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How to Request a Government Record

Note: This article is out-of-date.  We recommend "Things Your GRAMA Never Taught You" by UT Gun Rights.

Have you ever wanted a government record, but did not know how to get it?  The Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) was established by the State of Utah to set statutory standards in maintenance and handling of governmental records.  Any citizen can make what is called a GRAMA request to any Utah government official or agency.

Seven Steps to Highly Successful GRAMAs

To use GRAMA requests to your advantage, simply follow the steps below (a sample letter is supplied in Step 2):

Step 1: Locate the gatekeeper of your record.

Step 2: Make a formal, written request.

Step 3: Wait impatiently for a response.

Step 4: Make sure they cite a legitimate excuse

Step 5a: Expose them for an illegitimate excuse.

Step 5b: Appeal to head of agency or department.

Step 6: Appeal to a higher level.

Step 7: Sue them in district court.


Step 1: Locate the gatekeeper of your record.
Find the person responsible for your government record. If possible, attempt to bypass the red tape by going there and asking to inspect the records—which costs no money. If they try to tell you that the record is contained on a computer and therefore you can't inspect it, press them.  They must have a more legitimate reason to deny you.  (See Step 4 for legitimate reasons.)

Step 2: Make a formal, written request.
If your record is not immediately available, submit a GRAMA request.  See our sample letter for an example in Word 97 format or in .pdf format. Be as specific as possible, citing whatever sources you can to narrow down the document (and to discourage them from pretending they don't have it). If you are requesting a potentially large document, it is probably wise to set a ceiling on the amount you will pay for your request.
For additional information on primary and third-party subjects of documents, see a document by the Utah Department of Human Resource Management).

Step 3: Wait impatiently for a response.
The agency and local government must respond within 10 working days unless they cite a legitimate reason for delay. Smaller governments may respond within 15 days because they claim they are short on staff.  If your request would serve a public interest, you can ask for an expedited request, which must be addressed within 5 days.

Step 4: Make sure they cite a legitimate excuse.
If the government entity decides it can not fulfill your request, tell them to state it in writing.  They must cite one of the following reasons:

  • The record is being utilized for an audit.

  • The record has been loaned to another government entity.

  • The request involves a voluminous number of records.

  • They are backlogged with a large number of record requests.

  • They must review a large number of requests in order to respond to your request.

  • They must first run your request by their legal counsel as there are potential legal issues involved.

  • It would require extensive editing to separate or segregate public data from protected data.

  • Such segregation requires computer programming.

Step 5a: Expose them for an illegitimate excuse.
If their excuse is not legitimate, consider embarrassing them by going to the press and your elected officials.  You can also contact various government and private entities in Utah who might put on additional pressure.

Step 5b: Appeal to head of agency or department.
Make a formal, written appeal to an agency head within 30 days of your request denial. The agency head must respond to your appeal within 30 days of his receipt of it.  In the first paragraph state that your request was denied and on what grounds.  If the response was not legitimate, state that the denial is not legitimate according to that statute.  If the denial was technically legitimate, but not reasonable in your mind, make the request anyway, without the citation.

Step 6: Appeal to a higher level.
If the agency head denies your appeal, take it to the State Records Committee which meets quarterly. The State Records Committee must respond to a request in no more than 30 days. The appeal process to this point is designed not to require the representation of an attorney.  See a list of appeal decisions made to the Records committee.

If a local government has enacted its own law, the school board, county commission or city council will generally hear appeals. Local governments also may create a records review committee to hear appeals with their limits.

Step 7: Sue them in district court.
If the State Records Committee or local records review panel rejects an appeal, it can be appealed to a district court.  At this point, we would recommend that you contact some of the various government and private entities to seek further assistance.



Read GRAMA Yourself

To better understand the ins and outs of GRAMA, we recommend that you browse through a GRAMA document put out by the State of Utah.  Before you do, consider a few important definitions that you will encounter:

  • Classify: This is the process of determining whether a record series, record, or information within a record is public, private, controlled, protected, or exempt from disclosure.
  • Record: This refers to all books, letters, documents, papers, maps, plans, photographs, films, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data, or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics.

  • Schedule: This means the process of specifying the length of time each record series should be retained by a governmental entity for administrative, legal, fiscal, or historical purposes and when each record series should be transferred to the state archives or destroyed.



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