State Records Committee Appeal 05-07
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
DANIEL WHITNEY, Petitioner,
UTAH DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDERCase No. 05-07
By this appeal, inmate Daniel Whitney seeks access to grievances that inmates James Cangro and Joseph Romero filed against him in November 2004 and the "level 1, level 2, level 3 responses" to the grievance. Mr. Whitney presented no argument beyond his written submission. Program Coordinator Edward Kingsford represented the Department of Corrections ("Corrections"). The State Records Committee, having reviewed the materials submitted by the parties, and having heard oral argument and testimony on September 8, 2005, 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. Section 63-2-201(2) (2000). Records that are not public are designated as either "private," "protected," or "controlled." Utah Code Ann. 63-2-302, -303 and -304.
2. Corrections denied Mr. Whitney's request on the basis that the requested records were private under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-302(2)(d) and protected under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304(10) and -(12). Mr. Whitney contends, among other things, that Corrections must disclose the information to him under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-202(1)(a).
3. The Committee finds that Corrections properly denied access to the grievances and responses. The Committee heard testimony indicating that disclosing grievance information could jeopardize both the safety of individuals in the prison as well as the security of the facility. For example, if Corrections were to provide copies of grievances to the inmates named in the grievances, the inmate could well be labeled by other inmates as a "snitch" and threats, intimidation and/or actual violence would likely result.
4. Based on this evidence, the Committee concludes that the disclosure of these records would jeopardize "the life or safety of an individual" and "the security or safety of a correctional facility." Furthermore, inmates filing a grievance have an interest in keeping the information they submit private. In this instance, Mr. Whitney failed to obtain a notarized release from the inmates filing the grievances. See Utah Code Ann. 63-2-202(1)(d)(ii). Therefore, the grievances and responses are properly classified as private under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-302(2)(d) and protected under Utah Code Ann. 63-2-304(10) and -(12).
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT Mr. Whitney's appeal is denied.
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 by 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 13th day of September, 2005.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
Patricia Smith-Mansfield, Chairperson
State Records Committee