The former Burley mayor who is suing the city over a water and sewer development deal, alleging violation of the Idaho Constitution and religious favoritism, has filed an affidavit in Cassia County District Court opposing the city’s request to dismiss his case.
In a seven-page sworn statement, notarized and filed Tuesday, Jon Anderson pushed back against the city’s May 11 motion asking a judge to punt his lawsuit over an agreement to extend services to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple that’s being built on the southeast edge of the city.
Anderson, represented by Burley attorney Don Chisholm, has “no animosity against the LDS Church or its members” but “believes that the members of that church should support their church and not receive funds of the City of Burley to support their religion at the expense of himself and taxpayers and ratepayers,” the affidavit said.
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“The Mayor and all six council members of the City and key appointed officials are members of the LDS Church,” according to the affidavit.
Citing his “knowledge of the workings of a city government,” Anderson said in his sworn statement “it is unlikely that the actions of the Mayor and City Council would have been brought to the attention of the public or this court” if not for his complaint, alleging the development agreement negotiated and entered into by the city “denied citizens of the City of Burley” of due process. In response to Anderson’s tort claim, filed in February, and subsequent lawsuit, filed in April, the city argued in its motion earlier this month that Anderson wasn’t “affected by the development agreement in any way” and thus “lacks standing to bring this action.”
“Additionally, the Idaho Supreme Court has consistently held that simply being a taxpayer does not confer standing to challenge a governmental action,” Blake G. Hall, the Idaho Falls-based attorney representing the city, wrote in a memorandum to the court.
Eight other individuals and entities, not including Anderson, would also benefit from the development agreement, according to the city.
The months-long legal wrestling match began in December when Anderson sent a letter to the city detailing his accusations, followed by a tort claim that alleged favoritism to LDS church members and called into question non-interest loans to property owners that would become null if the land is not developed within 30 years.
The tort claim also alleged the city violated state law by naming the LDS church as the sole source for the acquisition of a project contractor, an action that was not disclosed in a public notice published last year in the Times-News.
The Burley temple will be the LDS church’s seventh in Idaho, joining Twin Falls, Boise, Meridian, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Rexburg. A groundbreaking ceremony on the temple’s 10.1-acre site was held in June 2022, and construction is expected to take about 2½ years.
The church has also announced plans for a second Rexburg temple, plus a temple in Montpelier in Bear Lake County near the Wyoming border.