Utah A.G. office sues Tribune reporter to keep Sean Reyes’ calendar secret

The lawsuit comes after Utah’s records committee ruled last month that several years of Reyes’ calendars should be released to The Salt Lake Tribune.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attorney General Sean Reyes at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

The Utah attorney general’s office sued a Salt Lake Tribune reporter and the State Records Committee in a bid to prevent Attorney General Sean Reyes’ official calendar from being released.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, marks the second time lawyers in the office have gone to court in an attempt to keep Reyes from having to turn over his calendars. In February, 3rd District Judge Patrick Corum ruled in favor of KSL-TV investigative reporter Annie Knox, deciding that Reyes’ official calendars are, in fact, public records under the state’s open records law.

Earlier this month, Corum awarded Knox’s attorneys $132,241 in court costs. The attorney general filed its notice of appeal of Corum’s original ruling last week.

On the same day Corum issued his ruling, the Legislature passed a bill that makes all public officials’ calendars private. Cox signed the bill into law the next day, but the new law is not retroactive and the State Records Committee ruled that it does not apply to previous requests.

Tribune investigative reporter Jessica Miller filed an open records request in October for several years of calendars reflecting Reyes’ official activities — part of an investigation into how Reyes spends his time and the extent of his ties with Tim Ballard, the founder of the anti-human-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad.

In December, Reyes announced his office was opening an investigation into Ballard, who has been accused in civil lawsuits of sexually assaulting and raping several women. Ballard has steadfastly denied wrongdoing. The announcement of the investigation came as Reyes also said that he would not seek reelection in 2024 after a decade in office.

While past attorneys general had released their calendars, Reyes’ office denied Miller’s request, arguing that the schedules were not subject to the open records law. Miller appealed to the State Records Committee, arguing that the public has a right to know how Reyes spends his time while he is being paid by taxpayers. The committee ruled unanimously in her favor — finding that Reyes’ calendar was a public record and should be released.

Committee members were not swayed by the attorney general’s office’s argument that the Legislature’s decision to change the law was an indication that Utah lawmakers never intended for calendars to be public records.

In the attorney general’s lawsuit filed Tuesday in 3rd District Court, Assistant Attorney General Vanessa Walsh similarly argued that in changing the law, the Legislature expressed that it had not intended calendars to be available to the public. She also said that Corum’s decision in Knox’s case doesn’t apply to Miller’s request because The Tribune was seeking calendars over a longer period of time.

Corum will also be the judge hearing the attorney general’s latest lawsuit against Miller and the records committee.

Mike Judd, an attorney representing The Tribune, said that between two State Records Committee rulings and Corum’s ruling in the KSL case, “the A.G.’s office has already had three bites at the apple … and they won’t take three ‘No’s’ for an answer.”

”The Tribune wishes it didn’t have to fight these issues that have already been won, but the public has a right to access this information, and because, as so often is the case, the Tribune is acting on the public’s behalf, The Tribune is willing to fight for these records.”