State Records Committee Appeal Decision 2016-20
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
UTAH LEGAL CLINIC, Petitioner, v.
SALT LAKE CITY CORPORATION. Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 16-20
By this appeal, Petitioner, the Utah Legal Clinic, on behalf of Trenton Mellen, seeks access to records allegedly held by Respondent, the Salt Lake City Corporation.
On or about January 15, 2016, Sydney Mateus, a law clerk for Petitioner, made a records request to Salt Lake City Corporation (“Respondent”), pursuant to the Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”). The records request was for “[a]ny and all emails sent or received by” certain individuals since July 1, 2013, referencing Trenton Mellen and/or specific court case numbers. Respondent provided records to Petitioner, which included some redacted information considered by Respondent to be private or protected under GRAMA.
In a letter dated February 5, 2015, Petitioner filed an appeal with Jackie Biskupski, Mayor of Salt Lake City. The appeal stated that Respondent’s response was “incomplete” and failed to include non-protected records. In a letter dated March 4, 2016, Patrick Leary, Chief of Staff for Mayor Biskupski, stated that an additional 156 records previously classified as private or protected would now be provided to Petitioner. Mr. Leary added that “the remaining records that were classified as private or protected under GRAMA will not be provided” pursuant to Utah Code §§ 63G-2-302(1)(b), -305(18), and -305(25). Both parties agreed that the records are protected under Utah Code § 63G-2-305(18) and (25); however, the petitioner requested the Committee to use its weighing power to overrule the protected classification. Petition argued that in this instance there is a greater public interest in disclosing the records.
On April 1, 2016, Petitioner filed an appeal with the State Records Committee (“Committee”). On May 12, 2016, the Committee held a hearing and heard oral arguments from the parties. During the deliberation phase of the hearing, a motion was made by a Committee member to review the disputed records in camera. Because the requested records are voluminous, the Respondent had earlier obtained permission to bring only a representative sample of the records to the hearing. The Committee determined that it cannot exercise the weighing provision without reviewing the records in entirety. The Committee voted unanimously to continue the hearing to a later date in order to allow sufficient time for Committee members to review in camera all of the disputed records. Neither party objected to the continuance.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED THAT the hearing is CONTINUED to a later date. Respondent shall provide the responsive records to allow an in camera review by the Committee members prior to the continued hearing date.
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 23rd day of May 2016.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
PATRICIA SMITH-MANSFIELD, Chairperson
State Records Committee
Page Last Updated May 23, 2016 .