Utah government corruption
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John Ross and his wife created a fraudulent book scheme, extorting more than $4 million from Davis School District. John Ross was sentenced November 4 to pay a fine of $500, without jail time.
"Salt Lake County is making it a lot easier, or maybe that's queasier, to find out which restaurants are on the up and up.
Restaurant inspections have always been a matter of public record, but now, with the click of your mouse, you can search for your favorite restaurants to see where they stand."
"Utah gets high marks for offering online access to government information, yet a recent survey found plenty to criticize. State agencies offer volumes of stuff, but much of it isn't very useful. It can be unorganized, dated and hard to find, and some important information is missing entirely.
The state's chief technology officer said he welcomed the critique and can make more authentic records available online."
"Utah has one of the nation's best open records laws. The Government Records Access and Management Act has many important features, but chief among them is the presumption that documents are presumed to be open unless they meet certain criteria.
GRAMA was nearly altered during the current legislative session in such a way that the public would have lost access to some important information related to their cities, school districts and county governments. House Bill 122, sponsored by Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, would have made it easier for municipalities to deny access to records by classifying them as being related to "pending or anticipated litigation.""
"The Senate gave final approval on Monday to a proposal that will make it easier to keep public records private if they are part of an ongoing investigation or if there is a chance they will be used in a pending lawsuit.
HB122, sponsored by Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, makes changes to the simple "balancing test" provision for eight of the 56 types of records covered under the Government Records Access and Management Act that deal with police investigations and legal proceedings."
"A proposal to further restrict access to some public records that are involved in litigation passed its first test in the Senate Tuesday when the Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee approved it unanimously.
HB122, sponsored by Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, makes it easier to deny public requests and keep records classified if there is a chance they will be required as part of a lawsuit.
Aagard's bill also makes adjustments to the "balancing test" provision for eight of the 56 types of records covered under the Government Records Access and Management Act. He said the bill the Senate would address was the product of a lengthy compromise process and differed from the version passed by the House."
"Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, along with legislators doing his bidding, are thumbing their noses at ordinary Utah citizens by proposing to hide from public scrutiny reams of government records that today are open by virtue of the state's open-records law.
This isn't the first time that the Legislature has sought to emasculate the Government Records Access and Management Act, the statute that enables the public to obtain copies of government records. The carefully crafted law strikes a balance between two competing values: the public's right to know and the need for government to operate efficiently."
"Lawmakers may consider a bill that would raise the bar for releasing government records to the public, making certain categories of documents unobtainable even through a court challenge.
Rep. Douglas Aagard said his HB122 -- launched at the request of the Attorney General's Office -- would clarify and strengthen the law to restore the original intent of the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA)."
"The State Records Committee ruled Thursday that communications between state attorneys -- when representing agencies on opposing sides of a case -- are public and not protected under attorney-client privilege or attorney work product.
The 3-2 decision came after members reviewed the requested documents, including e-mails and attachments, behind closed doors.
At issue were communications between assistant attorneys general who represent the state's Division of Finance and Criminal Appeals."
"The Utah Supreme Court says state information about potential rights of way on federal land are public.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance in 2004 sought access to state records in a database relating to Revised Statute 2477, a law dealing with passage across federal lands.
Identifying routes that might qualify under that law has been a long-running controversy, especially in southern Utah."
"The Utah Attorney General's Office has denied two open records requests from the Uintah Basin Standard seeking public information about a search warrant served on the Uintah School District office.
The district office was searched in July by criminal investigators with the attorney general's office. A source with knowledge of the search said authorities seized records and computers. The individual asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
After learning about the search in late August, the Standard filed a request under the Government Records Access and Management Act seeking the location of the court where investigators filed their application for the school district search warrant. The request also sought the date that application was filed."
"We understand Utah federal courts' concern for the safety of defendants who cooperate with authorities. But a proposed rule to conceal "cooperation agreements," which are now part of electronic court records, is too broad and violates the public's right to see public records.
The rule would create a separate entry attached to each online case docket called "Supplemental Information." It could contain a cooperation agreement - or not. Nobody would know exactly what it contained, because it would not be accessible to the public or to reporters."
"An attorney for condemned killer Ron Lafferty, claiming there is too much secrecy shrouding executions in Utah, won a partial victory Thursday in his quest for a long list of facts on how the ultimate penalty is carried out.
The state Records Committee ruled that the Department of Corrections should turn over a range of documents, from the process for selecting execution "team" members to any written reviews and performance of the team following an execution."
"Utah lawmakers: masters of the closed-door meeting; maestros of the back-room deal; newly crowned champions of open records and government accountability. It's a welcome contradiction.
The Legislature this year authorized the creation of the Utah Public Finance Website, an Internet portal that will allow taxpayers to track how their tax dollars are spent when it comes online next May. A seven-member Utah Transparency Advisory Board, a mix of lawmakers and representatives of the executive branch, is laying the groundwork for construction with preliminary discussions focused on content and capacity."