Salt Lake City’s power players — Mayor Rocky Anderson and LDS Presiding Bishop H. David Burton –have agreed to make themselves available for depositions in the Main Street Plaza case.
The city, church and the American Civil Liberties Union reached an agreement Wednesday over the depositions. Anderson and Burton — or his designee — could be interviewed for up to half a day.
The church and city also said they wouldn’t oppose the ACLU taking Jon Huntsman’s deposition. Huntsman, a Salt Lake City-based industrialist and LDS Church member, helped broker Anderson’s plaza deal, which extinguished the city’s easement that would have guaranteed free speech on plaza land, in exchange for land and money to build a community center elsewhere.
The city and church have agreed to provide copies of documents related to the plaza to the ACLU.
The ACLU contends the city’s sale of the easement is unconstitutional. It wants the depositions as it seeks a preliminary injunction against speech restrictions on the plaza. With the easement eliminated, the church apparently can ban speech it finds offensive.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball will hear arguments for the injunction — and for the city and church’s motion to dismiss the case — on Jan. 26.
In exchange, the ACLU has agreed to allow the city and church attorneys to take depositions of its five clients.
In addition, the ACLU says it wants to take “not more than two depositions” of newspaper reporters about quotations they attributed to Anderson. The organization’s attorney, Mark Lopez, said in a court hearing last week that he may want to interview reporters for The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News.
“We stand behind our reporting in this matter,” said Tom Baden, Tribune executive editor. “We also believe strongly that our community is best served when the press remains independent of legal proceedings and impartial. This is particularly vital when it comes to matters of contentious public debate. We would hope that all parties involved in the Main Street Plaza litigation would recognize and respect that.”
Anderson’s statements about the plaza play a critical role in the ACLU’s lawsuit. The civil rights group, of which Anderson is a member, says the mayor was bulldozed by the church into selling the easement.