not heard "word one" about the decision. She said City Attorney Gordon DuVal was also unaware that a ruling had come down.

However, court documents show a copy was sent to DuVal's law offices at the same time Hicks' copy was sent out.

Hicks said she's gratified to have the decision in her favor. "I feel good about it because what I'm trying to do is get better government."

Pleasant Grove seems to appoint people to the Council often, said Hicks, so it's especially important that city officials understand the critical importance of following the laws.

Hicks represented herself during the process and therefore only had to pay a filing fee to pursue the case. She said it has been stressful because she had to be her own attorney and wasn't always comfortable in her presentations.