County Attorney Responds to Allegations in Canal Conflict

Nov 7, 2013

Cache County’s own water war continues to cause heated debate in the valley over two years after the original complaint was filed by a group of Utah citizens.

The most recent dispute that has gained attention was sparked by the filing of a countersuit by Cache County itself, against citizen plaintiffs including members of the Utah Foundation for Land and Open Water, also known as Utah FLOW.

In an interview with UPR, the citizens said they are being sued for millions of dollars by the county for misrepresenting facts. But Cache County Attorney Donald Linton said the county is not asking for money.

“It helps to say to people one, you’re not entitled to say anything you want and if you do say those things, we’re going to refute them and that’s really what we’ve done in this defamation countersuit," said Linton. "As I said, we haven’t asked for any monetary damages — all we said is, ‘look you guys, you’re defaming us, stop.’”

The citizens also claim that the county’s countersuit “violates the bedrock of democratic principals of free speech” by suing its own citizens for bringing up allegations of fraud. Linton, again, refutes this claim.

“They say that we don’t have a right because we’re a public entity, but there’s a statute in the state of Utah that says ‘absolutely’ if some of these things are said maliciously and with willful and reckless disregard for the truth, yes, we can protect ourselves,” he added.

Linton also disputes the allegation that the county did not go through the Cache County Council before submitting the counterclaim.

“I will say frankly, there is absolutely nothing illegal that has been done up on that hill. Period.”

The countersuit claims the citizens have damaged the reputation of Cache County, canal companies, engineering firms and contractors who have worked with the county on the canal project.

“Where do we stop them from making allegations that we’ve abused our power?  Where do we defend ourselves from allegations that we’ve committed fraud and criminal conduct? Where do we say, enough is enough,” Linton said.

The case is ongoing in 1st District court.