Legal Mistake Delays CC Commission Information Dissemination

A procedural error created confusion in a special meeting of the Carbon County Commission on November 8, when commissioners wrongly granted a request for an executive session, effectively closing part of the meeting to the public.

A recording of that session has since been obtained by etv10news.com because Commissioners determined that the matters should have been discussed during the public meeting.

After releasing the recording, Commissioners released the following statement regarding the situation:

At the special meeting, the Carbon County Commission was requested to go into a closed session by a representative of Four Corners to discuss legal matters, and at her request a motion was made and passed to do so.

Unfortunately, counsel for the County Commission was not present at the meeting and was unable to provide direction as to the propriety of going into the closed session.В  After determining that the matters could have been discussed during the open portion of the meeting, a recording of the closed meeting was provided to ETV.

According to a notice received the day prior, the meeting was held to review a contract between Four Corners Behavioral Health and Carbon, Emery and Grand Counties regarding using Four Corners as a common mental health agency and provider.

An etv10news.com reporter assigned to cover the meeting reported that before the meeting began, Four Corners representative Jan Bodily said she was unaware the meeting was open to the public.

An extended discussion then ensued between the commissioners about whether or not they were allowed to go into executive session. Commissioners eventually motioned to do so after the initial agenda item had been discussed.

According to the Utah Open and Public Meeting’s Act, a closed meeting may only be held for: (a) discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an individual; (b) strategy sessions to discuss collective bargaining; (c) strategy sessions to discuss pending or reasonably imminent litigation; (d) strategy sessions to discuss the purchase, exchange, or lease of real property.

A review of the recoding reviewed the discussed issues didn’t fit the parameters.

Bodily reported to the Commissioners regarding two legislative matters that could have a fiscal impact on the County, and a proposal to eliminate the gap in Medicaid services for inmates.

The first legislative issue Bodily addressed stemmed from pilot program OptumHealth, which recently won the bid to provide mental health services in Salt Lake County.

Bodily explained as things are done now, the state currently sends the funds that are appropriated to Carbon County directly to the Utah State Hospital, and Four Corners is allotted a certain number of beds in the facility. This also provides some flexibility because not all of the beds are full all of the time.

Because OptimHealth runs smaller outside facilities with 16 beds or less, they want the money to go directly to the Counties rather than to the State Hospital.

If this happens, Bodily explained, “The State Hospital’s viability is at risk,” and “[Four Corners’] ability to hospitalize will be seriously impacted.”

The second piece Bodily reported on was civil commitment legislation Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, introduced in September. The current Utah law allows judges to commit patients who are likely to inflict “serious bodily injury” to themselves or others. Daw’s legislation would broaden the language to include “harmful sexual conduct.”

Bodily said her concern with the legislation was the load this would put on the mental health system.

“It’s going to be a real burden if this happens,” she said, explaining that Four Corners does not have the facilities or qualified staff needed to handle such clients.

Four Corners Behavioral Health was contacted for comment on this situation, but no response was received as of press time.

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