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Holladay mayor's appeal rejected

Justices' action affirms the city's election results

Dennis Larkin
Dennis Larkin

The Utah Supreme Court has rejected Holladay Mayor Dennis Larkin's appeal of a lower court's ruling that permitted the recent Holladay change-of-government election to take place.

The high court's decision means the results of that election will stand. And Larkin will not be able to serve out the remaining two years of his term as he had hoped because the current form of government will be phased out at the end of the year.

On Aug. 5, Holladay voters went to the booths for a special election and decided to change their form of government from the council-mayor form to the council-manager form. As a result, Holladay residents are being asked to vote a new mayor into office in November — and six candidates filed their candidacy by the Aug. 15 deadline.

Larkin, who sought to stop the election before it was held, was hoping the Supreme Court would see things his way and overturn the special election.

Larkin declined comment Thursday, saying he wants to wait until the court's opinion is released.

"I'd really like to see how the court ruled and what their reasoning was" before talking about it is all he would say.

The court simply issued a statement Thursday, saying "the decision of the trial court is affirmed," and adding that an opinion in the case "will follow at a later date."

Holladay's November election can proceed as planned with the additional seat of mayor on the ballot.

The new mayor will have less power than Larkin now enjoys in the city's current form of government. But Holladay's next mayor will be a voting member of the City Council.

The change of government will occur at the beginning of January when the new mayor and council are sworn in.

Proponents of the change in government said Larkin's relationship with certain members of the City Council had become so adversarial that little progress in city government was being made.

They also argued the mayor-council form of government, which gives legislative powers to the council and administrative powers to the mayor, was the root of that difficulty. The council-manager form gives the council all legislative powers, then permits it to hire a city manager to carry out the administrative tasks it desires.

Steve Peterson, one of the City Council members with whom Larkin has been at odds, said the court's decision was "exactly what we expected."

"We're glad to have this decision behind us," he said, adding that he looks forward to the November election and the birth of a new city government next year. "It will be a good thing for the community, and we look forward to it with a lot of hope."

Larkin had already decided he would not run for the new, redefined position of mayor. The Supreme Court appeal marked his last chance to retain his current position and Holladay's council-mayor form of government.

Larkin sought to halt the election in several ways. First, he vetoed the City Council's June 19 decision and attempted to cut off funding for the election. But City Attorney Craig Hall questioned whether the mayor could veto a council resolution for a special election and asked the 3rd District Court to decide the matter.

After 3rd District Court Judge Lee Dever ruled Larkin did not have the power to veto the council vote and that the election would go on, Larkin appealed to the Supreme Court. The court denied Larkin's request to delay the election but said it would take up the matter later if the election led to a change in government.

"People were forced to vote, and to me that's just wrong," Larkin said Aug. 5 after the election results were known. "I don't think people wanted to vote. I don't think people really understood what the issues were. I think there was character assassination that caused voters to vote in certain ways."

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said it could take from several days to several months before the court's opinion on the case is released.


E-MAIL: zman@desnews.com