Module 2: Access to Records

Part Two delineates access rights to government records. These access rights include who has the right to inspect records, what restrictions exist and who has rights to access restricted records. Part Two specifies what fees may be properly assessed and the time limits to request, fulfill, and appeal records requests. Records officers must understand Part Two of GRAMA in order to fulfill records requests properly.

Section 2.1 Records Requests

63G-2-204. Requests -- Time limit for response and extraordinary circumstances.

GRAMA provides time limits for both responding to requests and appealing denials. These time limits are important because they protect rights and define responsibilities. A requester is entitled to a response within a reasonable timeframe. If the requester is not satisfied with the response, the appeal must be made within a specific time. Records officers must understand Section 204 in order to properly respond to records requests.

How to make a records request

A GRAMA request is an open records request. The first requirement is that a person making a request for a record shall submit the request to the governmental entity that prepares, owns, or retains the record. (Subsection 63G-2-204(2)) It is not exclusive to records created by the governmental entity. A governmental entity may make administrative rules specifying where and to whom a records request be sent. (Subsection (2)(d))

A GRAMA request is a written request containing the person’s name, address, daytime phone number, and a description that identifies the requested record with reasonable specificity. A request of reasonable specificity means that a records officer, who is familiar with the governmental entity’s records, understands what records are being sought. (Subsection (1)) Though GRAMA does not require it, if a request is unclear, then the governmental entity could facilitate the process and contact the requester for clarification.

63G-2-204. Requests -- Time limit for response and extraordinary circumstances.
. . . . (1) A person making a request for a record shall furnish the governmental entity with a written request containing:

The State Archives has prepared forms a requester may use to help narrow the request, but GRAMA only requires that a request contain the information above. It does not require that a form be used.

In many instances, records are unquestionably public and openly available to the public. Both online and in government offices, many records are provided without the need for formal requests to facilitate access to public records. A governmental entity may provide public records from an oral request if the record can be readily made available and copy fees paid promptly. However, if a governmental entity does not intend to answer such a request promptly, then the requester should submit a written request.

Answering a GRAMA request, 63G-2-204(2, 3, 4, 7)

Records officers should respond to GRAMA requests as soon as reasonably possible, but no later than ten business days after receiving the written request; or, if the requester has asked for an expedited response, no later than five business days.

An expedited response can be requested when obtaining the information benefits the public rather than a person. GRAMA states that, “Any person who requests information for a story or report for publication or broadcast to the general public is presumed to be acting to benefit the public rather than a person.” (Subsection (4)) If a records officer declines to expedite a response, he or she must notify the requester within five business days. (Subsection (3))

There are four possible ways to respond to a GRAMA request. They are: (Subsection(3)(b))

63G-2-204. Requests -- Time limit for response and extraordinary circumstances.
. . . . (3) After receiving a request for a record, a governmental entity shall . . . .

The first step in processing a GRAMA request is to determine whether the request is for a record as defined by GRAMA and if the governmental entity has the requested information.

If the governmental entity does not maintain the requested information, then the appropriate response is to notify the requester that it does not maintain the record. If possible, the governmental entity should provide the requester the contact information of the appropriate governmental entity. (Subsection (3)(b)(iii)) If the request is sent to an office of the governmental entity that is not the contact established by rule, the request should be forwarded to the appropriate office. The time limit for response begins when the request is received by the specified office. (Subsection (7))

If the governmental entity has the requested record, the next step is to determine if access to the requested record should be granted. If access is appropriate, the record should be provided.

If the records officer determines that a restricted classification is appropriate and that the requester is not entitled to the record, then the requester should be provided with a written notice of denial.

If the records request is so complex that the records cannot be provided within ten business days, or if other extraordinary circumstances exist, then the governmental entity should notify the requester of the circumstances, and let him or her know when to expect a further response. Requests are often for more than a single record, and a response might include a combination of responses, including denying in part and granting in part access to records.

To review, the table below outlines the time limits a governmental entity has to respond:

Government to respond to a GRAMA request

As soon as reasonably possible but no more than 10 business days

63G-2-204(3)

Government to affirm or deny request for expedited response

No more than 5 business days

63G-2-204(3)

Government to respond to expedited GRAMA request

No more than 5 business days

63G-2-204(3)

Government to respond if extraordinary circumstances

As soon as reasonably possible and according to additional details outlined in the law; notify when records will be available

63G-2-204(6)

Calculating time

GRAMA does not specify how to count days and contains both “business days” and “days” in the statute. Governmental entities should refer to the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure for calculating time limits. Unless otherwise provided, the first day counted is the day following receipt of the request. See  Subsection 63G-2-403(1)(a): “30 days after the day on which the chief administrative officer of the governmental entity grants or denies….” Subsection (1)(b) reads “45 days after the day on which the original request for a record is made if….”
When the time period is less than 11 days, or described as business days, then Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays are not counted, including the last day (which would then fall to the next business day). When days are over 11 days, then days are calculated as calendar days. Fridays are considered business days even if a governmental entity operates a four-day workweek.

Extraordinary circumstances, 63G-2-204(5, 6)

GRAMA identifies eight extraordinary circumstances (Subsection (5)). If an extraordinary circumstance exists, GRAMA allows the governmental entity to delay a response and specifies additional time (Subsection (6)). The governmental entity should advise the requester when to expect a response. A “busy” office is not an extraordinary circumstance.

Another governmental entity is using the record

The governmental entity currently in possession of the record shall return the record to the originating entity within five business days of the request for the return unless returning the record would impair the holder's work

63G-2-204(5)(a)

63G-2-204(6)(a)

Another governmental entity is using the record as part of an audit and returning the record would impair the audit

The originating governmental entity shall notify the requester when the record is available for inspection and copying

63G-2-204(5)(b)

63G-2-204(6)(b)

The request is for a voluminous quantity of records containing a substantial number of records or the requester seeks a substantial number of records in requests filed within five working days of each other

The governmental entity shall disclose the records that it has located which the requester is entitled to inspect and provide the requester with an estimate of the amount of time it will take to finish the work. It will complete the work and disclose those records that the requester is entitled to inspect as soon as reasonably possible. If the person does not establish a right to an expedited response, the governmental entity may either require the person to provide for copying of the records or treat a request for multiple records as separate record requests, and respond sequentially to each request

63G-2-204(5)(c)

63G-2-204(6)(c)

The governmental entity is currently processing a large number of records requests

63G-2-204(5)(d)

63G-2-204(6)(c)

The request requires the governmental entity to review a large number of records to locate the records requested

63G-2-204(5)(e)

63G-2-204(6)(c)

The decision to release a record involves legal issues that require the governmental entity to seek legal counsel

The governmental entity shall approve or deny the request within five business days after the response time specified for the original request has expired [5 day extension]

63G-2-204(5)(f)

63G-2-204(5)(d)

Segregating information that the requester is entitled to inspect from information that the requester is not entitled to inspect requires extensive editing

The governmental entity shall fulfill the request within 15 business days from the date of the original request

63G-2-204(5)(g)

63G-2-204(6)(e)

Segregating information that the requester is entitled to inspect from information that the requester is not entitled to inspect requires computer programming

The governmental entity shall complete its programming and disclose the requested records as soon as reasonably possible

63G-2-204(5)(h)

63G-2-204(6)(f)

A requester who believes that extraordinary circumstances do not exist or that the timeframe for response is unreasonable can make an appeal. (Subsection 63G-2-4o1(1)(b)) The governmental entity must provide a notice of this right in its response to the requester.

No response, 63G-2-204(8)

63G-2-204. Requests -- Time limit for response and extraordinary circumstances. . . . .
(8) If the governmental entity fails to provide the requested records or issue a denial within the specified time period, that failure is considered the equivalent of a determination denying access to the record.

If a governmental entity fails to respond, then it is considered a denial.

Good customer service practices promulgate that a governmental entity should strive to respond.