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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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UDOT agrees to meet with activists — but without journalists present

A Farmington group is giving the Utah Department of Transportation bad grades when it comes to transparency.

As Lee Davidson reported, a UDOT project manager told Lori Kalt, president of the SaveFarmington group, that the agency would meet with her group to discuss the West Davis Corridor plan — but only if journalists were not attending the meeting.

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The West Davis Corridor would extend the Legacy Highway into Davis and Weber counties, and Kalt and other activists don’t want the highway going through Farmington Bay.

Kalt said the group agreed to the condition, as well as submitting questions in writing — in order to have the meeting. Nor were her group or the city allowed to present any alternatives.

But she said the answers given at the April 18 meeting were not satisfying.

"They were totally vague, totally dodged the questions or didn’t even answer the questions," Kalt told Davidson. "I heard a lot of, ‘That answer will be provided in the draft EIS [environmental impact statement].’"

UDOT spokesman Nile Easton said he informed the West Davis team by email that it could not exclude the media from a meeting with the activists. He said it went against UDOT’s policy on openness.

"Any time we meet with the public in a public meeting, our doors should be open to having media attend and observe," Easton said.

It’s not the first time a government entity has tried to duck journalists. When the John Kuhni and Sons rendering plant was preparing to move from Provo’s East Bay to Mills, the Juab County Planning Commission broke into small groups to tour the plant so reporters could not come along on the tour.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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