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Put more teeth in GRAMA

SHARE Put more teeth in GRAMA

Agencies that fail to comply with Utah's Government Records Access Management Act, commonly known as GRAMA, need to be penalized.

As of now, that's not happening. The Legislature and State Records Committee need to work together to find an effective way for dealing with those who don't comply with the law. If there is no enforcement procedure, that act is subject to the whims of each individual agency.Unfortunately, some agencies are basically telling the records committee and individuals seeking information to "drop dead." That kind of action needs to stop immediately and if repeated must be dealt with swiftly and severely.

The lack of accountability was manifest by the case of Sally Fink, a single, truck-driving mom who ran into endless problems tracking down records about circumstances surrounding a 1994 beating her son took in Provo's Utah State Hospital. Fink recently took her case to the records committee. Under GRAMA, the hospital was ordered to produce the documents or formally appeal the decision. Hospital officials maintain they never got the notification.

Not only those involved in serious cases have been thwarted. Too many times citizens trying to get such simple things as names, addresses and phone numbers of local city council and school district officials have been given the runaround.

And that's why lawmakers have asked the State Records Committee to find some way to penalize agencies that don't comply with orders issued through GRAMA.

If the committee asks for documents - as its allowed to under the law - and agencies ignore it, then there's no validity to the process.

The State Records Committee needs to have the necessary enforcement procedures operating so that it can do what it is empowered to do.

Under the law, "any public employee who intentionally refuses to release a record," under GRAMA, is guilty of a class B misdemeanor. That provision needs to be enforced.