Group protests lack of public hearing for Utah records nominee
There will be no public hearing on Gov. Gary Herbert's appointment to the State Records Committee of a former legislator and staunch supporter of HB477 legislation critics say would have stymied public access to government records.
Holly Richardson, who also is a conservative blogger, is expected to be confirmed Wednesday by the full state Senate to the records committee that hears appeals on public documents requested through the state Government Records Access and Management Act.
As a state legislator, she vocally supported HB477. She also was among a majority of legislators who later voted to repeal the law after a tsunami of public outrage.
The Alliance for a Better UTAH, a nonprofit progressive organization that unsuccessfully requested a public hearing, scolded the Government Operations Confirmation Committee in a statement Tuesday.
"Legislators have decided to ignore the public's right to participate in the democratic process by summarily confirming Governor Herbert's nomination of Holly Richardson to the State Records Committee," said Maryann Martindale, the nonprofit's executive director.
Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, who rejected the public hearing request, said members of his committee saw no need for it.
"Based on their knowledge and acquaintance with Holly," he said, "they didn't believe a public hearing needed to be held.
Richardson sat on the records committee in September, voting on appeals that came before the board, after the governor's office mistakenly advised her that she had been confirmed.
Earlier this month, the committee removed Richardson's votes from the official record, and listed her in the minutes as merely attending the meeting. Paul Tonks, the assistant attorney general assigned to the committee, said Richardson's unofficial votes did not invalidate any of the committee's September actions.
In an interview, Martindale said Richardson has been a vocal partisan, and, as a matter of trust, the committee should seek a public process to determine if Richardson can be impartial.
"Members of the State Records Committee hold judicial-like positions of power and public trust," Martindale said. "That is why we believe that an appointment to the State Records Committee should be handled in the same manner as a judicial appointment that is, with a public hearing in which the nominee can be thoroughly vetted by the Legislature in full public view."
Richardson said Tuesday she would not have objected to a public hearing. But she said she found it "surprising" that the Alliance for a Better UTAH would make an issue of her appointment.
"The governor asked me to serve on this committee. I didn't seek it," she said. "I'm happy to serve."
Salt Lake Tribune reporter Donald W. Meyers contributed to this story.