Utah’s AG says legislative audit will find ‘no smoking gun,’ responds to KSL records battle

Nov 16, 2023, 7:45 PM | Updated: Nov 17, 2023, 8:27 am

ST. GEORGE – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is under the microscope, facing increased scrutiny from the public and from state lawmakers who voted this week to audit his office. Reyes projected confidence Thursday in the outcome of a legislative audit while his office also fights a public record request filed by the KSL Investigators more than a year ago.

“If people are looking for something, there’s no smoking gun in this audit,” he told reporters Thursday in St. George.

The Attorney General’s public appearance at a news conference in southern Utah was the first opportunity for journalists to ask him directly about the legislative audit and Utahns’ related concerns about transparency in his office. Earlier this week, we reported that he’s taking the KSL Investigators to court to avoid releasing his work calendar.

When asked whether he thinks the public deserves to know what he’s up to, Reyes said, “I think the public deserves to know the results of what I’m doing day to day. And that’s what the audit will show.”

Reyes’ office has fought the release of his calendar for months, arguing it’s not a public record under Utah law. But in May, Utah’s State Records Committee disagreed. The committee ruled it was subject to Utah’s open records law and ordered Reyes to release it.

Instead of turning it over to KSL, he appealed to Utah’s 3rd District court.

“I’m not going to get into all the details, because we’re litigating that case,” Reyes said Thursday. “But I can tell you, as far as calendars, those aren’t records. They never have been. And I don’t think they are currently.” Under Utah’s open records law, officials don’t have to release a “daily calendar or other personal note” created for “personal use” by the officials or by someone working for them.

Reyes’ office contends that even though his calendar contains work appointments, it’s not his official schedule. The KSL Investigators argued at the State Records Committee that official or not, the public is entitled to see his job-related calendar entries. KSL’s request seeks records of his weekly calendar spanning roughly three months, from August to mid-November of 2022.

Attorney David Reymann is representing the KSL Investigators in the fight to access the records that could help the public understand how Reyes spends his time on the clock and by extension, how he and his office are putting taxpayer dollars to use.

“You have to wonder, when public officials say that you’re not entitled to that type of basic information, what they’re trying to keep from the public,” Reymann said.

The Attorney General’s spokesman Richard Piatt said Thursday that the office is fighting the records battle in order to get clarity from a judge.

“The Attorney General’s Office believes that the State Records Committee misapplied the law and failed to apply the plain language of the statute,” Piatt said in a statement. “As such, we are appealing the decision to the district court in an effort to clarify what is a state record and what is not.”

Reyes would not answer questions Thursday about his relationship with Tim Ballard, the founder of Utah charity Operation Underground Railroad. Ballard and the nonprofit are facing multiple lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct on Ballard’s part and improper spending of donor money by OUR.

Reyes’ and Ballard’s longstanding friendship, and whether it affected Reyes’ leadership of the office, is also a focus of the legislative audit.

Contributing: Annie Knox

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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Utah’s AG says legislative audit will find ‘no smoking gun,’ responds to KSL records battle