Fight for Transparency: KSL’s 15-month long battle to get Sean Reyes’ calendar

Feb 28, 2024, 9:19 PM | Updated: 9:24 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Despite a months-long KSL TV effort for transparency, Attorney General Sean Reyes and Utah lawmakers are in lock-step to hide their calendars from the public.

KSL has been fighting for your access to know what your elected officials are doing while on the job. Here’s a look at what led up to this week’s victory in court and a late-night legislative vote in response.

Nov. 11, 2022

Prompted by questions from Utahns, the KSL Investigators submitted a GRAMA request to the office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, asking for copies of Reyes’ weekly schedule and calendar for the months of August, September, and November of 2022.

Reyes had been criticized for taking several high-profile trips during his time in office. In 2020, he went to Las Vegas and raised alarm, but no proof, of what he called “voting irregularities” following the presidential election. In 2022, Reyes attended the World Cup on a foreign government’s dime. Campaign finance records revealed a hog hunting trip where Reyes stayed in a luxury resort. And in 2023 brought renewed interest in his travel years prior with the group Operation Underground Railroad for an undercover sting operation.

Nov. 18, 2022

KSL received this response from the attorney general’s office, denying the request:

The Office does not maintain an official schedule for the Attorney General. Additionally, Utah Code§ 63G-2-103(22)(b)(ix) provides that “a daily calendar or other personal note prepared by the originator for the originator’s personal use or for the personal use of an individual for whom the originator is working” is not a “record” subject to GRAMA. Accordingly, the Office does not maintain any records responsive to your request. – The Attorney General’s Office.

Dec. 16, 2022

Following GRAMA protocols and procedures, the KSL Investigators submitted an appeal of the denial to records officers in the attorney general’s office.

Dec. 23, 2022

Daniel Burton, general counsel for the attorney general’s office, upheld the Utah Attorney General’s Office denial.

Jan. 20, 2023

KSL filed an appeal with the State Records Committee, which is tasked with hearing appeals of government’s determinations to deny access to records.

May 18, 2023

Representatives from KSL and the Utah Attorney General’s Office appeared before the State Records Committee for a hearing on the denial and appeal. Reyes’ representatives argued against releasing his calendar, saying it combined both his personal and professional appointments and was not subject to GRAMA.

May 26, 2023

The State Records Committee issued a decision in favor of the KSL Investigators, stating, “For a calendar to be exempt from the GRAMA, the calendar must be used entirely for private, non-work-related use. While Attorney General Reyes uses the calendar for his private events and appointments, that is not the calendar’s only use. He also uses it for official business and work-related items – items that concern the “public’s business” and are therefore subject to the GRAMA.”

The committee ordered the release of Reyes’ professional schedule, with redactions of any non-work-related items and addresses for work-related meetings and appointments to address security concerns.

June 6, 2023

Instead of releasing the calendar as ordered by the State Records Committee, the attorney general’s office filed an appeal in the 3rd District Court.

Feb. 13, 2024

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, introduced a bill during the legislative session that would change how legal fees are handled in public records court cases. SB240 was assigned to the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee.

Feb. 20, 2024

Bramble submitted a new version of SB240 prior to its first committee hearing. The new version of the bill included new language to explicitly make the daily calendars of public officials off-limits as an exception to GRAMA.

Bramble said the State Records Committee’s decision in KSL’s appeal was in “contradiction” to the law. He argued the change to the bill would “clarify what the long-standing interpretation and practice of the law has been.”

The committee voted to send the bill to the Senate floor.

Feb. 26, 2024

SB240 is read on the Senate floor and approved by a 22-7 vote. The bill was sent to the House for consideration.

While Senators were approving the bill that would seal public officials’ calendars, KSL and representatives from the attorney general’s office went before 3rd District Court Judge Patrick Corum to ask for a ruling on the matter rather than going to trial.

The attorney general’s office again argued its belief that Reyes’ professional schedule or calendar is not subject to GRAMA laws.

During the hearing, Corum noted he was careful of what he put on his own work calendar.

“Because my emails are subject to GRAMA, the computer system here is subject to GRAMA. So aside from the occasional dentist appointment or something, I do not put things on that for this very reason.”

Corum asked for a day to consider the case.

Feb. 27, 2024

Corum issued his ruling in the case, siding with KSL and the State Records Committee and ordering Reyes’ office to release his calendar, with redactions. The Utah Attorney General’s Office issued a statement saying it planned to appeal.

SB 240, which had been scheduled for debate and public comment before the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, was dropped from the agenda, leaving no opportunity for public comment on the bill.

Lawmakers instead suspended legislative rules to allow the bill to bypass that House hearing and go directly to the House floor for a vote.

Representatives voted 52 to 22 in favor of the bill, sending it to the Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk for his signature.

Feb. 28, 2024

Because the bill passed with a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House, it became law when Cox signed it Wednesday night.

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Fight for Transparency: KSL’s 15-month long battle to get Sean Reyes’ calendar