Judge rules public gets to see Utah attorney general’s work calendar

Feb 27, 2024, 3:50 PM | Updated: Feb 28, 2024, 6:18 am

SALT LAKE CITY – A judge has ordered Utah’s attorney general to release his work calendar to KSL and the public, the culmination of a public records fight that dragged on for more than a year as the office sought to keep his schedule under wraps.

“This is a victory for the KSL investigators and KSL TV, but it’s really a victory for the public,” KSL news director Leona Wood said Tuesday after the judge gave his ruling. “It’s a victory for good government, improved government.”

Third District Judge Patrick Corum found Attorney General Sean Reyes’ calendar is subject to Utah’s open records law and granted KSL’s motion for summary judgment, ordering the schedule be released before the case went to trial.

Under Utah’s open records law, a government employee’s “personal” calendar is off-limits. The judge said Tuesday that because several of Reyes’ staffers can see and change his schedule as part of their jobs, his Outlook calendar doesn’t count as personal.

“There’s half a dozen people that have deep, very, very extensive details of this calendar, making it not for personal use,” Corum said.

Utahns may not have a chance to see Reyes’ schedule anytime soon, however. His office said it will appeal the judge’s decision.

“Today’s ruling means that the daily calendars of all state, county, and city employees would be subject to GRAMA,” spokesman Rich Piatt said in a statement. “That is contrary to the intent and clear language of the statute. While we respect the legal process, we disagree with the ruling and the Attorney General’s Office intends to appeal.”

The office argued in court that they aren’t trying to hide anything and under their interpretation of Utah’s open records law, a daily calendar cannot be made publicly available in response to an open records request.

The Utah State Records Committee ruled in favor of KSL in May, ordering Reyes’ office to release the calendar but allowing it to redact any information about his personal engagements, along with the locations of his work appointments. Reyes’ office appealed to 3rd District Court.

Attorney David Reymann, who represented KSL in the case, called the ruling “a huge victory for public accountability of elected officials.”

He said it shouldn’t have taken more than a year, a decision from the state records committee, and a legal battle in district court to get to this point – all on the taxpayer’s dime.

“The tactical decision by Attorney General Reyes to try and keep that information from the public was unfortunate, especially for an office that at least gives lip service to the idea that his office is transparent,” Reymann said. “But the court saw through the arguments that they were making, and it sided with the public.”

The reach of the decision could be cut short. Just hours after the court ruling, the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill late Tuesday to make all public and elected officials’ calendars off-limits. The measure, SB240, now goes to Gov. Spencer Cox for approval. If he signs it, the change takes effect immediately.

‘More secrecy’: Utah lawmakers advance bills targeting government transparency

Asked whether the governor intends to sign the bill, a spokesperson for his office said he has not yet reviewed it.

Bill sponsor Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, has said the move is a direct response to KSL’s case and he wants to make clear public employees’ schedules aren’t available to the public through Utah’s open records law in the future.

Reymann said government should move in the direction of transparency and not secrecy.

“And when people make their voices heard and tell their legislators, ‘This is not okay, this was not what I elected you to do,’ then it can make a difference,” Reymann said.

KSL first sought a copy of Attorney General Sean Reyes’ schedule more than a year ago, in November 2022.

5 things to know about KSL’s legal fight for transparency

Reyes has faced intense scrutiny for controversial trips out of state and ties to the former leader of an embattled charity, Operation Underground Railroad. He announced last year he’s not running for reelection.

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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Judge rules public gets to see Utah attorney general’s work calendar