- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Several large urban counties may band together to form their own sub-association in response to what they believe has been an unfair focus on rural issues by the Utah Association of Counties.

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton has decided to bring the urban counties together following a decision by the UAC to honor a San Juan County commissioner for breaking the law in a public-lands dispute, the Salt Lake Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1OqSTel).

At a meeting last month, Salt Lake County council members questioned why they were supporting the UAC with a $320,000 annual contribution after Phil Lyman was named county commissioner of the year. Lyman has declined the honor.

The southern Utah politician was convicted in federal court for leading an ATV ride on federal lands. About 50 people participated in the event designed to protest what organizers called federal overreach in the closure of a southeastern Utah canyon to motorized vehicles.

Newton said she is organizing a Jan. 20 meeting that will include Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber, Summit and Tooele counties. She said the UAC supports the gathering and her efforts to increase communication among the populous counties.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, a former Utah County commissioner and past president of UAC, is expected to attend the meeting.

“A governor’s aide said (Herbert) would love to talk about the economy,” said Newton, noting that another topic of interest for the counties is the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and the unfunded mandates it carries.

“It’s good for the other counties to see some of the things we’re doing in that regard,” she said. “There’s also value in having a roundtable with them to find out what big issues they face.”

Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, who arranged the recent questioning of UAC Executive Director Adam Trupp, said there is value in determining “if a political coalition of sorts is really worth exploring.”

Newton said she expects the group to meet regularly.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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