State Records Committee Appeal 1992-01
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE vs.
UTAH DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION
DECISION AND ORDER CASE NO. 92-01
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) maintains a traffic accident computer database using accident reports submitted on forms entitled "STATE OF UTAH INVESTIGATING OFFICER'S REPORT OF TRAFFIC ACCIDENT" as source documents. By this appeal the Tribune seeks an order compelling the Department to release a copy of the entire database for the year 1991 on 9-track computer tape. The State Records Committee, having reviewed the written materials submitted by the parties and by the Society of Professional Journalists, and having heard the oral argument and testimony of the parties and comments from other interested persons, now issues the following decision and order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. All records are public unless otherwise expressly provided by statute. See Utah Code Ann. 63-2-201(2) (1992).
2. Records to which access is restricted by statute or court rule are not public by virtue of Utah Code Ann. 63-2-201(3) (1992). However, the statutes that UDOT claims restrict access to the requested records are not the type of statutes contemplated by 201(3).
a. UDOT's contention that the requested records are not public because access to them is restricted by the Federal statutes found at 23 U.S.C. 402, 403 and 409 is in error. Regarding access, those Federal statutes simply prohibit discovery of the records in a court proceeding. They do not restrict disclosure of the records under GRAMA.
b. Similarly, UDOT's assertion that the requested records are not public because access is restricted by the State statute found at Utah Code Ann. 41-6-40 (1988) is not correct. That statute does provide for confidential treatment of accident reports but it applies only to reports submitted by owners or operators of vehicles or by garages. The information requested by the Tribune comes from accident reports that are prepared and submitted by police officers. Hence, the statute is not applicable. (Though it may be true that the confidential owner, operator, and garage reports are currently combined with the officer's report to make one report from which the data is taken, we are not convinced that that justifies confidential treatment of the officer's report.)
3. Records that are "protected" under the Government Records Access And Management Act are not public. See Utah Code Ann. 63- 2-201(3) (1992). GRAMA lists thirty-seven categories of records that may be classified as "protected". See Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304 (1992). However, UDOT's contention that the requested records are properly classified as "protected" under GRAMA is not supported by the evidence. In response to questions from the Committee, UDOT could not even specify which of the thirty-seven categories justifies its claim. We find that classification of the records requested in this matter as "protected" is inconsistent with GRAMA and therefore invalid. See Utah Code Ann ~ 63-2-502(2)(b) (1992).
4. Records that are "private" under GRAMA are not public. See Utah Code Ann. 63-2-201(3)(a) (1992). We are concerned that release of the database would violate the privacy rights of individuals, particularly because of the added power of the computer to invade personal privacy. We therefore find that the data elements enumerated below in our Order are "private" pursuant to Utah Code Ann. 63-2-302 (1992) and should not be released.
5. When a record contains both information that a requester is entitled to inspect and information that a requester is not entitled to inspect the governmental entity is required to allow access to the information that the requester is entitled to inspect. See Utah Code Ann. 63-2-307 (1992).
THEREFORE IT IS ORDERED THAT:
1. The classification and designation of the requested database is "public", except that the personal data elements listed below are "private". See Utah Code Ann. 63-2-502(2)(b) (1992).
2. The following information in the database is classified as "private":
a. names, street addresses and telephone numbers of individuals;
b. dates of birth;
c. case numbers;
d. accident control numbers;
e. driver's license numbers;
f. vehicle identification numbers; and
g. license plate numbers.
3. UDOT shall not release the information that we have determined to be "private" but shall release the remainder of the requested database.
RIGHT TO APPEAL
Either party may appeal this Decision and Order to district court. The petition for review must be filed no later than 30 days after the date of this order. The petition for judicial review must be a complaint. The complaint and the appeals process are governed by the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and by Utah Code Ann. 63-2- 404 & 502(7) (1992). The court is required to make its decision de novo. In order to protect its rights on appeal, a party may wish to seek advice from an attorney.
Entered this 9th day of October, 1992.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE,
MAX J. EVANS, Chairman