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What changed John Dougall's mind on GRAMA?

by Rachel Piper
- Posted // 2011-03-10 -

John Saltas aptly referred to HB477’s sponsor, John Dougall, as a chubby, unknown Utah County representative. But this wasn’t Dougall’s first GRAMA rodeo.

When the legislature (ultimately unsuccessfully) sought to revise GRAMA in 2009 with House Bill 122, Dougall attempted to revise the bill and remove language that made it hard to request litigation records. “[This] raises the bar and causes significant concerns and does a disservice to the public,” Dougall was quoted as saying in The Salt Lake Tribune on Feb. 18, 2009. 

He has since seen the error of that line of thought, as HB477 adds heightened requirements to requests for records protected by the government. Under the bill, a person or party seeking disclosure of the record must establish with “a preponderance of evidence” that the public interest outweighs the interest favoring restriction of access.

Dougall also spoke out against strict GRAMA requirements in 2007. That year, a Provo school board member filed a GRAMA request for 3,600 pages of financial documents relating to the monthly expenses and revenues of all Provo schools and was told by district staff that she could be charged $250 to $450 for the records.

Read more about the bill at
CityWeekly.net/HB477

Dougall was quoted in a July 7, 2007, Deseret News article saying that he found the situation “amazing, appalling and shocking. For a board member who has a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the finances of the school district, to not be granted full access to these finances causes me great concern.”

The school board ruled two months later that board members, despite being elected officials, still must file GRAMA requests—and be charged the usual fees—for information not requested by a majority of the board.

Dougall was in favor of the school board being accountable to the public. “Are we running loose with taxpayer money? That’s a key question I have.” Apparently, however, the public should not have the right to know whether our legislators are running loose.

So, the question I have for Dougall is: What—or who—changed your mind?

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