​Politically Active and Aware

Gregory C. Duerden

Duerden 2018 Congressional Campaign Ticket issue paper

                                                          UTAH's  G.R.A.M.A.-plus
                       (Sunshine Law, Open Meeting Law, etc.)


Utah's 1991-92 Model GRAMA law was turned into a 21st Century Platypus by our very own Utah Legislature's tweeking over the past 20+ years!  They also exempted them-selves from the Utah Sunshine Law, Open Meeting Laws and have zero/nada/nil         Conflict of Interest Law Enforcement.

In 1991 the Utah Foundation for Open Government (UFOG) and the Utah Chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) partnered to author the original Government Records Access Management Act (or G.R.A.M.A.).

When it was passed by the 1992 Legislature and signed by Governor Norm Bangeter, Utah was considered to be a national leader in Open Government and Government Records Access Management (GRAMA), the GRAMA statute was a national model. Over the next couple of decades the Legislature, in its collective wisdom, chipped away and 'tweeked' the law into a different animal . . .      a less-than-average statute, something almost laughable and closer to a
platypus than a 'national model.'

                    We propose to re-establish Utah's GRAMA to its former glory and                                                               LEAD the Nation in Government Records Access Management,                                                                 Open Transparent Government . . . not only in word but in deed.

For comparison to what we want to do, we have the following example of the less than ideal, from our current legislature and executive branch. Back in the 2011 Legislative session, HB477 was introduced, passed and signed by Gov. Herbert. It went through both houses of the legislature in three (3) days and would have dramatically reduced the ability of citizens to access public records, especially records of legislators. (It would have eliminated Instant Messages, emails, texts and such from our GRAMA Statute .  .  .  a move many saw would make government LESS transparent!!) After a public outcry, Herbert announced he would sign the bill yet also call a special session to repeal the law. The law was repealed two weeks later, and Herbert was criticized for costing the state $30,000 for not simply vetoing the bill when he first had a chance.

       Utah has showed how we can lead the world in ethics, when in 2002 after the IOC scandal,             we put on a successful Winter Olympics with no hint of scandal. Rather an unprecedentedly           successful Olympics with more local volunteerism than any before.

Utah currently stands 49th in public ethics laws on the books. We were graded as an unacceptable 'F,' ranked 41st in the Nation for Ethics Enforcing Agencies when we should be leading in this area, not hiding behind the 'Good Old Boys Network' - with the '
Red Coatfoxes guarding the hen house

      We need an independent Ethics Watch-dog group to oversee ALL levels of government –                 the Utah Legislature, in its 'collective wisdom,' has exempted itself from ANY outside ethics                  oversight (they have a Senate Committee tasked with oversight while there is an ethics                          commission for the Executive Branch of State Government and all other governmental                          subdivisions . . . what's good for one goose is good for all, NO?). This could help eliminate                    abuses with little or nothing done about them all behind closed doors (e.g., Utah Valley's                    MATC Parade-gate, a sitting Utah Senator concurrently registered as a lobbyist during a                        legislative session, . . . etc.)

While we are speaking of the Utah Legislature, they have also exempted themselves from the Utah Open Meetings Act, also known as the Sunshine Laws. We strongly suggest the Legislature should ALSO fall under ALL the laws of their State ("No One is ABOVE the LAW") such as Utah's Open Meetings Law - the GOP Legislators meet in CLOSED DOOR SECRET MEETINGS; closed to voters, media or anyone other than GOP Legislators. Isn't the “business of government" SUPPOSE to be conducted in the full light of day AND the public interest is SUPPOSE to be more important than Special Interest and NOT ARROGANCE! What kind of an example are we getting from our legislators?

We also would like to see them strengthen and put 'teeth' in Utah's 'Conflict of Interest' statutes. As currently written conflicts of interest do not eliminate the ability of any sitting legislator to vote on any given measure, or bill. Current standards don't require conflicts of interest to even be announced prior to a vote. Conflicts such as a Utah Senator having controlling interest in several Charter schools and still proposing Pro-Charter School legislation, voting on Charter School funding 'equality' measures (to provide Charter Schools equal funding as Public Schools), etc. Is that right? Is that ethical? Is that what we want our 'elected officials' doing? YOU decideTHEN hold the 'elected officials' feet to the fire . . . hold them accountable!! The Voters are suppose to be in-charge, NOT the 'elected officials!!' Those 'elected' are only temporary stewards of power, they are not endowed with permanent 'life-long' appointments to their office . . . (CASE IN POINT: U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch!! 44+ years at the public trough in elected office for TWO - count them 2 - career terms as a politican, who started out with the mantra “12 is Enough” when he defeated Frank Moss, more than 45 years ago!!!)

-- During the 2011 Legislative session, remember the HB477 situation which was passed and signed by Gov. Herbert.  It went through both houses of the legislature in three (3) days and would have dramatically reduced the ability of citizens to access public records, especially records of legislators.  (It would have eliminated instant messages, emails, texts and such from GRAMA)  After a public outcry, Herbert announced he would sign the bill yet also call a special session to repeal the law.  the law was repealed two weeks later, and Herbert was criticized for costing the state $30,000 for not simply having the backbone and vetoing the bill when he first had a chance.

 IS THAT the kind of leadership we want? IS THAT the kind of leadership we expect? It is obviously the kind we have!

-- In 2012 Herbert signed HB 187, dealing with “Agricultural Operation Interference” despite several individuals and organizations urging that he veto it. The new law made it a crime to take pictures or sound recordings while on the property of any agricultural production facility, even if the person is not trespassing (e.g., an employee of the facility, etc.) and even if the person is not interfering with anything (i.e., if nobody knows the recording is taking place). Under the law, offenders are guilty of a class B misdemeanor. Critics of the bill say the law creates a safe haven for animal abuse and other criminal activity and it adds nothing beneficial to legitimate operations. WE see it as a overreach of government where they do not even need to be! LESS government is better, NOT more! NOT overreaching into ALL areas of our lives! Into our bedrooms, into our bathrooms, into our intimate lives! LESS is better than More!!

-- In 2016's session, Gov. Herbert signed the law requiring doctors administer sedatives to women undergoing abortions so the fetus won't, purportedly, feel the pain of the abortion. Medical doctors said it was un-necessary and relies on 'unsupported science' for the need. WE see it as a overreach of government where they do not even need to be! Again, LESS government is better, NOT more! NOT overreaching into ALL areas of our lives! Into our most intimate lives! Still again, LESS is better than More!!

-- In 2010, UDOT admitted to paying $13 Million to prevent a lawsuit by the second-place finisher (FSZ – Flatiron/Skanska/Zachry) for the I-15 rebuild project in Utah County. UDOT admitted that after 'adjustments' were made to the scoring system, the $1.7 Billion contract was awarded to Provo River Constructors (PRC) after winning the bidding process by a single "adjusted" point. Herbert's opponent during that year's Gubernatorial election (Peter Caroon) questioned whether this award was related to a $87,500 donation made by PRC "TO HERBERT's Re-Election"   -   Hm-m-m another pay-to-play scenario, like Swallow's A.G. practice?  Where do you think Swallow learned it????

In a press conference on the same day (Sept 13, 2010), Herbert denied any knowledge of the $13 Million payoff to FSZ. However, on Sept. 21, 2010, ABC4 reported that on Sept. 9th (four days before Herbert's press conference) UDOT informed Jason Perry, the Gov.'s Chief of Staff, of the payment. On Sept. 13, hours before Herbert's press conference, UDOT again informed Perry of the payoff and also specified the amount of the payment.  So, is Herbert out of the loop?  Is THAT good management? NO!

Again, is that transparent government? Is that what we expect of our top executive? IS THAT the kind of leadership we want? IS THAT the kind of leaders we expect? It appears that is kind of leader we have in office at present .  .  .  no wonder Herbert received an F grade !!   Since HE FLUNKED as Governor we just have to put up with him for a couple more years,  YEAH!!

-- In April 2016 Gov. Herbert reversed his previous stand on Common Core & Sage Testing. He said, at one point, that he supported Common Core as a system with Utah core requirements not federal mandated requirements.   Then he wanted to call a special session to consider eliminating both Sage Testing and Common Core - perhaps in response to his GOP Primary opponent's anti-Common Core stand.

WE SEE any federal education program as governmental over-reach (there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution about education being part of the Federal Government's purview or oversight or authority). This may also be an example of the Feds moving into the area with $$$ and literally buying its way into the education business (Pell Grants, student loans, et al). THAT doesn't mean it is justified or right!!

Utah's Public Integrity is discussed in another issue paper on Integrity and Transparent Government. That paper also addresses this paper's GRAMA, Conflict of Interest and Sunshine Law, as this one does. Both papers have multiple recommendations and aims to improve Utah State Government (*= an item which requires legislative action, for which we will work with legislators to pass):

We propose to strengthen and put 'teeth' in Utah's 'Conflict of Interest' statutes.*

We need AND WILL GET an independent, CIVILIAN Ethics Watch-dog group to oversee ALL levels of government, the Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, Judicial Branch of State, County, Municipal, and all sub-divisions of government within the state.*

We intend to return Utah GRAMA to a National Model by bringing the Utah Headliners Chapter of SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) into consultation with State Legislators, and interested parties to form a Governor's Task Force on GRAMA and receive recommendations from the Task Force to draft legislation and get it through the Legislature and get it signed into law.

There are also several recommendations which do not require Legislative action we will undertake:

We will issue a policy reducing the fees charged to recoup costs for GRAMA requests by the public, journalists or a local government.

We will also NOT use fees as threats to deter requests or to burden requesters, instead suggesting fees start after the 10th page – the first ten pages of the request being free – and only covering the costs of copying and NOT the manpower costs.

No mean spirited 'means tests' will be used, for GRAMA requests

Using software and hardware to increase the capacity for keeping records in all agencies of state government and having Procurement should quiz vendors about the export of data and if the software can be secure of personal information (names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers) and sequestered from the public records.

Every agency and record generating office should have a page of instructions for filing a records request posted in their office as well as links prominently placed on their web pages, from the splash page to every page (in the headers or footers) and how to find anything about GRAMA for that agency and their records.

All requests will be data mined for monthly reports to the Records Ombudsman Office with how many requests were received, how many were denied and the reason, how many were fulfilled, who the requester was (citizen, journalist, a business, another governmental agency or government, etc.), whether the request was granted in whole or in part, what fees were charged.​