State Records Committee Appeal Decision 2020-25
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
SHEILA CANAVAN, Petitioner, v.
SAN JUAN COUNTY, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 20-25
By this appeal, Petitioner, Sheila Canavan, seeks access to records held by Respondent, San Juan County.
In a document dated February 14, 2020, Ms. Canavan made a request for records pursuant to the Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”) from Respondent. Ms. Canavan sought to obtain copies of local referendum petition signature packets with redactions made for birth dates of signatories. Respondent provided records to Ms. Canavan with dates of birth and the home addresses of the signatories redacted.
Ms. Canavan filed an appeal with Mack McDonald, San Juan County Administrator, concerning the decision to redact the home addresses. Mr. McDonald upheld the previous denial stating that the records were properly classified as private and protected pursuant to Utah Code §§ 63G-2-302 and -305.
Ms. Canavan filed an appeal with the State Records Committee (“Committee”). On June 12, 2020, the Committee held a hearing during which the parties were allowed to participate electronically and present their arguments. After carefully considering the requested relief of the parties, the Committee issues the following Decision and Order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. GRAMA specifies that “all records are public unless otherwise expressly provided by statute.” Utah Code § 63G-2-201(2). Records that are not public are designated as either “private,” “protected,” or “controlled.” See, Utah Code §§ 63G-2-302, -303, -304 and -305.
2. Signatures of an individual on a political petition are considered protected records pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-305(76). However, the records custodian of a signature described in Utah Code § 63G-2-305(76) shall upon request, except for a name or signature classified as private under Title 20A, Chapter 2, Voter Registration, provide a list of the names of the individuals who signed the petition and permit an individual to view, but not take a copy or other image of, the signatures on a political petition described in Utah Code § 63G-2-305(76). Utah Code § 63G-2-305.5(1).
3. Additionally, an initiative packet as defined in Utah Code § 20A-7-101, and a referendum packet as defined in Utah Code § 20A-7-101, after the packet is submitted to a county clerk, is a public record except to the extent they contain information expressly permitted to be treated confidentially pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-201(3)(b) & (6)(a) and Utah Code § 63G-2-301(2)(p). See also, Count my Vote, Inc. v. Cox, 2019 UT 60, 452 P.3d 1109.
4. After having considered the arguments of the parties and the above listed statutes, the Committee finds that Respondent should fulfill Ms. Canavan’s records request by providing access to copies of the local referendum petition signature packets including the addresses of the signatories. If copies are provided to Ms. Canavan, redactions should be made of any signatures on the petitions.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Petitioner, Sheila Canavan is hereby GRANTED as noted above.
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.
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 19th day of June 2020.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
KENNETH WILLIAMS, Chair Pro-Tem
State Records Committee
Page Last Updated June 30, 2020 .