Hideout officials allege harassment and ‘porn-bombing,’ prompting developer’s attorney to say profane opponents should be shot | ParkRecord.com
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Hideout officials allege harassment and ‘porn-bombing,’ prompting developer’s attorney to say profane opponents should be shot

Town of Hideout.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record | Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Tensions were rising in the Hideout annexation saga as the clock ticked toward the Oct. 19 deadline for action, with harassment reaching beyond the digital realm into the personal and comments in public meetings that officials have claimed incite violence.

Recent revelations have included accusations of harassment, in-person intimidation, “porn-bombing” and obscene and dehumanizing language and images directed from and toward annexation opponents.

And now Hideout officials say they are looking into whether a meeting Thursday was deliberately sabotaged to prevent a scheduled vote on the annexation.

Mayor Phil Rubin said Tuesday that people he believes are opposed to the annexation have camped out outside his home multiple times and filmed he and his family, while a developer’s representative said in the same meeting that opponents seeking to derail public meetings by flooding Zoom with profane images should be shot.

The town’s annexation attempt has rankled many nearby residents, some of whom have called it a land grab while others decry what they say were shady dealings involving the state Legislature. That opposition has included several attempts to disrupt online meetings.

But the full extent of the alleged harassment wasn’t visible publicly and was only recently revealed by officials.

“My family has been harassed. There were people outside my house again last night, making noise,” Rubin said Tuesday. “… So I’m sorry I had to say that, because I’m really upset about — particularly about people coming to my home. I think it’s wrong. Flat-out wrong.”

At issue is 350 acres of undeveloped land at Quinn’s Junction that Park City and Summit County have long planned as a bucolic buffer against development encroaching from Wasatch County. Hideout, meanwhile, sees the land as a potential site for the civic and commercial services it would like in a new town center to be built by developer Nate Brockbank.

The land, and the process, are subject to multiple lawsuits from Summit County, one of which Park City has joined.

The opposition has included multiple petitions, signs on nearby roadways saying “Shame on Hideout” and attempts to take over virtual meetings by so-called Zoom-bombers. In a public hearing Monday, some Hideout residents said they were embarrassed to tell others they lived in the town.

Area residents have a history of organizing against developments they oppose, particularly in Park City, and many were clear opponents in a public hearing Monday.

Rubin indicated that opposition had crossed a line.

He clarified in an interview that on three occasions, people sat outside of his house recording video on their cellphones, including watching his family pack up a trailer for a camping trip. He said he assumed they were looking for a confrontation, which he said he has tried to avoid. He said he hadn’t reported the incidents to law enforcement.

The town has had difficulty holding virtual meetings and has switched platforms multiple times in an attempt to thwart efforts to take over the screen that is broadcast publicly.

The small town doesn’t have technology staffers, and Rubin appeared to be the IT person in charge during one notable public hearing in August that was ultimately scrapped due to technological difficulties, almost derailing the entire annexation process.

Recently, the mayor has publicly admonished those who attempted to gain control of the meeting and ejected disrupters. He said the town has hired cyber-security experts to find those responsible and at Monday’s public hearing, he could be seen consulting with people off-screen.

The publicly visible “Zoom-bombing” has included profane comments, people speaking over officials and participants who have used anti-Semitic and homophobic names in the online video platform.

Rubin revealed Tuesday that the town had been subject to something he called porn-bombing, as well.

The mayor said that several participants had displayed hardcore pornography or images of burning human bodies as their personal photos on the platform, visible to the Town Council and mayor.

But on Tuesday, the most incendiary comments visible to the public belonged not to a member of the public or Zoom-bomber, but to developer Nate Brockbank’s attorney Bruce Baird.

“I sent the mayor a link that said porn bombing/Zoom bombing is not just a joke, it’s a crime,” Baird said. “All those sons of bitches should have been taken out and shot.”

After a brief silence, the mayor pivoted from Baird’s comments and said that distracting from the public process, as Zoom-bombers have done, is unacceptable.

In an interview Thursday, Baird said it was important to note the context of his comments, as participants in online meetings had harassed and threatened Hideout elected officials in addition to displaying profane images.

“I will apologize to the Hideout Town Council for the intemperate nature of my comments,” Baird said.

Brockbank said he did not condone Baird’s comments, but he, too, expressed frustration with the behavior of those seeking to disrupt the process.

“Bruce’s comment was in response to people disrupting the online public meeting by posting pornography and images of burning bodies,” Brockbank wrote in a message sent by a representative. “Bruce should have responded in a more diplomatic manner. I also want to underscore that we are open to and welcome a diversity of opinions, feedback and input on the project.”

Park City Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City and Summit County councils called on Rubin and the Town of Hideout to cut ties with Baird in a letter sent the next day, claiming his comments threatened violence against annexation opponents.

Baird has a long history of litigating against Summit County.

Rubin disputed the notion that Baird’s comments incited violence, writing in a statement that the town cannot choose who a developer picks as a representative.

“The Town, however, will not in any manner condone any unprofessional or incendiary comments or actions,” Rubin wrote.

At Monday’s public hearing, the most robust opportunity to date for the public to comment on the proposal, most of the feedback was negative but participants remained cordial.

Hideout officials have indicated that the public clamor against the proposal has taken a toll.

“It’s been brutal actually,” Rubin said. “Hideout has been trying hard not to get into the boxing ring here. We haven’t spouted back all the vitriol that’s been spouted to us. We haven’t been throwing stones in the fray because we don’t believe that’s the way to do business.”


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