State senator, developer named in antitrust case
A Park City developer and a member of the Utah Senate were added to the defendants named in a multi-million dollar antitrust lawsuit that pits Summit Water Distribution Co. against three former Summit County commissioners and the county’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District.
Former Commissioners Shauna Kerr, Patrick Cone and Eric Schifferli conspired illegally with Parkite Jim Doilney and Summit County deputy attorney David Thomas to take the private Summit Water Distribution Co. through eminent domain, Summit Water President Hy Saunders claims in a lawsuit originally filed in Third District Court in 2001.
Mountain Regional executive Doug Evans is also a defendant in the case.
"This scheme allegedly involved Mountain Regional Water Special Service District being set up as a competitor and an ordinance being passed by the county," a July 6 ruling and order from Third District Court Judge Bruce Lubeck states.
The decision allowed for Doilney and Thomas to be added as defendants and rejected a request from the California engineering firm, Montgomery Watson Harza, that the business and its employee, Todd Jarvis, be dismissed as defendants.
"Montgomery Watson did conspire with Mountain Regional and Summit County as an independent contractor to attempt to remove Mountain Regional from the market," Summit Water attorney Bob Campbell said during a telephone interview Monday.
Jarvis helped draft the county’s water concurrency ordinance, which was used to propagate misinformation about Summit Water’s supply, he added.
Assisting Summit County in the takeover of the Snyderville Basin water market would earn the firm the reputation as a "great leader in water engineering," Campbell said.
Meanwhile, as a "chief conspirator" in the alleged scheme to monopolize the water market, Thomas was "interested in becoming the great power broker in county government," Campbell alleged.
Thomas also represents Weber and Davis counties on Capitol Hill and is serving his first term in the state Senate. He was defeated in a Republican primary election June 27.
Summit County entered the water market about six years ago and incurred about $33 million in debt as officials bought water resources in western Summit County to form its Mountain Regional Water Special Service District. The antitrust lawsuit was filed after county commissioners failed in their attempt to condemn Summit Water Distribution Co.
In exchange for providing water for Mountain Regional, Doilney received "millions of dollars for unproven water resources, the reservation of hundreds of water connections for developments and home sites which had been neither approved nor permitted and favorable development considerations from Summit County," court documents filed by Campbell state.
Doilney wouldn’t comment about the lawsuit when contacted Tuesday.
"It’s disappointing," Summit County Attorney David Brickey said Monday. "There is no factual basis to support [Thomas or Doilney] being named as defendants and the judge even acknowledges that, but he’s going to allow it to happen."
Government officials acting on behalf of the public are not liable for damages under the Utah Antitrust Act.
"[Summit County claims] Doilney is added only to preserve [Summit Water’s] alleged monetary damage claim," Lubeck’s 27-page ruling and order states.
Campbell insists private individuals in the case could be held liable for more than $15 million in damages.
Within two weeks, Campbell said he expects to begin obtaining e-mails from the hard drives of defendants in the case that prove government officials conspired with private enterprise in attempts to eliminate Summit Water Distribution Co. from the market.
"We understand that there are over 900 documents that they have refused to produce," Campbell said. "The devil is in the details of this case there are already some smoking-gun e-mails."
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Court report: Week of June 22