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Is the Summit County Sheriff’s Office Committing Entrapment?

A 16 year old kid comes up to you outside a liquor store and asks you to buy her some booze. What do you do? YOU DON’T DO IT.

With that out of the way, the Park Record is reporting that the Sheriff’s Office is setting up a sting where underage children will be to used to solicit adults to buy them alcohol. They call it the “Shoulder Tap Campaign.” According to the paper, anyone who buys for the minor will be charged with a crime by the Summit County Sheriff.

While the “ends” are admirable, the question to ask is if the “means” are appropriate. In this case, is the Summit County Sheriff entrapping people into a crime they would not otherwise commit? Many people would argue that this practice is NOT OK — that unless the adult has repeatedly proven that they are a source of alcohol to minors, they were coerced into committing a crime by an agent of law enforcement. They were entrapped. That makes logical sense.

However, it seems that entrapment may be a more nuanced subject than Law and Order and Hill Street Blue taught us. Utah code section 76-2-303 says that “Entrapment occurs when a peace officer or a person directed by or acting in cooperation with the officer induces the commission of an offense in order to obtain evidence of the commission for prosecution by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it.” Holy crap, given that, it sounds like anyone charged with a crime based on Summit County’s sting would be found not guilty. However, the code continues, “Conduct merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment.” So, it sounds like if a 16 year old asks you to buy beer and you immediately agree, then you are toast.

The problem I have with this is the same problem I often have with the FBI “grooming” terrorists. They find the uneducated. They find the mentally disabled. They find the poor. They find people who would never do such a thing but in some circumstance they get led down the path by law enforcement. As this 2012 New York Times article says, “This is legal, but is it legitimate? Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own? Is cultivating potential terrorists the best use of the manpower designed to find the real ones? Judging by their official answers, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are sure of themselves — too sure, perhaps.”

I just don’t like these types of actions. Catch people committing crimes. Don’t cause people to commit crimes and then catch them. I understand that this, what some would call a publicity stunt, is aimed at changing behavior so that fewer people buy minors alcohol. I get it it, but I don’t agree with it.

The Sheriff’s office, and the minors who agree to be bait, should also keep in mind other parts of Utah law. Section 32B-4-409 of the Utah code is about purchasing alcohol. It states, “It is unlawful for a minor to solicit another person to purchase an alcoholic product.” In a cursory review of the code, there is NO exception for “helping law enforcement.” So, we are left with someone committing a crime to try and convince someone else to commit a crime.


There has to be a better way. If not, I hope next January we read about Park City police “selling” GHB on street corners during Sundance. Last year, that drug almost killed 3 people on Main Street in a two week period.

I won’t be holding my breath.

Note: I am not a lawyer. The above should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney before providing any alcohol to underage children that are likely to have already gotten alcohol from their parents (which appears is legal in the State of Utah)… but again check with your attorney to know whether that is legal either.

An example of how to communicate about school threats

A reader sent the following Facebook post to us today. It appears that over the weekend a former student made the threat of a school shooting on the last day of school (June 1) at Hillcrest Junior High in Salt Lake. Sound familiar?

What did the Murray School District do about it? According to Gephardt Daily, the school district sent all parents a recorded call and email regarding the student threat that was brought to the school’s attention on Monday morning. The police were involved and they took the alleged perpetrator into custody. The school then reorganized activities for the last day of school. All students will enter through the same door and no purses, backpacks, or bags will be allowed at school that day. All doors will be monitored by law enforcement and school personnel. Yearbooks, traditionally handed out on the last day of school, will be handed out before. School counselors are available to meet with any student who would like to visit with them regarding school safety.Security cameras will al be constntly monitored. Police will step up their presence throughout the end of the school year.

What does that sound like to me? A School District that has its sh*t act together. No apologies. No having to have 30 hours of meetings with the public explaining how they screwed up. No having to promise that they will get their communication plan in place “soon.”

Is every parent happy with how this was handled? Probably not. Are most? Probably. Does this ensure that no violence will happen at Hillcrest Junior High? Of course not. But Does it give people comfort that their schools know what they are doing and taking every precaution? Yes.

It’s definitely appears like an example of the right way to handle this difficult subject.

Here is the facebook post from the Murray School District:


h/t to the person who sent this to us. We really appreciate it!

Should Park City and Summit County Charge Fees For Use of Trails?

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that The National Forest Service is considering charging $6 per car for use of popular trailheads in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon. An annual pass would cost $45 for frequent users of the trails. Their rationale is that five to six million people use these trails every year but there is little money to actually improve trailheads, etc.

It brings up an interesting question, should Park City and Summit County trails cost something to use? Maybe it costs $5 per car to park at trail heads? I know that people will say, that we already pay for open space, our taxes fund some trails, and that Mountain Trails does a good job of keeping up many of our trails. I agree with all of that.

Yet, shouldn’t the users of trails, pay for their use?

Perhaps a more tenable idea would be to provide an annual pass for free to people who live in Summit County. Those people from outside Summit County would need to purchase a pass. During the summer it’s not uncommon to run into people from the valley escaping the heat and using our trails. It’s sort of like the rumors you hear where a survey was done of the people who use the Park City ice rink and something like 50% of them were from Heber (if the Park Rag had a staff, we’d try to see if that rumor is fact… so for now take it for what it is… a rumor). Yet, the people of Park City were left paying more taxes to potentially build another ice arena because ours is at capacity. Shouldn’t the people, who haven’t paid for the construction of it, be required to pay a little bit toward it?

Our trails, just like our ice arena, have a cost. Shouldn’t all users bear those costs?

I’m not sure what the exact answer is. Perhaps, fees like this aren’t even legal given the conservation easements on much of our open space land. However, it’s something to consider.

At some point the people of Park City and Summit County will tire of paying for other people to use our services. That could be just around the corner with all the tax increases (transportation bonds, recreation bonds, school bonds, etc) that are likely coming our way. It could come as all the growth starts to happen across the Wasatch County line and people from Wasatch County want to use our nice new aquatic center, and field houses, and dog parks that we will likely be building.

I believe that time is drawing nearer.

Four Seasons Resort coming to Park City area?

Just when you thought the Park City area was full of luxury, it appears more may be heading our way.

The Real Deal is reporting that Gary Burnett, one of the biggest names in New York real estate, is considering bringing a Four Seasons hotel to the Park City area. In 2015 he purchased 40 acres adjacent to Deer Valley and is reportedly in negotiations to buy 1,000 more acres in the area.

Industry observers say that as people are getting priced out of markets like Jackson Hole, they are considering secondary markets like Park City. The development has the approval for a hotel and up to 200 condos.

It is always interesting to me that so many people are eager to put hotels near Park City. This week the hotel occupancy rate is hovering at 16%. During Sundance we may reach near capacity but generally “good times” of year have our occupancy rate below 60%.

Of course, just like the hotel under construction between Highway 248 and Peace Trail, this hotel will likely be in Wasatch County. That means any development and its tax dollars are outside the control of Park City and Summit County. Although, I’d hazard a guess that visitors to a Four Seasons will make a stop or ten in Park City during their stay. They’ll bring their cars, eat at Park City restaurants, ski a bit, maybe buy a fur or two on Main Street… and then head on back to the Four Seasons where they’ll pay their $10,000 bill at the end of the stay.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge Wasatch County too much or the developer if he builds this. It’s just a reminder that the times-are-a-changing a bit. We’ve all heard that there is a massive amount of development approved (but unbuilt) right over the county line in Wasatch County. It makes our approved but undeveloped land look like nothing. Given that, it will be interesting to see what our leaders do as Park City’s resources are utilized but our share of the tax base likely isn’t proportionate to the impact. It’s not an easy problem to solve, but it is coming our way.

I hope our leaders are up for the challenge.

Map of land that could possible be used for a new Four Seasons. From The Real Deal.
Map of land that could possible be used for a new Four Seasons. From The Real Deal.

Mental Health and Student Safety Panel @ Ecker Hill Middle School Auditorium

The school district is hosting a mental health and student safety panel tonight (Monday, May 23) at Ecker Hill. If you are interested in this topic, you may want to attend. Here is the info from the district:

Please join this critical community discussion on mental health and student safety in the Ecker Hill Middle School Auditorium. Participants: Captain Phil Kirk and Student Resource Officer Zach Nakaishi from the Park City Police Dept.; Samantha Walsh, M.S.W. and Intervention Counselor at PCHS; Leslie Czerwinski, School Mental Health Program Manager with Valley Behavioral Health and Dr. Ember Conley, Superintendent for PCSD. Our student population is growing – and so is the need for mental health awareness. The discussion will include an examination of how mental health intersects with student safety.


A lesson for Park City from the country’s airports

One of the ideas you hear from time to time is that Park City should be make it so painful to drive a car that we’ll all jump into buses. I envision parking on Main Street at $30, comparable to what you’ll find on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. I envision one lane traffic on 248, with the other lane dedicated to buses. I envision painfully unfortunate ideas that someone thinks will force drivers off our roads.

Frankly, making something so painful that others don’t want to do it just never made sense to me.

With that in mind, you may have read or seen news reports about recent issues at airports where TSA checkpoint lines can be almost two hours long. It appears the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) had to reduce their budget, so they reduced staff and hoped that travelers would go through the TSA-PRE process. The PRE process requires travelers to submit fingerprints, go through a background check, pay $85, and go to the airport for an afternoon of interviews. For that inconvenience, you get to keep your shoes and coat on when going through security. You also get to go through metal detectors versus the RAPI-SCAN Machines (that’s actually what the body scanners are called).

Unfortunately, it appears enough US citizens weren’t willing to trade their personal information for convenience. So, not enough people signed up with TSA-PRE. So, the feeling is that the TSA further reduced staffing and changed rules to PROVE how painful it can be to go through the airport, unless you get TSA-PRE.

Sound familiar? We are going to make something so painful that it will cause change!

Will it work? It’s probably too early to tell. Early reports are that TSA-PRE are up a bit. However is that because every single media source in the US is now suggesting you sign up for TSA-PRE (oh the power of media connected to government). Does it cause long term changes? It’s too early.

However, what it has done for sure is paste pictures of 2000 person airport lines on the front page of every major paper in the country.  All you read is about how BAD the TSA is. TSA Sucks. TSA horrible. TSA is ineffective. For instance:

There is obviously a difference between the TSA and Park City. However, our paths likely converge if our city follows the same route as TSA.

Hypothetically, if Park City decided to remove half of its parking spaces, would people happily conclude, “Wow. We should ride buses” or would they complain to their friends, neighbors, and anyone that will listen about how hard it is to visit Park City? I’m betting on the latter… if we were successful enough in making Park City such a hard place to get around.

I know we are not at the point where we are implementing these type of ideas in some sort of wide scale fashion yet … but you can never start too early with raising awareness in Park City. Hopefully our leaders won’t consider tarnishing our city’s image in order to (likely unsuccessfully) convince people to ride buses. If they do, they need to know the consequences.

People don’t always like being treated like a rat in a maze.

Park City School District Discrimination Documents

Earlier today we wrote about Park City School District discrimination against those with disabilities. We were just provided with permission to publish the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (DOE OCR) Findings Document and the Resolution Agreement between DOE OCR and Park City School District where the Park City School District admits its culpability and defines steps it will take to rectify its transgressions.

If you are interested in the topic, I would recommend reading both. The PDF’s are here:

OCR Findings Letter

Resolution Agreement

Discrimination in Park City Schools

What if the federal government found that a black student had been discriminated against by the Park City School District. Some days he wasn’t allowed to go to school. The school didn’t prevent other students from beating up the black student, because of his race. The black student wasn’t allowed to go on field trips.

What would the people of Park City do about it? What would we demand?

What if the federal government found that girls were discriminated against by the Park City School District. Girls weren’t allowed to take the same classes as boys. The district didn’t let girls play sports because it was too expensive. Girls had a dress code but boys could wear whatever they wanted to wear.

What would the people of Park City do about it? What would we demand?

What if the federal government found that children with disabilities were discriminated against by the Park City School District? The district didn’t provide required medical care. The district wouldn’t allow the children to come on field trips.The district required the parents of the children to come to school to help the child, instead of providing resources as required by law.

What would the people of Park City do about it? What would we demand?

I’ll tell you what we should demand. Accountability. I don’t mean the type of accountability where someone says “I’m sorry” and then goes on with their business. I mean the type of accountability where people are relieved of their duties because we do not trust them to make decisions. We do not trust them with our children.

Of the above three what-ifs, the third has happened recently at Park City Schools. You may have read Bubba Brown’s excellent article in the Park Record entitled Investigation: Park City School District discriminated against diabetic student. This is about how the school district discriminated against a kindergarten student with diabetes. Better yet, hopefully soon we can release the findings from the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. It’s damning. Here are the “lowlights”:

  • The district did not develop a plan for caring for the child with the required knowledgeable persons as required by law.
  • The district did not maintain records regarding the creation of the care plan (known as a 504 plan) as required by law.
  • Although the district was required by law to have a nurse onsite all day to provide insulin to the student, they didn’t. Therefore, the parents were called 12-16 times during the fall semester to come to school to provide insulin to the child.
  • The school’s nurse was not scheduled to work at school for the first 1.5 hours of each day, or on Fridays during the fall semester. Without a nurse, there is no one who can legally provide insulin to the student.
  • While the district expanded the nurses hours after the OCR investigation began, in at least one case during the second semester the school district did not schedule a substitute nurse when the regular nurse was gone.
  • The district’s plan called for a backup staff person to receive training on helping the student. The federal government found that this person was unaware of the plan contents and was unfamiliar with the needs of the student.
  • In order for the student to attend field trips, the district required that the parent attend the field trips. No other parents were required to come in order for their children to attend field trips.
  • The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) told the district that they are responsible for ensuring students legal requirements are met during field trips (i.e. a parent doesn’t have to go and the district is required to provide support). According to the OCR, the Park City School District Associate Superintendent said he would just cancel all field trips. The OCR warned the district that this could be perceived as a retaliatory action against the parents and student, which is illegal.
  • The district lied to parents about why a field trip to Nuzzles and Company was cancelled. The district stated that they lied in order to protect the identity of the diabetic child, who, because the district didn’t find a nurse to go on the field trip, may be blamed for canceling the field trip?

In the past week, the school district has taken to many mediums to answer these charges. They would have you believe that this is just an issue that has been overblown by an overzealous parent who could have worked with the school district. Nothing could be further from the truth. I imagine the district saying, “we wouldn’t have had to discriminate against your child, if you just would have worked with us.” All that aside, facts are facts. The bullet points above are not the mad ravings of a Park Rag blogger or a helicopter mom. They are findings by the US Department of Education. They conclude that the Park City School District has committed many acts of discrimination against this student.

It’s pretty clear. It’s also true that the Park City School District, after being investigated and found guilty by the Department of Education, has made changes. As of this minute, they appear to be in compliance for this student. However, you shouldn’t dismiss this story just because the district eventually fell into line (and hopefully continues). A parent brought up issues with school district personnel. Not enough was done, so a complaint was filed with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (DOE OCR) by a parent. Nothing changed. The DOE OCR started asking questions. Some things, but not a lot, changed. The DOE OCR found civil right violations by the school district. The district now has a nurse available during the entire school day (golf clap….) to help ensure the child comes home alive at the end of the day. “Best school district in the world.” Will the district stay in compliance this summer? Will they be prepared next fall? What happens during the next round of budget cutbacks?

Perhaps the more important question from the community is whether this is an isolated incident. I’ve heard it isn’t, and I expect we will be hearing much more about that over the coming months.

The reality is that the school district has been found guilty by the federal government of violating the law. There must be accountability for that. Discriminating against the disabled has been AGAINST THE LAW since 1990 (and should have been before that). So, this isn’t something new.

The truth is that very few people trust the school district. You hear this in public meetings. You hear this at the coffee shop. You hear this from teachers. This is just one more misstep by the school district.

The school district spends a lot of time talking about how it is trying to be more transparent. Perhaps they should take a step back and just try and figure out how to follow the law first.

Ok, I’d actually prefer both.

I have faith that they’ll eventually get it right. I just hope it’s before my 2 year old graduates from Park City High in 2034.

Note: I reached out to the school district for a meeting and was supposed to meet with Superintendent Dr Ember Conley today to understand the district’s side of this issue. Unfortunately Dr Conley got pulled into a meeting and wasn’t able to meet. I was offered a meeting at that time with the Associate Superintendent for 5 minutes. I decided to ask for another meeting with Dr Conley at a later time. I’ll post the district’s side of this issue once I get it.


Audio From Office Hours With Dr Conley (5/13/2016)

Below is the audio from the 5/13 “Office Hours with Dr Conley.” If you want the pure unedited version of the meeting, this is what you want. While I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Hugo Coffee… recording audio is not easy there. So, I’ve done the best that I can to adjust audio so it is generally audible. In places it may be too loud or soft… Alan Parsons — I am not. So sorry for that (your volume buttons should help compensate).

All those caveats aside, this was an important meeting. It’s the first time School Superintendent Ember Conley met with the public after the May 3 security issue. So, there is information to be gained, if you are interested.

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