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Police-raid reports kept from media

Utah County says its data about rave parties are private

OREM — The Utah County Attorney's Office refuses to release initial police reports about the raids of two Spanish Fork canyon parties.

The office has classified as private and protected the arrest and case reports that were done by police officers after they disbanded so-called "rave parties" on July 16 and Aug. 20.

The county attorney's office says such a classification is sufficient grounds to deny a request by the Deseret Morning News to release the documents to the public.

However, under Utah State Code, arrest reports aren't private and case reports should not be classified as protected, said Salt Lake attorney Jeff Hunt, who works often with news media seeking information from governments through the Government Records Access and Management Act.

The act was created in 1992 to help classify government information and identify who has access to what information, as clarified through the state code.

Each city or county is also allowed to create a "record retention schedule," or a way to classify hundreds of documents and make the entire record-keeping process easier.

But the Utah County General Records Retention Schedule must be consistent with state code, said Hunt. "They can't create different classifications on what's public and what's not — that's the problem here. State law trumps county ordinances."

However, regardless of the current classification, the Utah County Attorney's Office also said the documents wouldn't be made available because Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson, along with Utah County Sheriff James Tracy and the Utah County Commission, now face a federal lawsuit over the raids.

"Even if at this point there were additional initial contact reports, I may not be interested in letting anything else out, due to the fact that it might be detrimental (to) the lawsuit at this point," said Chris Yannelli, deputy Utah County attorney assigned to deal with GRAMA requests.

The desired records were completed by officers after they broke up the dance parties, which were held at the same place in the canyon. They were broken up because officials expected the parties would exceed the allowed 12-hour gathering time allowed by county ordinance and organizers did not have a permit for such a long event.

During the raid, officials also discovered the sale and use of illegal drugs. Firearms also were discovered on people at the event.

However, party organizers say their party was only scheduled for nine hours and the raid was unjustified. They filed suit Sept. 2 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, asking for clarification of the county ordinance in regards to mass gatherings and permits.

The Utah County Attorney's Office has provided the Deseret Morning News with a short initial incident report, but the list of people arrested was not included, despite being a factor listed in the description of an initial report, according to Utah Code.

The purpose of a county record retention schedule is twofold. First, it outlines how long records will be kept before being disposed of, and second, it addresses the issue of access — who can see the records.

"The retention schedule . . . that's for the convenience of the government," said Joel Campbell, a journalism professor at Brigham Young University and GRAMA specialist. "The retention schedule is just a matter of convenience for the department so they don't have to classify every record they're retaining. Once (someone) makes a GRAMA request, they have to review that specific request. The schedule may or may not be the right classification."

When information is requested through GRAMA, the government agency must individually evaluate the information to see if it was correctly categorized. If the agency refuses the request because it believes the information is still protected or private, the requesting party can choose to appeal.

The Deseret Morning News on Thursday filed an appeal with the Utah County Commission.

Attorney Brian Barnard, who represents the property owners and the party organizers, this week filed for a temporary restraining order against the county sheriff.

"Given what the sheriff has done — shutting down two concerts based on his misinterpretation of that ordinance — my educated guess is that he'll do it again," Barnard said. "We want a court order saying, 'Whoa.' "

At this point, Barnard says his main focus is clearing up interpretation and application of the county ordinance that deals with mass-gathering permits.

However, financial damages may be outlined later, he said.

Bryson said his office has filed criminal charges against six individuals who were at the party when it was raided. More charges are likely to be filed, he said.