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West Valley City won't lower fee on Tribune's GRAMA request files

Published November 6, 2012 9:44 pm

At issue is $150 charged for copies of emails on Chinese Heritage Gate.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Valley City • The City Council on Tuesday voted 4-2 to deny a request by The Salt Lake Tribune to waive or lower a charge of nearly $150 for copies of emails related to the Chinese Heritage Gate.

Reporter Cimaron Neugebauer said the emails would benefit the public by shedding light on how donations for the gate were handled. He pointed out that the law encourages a full fee waiver when releasing records will primarily benefit the public rather than an individual, and also argued that the charge of $149.67 was excessive for the work involved in providing the 153 emails.

Assistant City Attorney Brandon Hill countered that finding council emails related to the Chinese Heritage Gate Foundation and the West Valley Sister City Committee required a network administrator to program a detailed query with dozens of filters for a computer search. Then, he said, the deputy city recorder had to sort through the results for emails that fell within the scope of the request.

The charge struck a balance between providing media access to important documents and the public's right to efficient and low-cost government, Hill said.

The Chinese Heritage Gate, at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, symbolizes the friendship between sister cities West Valley City and Nantou, Taiwan. More than $200,000 was raised from donors in Utah and Taiwan in the past decade to build the structure.

Shortly before the gate's Sept. 29 dedication, some donors raised questions about how their donations were handled by Terence "Terry" Chen, the board chairman of the Chinese Heritage Foundation of Utah (CHFU). The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office is investigating claims that the funds were mishandled. In addition, the foundation is under investigation by the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, which says the CHFU hasn't filed an application for a charitable-solicitation permit. Chen denies the allegations against him.

pmanson@sltrib.com