Inland Port board votes to keep subcommittee meetings closed to public

This article originally appeared on KSL. Read it in its entirety here.

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the new Utah Inland Port Authority Board voted Wednesday to keep subcommittee meetings closed to the public despite concerns raised about transparency.

“I think we’re taking it a step too far,” Sen. Gregg Buxton, R-Roy, said during a discussion about treating the subcommittees the same as the board, closing them only for the topics allowed under the state’s Open and Public Meetings Act, such as real estate transactions, personnel matters and contract negotiations.

“There will be times and issues that we’ll need to have more privacy that may not follow exactly under these guidelines,” Buxton said.

Assistant Attorney General Christopher Pieper told the board that subcommittees “don’t rise to the level of a meeting” under the law because a quorum of the 11-member board is not present.

“We’re all going to be committed to the open process. That’s what the state law says and that’s what we’re following,” House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said before the vote on his substitute motion to follow the letter of the law and keep the subcommittee meetings closed.

Members of the subcommittees reported to the board about the search for an executive director, putting together a budget and looking at how the port will be funded.

Miller raised the question of whether to set a different standard for subcommittee meetings than what was adopted during the board’s first meeting in July, going “above and beyond” what is required under the law.

Buxton and others said they were worried that would set a precedent not just for the authority, but for other entities.

However, two years ago, the Utah Transit Authority closed its subcommittee meetings to the public. Then, under pressure from state and local government leaders, UTA reversed the decision.

Wednesday’s decision by the inland port authority board was quickly condemned by the Alliance for a Better Utah, which called for lawmakers to re-examine the state’s open meeting law to keep other entities from following suit.

“Essentially, the public is left to see only the process of using a rubber stamp to validate any work done by the subcommittees,” the left-leaning group’s executive director, Chase Thomas said.

This article originally appeared on KSL. Read it in its entirety here.

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