State Records Committee Appeal Decision 2019-11

BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH

JANALEE RAELYNN ROBERTS, Petitioner, v.

UTAH DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, DIVISION OF CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES, Respondent.

DECISION AND ORDER

Case No. 19-11

By this appeal, Petitioner, Janalee Raelynn Roberts, seeks access to records held by Respondent, the Utah Department of Human Services, Division of Child and Family Services (“DCFS”).

FACTS

On a form dated December 31, 2018, Ms. Roberts made a request to DCFS for records pursuant to the Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”). Ms. Roberts requested final reports for DCFS Case numbers 2446067 or 244758, and for records related to an interview conducted by the Children’s Justice Center (“CJC”) on July 12, 2018 including the final report findings. Ms. Roberts noted that the records “may be private,” but explained that she was the legal guardian and had physical custody over the individual who was the subject of the record.

In a letter dated January 16, 2019, the GRAMA Specialist for DCFS denied Ms. Roberts’ records request stating that pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-202, a record contained in the DCFS Management Information System that is found to be unsubstantiated, unsupported, or without merit may not be disclosed to any person except the person who is alleged in the report to be a perpetrator of abuse, neglect, or dependency. Ms. Roberts appealed the denial to the chief administrative officer for the Department of Human Services (“Department”) arguing that she needed the information to help ensure the safety of her son.

In a letter dated February 4, 2019, Sonia Sweeney, Chief Administrative Officer for the Department, upheld in part the decision of DCFS denying Ms. Roberts’ records request. Ms. Sweeney stated that pursuant to Utah Code § 62A-4a-412(1)(e), Ms. Roberts as the legal parent of a minor child who was the subject of the records, was entitled to the records after necessary redactions were made consistent with the Utah Code. Concerning the video or audio recording by CJC, Ms. Sweeney found that this record could not be provided because it is not a record as defined by GRAMA pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-103(22)(b)(xv).

Ms. Roberts filed an appeal with the State Records Committee (“Committee”). After hearing oral argument and testimony on May 9, 2019, and carefully considering the requested relief of the parties, the Committee issues the following Decision and Order.

STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Every person has the right to inspect a record free of charge, and the right to take a copy of a public record during normal working hours subject to Utah Code §§ 63G-2-203 and -204. Utah Code § 63G-2-201(1) (2018). A record is public unless otherwise expressly provided by statute. Utah Code § 63G-2-201(2).

2. GRAMA defines what is and what is not considered a “record” in Utah Code § 63G-2-103(22). According to Utah Code § 63G-2-103(22)(b), a “record” does not mean “a video or audio recording of an interview, or a transcript of the video or audio recording, that is conducted at a Children’s Justice Center…” Accordingly, Ms. Roberts cannot obtain a copy of a video or audio recording of an interview, or a transcript of the video or audio record conducted by CJC through a records request pursuant to GRAMA because it is not considered a “record” under GRAMA.

3. GRAMA also provides that if a record to which access is restricted pursuant to another state statute, the record is not considered a public record. Utah Code § 63G-2-201(3)(b). The disclosure of a record to which access is governed or limited pursuant to another state statute “is governed by the specific provisions of that statute…” Utah Code § 63G-2-201(6)(a). GRAMA applies to these types of records only “insofar as [GRAMA] is not inconsistent with the statute…” Utah Code § 63G-2-201(6)(b).

4. Title 62A, Chapter 4a, Part 4 provides that “except as provided in Subsection 63G-2-202(10),” reports made under Part 4 may only be available to “a subject of the report, the natural parents of the child, and the guardian ad litem.” Utah Code § 62A-4a-412(1)(e). However, a record contained in the Management Information System, created in Utah Code § 62A-4a-1003, that is found to be unsubstantiated, unsupported, or without merit, may not be disclosed to any person except the person who is alleged in the report to be a perpetrator of abuse, neglect, or dependency. Utah Code § 63G-2-202(10).

5. After having considered all arguments by the parties, both written and oral, the Committee finds that DCFS has provided all records to Ms. Roberts that are allowable under Utah Law. DCFS cannot provide records related to audio or video interviews by CJC because they are not considered records under GRAMA pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-103(22)(b)(xv). Concerning the reports contained in the Management Information System created pursuant to Utah Code § 62A-4a-1003, Ms. Roberts cannot be provided with copies of these records because the report has been found to be unsubstantiated, unsupported, or without merit. See, Utah Code §§ 62A-4a-412(1)(e) and 63G-2-202(10).

THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Petitioner, Janalee Raelynn Roberts, is hereby DENIED.

RIGHT TO APPEAL

A party to a proceeding before the Committee may seek judicial review in District Court of a Committee's Order by filing a petition for review of the Committee Order as provided in Utah Code § 63G-2-404. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(14). A petition for judicial review of a Committee Order "shall be filed no later than 30 days" after the date of the Committee Order. Utah Code § 63G-2-404(1)(a). The petition for judicial review must be a complaint which is governed by the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and include the Committee as a necessary party and contain the required information listed in Subsection -404(2). Utah Code § 63G-2-404(1) & (2). The court shall make its decision de novo but shall allow introduction of evidence presented to the Committee, determine all questions of fact and law without a jury, and decide the issue at the earliest practical opportunity. Utah Code § 63G-2-404(6). In order to protect a parties’ rights on appeal, a party may wish to seek advice from an attorney.

PENALTY NOTICE

Pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-403(15)(c), if the Committee orders the governmental entity to produce a record and no appeal is filed, the government entity herein shall comply with the order of the Committee and shall: (1) Produce the record; and (2) File a notice of compliance with the Committee. If the governmental entity ordered to produce a record fails to file a notice of compliance or a notice of intent to appeal, the Committee may do either or both of the following: (1) Impose a civil penalty of up to $500 for each day of continuing noncompliance; or (2) Send written notice of the entity's noncompliance to the Governor. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(15)(d)(i)(B). In imposing a civil penalty, the Committee shall consider the gravity and circumstances of the violation, including whether the failure to comply was due to neglect or was willful or intentional. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(15)(d)(ii).

Entered this 17th day of May 2019

BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE

_____________________________________
TOM HARALDSEN, Chairperson
State Records Committee

 

Page Last Updated June 3, 2019 .