GRANTSVILLE — A controversial outdoor concert planned by a group opposed to pandemic-related restrictions on people and businesses is being moved from Kaysville to Grantsville after facing backlash from local residents and the City Council.
But a Tooele County official says it’s news to him that Utah Business Revival wants to hold the May 30 event at the Studio Ranch Amphitheater in the Rush Valley area south of Grantsville.
Commissioner Shawn Milne said mass gathering permits take about 60 days to process so that officials can ensure the event hosts provide proper sanitation facilities, access to water and ensure safety.
“For them to consider giving us slightly more than a week’s notice is unreasonable even under normal circumstances,” Milne said. Earlier Thursday morning he replied to a tweet from KSL Newsradio’s “Dave and Dujanovic” show saying he hadn’t heard of the plans until they tweeted them.
“An event of that size — even under normal circumstances — would require a mass gathering permit,” Milne tweeted. “Timelines for review and permitting such a gathering would require more than the ten days until their proposed date.”
Currently, holding the concert would violate social distancing and crowd size guidelines issued by Gov. Gary Herbert to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
The event stirred controversy in Kaysville after Mayor Katie Witt announced she supported it. After news of the change of venue was announced, Witt issued a short statement noting that “the freedom to peaceably assemble is a bedrock principle that Utah was founded on. I will always stand up for your constitutional rights,” and added “we need to safely reopen America.”
Eric Moutsos, founder of Utah Business Revival and concert organizer, said in an interview on the “Dave and Dujanovic” show that he decided to move the concert because Kaysville was threatening to turn the sprinklers on all the equipment to keep the event from proceeding.
John Adams, a Kaysville city councilman, confirmed there was an internal document circulating within the council that discussed potential actions Kaysville could take should the concert move forward — locking the park gate and turning on the sprinklers was part of that discussion.
However, he said it was never intended to be released to the public because it was a brainstorming session between the council and law enforcement.
Kaysville City Manager Shayne Scott confirmed the document’s existence, saying it was an internal “discussion piece.”
“If Mr. Moutsos wants to use this document for any other purposes, I would not condone that misuse in any form,” Scott said.
Moutsos also said he hasn’t contacted Tooele County at all since the concert location is on private property and he’s not concerned about it being shut down. He also said that he doesn’t really care about permitting because he sees it as government overreach.
The Tooele County Health Department confirmed in a press release Thursday afternoon that the concert hasn’t been approved by the department or by the county and that action can be taken against venues that fail to receive proper permitting.
“Our greatest concern is for the health and safety of our citizens,” the health department said in the release. “After an event is held without a permit it is possible for the health department to file charges against the property owner for allowing an unpermitted event to take place.”
Now, a group of concerned Kaysville citizens are calling for consequences for Witt.
Mike Flood, a Kaysville resident, sent a letter to Witt and the City Council asking for Witt’s censure and resignation. He, along with 10 other residents, say in the signed letter that Witt violated the city’s Code of Conduct and Utah’s Public Officers’ and Employees’ Ethics Act because of her recent behavior in the public.
Flood made it clear the reason the group is asking for Witt’s removal is a matter of her conduct and isn’t about the message or purpose of the concert.
“The demand for (Witt’s) censure, removal and possible prosecution under city code of conduct violations and state statute is the issue here,” Flood said in an email. “She betrayed the public trust in her highly visible role as mayor through blatant and defiant disregard for process, policy, procedure, and law and should be held accountable.”
Witt said she sees the citizen petition as them expressing their constitutional rights.
“That’s the wonderful thing about living in America is that citizens get to petition their government,” she said. “If I’m going to uphold the right to freely assemble, then I’m going to support the right to petition your government and the right to free speech and everything else.”
Adams said there’s really no way to remove a mayor, but he does think Witt needs to answer for her behavior because she didn’t seem to be acting in Kaysville’s best interest.
“I do think there needs to be a censure for Witt to know we feel like she wasn’t holding the council and residents’ best interests at heart,” he said.
Adams pointed to Witt’s recent KSL interview where she touted the concert moving to Grantsville as good for the event even though she had been talking about how great it was for Kaysville residents just a few days earlier.
“You’d think she’d be upset that the concert moved since she said it was going to be good for Kaysville,” Adams said.
Ultimately, he said he hopes Witt and the City Council can move along peacefully and work together to find feasible solutions to help Kaysville businesses while keeping residents safe.