Should you get to see elected officials’ calendars? These Utah lawmakers say no

Feb 20, 2024, 10:35 PM | Updated: Feb 21, 2024, 8:25 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Utahns have a right to see what their elected officials are up to by obtaining copies of their work calendars, a state panel decided last year, but now a lawmaker who disagrees with that decision wants to make sure those schedules stay secret in the future.

Utah Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, says the State Records Committee got it wrong when it sided with the KSL Investigators last May and ordered the release of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ work calendar. Reyes’ office appealed.

On Tuesday, less than a week before KSL and the Utah Attorney General’s Office are scheduled to square off in court over access to Reyes’ calendar, Bramble said he doesn’t want any more officials’ schedules to be released in response to public records requests. He’s sponsoring a bill, SB240, that would explicitly keep those records secret, characterizing the move as a clarification of existing public records law, rather than a true change in policy.

“This is clarifying what the long-standing interpretation and practice of the law has been,” Bramble told members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee.

Utah’s public records law contains a list of files that aren’t subject to the law. The list of exemptions has long included a public official’s daily calendar or other personal note prepared for “personal use.” Those two words are at the center of the center of the pending court case, and they’re also the focus of Bramble’s bill. His measure would remove the reference to “personal” use, and instead exempt any calendars maintained for an officials’ “own” use, whether they contain work appointments, personal engagements or both.

The KSL Investigators have pushed for the public’s right to see these work calendars for more than a year now. The Salt Lake Tribune filed a brief in support of KSL’s case, arguing there’s immense public interest in learning how elected officials spend their time on the clock.

As KSL’s fight for transparency continues, Bramble doesn’t want the judge in the pending court case to have the last word on whether these records are fair game for public scrutiny.

“This is not intended to address any court case, but rather clarify going forward, this is what the standard should be,” Bramble told the committee.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, had harsh words for government agencies, which he said routinely deny Utahns’ access to public records even after they appeal those decisions multiple times.

“The whole idea of GRAMA is that records should be presumed to be publicly available,” Weiler said, referring to Utah’s Government Records Access Management Act.

“I am ashamed that I live in a state that treats its citizens that way,” Weiler continued.

Still, he joined his colleagues on the committee in voting unanimously to advance the bill to the full Senate.

Bramble walked away as the KSL Investigators tried to ask him a question after the hearing, saying he was late for a meeting.

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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Should you get to see elected officials’ calendars? These Utah lawmakers say no