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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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Wyoming lawmakers want to shroud university president selection process in secrecy

Just in case you were wondering, Utah’s legislators don’t hold a monopoly on attempts to close off public records.

The Student Press Law Center reports that Wyoming lawmakers are trying to nullify a court ruling that declared documents identifying finalists for the University of Wyoming president should be made public.

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The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Casper Star-Tribune and the Associated Press filed suit seeking to get documents that would reveal who was being seriously considered for the post. A week ago, a state judge ruled that the records were public, and should be released to reporters.

The following day, Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, introduced HB223, which makes information on candidates for university and college presidencies private records. As of Friday, the bill has passed the Wyoming House of Representatives and has advanced to the Senate.

Chad Baldwin, the University of Wyoming’s spokesman, told the Student Press Law Center that releasing the names of finalists may cause some candidates to back out. He claimed that in the wake of the judge’s ruling, four of the eight semifinalists for the post withdrew.

But open-government advocates argue that releasing the names allows the public to comment on the candidates, providing the university’s board of trustees with information that it might not otherwise get.

"The public is really interested in that particular university," Star-Tribune editor Darrell Ehrlick told the law center. "There are not the divided loyalties that there may be in other states."

In Utah, the names of finalists for university presidents, as well as school superintendents, city managers and similar positions are released to the public. That practice came in the wake of a 1996 4th District Court ruling that Orem officials could not withhold the names of finalists for the city manager’s post.



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