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Utah Government Records Access and Management Act

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The Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Utah.

The Utah Open and Public Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Utah FOIA procedures.

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA and Utah sunshine lawsuits

Here is a list of relevant lawsuits in Utah (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).


Lawsuit Year
Deseret News Publishing Co. v. Utah Department of Public Safety 1992
Fox Television Stations Inc. v. Clary 1996
Graham v. Davis County Solid Waste Management & Energy Recovery Special Service District 1999
Jolley v. Utah State Senate 1996
KSL-TV v. Juab County Sheriff's Office 1998
KUTV Inc. v. Utah State Board of Education 1984
Scripps League Newspapers v. City of Orem 1996


Proposed changes

2011

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011


We do not currently have any legislation for Utah in 2011.


2010

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010


We have no current bill pages for Utah from 2010. This may be due to incomplete research.


2009

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2009

HB 122

House Bill 122, proposed by Rep. Douglas Aagard at the request of the Attorney General's Office, sought to prohibit the weighing of public interest in documents against the government's desire to conceal information.[1][2] It would also allow records to be withheld if they are associated with pending or "anticipated" litigation. Steve Bloch, an attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said, "This bill is a step backward and would restrict our current law significantly."[3] HB122 advanced from committee to the House floor 7-3 along party lines, with Republicans voting for it, and Democrats against.[4] HB122 also passed the House, 43-27. It then moved to the Senate for debate.[5]

The Salt Lake Tribune editorialized against the bill, calling it "an attempt to subvert that system and the public's interest in holding government accountable."[6]

SB 18

Senate Bill 18 would require all cities, counties, school districts, and special districts (transit districts, water districts, etc.) in Utah to regularly post their expenditures online in a searchable format.[7]

SB18 was voted out of the Utah Senate by a 29-0 margin on February 2, 2009.

Utah's transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked Utah #36 in the nation (tied with New York) with an overall percentage of 47.30%.[8]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Utah 78 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "C" and a ranking of 4 out of the 50 states.[9]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked Utah's law as the 3rd best in the country, giving it a letter grade of "B-."[10]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

Declared legal intention

See also: Declared legal intentions across the U.S.

The Utah GRAMA states:

(1) In enacting this act, the Legislature recognizes two constitutional rights:
(a) the public's right of access to information concerning the conduct of the public's business; and
(b) the right of privacy in relation to personal data gathered by governmental entities.
(2) The Legislature also recognizes a public policy interest in allowing a government to restrict access to certain records, as specified in this chapter, for the public good.
(3) It is the intent of the Legislature to:
(a) promote the public's right of easy and reasonable access to unrestricted public records;
(b) specify those conditions under which the public interest in allowing restrictions on access to records may outweigh the public's interest in access;
(c) prevent abuse of confidentiality by governmental entities by permitting confidential treatment of records only as provided in this chapter;
(d) provide guidelines for both disclosure and restrictions on access to government records, which are based on the equitable weighing of the pertinent interests and which are consistent with nationwide standards of information practices;
(e) favor public access when, in the application of this act, countervailing interests are of equal weight; and

(f) establish fair and reasonable records management practices.[11]

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

Documents created by public bodies in Utah are open for inspection to any member of the public.[12]

Exemptions

Documents that are considered exempt from open records laws include private information about individuals and government employees (pursuant to 63G-2-302 and 63G-2-303), health records of individuals (pursuant to 63G-2-304), and records that are protected because if released they may result in security problems (pursuant to 63G-2-106) or financial speculation, unfair competition and financial instability (pursuant to 63G-2-305).[13]

Deliberative process

See also: Deliberative process exemption

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

The Utah GRAMA defines public body broadly to incorporate all branches of government at the state level and all subsidiary levels.[14]

Legislature

See also: Legislatures and transparency

The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at Utah Code 63G-2-103(11)(a)(ii) and is subject to the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act.


Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars-Utah

The Utah GRAMA also includes in its definition private entities that perform a public function and are either created or funded by a public entity.

All public associations are subject to Utah's open records policy. Public associations are any groups whose members are elected or appointed officials or who receive funds "from monies received by a public entity from appropriations, taxes, fees, interest, or other returns on investment."[15]

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The law explicitly includes state universities, including in its definition, "any state-funded institution of higher education or public education."[16] This was confirmed in "The Herald Journal v. Utah State University," which held that the University was a public body and contracts with athletic coaches must be released.[17] The law does, however, contain a broad exemption for unpublished academic research at Utah Code 63G-2-305.

Who may request records?

See also: List of who can make public record requests by state

Everyone has the right to inspect public records free of charge or receive a copy of public records during business hours.[18]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

Utah requires no statement of purpose when requesting public records.

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

There are no restrictions on the use of public records in Utah.

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

The Utah GRAMA code requires that public record request responses be made within at least 10 business days if the records are for individuals purposes or within five business if the record is meant to benefit the general public (pursuant to 63G-2-204).

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

GRAMA allows for the charging of fees based on the discretion of the department from which the record is requested and those fees can include the cost of duplication.[19]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

Fees can incorporate staff time for research and collection, as well as the cost of publication of the records. The laws mandates that the departments may not charge more than the hourly salary of the lowest paid staff person able to perform the request and cannot charge individuals for the first 15 minutes of work.[20]

Records commissions and ombudsmen

See also: State records commissions

The Utah State Records Committee was established by the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act in order to better assist the state in enforcing the open records act by approving records retention and disposal schedules and holding hearings to decide appeals for records requests.

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

Under § 63G-2-502(8) of the Utah Code Annotated, the role of the State Attorney General is merely to "provide counsel to the records committee and [to] review proposed retention schedules."[21]

Open meetings

The declared legal intention of the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act states, "(1) The Legislature finds and declares that the state, its agencies and political subdivisions, exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business.

(2) It is the intent of the Legislature that the state, its agencies, and its political subdivisions:
(a) take their actions openly; and
(b) conduct their deliberations openly."[22]

See also

External links

References