Questions about GRAMA


The GRAMA working group has been asked to answer the following 36 questions. Please submit any additional questions you would like to see answered.

1. Is there any reasonable expectation of privacy for an elected official? If yes, what should be private? What should be public?

2. Does it make a difference if an elected official uses a publicly funded or a privately funded device?

3. When are the personal notes of a government official public records?

4. What personal records of an elected official should be protected, and what should be public? Should a government official be required to release personal notes created solely for his or her own use? If so, what constitutes a personal note? Does the form matter (handwritten, diaries, appointment books, computer files)? Does it matter if those notes are or are not related to policy or government duties?

5. Is there a difference between a digital conversation and a digital record? How should channels of communication like text messages, IMs, Email, video chat, Twitter DMs, Facebook Messages and voice mail be considered under the GRAMA statute?

6. How should we categorize the increasing new channels of electronic communication as they arise?

7. Who owns the records? The elected official, the elected body, or the company that provides the electronic forum? I.e. Facebook, Twitter? Who should archive these records?

8. Who should pay the real costs for searching and producing these records?

9. Does a citizen have an expectation of privacy when they contact their elected official?

10. Should records that contain information about a person’s health be protected?

11. Should personal Email addresses be classified as protected records?

12. Should a lobbyist have any expectation of privacy when they contact an elected official?

13. The more complicated the rules for privacy become, the more complex and expensive the legal review in responding to records requests will be. Who should pay these costs?

14. Should the GRAMA statute contain intent language? If so, should the intent language be allowed to trump the actual text of the code?

15. Currently, GRAMA does not address which party has the burden of proof on an appeal to show that the public interest in disclosing a record outweighs the record’s private or protected status. Who should bear this burden of proof?

16. What protections should be afforded to the internal and deliberative processes in the three different branches of government?

17. Is there any situation in which a deliberative process should be protected? Should private creative brainstorming play any role in the policy-making process?

18. Should the governor & legislature be allowed to discuss policy issues with staff in private before they take a public policy position? After a bill is passed or policy is made public, does this protection remain or open up retroactively?

19. Should elected officials’ discussions with their staff be presumed to be protected or presumed to be open? Under what conditions should elected officials’ communications with staff be presumed to be private?

20. Is there a time-frame equation that could be useful in making information public? I.e. records presumed protected for a certain amount of time, then presumed public.

21. Should any person or organization be given a special exemption from fees associated with a GRAMA request?

22. If the request requires the review or search of a large number of records, extensive redacting or other work, legal review, or technical expertise, who should be required to cover the cost of the request?

23. Should we revise the current GRAMA policy of not charging for the first 15 minutes spent to fulfill a request?

24. Should the wise use of taxpayers’ funds be part of the assessment equation when assessing fees? In other words, should governments have the ability to waive fees if it is in the public’s best interest?

25. Should the audit records of the State Auditor and Legislative Auditor General be protected if their disclosure would interfere with an audit, investigation, or internal procedures?

26. Should attorneys representing a taxpayer-funded government entity have the same protections as attorneys representing private entities when creating documents or having communication about reasonably anticipated litigation?

27. Should records relating to fiscal notes on legislation be protected until the legislation has passed or the session has ended?

28. What role does private communication among elected officials, constituents, and interested parties play in formulating good policy? What effect would classifying a record public or private records have on the legislative process?

29. What role should our legislature’s part time status play in the classification of information?

30. Looking forward, how can we automate the legislative process of archiving records and properly making them available?

31. How does the decentralized and geographically dispersed structure of the legislative branch affect record production and storage of records?

32. Is there a defining line or equation we could use to discern between the private life and public life of a elected official? Is there a same or similar line that would also work for a governor, citizen, activist, lobbyist, media representative or a government employee?

33. Is there a role for confidential discussions in the deliberative process in the different branches of the government?

34. Given recent advances in technology we have experienced an exponential increase in the volume of potential records available, and a concurrent increase in demand for those records. Given the reality of limited government resources, how should this workload be managed?

35. What technological advances do you foresee over the next 10 years that will effect how we might archive and access public records?

36. What further policy questions should we consider as we bring GRAMA into the next century?



5 Responses to “Questions about GRAMA”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Anything that a public official does if it relates to his job needs to be public…..even if it happens on his personal devices.

    If you are contacting your public official you should do so knowing that the record is public.

    How should the workload be managed with increased records??? Do our legislators use technology???? Put the data in a database and it can be searched directly by the person requesting the data. For example, record the video conference. The speech is easily converted into a text file, which can be stored in a database and be searchable.

  2. mark Says:

    Here are some of my questions for the legislators:

    1. Why do you think you should have any privacy at all outside your home once you run for and are elected to public office?

    2. Why shouldn’t the deliberations and conversations that occur during the GOP Caucus be made public since that has such a profound impact on what the legislature does?

    3. What do legislators who believe in privacy have to hide from the public?

    4. If legislators are so worked up about their privacy rights why did they seek public office in the first place instead of–say–staying home with their children?

    5. How could a legislator imagine in his/her wildest dreams that any communication at all with a lobbyist ought to be private or protected?

    6. Is the arrogance of power that was created by the fact that we have a one-party political system in Utah what lead to this fiasco in the first place?

    7. Are ethics something that legislators make a big show of when the media catches them doing something inappropriate and than ignore them the rest of our time?

    8. Why did it take a huge public outcry to get this matter responsibly debated?

    9. Why did the legislature wait until the very last part of the session to ram this bill through?

    10. Is the public going to promptly forget this and let the legislature get back to doing “business as usual” or will there be lasting repercussions felt in November of 2012?

  3. Fred Says:

    I thought some of these answers were good.

  4. L. Hatch Says:

    I listened to the house committee public hearing on HB 477 while it was happening. I just listened to the audio of the GRAMA working group. What a world of difference. I was pleased with the way it was chaired and am hopeful that it might be the beginning of good things.

    I heard what I think is misinformation from both sides though:

    (For example just using a private e-mail account instead of your government one does not make the communication private. I think there is some misunderstanding on the part of the public about that. But I think that Mr. Bramble’s remarks about his client’s tax returns ending up on the front page of the Tribune are equally misinformed. Those documents would be private and/or protected under numerous provisions of GRAMA. They would not be released and end up in the paper.)

    Legislators can only make decisions based on the information they are given. If they are only given information on one side then that is the only logical decision to make. Hopefully this working group will get all of the information out there and help the decision making process improve.

    Holly, thanks for your efforts in getting as much information as possible out to citizens.

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