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Mayor Rolfe Files Lawsuit Against Council

Oct 08, 2015 12:44PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

Mayor Kim Rolfe filed a restraining order against the City Council on Aug. 24—a lawsuit that, if it had been granted, would have stopped the council from discussing the mayor’s authority and pay at its bimonthly meetings.

By Taylor Stevens

West Jordan - Mayor Kim Rolfe’s lawsuit, filed against the City Council to prevent the council body from discussing and making changes to his authority and pay, was rejected in a Salt Lake City courtroom on Aug. 25. 

Rolfe had filed the restraining order against the council a day earlier on Aug. 24, stating in court documents that he and his family would be financially harmed if his status as mayor was moved from full-time to part-time and if his salary were reduced from $90,000 to $10,000 a year. He said it would be a detriment to the city as well if he were unable to put in the hours he is currently working as full-time mayor. 

“It sounds like he has asked the judge to stop the council from discussing this issue. That is the purpose of the council: to discuss issues like this,” Councilmember Ben Southworth said when the lawsuit was first issued.

Honorable Ryan Harris declined the restraining order, stating that the issue was political and should be handled within the realm of the city council, where the council body is within its rights to discuss and make changes to the mayor’s authority.

The business item set to discuss the issue was tabled indefinitely at the city’s Aug. 25 meeting, but it was far from over. 

“I’m very frustrated with what I’ve seen in the last few days. Two people have tried to seek methods through the judicial system -- which would prohibit the council from even discussing matters that are of interest to the public,” Councilmember Chris McConnehey said at that same City Council meeting. “It’s frustrating beyond belief to think that the atmosphere has degenerated to a point where we have to speak to each other through attorneys and we can’t speak civilly face to face.’”

The City of West Jordan operates under a council/manager form of government, in which the city manager acts as the head of the city and the mayor is effectively a figurehead. This form of government was removed from Utah code in 2008, according to reporting by the Salt Lake Tribune. 

Councilmember Chad Nichols said in the council’s Aug. 25 meeting that the reason the issue of form of government should be discussed “is to conform with Utah State code rather than be in contradiction to it. That is the purpose: to conform with Utah code,” he reiterated. 

Although the council can make changes to the mayor’s salary, Councilmember Jeff Haaga said it takes a resident vote to change West Jordan’s form of government. 

“Putting this back on our agenda again violates our constitution,” Haaga said at the council’s Aug. 25 meeting. “The only people that can change our form of government are the residents by a vote of the people. That’s how it’s been from the foundation of our country.”

Residents came to the Aug. 25 meeting to oppose changes to the mayor’s authority and wages. 

“Why would we want a part-time mayor?” asked West Jordan resident Russell Evans during the public comments section of the Aug. 25 meeting. “I think West Jordan needs a full-time mayor. We have full-time problems, we have full-time residents, we have full-time issues, and we need to have it. I think that’s what the citizens want.” 

Other residents echoed these sentiments. 

 “We elected a mayor. Leave him alone,” Luella Thompson, a West Jordan resident, said to the council. “He deserves his position. He deserves his money. Leave him alone.”

The city is currently looking into employing a mediator so that the council can address its political infighting and get back to serving the residents, at McConnehey’s suggestion. 

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