State Records Committee Decision 2015-25
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
TRACY TAYLOR, Petitioner, v.
WASATCH COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 15-25
By this appeal, Petitioner, Tracy Taylor, on behalf of the Wasatch Taxpayers Association, seeks a fee waiver for access to records allegedly held by Respondent, the Wasatch County School District.
On or about June 9, 2015, Ms. Taylor submitted seven records requests to the Wasatch County School District ("District"), pursuant to the Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”). Request numbers 3, 5, & 6 were for:
#3 Emails between the board, superintendent, and the business administrator in the last year;
#5 Improvements to the pool at TIS in the last 7 years, and how much; and
#6 Total cost of curriculum books, broken down by grades and years, for the entire district from 2000-2007.
In her request, Ms. Taylor asked for a fee waiver for the documents, stating that the requested information would be made available to the public by being published on the Wasatch Taxpayers Association’s website.
On June 15, 2015, the District granted and denied Ms. Taylor’s records request, and denied her request for a fee waiver, estimating that the cost for fulfilling requests #3, #5, and #6 would be approximately $1,650.00. Ms. Taylor filed an appeal with Terry Shoemaker, Superintendent for the District, who denied the appeal on July 2, 2015. Mr. Shoemaker stated that he found the “time estimates required, with accompanying fee, to facilitate such a request is reasonable.”
Ms. Taylor filed an appeal with the State Records Committee (“Committee”) concerning the District’s denial of her fee waiver request. The Committee having reviewed the arguments submitted by the parties, and having heard oral argument and testimony, on September 10, 2015, now issues the following Decision and Order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. 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-2-203 and -204. Utah Code § 63G-2-201(1). Utah Code § 63G-2-203(1) provides that a governmental entity “may charge a reasonable fee to cover the governmental entity’s cost of providing a record.” Actual costs may include the cost of staff time for “compiling, formatting, manipulating, packaging, summarizing or tailoring the record” into an organization to meet the person’s request, and the cost of staff time for search, retrieval, and other direct administrative costs for complying with the request. See, Utah Code § 63G-2-203(2)(a)(i) & (ii).
2. A governmental entity “may fulfill a record request” without charge and is encouraged to do so when it determines that releasing the record primarily benefits the public rather than a person. Utah Code § 63G-2-203(4)(a).
3. Under GRAMA, the discretion for granting a fee waiver is essentially left to the governmental entity providing the record. The standard of review for the Committee is to determine whether the decision denying the request for a fee waiver is an “unreasonable denial of a fee waiver.” See, Utah Code § 63G-2-203(6)(a).
4. The District argued that the estimate of $1,650.00 to retrieve and format the documents was a good faith estimate for a reasonable amount to charge Ms. Taylor for providing the documents to her. The District also claimed that Ms. Taylor had “not made a compelling argument that the records she seeks primarily benefit the public.”
5. After reviewing the arguments of the parties, the Committee finds that District’s decision denying Ms. Taylor’s request for a fee waiver was not an unreasonable denial. The costs associated with fulfilling Ms. Taylor’s request appear to be reasonable, and given high amount of the costs that would be incurred by the District to fulfill the records request, it was not unreasonable for the District to deny Ms. Taylor’s fee waiver request.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Petitioner, Tracy Taylor, is DENIED.
RIGHT TO APPEAL
A party to a proceeding before the Committee may seek judicial review in District Court of a Committee's Order by filing a petition for review of the Committee Order as provided in Utah Code § 63G-2-404. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(14). A petition for judicial review of a Committee Order "shall be filed no later than 30 days" after the date of the Committee Order. Utah Code § 63G-2-404(1)(a). The petition for judicial review must be a complaint which is governed by the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, and include the Committee as a necessary party and contain the required information listed in Subsection -404(2). Utah Code § 63G-2-404(1) & (2). The court shall make its decision de novo, but shall allow introduction of evidence presented to the Committee, determine all questions of fact and law without a jury, and decide the issue at the earliest practical opportunity. Utah Code § 63G-2-404(6). 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(15)(c), if the Committee orders the governmental entity to produce a record and no appeal is filed, the government entity herein shall comply with the order of the Committee and shall: (1) Produce the record; and (2) File a notice of compliance with the Committee. If the governmental entity ordered to produce a record 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. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(15)(d)(i). In imposing a civil penalty, the Committee shall consider the gravity and circumstances of the violation, including whether the failure to comply was due to neglect or was willful or intentional. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(15)(d)(ii).
Entered this 21st day of September, 2015.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
PATRICIA SMITH-MANSFIELD, Chairperson
State Records Committee
Page Last Updated September 21, 2015 .