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Lawsuit targets Moore contract

OREM — If Dan Garcia gets his way, Michael Moore won't get paid for speaking today at Utah Valley State College.

The UVSC senior, who circulated petitions requesting a recall of the student government's decision to hire Moore as a speaker, as well as the student officers responsible for inviting him, joined Orem resident Kay Anderson in filing a lawsuit Monday against the student organization in 4th District Court.

The suit asks the court to void the contract with the "Fahrenheit 9/11" director until all UVSC students can vote on the decision to host Moore, who will speak at noon in the McKay Events Center.

It also asks a judge to issue a ruling prohibiting UVSC from paying any costs associated with Moore's appearance until the court can determine if the student government abided by the college's constitution in executing the agreement.

The suit does not ask for an injunction against Moore's speech, however, meaning the liberal filmmaker will speak today as planned.

"This is not a personal issue against Michael Moore," Garcia said. "The Michael Moore issue is a catalyst that has brought an ongoing problem to a head. What we're hoping to accomplish is to force the student government to abide by their own rules and to give us a more transparent accounting of where our student fees are going."

Controversy erupted across Utah Valley last month when the student government announced it would pay Moore $40,000 out of student fees to come to UVSC as part of his "Slacker Uprising Tour" of college campuses.

The contract drafted between UVSC and the Greater Talent Network, however, lists Moore's total fee as $50,500. And once security and events costs are factored in, the price tag jumps to $63,000. That does not include tickets sales and donations, which are expected to reimburse the college at least $36,000.

According to Garcia, that's a violation of the UVSC student constitution, which forbids the student government to "incur any single expense or liability in excess of $50,000" without meeting several requirements, including a majority vote by UVSC students.

UVSC's Hall defended the student government's decision on the grounds that Moore's total cost represents several smaller fees. None exceed $50,000.

"We feel that we followed the policies and procedures that we have on campus," Hall said. "If you look at the constitution, it does stipulate the $50,000 rule, but it doesn't define it as carefully as the plaintiffs claim."

Jim Bassi, president of UVSC's student government, and student government adviser Phil Clegg, who is named in the suit, declined comment.

The matter has been referred to an attorney with Utah's Attorney General's Office, which represents the state school.

Anderson, who last month offered to give the school $25,000 if officials would cancel Moore's speech, acknowledged that Moore could cash UVSC's check before the case gets heard.

For him, though, the lawsuit isn't about money. It's about the fact that student government leaders invited Moore without first consulting with students and people who live in communities surrounding the school.

"We're a very conservative community," Anderson said. "Michael Moore is a simpleton. He's really nothing. I don't think he's going to devastate our community, but if the college continues to spend our money against our wishes to bring in people we don't want to hear, we're eventually going to change the community."

Adds Garcia: "It's not a free-speech issue. If the community wants to remain homogenous, then they have every right to do that. We're asking the college to let the students decide."


E-mail: lwarner@desnews.com