State Records Committee Appeal Decision 2014-14
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
ALEX CAMPBELL, REPORTER WITH BUZZFEED, INC., Petitioner, v.
UTAH DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 14-14
By this appeal, Petitioner, Alex Campbell, with BuzzFeed, Inc., seeks a fee waiver for copies of records held by Respondent, the Utah Department of Corrections (“UDC”).
In a letter dated April 25, 2014, Mr. Alex Campbell, a reporter for BuzzFeed, Inc., made a request with Respondent for “[a] database of all inmates currently housed in the Utah Department of Corrections, including but not limited to: inmate name, inmate number, date of birth, conviction and/or sentence date, offense(s), and sentence length.” Mr. Campbell also requested a fee waiver, stating that the disclosure of the requested information is the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of child abuse laws around the county. On April 30, 2014, Gina Proctor, an employee with UDC, responded to Mr. Campbell and denied his records request, explaining that UDC cannot release the records because the database contains a large amount of sensitive information that is classified as protected, private and controlled pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-201et al.
On May 19, 2014, Mr. Campbell appealed the denial to UDC’s Deputy Director, Mike Haddon, narrowing his request to the offender’s name, ID number, date of birth, date of conviction, offense, and length of sentence. On May 23, 2014, Mike Haddon responded to Mr. Campbell, upholding the denial, stating that UDC’s offender database is not considered a “record” that is subject to GRAMA, citing Utah Code § 63G-2-103(22)(b)(x). Mr. Haddon further stated that even if the database is a record under GRAMA, a large amount of information stored in the database is private, protected, and/or controlled. Furthermore, Mr. Haddon stated that in order to provide the data points that he requested from the database, UDC would have to extract the data and put it into a format that he can read, and it would take UDC a considerable amount of time to accomplish. He also cited Utah Code § 63G-2-201(8), which states that a governmental entity is not required to: (i) create a record; (ii) compile, format, manipulate, package, summarize, or tailor information; (iii) provide a record in a particular format, medium, or program not currently maintained by the governmental entity.” Mike Haddon also directed Mr. Campbell to the Utah Sex Offender Registry and the Offender Search function on UDC’s website, two online resources that provide much of the information requested by Mr. Campbell.
In response, Mr. Campbell filed an appeal with the State Records Committee (“Committee”) pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-403(1). Mr. Campbell stated he was not requesting a copy of the proprietary software through which UDC accesses the database or an electronic copy of the entire database; he seeks access to the raw electronic data in the format it is maintained.The Committee having reviewed the arguments submitted by the parties and having heard oral argument and testimony on August 21, 2014, now issues the following Decision and Order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. The Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”) specifies that every person has the right to inspect a public record free of charge, and the right to take a copy of a public record during normal working hours subject to Utah Code §§ 63G-2-201(1), 63G-2-203 and 63G-2-204.
2. Subject to the requirements of Subsection (8), a governmental entity shall provide access to an electronic copy of a record in lieu of providing access to its paper equivalent if: (a) the person making the request requests or states a preference to an electronic copy; (b) the governmental entity currently maintains the record in an electronic format that is reproducible and may be provided without reformatting or conversion; and (c) the electronic copy of the record: (i) does not disclose other records that are exempt from disclosure; or (ii) may be segregated to protect private, protected, or controlled information from disclosure without the undue expenditure of public resources or funds. Utah Code § 63G-2-201(12).
3. A governmental entity may fulfill a record request without charge and is encouraged to do so when it determines that: (a) releasing the record primarily benefits the public rather than a person; (b) the individual requesting the record is the subject of the record, or an individual specified in Subsection 63G-2-202(1) or (2); or (c) the requester’s legal rights are directly implicated by the information in the record, and the requester is impecunious. Utah Code § 63G-2-203(4).
4. After reviewing the arguments submitted by the parties, hearing oral arguments and testimony, the Committee finds that Mr. Campbell’s request meets the requirements set forth in Utah Code § 63G-2-201(12), as such UDC shall make the records available to petitioner.
5. In addition, the Committee finds that Mr. Campbell’s fee waiver request does not meet the requirements set forth in Utah Code § 63G-2-203(4), as such petitioner’s request for a fee waiver is denied.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Petitioner, Alex Campbell, is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
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 § 63G-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.
Pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-403(14) (d), the government entity herein shall comply with the order of the Committee and, if records are ordered to be produced, file: (1) a notice of compliance with the records committee upon production of the records; or (2) a notice of intent to appeal. If the government entity fails to file a notice of compliance or a notice of intent to appeal, the Committee may do either or both of the following: (1) impose a civil penalty of up to $500 for each day of continuing noncompliance; or (2) send written notice of the entity's noncompliance to the Governor for executive branch entities, to the Legislative Management Committee for legislative branch entities, and to the Judicial Council for judicial branch agencies’ entities.
Entered this 2nd day of September 2014.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
LEX HEMPHILL, Chairperson
State Records Committee
Page Last Updated .