LAVERKIN, Washington County — Gary McKell has lived happily in this small, southwestern Utah town for 25 years. But now the city councilman says the council's Independence Day action may give the town a black eye.
Wednesday, during a special session, McKell voted against an ordinance that makes LaVerkin a United Nations-Free Zone.
"I really have mixed emotions of how proud I was to be there. For them to pass this ordinance on the Fourth of July is just political grandstanding," McKell said of the council's 3-2 decision to approve the measure.
The ordinance makes it illegal for U.N. personnel or facilities to be located within city limits and for any U.N.-funded programs or sponsored activities to take place there.
It also seeks to protect residents from being forced to serve the United Nations in any capacity and restricts the city from investing in anything related to the global organization. Those who work for the city are prohibited from cooperating with U.N. activities.
Residents who work for any U.N.-financed project must file an annual report of those activities with the city and post a sign stating "United Nations work conducted here."
Anyone who violates the ordinance can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. LaVerkin residents also have the right to file civil suits against those in violation of the ordinance.
"I guarantee you the United Nations isn't calling an emergency meeting saying they've got to do something about LaVerkin. The mayor and police chief aren't going to have to wait at the edge of town to turn back any U.N. blue berets, either," said McKell, adding he received numerous calls Thursday from concerned residents who said they were glad he voted against the measure.
"I hope we don't have a flocking of those with anti-government and anti-tax views coming to town," McKell added.
Mayor Dan Howard, who did not have a vote in the matter, supports the ordinance.
"What we're saying is we disagree with the socialist world being promoted by the U.N. We're just trying to preserve our right to defend ourselves," Howard said. "We don't want Big Brother coming down on us."
Calls were coming in to the city office Thursday from people who said they didn't realize the council was serious about the ordinance, said June Jeffrey, LaVerkin deputy recorder.
City manager Doug Wilson said he isn't concerned about the council's action since he doesn't believe anyone will ever challenge the ordinance. The only thing he's worried about is getting some new signs made to declare the city a U.N.-Free Zone.
"We'll never have to enforce it. First of all, it was passed as a statement," Wilson said. No one is in violation of the ordinance now, and Wilson doesn't expect anyone to violate it in the future.
City attorney Greg Hardman of the St. George law firm Snow and Jensen said he reviewed a draft of the ordinance but hasn't seen the final version.
"To a great extent the town council has done a lot of this on its own," Hardman said. His review of the draft prompted a rewrite of some sections.