Within likely 30 days from Friday, those seeking a petition demanding the bus rapid transit project be a ballot measure in Orem’s 2017 election will know the fate of their years’ worth of work.
A group of Orem citizens had their day in Fourth District Court on Friday as arguments were held before Judge James Brady to move the project to the ballot.
Their argument, according to their attorney Frank Mylar, is that the Orem City Council acted outside of its purview when it approved the BRT project and entered into an interlocal agreement with Provo.
Mylar argued that the council acts as a legislative body and if it is making wide-sweeping decisions that affect the city as a whole, it needs to go to the voters.
“Governments are not allowed to sandbag the issue and generally mention, ‘Yeah we want to generally deal with this idea of BRT,’” Mylar said in court. “They can’t just wait until the end to say, ‘This is what the cost is, this is what the lease is.’”
But Robert Hughes, attorney on behalf of Orem, said Mylar’s argument ignores precedent established by a previous Utah Supreme Court ruling, Carter v. Lehi.
In that case, the arguments and tests for whether an action is legislative or administrative were established. If an act involves creating new laws or policies, then it is a legislative act that may be approved by the voters.
“I haven’t seen in any of the papers or what I’ve heard today (about) any law or general policy in the resolution,” Hughes said, asserting that the action was administrative.
Hughes said even if the council’s actions weren’t administrative, when Mayor Richard Brunst signed the lease and interlocal agreements, he acted in an administrative capacity that supersedes the council.
“The mayor had independent authority to execute those contracts,” Hughes said. “If the court agrees that the mayor has that independent authority, it leads us down another line of thought to, why are we here?”
Mylar disagreed, saying the City Council and mayor can approve administrative issues like ordering new computers. But the council’s express purpose in the BRT project is to improve Orem’s city transportation, which is a policy procedure.
But there are no city ordinances or codes that will be changed with the BRT project and its contracts, according to Hughes.
“There was no ordinance here. There has never been an ordinance passed about BRT,” Hughes said. “Those were all resolutions, not ordinances.”
Brady will weigh both findings of fact and conclusions to make his ruling. He has 60 days to do so, though he noted he would most likely have a decision within the next 30 days.