State Records Committee Appeal 2008-08
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
TARA CLANTON, Petitioner, vs.
UTAH DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 08-08
On May 8, 2008, the State Records Committee convened and heard the appeal of Tara Clanton. Tara Clanton seeks copies of any records or investigations of the Department of Corrections regarding Nathan Hansen and Ivan Hodges. Ms. Clanton appeared before the State Records Committee with counsel, Chad Steur. The Department of Corrections was represented by Assistant Attorney General Sharel Reber. All members of the State Records Committee were present, Chairman Carl Albrecht, presiding. The Committee having reviewed the materials submitted by the parties, and having heard testimony and oral argument, 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. 63G-2-201(2). Records that are not public are designated as "private," "protected," or "controlled." See Utah Code Ann. 63G-2-302, -303 and -304.
2. The Committee addresses the Department of Corrections records regarding Nathan Hansen and Ivan Hodges separately:
a. A full investigation was conducted of sexual harassment allegations made by Tara Clanton against Nathan Hansen. An initial review of the allegations was made by Human Resource Manager, John Gollum. There was substantial evidence in support of the allegations and the matter was sent to a full investigation by trained investigators within the Department of Corrections. Based on the information developed in that investigation, Nathan Hansen's employment was terminated. Mr. Hansen has been afforded hearings within the Department of Human Resource Management. He still has at least one administrative review available to him and the possibility of an appeal before the Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court. The Department of Corrections argues that the investigation file on Nathan Hansen is protected pursuant to Utah Code Ann. 63G-2-305(9), in that release of the records could unfairly interfere with Mr. Hansen's right to future fair hearings in the matter. Concerns were raised that information from other witnesses in the file could unfairly "taint" Ms. Clanton's testimony in future hearings. Additionally, the Department is concerned that release of the investigative file could have a "chilling" effect on future complainants and cooperation with such investigations.
Clanton argues that the Utah Supreme Court has addressed the issue of personal privacy v. public interest in Deseret News Publishing Company v. Salt Lake County, and the release of the requested file would not be a "clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." Ms. Clanton also pointed out that because the personnel action has resulted in public hearings, the contents of which are generally available upon request, any witness could access the testimony of other witnesses.
As to the investigation file on Nathan Hansen, the Committee is not persuaded that the records sought by Ms. Clanton are "protected" pursuant to Utah Code Ann. 63G-2-305(9)(b) and (c). The Committee further finds that there is no clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy as contemplated in the Deseret News case and the release of said records would not deprive the parties of impartiality in this case or any further investigations.
b. As to the requested file on Ivan Hodges, Clanton and the Department make the same legal arguments. However, the facts regarding the Hodges file are significantly different.
Tara Clanton filed a sexual harassment complaint against Ivan Hodges, just as she did against Nathan Hansen. However, the review of the matter by Mr. Gollum did not reveal any corroborating evidence and the matter did not warrant further investigation. The file was closed as unsubstantiated. Ms. Clanton admits that she wants a copy of this file for personal use, to determine why her two complaints were treated differently.
The Committee is persuaded the investigative file on Ivan Hodges is properly classified as protected by the Department and disclosure of said records would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Tara Clanton is affirmed as to the records sought with regard to Nathan Hansen and said records are to be released to Petitioner. The Department of Correction's classification of the records regarding Nathan Hansen is overturned. The appeal of Tara Clanton with regard to the records regarding Ivan Hodges is denied. The Department's determination regarding the classification of the records of Ivan Hodges 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. 63G-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 15th day of May, 2008.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
Carl Albrecht, Chairperson
State Records Committee