State Records Committee Appeal Decision 2020-36
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
BRADY EAMES, Petitioner, v.
LOGAN CITY. Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 20-36
By this appeal, Petitioner, Brady Eames, seeks access to records held by Respondent, Logan City.
On June 5, 2020, Mr. Eames made a request for records pursuant to the Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”) to Respondent. Mr. Eames requested inspection of written reports documenting any and all deposits and investments made by the Public Treasurer of Respondent with the State Money Management Council from 2010 through 2020. Mr. Eames also requested a fee waiver for inspection of the written reports. Mr. Eames request for a fee waiver was initially denied. Mr. Eames filed an appeal with Holly Daines, Mayor of Logan City, who affirmed the decision to deny Mr. Eames’ fee waiver request.
Mr. Eames filed an appeal with the State Records Committee (“Committee”). On August 13, 2020, the Committee held a hearing during which the parties were allowed to participate electronically and present their arguments. Respondent chose not to participate in the hearing and instead provided their arguments in writing for the committee’s review prior the hearing. After carefully reviewing testimony and considering the requested relief of the parties, the Committee issues the following Decision and Order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. A person has the right to inspect a public record free of charge subject to Utah Code §§ 63G-2-203 & -204. Utah Code § 63G-2-201(1)(a). A governmental entity may charge a reasonable fee to cover the governmental entity’s actual cost of providing a record. Utah Code § 63G-2-203(1). Additionally, a “public treasurer shall make copies of a report required by this section available for inspection by the public at the public treasurer’s office during normal business hours.” Utah Code § 51-7-18.2(4).
2. A governmental entity may fulfill a record request without charge and is encouraged to do so if it determines that: (1) Releasing the record primarily benefits the public rather than a person; (2) The individual requesting the record is the subject of the record, or an individual specified in Utah Code § 63G-2-201(1) or (2); or (3) The requester’s legal rights are directly implicated by the information in the record, and the requester is impecunious. Utah Code § 63G-2-203(4).
3. A person who believes that there has been an unreasonable denial of a fee waiver may appeal the denial in the same manner as a person appeals when inspection of a record is denied under Utah Code § 63G-2-205. Utah Code § 63G-2-203(6)(a). The adjudicative body hearing the appeal shall review the fee waiver de novo, but shall review and consider the governmental entity’s denial of the fee waiver and any determination under Utah Code § 63G-2-203(4). Utah Code § 63G-2-203(6)(b)(i). Additionally, the adjudicative body has the same authority when a fee waiver or reduction is denied as it has when the inspection of a public record is denied. Utah Code § 63G-2-203(6)(b)(ii).
4. Respondent stated that the total fee for inspecting the 42 pages of records requested by Mr. Eames was $38.40. Mr. Eames argued that he should not have to pay a fee of $38.40 to inspect copies of public reports which are mandated by law to be made available to the public at the Office of the Public Treasurer of Respondent during normal business hours.
5. After having reviewed the arguments of the parties, the Committee finds that Respondent’s decision to deny Mr. Eames’ request for a fee waiver was an unreasonable denial. Even though Respondent claims that it has to pay $38.50 in order to obtain copies of the record from a third party who holds the records, the records are considered public records and should already be made available to the public pursuant to Utah Code § 51-7-18.2(4).
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeals of Petitioner, Brady Eames is hereby GRANTED.
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 24 day of August 2020.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
Chair, State Records Committee
Page Last Updated September 14, 2020 .