The city council has yet to approve important minutes of a November meeting.
Updated Feb 4 at 1:26 p.m.
In last week’s city council meeting an item that has been on the agenda for several weeks was again tabled by a split council decision.
The decision to approve council minutes from the Nov 28 Board of Canvassers meeting was again denied by three members of the city council. Those minutes, which were not approved in a Jan 4 meeting, were called into question by certain members of the city council who believe the audio recording from that meeting is incomplete.
The minutes in question are from a meeting where the city council acted as a Board of Canvassers for the recounted election results from the municipal election. That meeting has been a point of controversy in the past two months and is mentioned in the Election Contest that has been filed against Santaquin City.
The complaint calls for a “nullification” of the recount results from Nov 21 when a ballot proposition concerning $9 million in sewer bonds was passed.
The complaint claims the board of canvassers “refused to make an official finding” on the recount results “by reason of errors and irregularities in the recount.”
The complaint challenges the decision of the Santaquin City Recorder to transmit the recount results to the Utah Lt. Governor’s office despite “express refusal of the Board of Canvassers to accept, approve, or certify” those results.
In essence, Councilman Keith Broadhead, who has filed the Election Contest, feels the Nov 28 meeting’s minutes are important to his complaint.
The problem is that half of the audio recording from the meeting is gone.
“I have listened to the audio supplied to Councilman Vincent by Santaquin City. It is very clear that there is parts of the audio missing,” Broadhead told inSantaquin News. “We calculate that there are about 20 minutes of audio missing.”
So what happened to the recording?
Santaquin City officials say the computer used to record council minutes crashed during the Nov 28 meeting. The partial audio recording they now have is from a “recovery” performed by computer technicians from Rock Mountain Technology.
“The computer in the council chamber is very old,” said Santaquin City Manager Ben Reeves in an email. “It is slated to be replaced in this fiscal year. Unfortunately, on the night of November 28th, 2011 this machine crashed.”
Of the approximately 43 minutes of audio from the original meeting, the recovery produced less than half of the recording. From the recovered files the city has compiled “verbatim draft minutes” of the meeting.
“To eliminate fears that perhaps portions of the meeting’s recording may or may not have been lost due to the crash and subsequent recovery, during the January 11th meeting, the Council invited that anyone who attended the November 28th meeting to submit their comments/addition if they believe that the draft minutes did not accurately reflect their remembrance of the meeting,” said Reeves.
No additional comments have been submitted to supplement the draft minutes to date.
Yet, three councilmen voted to not approve the minutes. And Broadhead mentioned on public record that a county investigation was underway in conjunction with the audio recording.
“There (seems) to be a problem with the audio,” said Broadhead. “They do not reflect what happened in the meeting. The complaint to the County Attorney was filed by former council member Vincent.”
Santaquin City officials say they had no knowledge of the investigation prior to Broadhead’s comments in the Jan 18 meeting. “I am not aware of any investigation. As mentioned, we have not been contacted by the Utah County Attorney’s Office,” said Reeves. “However, as always, if or when we are contacted, we will cooperate fully.”
When asked why he chose to not approve the Nov 28 council minutes, Councilman Matthew Carr says he wanted to be thorough.
“I didn’t want the citizens to feel there was anything the city had to hide,” said Carr.
He feels there is a great deal of trust that the city council needs to gain back from the citizens of Santaquin, and that he didn’t want to make it look like the council was brushing this under the rug.
“They (the recorded minutes) are compromised,” said Carr. He added, however, “I don’t think there’s any wrong-doing with the city.”
Broadhead says he won’t approve the minutes until the investigation is complete. “No minutes should be approved unless all council members feel that they are correct,” said Broadhead. “Once they are approved they become public record.”
Those minutes have now become part of the battlefield concerning the controversial sewer issue.
For now, the fate of the membrane bioreactor sewer plant, dependent on the proposition votes from November, seems to be up in the air.
Santaquin City is yet to make a statement regarding the Election Contest filed against the city and no new information regarding the contest has come out of the Fourth District Court handling the case.