State Records Committee Appeal Decision 2011-11
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
REGINALD WILLIAMS, Petitioner, vs.
UTAH DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 11-11
By this appeal, Petitioner, Reginald Williams, seeks access to documents regarding the inmate trust fund account from Respondent, the Utah Department of Corrections.
Between April 2010 and February 2011, Mr. Williams submitted requests for documents from the Utah Department of Corrections (“Corrections”) regarding information involving Corrections’ inmate trust fund account. Specifically, Mr. Williams requested: (1) Documents including e-mails to Chase or Key Banks explaining why a Request For Proposal # RM7023 was cancelled; (2) Documents including e-mails to Zions Bank notifying them that the current arrangement/oral agreement would continue in regards to the inmate trust fund account; and (3) Documents explaining how Zions Bank obtained the contract to administer the trust fund account.
Corrections initially rejected Mr. Williams’ requests due to technical deficiencies regarding the requests. Mr. Williams resubmitted his requests on March 24, 2011 and in response, Corrections denied the request on the grounds that the documents either did not exist or had already been given to Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams appealed the denial to Corrections’ Director, and on May 12, 2011, the Director upheld the previous decision finding that “to the extent that any of the records exist and are in [Corrections’] possession, they have previously been provided to you.”
Mr. Williams now appeals to the Utah State Records Committee (“Committee”). The Committee having reviewed the arguments submitted by the parties and having heard oral argument and testimony on July 14, 2011, 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 either “private,” “protected,” or “controlled.” See, Utah Code Ann. §§ 63G-2-302, -303, -304 and -305.
2. Pursuant to Utah Code Ann. § 63G-2-103(22) (a), a "record" means a book, letter, document, paper, map, plan, photograph, film, card, tape, recording, electronic data, or other documentary material regardless of physical form or characteristic that is prepared, owned, received, or retained by a governmental entity or political subdivision; and where all of the information in the original is reproducible by photocopy or other mechanical or electronic means.
3. In response to a GRAMA request, a governmental entity is not required to fulfill a person's records request if the request unreasonably duplicates prior records requests from that person. Utah Code Ann. § 63G-2-201(8) (a)(iv).
4. A person making a request for a record shall furnish the governmental entity with a written request containing a description of the record requested that identifies the record with reasonable specificity. Utah Code Ann. § 63G-2-204(1)(b). As soon as reasonably possible, the governmental entity shall respond to the request by: (1) approving the request and providing the record; (2) denying the request; (3) notifying the requestor that it does not maintain the record; or (4) notifying the requester that because of the extraordinary circumstances, it cannot immediately approve or deny the request. Utah Code Ann. § 63G-2-204(3)(a).
5. At the hearing, Mr. Williams argued that he believed additional records/documents responsive to his request regarding the inmate trust fund account existed. He argued that state rules required Corrections to bid out the “contract” every three years. He stated that there should be records of Corrections contacting banks submitting bids for the contract.
6. Counsel for Corrections did not deny that the documents could exist, but contended that (1) records in the form of e-mail, or other communication between Corrections and other financial institutions (including Zions Bank) regarding the bid results were no longer in its possession since many of the documents were past the designated retention schedules and now do not exist; and (2) all available documents responsive to the GRAMA request in Corrections’ possession were already given to Mr. Williams. Counsel further argued that the Corrections conducted a thorough search for records and none were found. Therefore, it was the position of Corrections that no additional records could be produced.
7. After reviewing the arguments submitted by the parties and hearing oral arguments and testimony, the Committee is convinced that Corrections properly responded to Mr. Williams’ GRAMA requests. Based upon Corrections’ representation that no such additional records exist, the Committee is not persuaded that an order to produce additional records would result in any additional records for Mr. Williams.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Petitioner, Reginald Williams 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 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.
Pursuant to Utah Code Ann. § 63G-2-403(14)(d), the government entity herein shall comply with the order of the Committee and, if records are ordered to be produced, file: (1) a notice of compliance with the records committee upon production of the records; or (2) a notice of intent to appeal. If the government entity 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 for executive branch entities, to the Legislative Management Committee for legislative branch entities, and to the Judicial Council for judicial branch agencies’ entities.
Entered this 26th day of July, 2011
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
LEX HEMPHILL, Vice Chairperson
State Records Committee