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News media sue governor for deleting e-mails

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    NMU         UTAH         Freedom of Information         Mar 22, 2002    

News media sue governor for deleting e-mails

  • Two newspapers and two television stations filed a complaint against Gov. Michael Leavitt alleging his routine destruction of e-mails violates the state’s open records act.

Four news media organizations sued the Utah governor this week for his policy of routinely deleting his e-mails, a practice which they say violates the state open records act.

Lawyers for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, KUTV and KTVX filed a complaint in state trial court against Gov. Michael Leavitt for violating the Government Records Access and Management Act, as well as constitutional protections of access to information concerning the conduct of the public’s business contained in those e-mails.

Claiming that many of his e-mails were of a personal nature, Leavitt denied Tribune reporters’ requests in November 2001 to release digital correspondence and memorandums during a six-week period when Utah’s voting district boundaries were redrawn. The governor told reporters that his attorney had advised him to adopt a policy for the destruction of certain records.

In January, lawyers for the media organizations requested by letter that the governor immediately cease deleting e-mails and threatened to sue if he continued to do so. The governor did not respond.

Under the state records law, any correspondence by a governmental entity that “determines or states an opinion upon the rights of the state, a political subdivision, the public, or any person” is generally public regardless of the record’s physical form. However, notes of a personal nature are not subject to the act.

(The Salt Lake Tribune et. al., v. Leavitt; Media counsel: Jeremy M. Hoffman, Young, Adams & Hoffman, LLP, Salt Lake City) MM

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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