The first City Council Meeting with the new Council Members and Mayor was held on Tuesday, January 16, 2018. The meeting began with a spirited round of public comment, with the primary topic being the consideration of the termination of Blake Hamilton, who has served as legal counsel for Hildale City and represented the city during the DOJ case.
The public comment portion of the meeting began with an interesting split between some residents who expressed concern about Hamilton’s ability to represent Hildale, taking into consideration the Department of Justice discrimination case, which found that the cities of Hildale and Colorado City discriminated against members of the community based on religion. Some also expressed the view that Hamilton had facilitated city land sales that lacked transparency and “due process.” A common thread between the comments made in favor of seeking new legal counsel focused on the image of the city going forward. The implication seemed to be that there was a need for new representation to move Hildale beyond the era of FLDS control and the difficult, costly, legal situations that arose from that dynamic.
On the other side of the argument were, primarily, current and former elected representatives and employees of the Twin Cities, including former Hildale mayor Philip Barlow, Fire Department Chief Kevin Barlow, and Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred. They expressed support for his professional ability, reputation, and moral character. They cited examples of his skill in navigating difficult municipal government issues in the past. A citizen who previously served on the Utilities Board, expressed support for Hamilton as well, noting his professionalism and ability as an attorney. A colleague of Mr. Hamilton’s, also took to the podium to testify to his ability and character.
At the end of the public comment period, Hamilton himself addressed the council. He stated, “I am saddened that this is on the agenda because I love this community. I love Hildale. I have not been trying to exploit Hildale to line my coffers. I’ve been trying to do what’s right for Hildale, and it has been a very difficult time. I am not perfect. I make mistakes. But, I don’t have regrets with the way I’ve represented Hildale. I’ve given my very best advice.” He said that there were times that his counsel was not followed, saying, “There are times that I think it hasn’t been followed, and ultimately, it has cost the city millions of dollars. I know I’ve saved the city millions of dollars.” He went on to state that he was excited about the changes coming to Hildale and the opportunity to get out from under what he called “this mountain of litigation.” He continues, “I see that there is a bright future for Hildale, and I want to be a part of that.”
The City Council ultimately decided to seek new legal counsel. JVar Dutson, Maha Layton, Doran Jessop, and Jared Nicol voted in favor of the motion, with Brian Jessop voting no.
Note: A previous version of this article said Doran Jessop voted no on the measure. It has been corrected to reflect the accurate vote.