East Side mayor accuses County Council of abusing its power
September 18, 2009
An East Side mayor has accused the Summit County Council of abusing its power, charging also that councilpersons have ignored the wishes of residents in North Summit.
This week, Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt fired off a letter detailing his complaints to media outlets and the County Council. It’s the latest example of the long-running friction between the resort community on the West Side and the more rural towns in eastern Summit County.
Schmidt says he is frustrated that the County Council has dismissed requests for help from the city in rebuilding a bridge on 100 South.
Schmidt chided councilpersons this week for their "lack of support."
"When anyone talks about the rift between the East and West sides of the county it is easy to point out situations of this nature that further the divide," Schmidt stated in the letter to the council. "North Summit has no representation at the Summit County Council and the continued neglect from our County Council is shameful."
The bridge in question, which is near the Coalville city limits, services mainly homes and a gravel pit in unincorporated Summit County, Schmidt claimed.
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But the blistering letter from the mayor is rife with inaccuracies, Summit County Councilman John Hanrahan countered in a telephone interview Thursday.
"Clearly, we will continue to work with the mayor of Coalville. But he has lost some credibility because of the misinformation in that letter," Hanrahan said.
The County Council asked Schmidt to seek funding for the bridge repair from the state before he hit up local taxpayers for the money, Hanrahan said.
"For him to say that we’ve done nothing for the East Side, again, is completely false," Hanrahan said.
Hanrahan said he and other councilpersons will now closely scrutinize what Schmidt tells them.
The mayor’s testy letter did Coalville citizens a disservice, Hanrahan said.
Meanwhile, Schmidt made his abuse-of-power accusation against the County Council when reached by The Park Record Thursday. Schmidt warned councilpersons not to seek retribution against Coalville because he spoke out against the county.
"If the county thinks that now I’m going to be ineffective in terms of coming in and asking for something, they should watch what they say and they should watch their step," Schmidt said.
However, staying leery of Schmidt is prudent after he misstated facts this week in his letter to county officials, Hanrahan replied.
"I wouldn’t see caution on the part of the council being an abuse of power," Hanrahan said. "I think it would simply be prudent in light of some statements he made that try to vilify the council."
In response, Schmidt blasted Hanrahan for being too sensitive.
"How would anybody in the county feel about an elected official who got his feelings hurt turning around and making a statement of this nature?" Schmidt asked. "That’s childish from an elected official."
Hanrahan took issue with Schmidt’s claim that the non-profit People’s Health Clinic, which Hanrahan helped start, received a "sweetheart deal" to move into a new building the Summit County Health Department is constructing at Quinn’s Junction.
According to Schmidt’s letter, "The new health department building that cost 6 million dollars has leased half the building to the People’s Health Clinic which is a non-profit that was started by John Hanrahan The lease is $1 per year, which has an appearance of a $3 million gift."
"I viewed this particular paragraph as a really misleading inference that I was involved in shenanigans," said Hanrahan, who was sworn into office in January.
The former Summit County Commission negotiated the deal with People’s Health, Hanrahan explained.
"I was not involved from a People’s Health Clinic perspective," he said. "I was not involved from a county perspective This council has nothing to do with it."
And the space for People’s Health was not a "$3 million gift" from Summit County, Hanrahan insisted.
Intermountain Healthcare, which owns the property, agreed to lease land to the county for $1 per year in exchange for Summit County allowing People’s Health to lease about 5,000 square feet in the 25,000 square-foot building for $1.
IHC officials wanted the clinic, which serves people without health insurance, near its new hospital at Quinn’s.
"This just makes me wonder what [Schmidt’s] motives really were," Hanrahan said about inaccuracies in the letter.
Still, Schmidt stood by his statements.
"I couldn’t care less if their feelings are hurt. The administration for the health department is sitting in a doublewide trailer in Coalville," Schmidt said. "They’re out of touch with their constituents on the East Side of the county. For whatever reason, they feel like they’ve got the ultimate power, but they’re just elected officials in my opinion."