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Utah's Right to Know
Donald Meyers
Donald W. Meyers writes about open-government issues for The Salt Lake Tribune. He is also the site manager of utahsright.com, the Tribune's online database of public records. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists' National Freedom of Information Committee and sits on the board of directors of the Utah Foundation for Open Government.

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Utah’s records ombudsman: Most calls for help coming from public

Utah’s open-records ombudsman has released her first report.

Rosemary Cundiff , who was the State Archive’s records management supervisor, was appointed to fill the ombudsman’s position earlier this year. The Legislature created the post in SB177, the bill that was enacted after the HB477 debacle of 2011, when the Legislature had passed —and repealed — a bill that would have gutted the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).

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The ombudsman’s position was one of several recommendations from a working group that were incorporated into the Senate bill.

Cundiff’s duties are to help government agencies and people seeking public records navigate the intricacies of GRAMA.

SB177 also requires the ombudsman to file an annual report on her activities.

Cundiff’s report covers the period between April 10 and Aug. 31. In that time, Cundiff reported that she was called upon for 490 consultations, 276 involving people requesting records and 214 from the government. Of the requesters Cundiff consulted with, nearly 70 percent were members of the public, while 24 percent were journalists and 8 percent were businesses.

Of the government requests for assistance, Cundiff said 127 came from local government, while 84 were from state agencies.

The law also authorizes Cundiff to mediate records disputes. She reported that she handled "at least 10" cases. She reported that in those instances, the issue was either successfully resolved, the issues in conflict were narrowed or she was able to provide clearer instructions on the appeals process.

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