State Records Committee Appeal Decision 2017-35
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
LUKE RAMSETH, on behalf of SALT LAKE TRIBUNE Petitioner, v.
MURRAY CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 17-35
By this appeal, Petitioner, Luke Ramseth, on behalf of the Salt Lake Tribune, seeks access to records held by Respondent, Murray City Police Department.
On or about June 10, 2017, Petitioner made a records request, pursuant to the Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”). Petitioner requested copies of “Police reports and any related investigative documents involving Adam Lim....” On June 14, 2017, Respondent denied the request pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-305(10). Petitioner appealed the denial, and on July 17, 2017, after a hearing was held before the City’s Mayor pro temp, the denial was upheld.
On August 2, 2017, Petitioner then filed an appeal with the State Records Committee (“Committee”). The Committee having reviewed the arguments submitted by the parties, having heard oral argument and testimony, and having reviewed the materials provided for in camera review, 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 § 63G-2-201(2). Records that are not public are designated as either “private,” “protected,” or “controlled.” See, Utah Code §§ 63G-2-302, -303, -304 and -305.
2. Records created or maintained for criminal enforcement purposes, are protected records if properly classified by the governmental entity and if release of the records: (1) Would create a danger of depriving a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial hearing, or (2) Reasonably could be expected to disclose the identity of a source who is not generally known outside of government and, in the case of a record compiled in the course of an investigation, disclose information furnished by a source not generally known outside of government if disclosure would compromise the source. See, Utah Code § 63G-2-305(10)(c) and (d).
3. Initial contact reports are normally public, but to the extent that a record is expressly exempt from disclosure, access may be restricted under Utah Code § 63G-2-305. Utah Code § 63G-2-301(3)(g). An “initial contact report” is defined by GRAMA in Utah Code § 63G-2-103(14) and may describe the date, time location, and nature of the complaint, incident, or offense, the names of victims, and the nature or general scope of the agency’s initial actions taken in response to the incident.
4. In the present case, Respondent argued that there is a pending litigation and disclosure of the records would “deprive a person of a right to a fair trial…” Respondent additionally argued that there were concerns regarding the victims and the need to maintain sensitivity on behalf of the victims.
5. After having reviewed the arguments of the parties, the Committee finds that the Murray City Police Department generally classified the records as protected pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-305(10)(c) and (d). The Committee was convinced that release of the records would create a danger of depriving a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial hearing, or reasonably could be expected to disclose the identity of a source who is not generally known outside of government. The Committee also finds that the first page of each of the records in question constitutes an initial Contact Report and should be provided pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-301(3)(g), with redaction of the victim’s name and personal identifying information.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Petitioner, Luke Ramseth, on behalf of the Salt Lake Tribune, is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
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 October 2017.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
HOLLY RICHARDSON, Chairperson Pro Tem
State Records Committee
Page Last Updated October 23, 2017 .