If you ask for a record from a government agency and they deny access or deny your reasonable request for a fee waiver, what options do you have?
If you have requested a record from an agency and your request was denied, there is an appeals process, which is laid out in Part 4 of the Government Records Access and Management Act. First, you must send an appeal to the Chief Administrative Officer of the agency the records belong to. If that is denied due to a restricted classification or request for a fee waiver is denied, it’s not over. You can appeal to the State Records Committee.
What is the State Records Committee?
The State Records Committee is a public body established by the Utah Legislature in 1992 under the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) (Utah Code 63G-2). The Committee meets every month to hear record access appeals.
The Committee has seven volunteer members:
During each hearing, both the record requester and the government agency are given 20 minutes to present testimony and evidence to support their case. During these presentations, the Committee may ask questions. After testimony is complete, the petitioner (requester) and respondent (government agency) each have 5 minutes for closing statements. When the Committee members have no questions, they go into deliberation, which could include an in camera (private) review of the records in question.
All deliberation and motions of the Committee are in a public forum. A Committee member will make a motion to either grant the appeal in whole or in part, or uphold the governmental entity’s denial in whole or part. If the motion is seconded, the Committee will vote on the motion. Based on the Committee’s vote, an official order will be sent to all parties and posted to the Archives website. If either party disagrees with the order they can appeal the Record Committee’s decision to the district court.
What do I do if I still have questions?
We have a State Records Ombudsman, Rosemary Cundiff, who can help you navigate this process. She provides mediation free of charge and often helps resolve these appeals before the hearing. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 801-531-3858.