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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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Salt Lake Tribune, UTA and a prison inmate going before records committee

The Salt Lake Tribune and a prison inmate will be appealing records denials at Thursday’s State Records Committee meeting.

Tribune reporter Janelle Stecklein is appealing the Utah Transit Authority’s refusal to provide crime statistics for an ongoing series about crime trends in the Salt Lake Valley. Stecklein requested the information in May.

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Fifteen other police agencies have provided data, but the UTA has balked at the Tribune’s request.

The UTA has argued that it does not keep the records in a spreadsheet format, and offered to provide electronic copies of citations written by officers —for $6,700.

A UTA contractor maintains a crime database for the authority, and told the Tribune it would work with UTA on a request for the database if asked by the authority, but the paper said transit officials were insisting on only providing access to reports.

In its response to the Tribune’s appeal, the UTA not only asked that its denial be upheld, but that the paper and reporters Stecklein and Lee Davidson be charged with harassing a government employee. The document claimed Davidson told an authority spokesman that he would write a bad story if the records were not provided. Davidson told Tribune columnist Paul Rolly that he never made any threat.

The UTA has walked back from that charge, claiming it was an emotional response and that it was not going to seek criminal charges, which the records committee cannot levy anyway.

The committee is also hearing an appeal from Michael Richard Luesse, an inmate at the Utah State Prison. Luesse is appealing a denial of records based on a limit on the number of free records indigent inmates can receive.

Court records show Luesse is serving a sentence for felony shoplifting.

The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Utah State Archives’ Courtyard Meeting Room, 346 S. Rio Grande St. in Salt Lake City.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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