State Records Committee Year in Review

Rebekkah Shaw Open Government, State Records Committee Leave a Comment

As 2021 comes to a close, we wanted to share what the State Records Committee (SRC) has been up to this year. The Committee met electronically through May. In June, we started meeting in person again at the Taylorsville State Office Building, but virtual attendance was still an option for anyone attending. Going forward, meetings will always have an option to attend virtually; this will make it easier for requesters and government agencies to participate. 

In September the Committee said goodbye to Patricia Smith-Mansfield, who served as a citizen representative. 

Nova Dubovik was confirmed by the Senate as the new citizen representative on December 16th and her first meeting will be in January 2022.

In October we welcomed Ed Biehler to the Committee. He is the electronic records representative. 

This was an exceptionally busy year for the committee. In 2021, the committee received approximately 150 appeals and issued 62 Decisions and Orders. Here are just two of the appeals that came before the committee this year:

  1. Sam Stecklow (Salt Lake Tribune & Frontline) v. West Jordan Police Department
    • The Committee met twice in April to catch up on a backlog of appeals. On April 29th the Committee heard seven appeals from Sam Stecklow, a journalist working on a story for the Salt Lake Tribune and Frontline, regarding records from five law enforcement entities. The most notable of these seven appeals is Sam Stecklow v. West Jordan.
    • Mr. Stecklow requested access to records related to officer-involved critical incidents. The question really came down to whether Garrity statements were considered personnel records under Utah Code 63G-2-301(3)(o) and if releasing compelled Garrity statements would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy per Utah Code 63G-2-302(2)(d). The Committee’s decision concluded that the statements were provided as part of official business and the officers “are public officials with public responsibilities subject to public oversight.” (SRC Decision and Order 21-28) West Jordan appealed this decision to the district court. 
  2. Mark Allen v. Utah County
    • In a separate appeal, Mr. Allen requested text messages that were created by a county commissioner regarding Bridal Veil Falls. The county said they do not pay for the phone, therefore it is not “prepared, owned, received, or retained” by the entity. (Utah Code 63G-2-103(22)(a)(i)) The Committee reaffirmed that a record prepared by a government employee within their capacity as a government employee is a record under GRAMA. The Committee believes elected and appointed officials should have a high standard of transparency. However, the Committee was convinced that the respondent did not possess the record and so could not provide it to the requester.

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