A Payson town councilor is suing a local group he helps oversee.

Jim Ferris is suing the Rim Country Educational Alliance after they allegedly failed to respond to multiple record requests.

Ferris is seeking dozens of documents from the RCEA, including audit reports, bylaws, financial statements, budgets, real estate holdings and property master plans.

The towns of Payson and Star Valley formed the RCEA, a separate legal entity, in July 2011 through an intergovernmental agreement. The RCEA was created to bring a university to Payson as the RCEA owns a 252-acre parcel site off State Roue 260 it bought from the Forest Service. So far, no university has signed on, but the RCEA is working with the MHA Foundation on a park off Granite Dells Road.

The MHA and the Rim Country Educational Foundation (RCEF) are funding the project. Kenny Evans is the president of the MHA Foundation.

Evans said Ferris has been “harassing” the RCEA for three years about records.

He said they have provided him with 3,000 records, fulfilling their legal requirement to provide records.

He said they had lawyers review each of Ferris’ requests and provide the records which they are required under law.

“I don’t know how much more fair we can be,” he said.

Jon Cline, president of the RCEA, told the Roundup Tuesday he had not received a copy of the complaint and was unaware Ferris had filed one. He said he knew that Ferris had filed multiple record requests for the same documents and they had responded with records.

In August 2019, Ferris began putting in record requests to the RCEA, according to a complaint, which the Roundup reviewed at the Payson courthouse. Ferris claims he hand-delivered the request to then RCEA CEO Sanja Long. It was not honored, according to the complaint. So, a month later, he sent the request via certified letter. He received the letter back, which had been marked “refused.”

In October 2019, the Town of Payson made a request for documents to be shared during a special joint meeting of the Payson and Star Valley councils.

“The Alliance failed to present any substantive document other than random and inconsistent bank checking statements,” according to the complaint. “Requested documents were omitted and other documents contained no substantive financial or organizational information as requested.”

In November 2019, the town’s attorneys requested the same documents, but no “substantive documentation was delivered.”

In July 2021, Ferris and George Chrisman put in a new record request. When Ferris received the documents, they were again “wholly inadequate” and did not fulfill the record request.

So, in late October 2021, Ferris and Chrisman put in another request, pointing out which documents were missing and the shortcomings of the Alliance’s response.

“No response of any kind to the October 29, 2021 request has been received, and as such, the October 29, 2021 request has therefore been denied.”

Ferris is asking that the RCEA turn over the records and pay his legal fees.

Ferris had no comment.

An order to show cause hearing has been set before Judge Bryan Chambers at 9 a.m. Jan. 28.

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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(14) comments

Jeff Robbins

The RCEA asked a federal judge to grant a temporary restraining order, saying the council action had violated its board members’ constitutional right to due process.

SLE board members were not offered a chance to defend themselves against Jim Ferris’ personal and wildly misleading diatribe riddled with factual inaccuracies. Accusations that were a myriad of misstatements that were patently false. This violated the board members’ civil rights to due process.

On Feb. 27, a federal judge granted the restraining order and required the council to return the three board members to their positions.

The Town of Payson risk insurance attorneys refused to cover the cost because the actions were so” egregious”.

June 22,2020 The “Town of Payson AGREED in court” that RCEA were entitled to fees and costs. $57,532.86

https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/paysonroundup.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/a0/3a0399bf-c7e1-54f4-82f2-7b237d15f451/5f3d4979712bb.pdf.pdf

Jeff Robbins

For those that didn't read it the first time. The town of Payson attorneys sent a letter to the MHA saying they have complied "fully" to all records requests twice. Mr Ferris choses again to ignore legal council. This action is retaliation against a legal order. Again.

Michael Heather

Kenny Evans is so accustomed to making promises he does not have to keep, he thinks it is just fine to stonewall a request for information and/or records. He doesn't mind making a big show of the "progress" of his Granite Dells park project, but if the town even considers an alternate solution (new or rebuilt swimming pool), he whines that he feels like a jilted bride. A bride who is holding the purse strings? If Evens and co. would let the town know its intentions up front, perhaps there would be a solution in which everyone gets what they want. But secrecy, half truths and misdirection seems to be the mode of operation for our local "foundations" funded by public money from the sale of the town hospital.

Jeff Robbins

S-0400-CV-202100477

Title: JAMES FERRIS PLAINTIFF vs RI Category: Civil

Court: Gila County Superior

Filing Date: 12/21/2021

Judge: Disposition Date:

JAMES FERRIS PLAINTIFF - P 1

TIMOTHY LA SOTA ATTORNEY - Y 1

RIM COUNTRY EDUCATIONAL ALLIANCE DEFENDANT - D 1

Michael Heather

A writ of Mandamus is simply having a court compel a lower court or other legal entity to do something that it had either promised or was bound by law to do. The Latin word means "to command." The SLE, RCEA and/or MHA seem not to feel they are bound by law. Councilor Ferris is doing the right thing for the citizens of Payson.

Jeff Robbins

The town of Payson attorneys sent a letter to the MHA that they have fully complied with all records requests. Jim Ferris ignored legal council before regarding the RCEA which resulted in the taxpayers being penalized $58 thousand dollars. This action is clearly harassment and retaliation against a lawful order. Jim Ferris has been harassing the MHA on many levels for years. How does Mr Ferris afford Tom Morrissey's lawyer Tim La Sota? I hope Mr Ferris has his financials in order harassment and retaliation are serious crimes.

Mike White

The RCEA seems to be very afraid of any outside scrutiny of their activities and financial records. They even want control over who is on the Town's oversight committee and were willing to sue the taxpayers of Payson $58,000 to maintain that control. (Whatever happened to the money from that?).

RCEF must be aware of the negative optics involved with keeping their financial records secret and insisting on no outside scrutiny or even review. Makes one wonder -- perhaps an external audit is in order. They are managing our community improvement funds, after all.

Paul Frommelt

My understanding is, that it was a Writ of Mandamus, and not actually a lawsuit. Records requests seem reasonable, if he is to "oversee" the entity, as is stated in the article. Mike White is correct, stating that if the RCEA/MHA would just turn over the requested documents, much of the distrust and suspicion might go away. Unless there is something to hide.

Don Manthe

Hope you use that same reasoning when it comes to the Jan 6th commission- " just cooperate, unless there is something to hide"...

Phil Mason

Just allow both parties to select their members of the commission like every other commission in the history of the country, unless there is something to hide,

Mike White

Why won't the RCEA just go ahead and provide the documents and get the whole thing over with? Not providing them just adds to the suspicions many citizens have. And sending over papers that have nothing to do with the request doesn't help them.

Jon Anderson

I would say it's probably the same reason President Trump didn't want to turn over his tax returns, he didn't have to.

Paul Frommelt

Jon, Actually, by law, they do!

Phil Mason

I guess it is too difficult to distinguish between a public organization being required to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request and a person's personal tax records being made public for purely political reasons. Watch out that Kool Aid could be fatal

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