State Records Committee Appeal 04-07
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
LARRY VERNON, Petitioner, vs.
COALVILLE CITY, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 04-07
By this appeal, Larry Vernon seeks access to "the taped recording parts of . . . Coalville City Council Meetings referred to in the available minutes of the April 8, 2002 and December 8, 2003 City Council Minutes as 'Executive Session.'" The State Records Committee, having reviewed the materials submitted by the parties, and having heard oral argument and testimony on July 15, 2004, now issues the following Decision and Order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. The Government Records Access and Management Act ("GRAMA") specifies that "all records are public unless otherwise expressly provided by statute." Utah Code Ann. 63-2-201(2). GRAMA also provides that records properly classified as "protected" are not public. Utah Code Ann. 63-2-201(3).
2. Coalville City denied Mr. Vernon access to the requested records on the basis that they were protected under the Open Meetings Act, Utah Code Ann. 52-4-1 to -10 and the Government Records Access and Management Act. Although it did not cite the specific section of the Utah Code upon which it was basing its denial, the City was presumably asserting protected status pursuant to Utah Code Ann. 52-4-7.5(2)(b) and various subsections under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304. See Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304(17), -304(18), -304(32) and -304(33).
3. Coalville City asserts that Mr. Vernon and his family are engaged in ongoing litigation with the City and that these records concern that litigation. The City represented to the Committee that the subject matter of the lawsuit is an irrigation pipeline which it has built across property claimed by both the City and Mr. Vernon's family. Furthermore, Mr. Vernon has alleged the City caused damage to the family mink ranch by the construction of the pipeline.
4. After considering the evidence, the Committee finds that the tape recordings Mr. Vernon seeks are properly classified as protected under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304(17), -304(18) and -304(33). Regarding Mr. Vernon's argument that the meeting was not properly closed pursuant to the Open Meetings Act, the Committee finds that the procedural requirements of the Open Meetings Act were violated, but it does not believe the appropriate remedy is to reclassify otherwise properly classified protected records as public.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the Petitioner's appeal is denied. Coalville City's determination regarding the classification of these records as protected is affirmed.
RIGHT TO APPEAL
Either party may appeal this Decision and Order to the District Court. The petition for review must be filed no later than thirty (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 Utah Code Ann. 63-2-404. 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 20th day of July, 2004.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
Cherie Willis, Acting Chairperson
State Records Committee