State Records Committee Appeal 03-04
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
INNER CITY PRESS, COMMUNITY ON THE MOVE & FAIR FINANCE WATCH, Appellant, vs.
UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL, Appellee.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 03-04
By this appeal, Inner City Press, Community on the Move & Fair Finance Watch ("ICP") seeks access to records in the possession of the Utah Attorney General's Office related to the recent settlement with Household International, Inc. ("Household"). The State Records Committee, having reviewed the materials submitted by the parties, and having heard oral argument and testimony on March 19, 2003, now issues the following Decision and Order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. The Government Records Access and Management Act ("GRAMA") specifies that "all records are public unless otherwise expressly provided by statute." Utah Code Ann. 63-2-201(2). GRAMA also provides that records properly classified as "protected" or otherwise "restricted pursuant to court rule, another state statute, federal statute, or federal regulation . . ." are not public. Utah Code Ann. 63-2-201(3).
2. The Attorney General's Office denied ICP access to the following categories of records on the basis that they were protected under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304: (1) internal communications, notes, research prepared by the attorneys of the Attorney General's Office and persons working at the direction of those attorneys; (2) settlement negotiation documents, consisting of electronic mail and a copy of the "Confidential Agreement in Principle" summarizing the settlement terms to be used in drafting the pleadings and the Consent Judgment; (3) draft court documents and electronic mail describing the contents of a draft settlement decree; (4) documents containing State of Utah bank account financial information with transmission instructions; (5) electronic mail between the Attorney General's Office and the two state agencies represented in the litigation; (6) attorney communications, work product and settlement information received from representatives of attorney general offices in other states; (7) citizen complaints regarding Household's conduct; and (8) a draft press release information and a draft accounting report provided by Household. Disclosure of the seventh category, citizen complaints, was resolved by stipulation between the parties during the hearing.
3. The Committee finds that the records described above, and more specifically in Mr. Klein's letter of March 12, 2003, as drafts, settlement negotiations, attorney communications and attorney work product are properly classified as protected under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304(16), -(17), -(22), -(31) and -(33). See Letter from W. Klein to P. Scott of March 12, 2003, attached as Exhibit A. Moreover, the documents containing the State of Utah's financial information, described in category four, could cause financial injury to the state if abused and are therefore properly classified as protected records. See Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304(3).
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Inner City Press, Community on the Move & Fair Finance Watch is denied. The Attorney General's determination regarding the classification of these records as protected is affirmed.
RIGHT TO APPEAL
Either party may appeal this Decision and Order to the District Court. The petition for review must be filed no later than thirty (30) days after the date of this order. The petition for judicial review must be a complaint. The complaint and the appeals process are governed by the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and Utah Code Ann. 63-2-404. The court is required to make its decision de novo. In order to protect its rights on appeal, a party may wish to seek advice from an attorney.
Entered this 24th day of March, 2003.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
Robert Woodhead, Chair
State Records Committee
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