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Herriman residents want suit kept alive

Council opts to appeal ruling on election over school-district split

Herriman may be a lone city in an ongoing election lawsuit — but residents are with it all the way.

After a well-attended public meeting Wednesday night and a unanimous show of public support, Herriman's City Council decided Thursday to keep the city's lawsuit alive and appeal a judge's ruling that denied its request to intervene in the east-side school district election.

The city's appeal will be filed with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver where a panel of judges will hear the case.

"This is our voice," said Herriman City Councilwoman Raquel DeLuca. "This (lawsuit) is the only way we know how to speak."

Herriman and a handful of individuals recently filed a lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen in the hopes of halting an east-side-only vote over forming a new school district off of the Jordan School District. The lawsuit says not allowing west-side residents a vote on the issue is a violation of the 14th Amendment because west-side residents will be equally affected if the east side separates.

The city asked Judge Ted Stewart in Utah's U.S. District Court to forbid Swensen and Herbert from counting and ratifying possible east-side votes toward forming a new school district if west-side residents are excluded from the election. Last Friday, Stewart denied Herriman's request because he does not think the city has a probable cause of winning its case.

Herriman's lawsuit also asks for the court to declare legislation that excludes west-side residents from voting on the school district issue unconstitutional.

"In my view, this is a matter of principle; it's a matter of fairness," Herriman Mayor Lynn Crane said. "I don't think the way the statute (that excludes west-side residents from voting this issue) is written or what is happening is fair to all of the residents of the Jordan School District."

Crane says his community is worried about what will happen to special needs students if the current district's resources are divided and how those assets will be divvied up. Residents are also worried about how the district will afford to build new buildings that are needed on the west side without the east-side tax base.

"Why don't we answer those questions before we vote so residents will know what they're voting on?" Crane said. "I would like to delay the counting of the votes and the results of any election until we know about the constitutionality of the law."

Attorney Thom Roberts, who represents Herbert in the case, said it won't be easy for the city to win in Denver — especially in the little time remaining before the election.

"Usually the appellate courts move at a slower pace than the trial courts," Roberts said. "The plaintiffs' best shot was at the trial court."