State Records Committee Appeal 05-03
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
MATTHEW D. LAPLANTE and MATT CANHAM, Petitioner/Appellants,
SANDY CITY CORPORATION, Repondent/Appellee.
DECISION AND ORDERCase No. 05-03
By this appeal, Salt Lake Tribune reporters Matthew D. LaPlante and Matt Canham seek an order compelling Sandy City to provide certain records pertaining to the city's fire and police departments. Specifically, petitioners seek: (1) the amount spent on each individual employee for annual salary; (2) the amount spent on each individual for annual benefits; (3) bonuses awarded in the city's last completed fiscal year to each employee; and (4) overtime awarded in the city's last completed fiscal year to each employee. Offering access to gross compensation figures in accordance with Utah Code Ann. 63-2-301(1), the City denied access to bonus and overtime information for these employees, relying in part on Utah Code Ann. 63-2-302(2)(b).1
The State Records Committee, having reviewed materials submitted by the parties, and having heard oral argument and testimony on February 10, 2005, now issues the following Decision and Order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. The Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), Utah Code Ann. 63-2-101 to -1001 (West 2004), specifies that "all records are public unless otherwise expressly provided by statute." Utah Code Ann. 63-2-201(2). Utah Code Ann. 63-2-301 states:
(1) The following records are public except to the extent they contain information expressly permitted to be treated confidentially under the provisions of Subsections 63-2-201(3)(b) and (6)(a):
. . . .
(b) names, gender, gross compensation, job titles, job descriptions, business addresses, business telephone numbers, number of hours worked per pay period, dates of employment, and relevant education, previous employment, and similar job qualifications of the governmental entity's former and present employees and officers excluding:
(i) undercover law enforcement personnel; and
(ii) investigative personnel if disclosure could reasonably be expected to impair the effectiveness of investigations or endanger any individual's safety;
Utah Code Ann. 63-2-301(1) (emphasis added). The term "gross compensation" is defined in Utah Code Ann. 63-2-103(11) as: "every form of remuneration payable for a given period to an individual for services provided including salaries, commissions, vacation pay, severance pay, bonuses, and any board, rent, housing, lodging, payments in kind, and any similar benefit received from the individual's employer." Id. (emphasis added).
2. Certain records are private "if properly classified by a governmental entity." Utah Code Ann. 63-2-302(2). These include "records describing an individual's finances, except that the following are public: (i) records described in Subsection 63-2-301(1) . . . ." Utah Code Ann. 63-2-302(2)(b). The City maintains that disclosing bonus and overtime figures would violate this statute.
3. There is no dispute that gross compensation figures are statutorily public, as set forth above. The central issue in this case is whether bonuses and overtime, which are included as components of gross compensation under GRAMA, are appropriately classified as private under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-302(2)(b). After carefully considering the arguments of the parties, the Committee is persuaded that bonus and overtime remuneration paid to public employees is appropriately classified as public. Therefore, the Committee concludes Sandy City improperly classified this information as private and reverses that determination.
WHEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT petitioners' request for access to bonus and overtime records describing awards made to fire and police employees last fiscal year is granted.2 Sandy City's decision to deny access to the requested information is reversed.
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.
Pursuant to Utah Code Ann. 63-2-403(14), the government entity herein shall comply with the order of the Committee and, if records are ordered to be produced, file (i) a notice of compliance with the records committee upon production of the records; or (ii) a notice of intent to appeal. If the government entity fails to file a notice of compliance or a notice of intent to appeal, the Committee may do either or both of the following: (a) impose a civil penalty of up to $500 for each day of continuing noncompliance; or (b) send written notice of the entity's noncompliance to the Governor for executive branch entities, to the Legislative Management Committee for legislative branch entities, and to the Judicial Council for judicial branch agencies entities.
Entered this 14th day of February, 2005.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
Patricia Smith-Mansfield, Chair
State Records Committee
1 In a letter dated Nov. 16, 2004, city recorder Dianne Aubrey noted that the City's denial was also based, in part, on Utah Code Ann. 10-3-1212(2). The Committee has previously ruled in Case No. 04-12 that "this limitation only applie[s] to city council records." The City did not appeal that decision.
2 Petitioners acknowledge in an e-mail sent to the Committee on December 29, 2004 that they "are not seeking specific information about insurance coverage type or any other information about individual insurance coverage." Therefore, to the extent that the records containing bonuses and overtime include other information, such as individual insurance coverage (which is appropriately classified as private under Section 302(1)(f)), the City should govern itself in accordance with Utah Code Ann. 63-2-307. For purposes of that statute, we have determined that the bonus and overtime components of gross compensation is public information under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-301(1)(b) and -103(11).