RE: Open Letter From Ken Cromar, et al., Dated August 24, 2012
As there is an attempt to spread incorrect information regarding a GRAMA request made by Mr. Ken Cromar, the Mayor and City Council of Cedar Hills would like to address the issue at hand and provide a complete and accurate account of what has transpired with regards to this GRAMA request.
On March 5, 2012, a GRAMA request was filed by Mr. Ken Cromar requesting all emails from former city manager, Konrad Hildebrandt, and former mayor, Eric Richardson, to each other, and/or to any councilmember using whatever email address, from January 1, 2011, to present. This request was filed only by Mr. Cromar and not on behalf of any other resident or group. At that time the City agreed to provide Mr. Cromar with all emails in its possession that fell within the scope of the request and informed Mr. Cromar he would be responsible for the cost to supply these records. According to GRAMA laws, a city may require prepayment before fulfilling a request if the cost will exceed $50; however, in the spirit of cooperation the City began to comply and gather emails from Mr. Hildebrandt’s email account.
In April, the City Recorder sent Mr. Cromar an email making him aware that a portion of Mr. Hildebrandt’s emails had been gathered and were available, that the cost for this portion was $66.75, and asked if Mr. Cromar would like to continue with this request knowing the cost for the overall request would be significant.
On April 24, 2012, Mr. Cromar replied to the City Recorder asking that the request be put on hold; however, he went to the City Offices and reviewed what had been compiled, then left without paying for the work that had been done. After this, Mr. Cromar was notified by the City that it would no longer continue to fulfill this request unless prepayment was made, in accordance with GRAMA laws. On May 2, 2012, Mr. Cromar paid the $66.75 and received a copy of the emails that had been gathered to date. Mr. Cromar refused to pay any additional money for this request, and instead chose to file a complaint with the Utah State Records Committee.
On May 18, 2012, City representatives met with Mr. Cromar and the Utah State Records Ombudsman, Rosemary Cundiff, to discuss Mr. Cromar’s request. During this mediation the City again agreed to provide Mr. Cromar with all emails within its possession within the scope of the request once Mr. Cromar prepaid for the cost of fulfilling this request.
One concern Mr. Cromar brought up was with regards to emails that may exist on the personal accounts of the former mayor and current and former councilmembers. Because elected officials did not have access to the City network, their city email accounts were setup to automatically forward any emails received at their city account to their personal account, and these were not stored on the City server. The City agreed this was a legitimate concern and has corrected this by requiring elected officials to remotely access the network, and all incoming and outgoing emails on these accounts are stored on the City server. The City also reached out to existing and former councilmembers and requested that any City-related emails that were stored on personal accounts be sent to the City for classification and retention purposes. Each councilmember who had City-related emails on their personal accounts complied with this request and provided to the City all City-related emails in their possession.
Mr. Cromar continued with his appeal to the Utah State Records Committee. In addition to requesting these emails, Mr. Cromar claimed that he should not be required to pay for this request as he felt it was in the interest of the public for him to receive these emails. The City had previously denied this appeal to waive the cost. On June 15, 2012, the Utah State Records Committee heard from City representatives and Mr. Cromar. On June 26, 2012, the Committee made a decision stating that:
- Because the requested emails are not normally maintained in the format being requested, Cedar Hills may charge for the search and compilation to locate and make the documents available to Mr. Cromar;
- Since the estimated cost of fulfilling the request would exceed $50, Cedar Hills may require prepayment of its estimated fees;
- After paying the fees, Mr. Cromar was entitled to receive public records from Cedar Hills of all correspondence between Konrad Hildebrandt and Eric Richardson and/or to any member of the City Council, using whatever email address since March 5, 2011; and
- After providing a reasonable estimate and collection of pre-payment of estimated fees, Mr.Cromar should be allowed to view the records relevant to his request or receive paper copies.
This decision aligns with what the City had agreed to all along – that Mr. Cromar would receive copies of the emails in its possession that pertain to the GRAMA request; that Mr. Cromar was responsible to pay for the cost of this request; and that the City would not continue to fulfill the request until Mr. Cromar prepaid, as the cost would exceed $50.
Having been notified of the estimated cost, Mr. Cromar made a prepayment of $500 to the City on July 6, 2012. At that time the City immediately began to compile the remaining records. On July 11, 2012, the City notified Mr. Cromar that his request would cost an additional $200, as the request consisted of over 5,000 pages of emails. Mr. Cromar paid the additional $200 on July 23, 2012. During this time, on July 13, 2012, the City also sent Mr. Cromar a letter indicating that due to the size of his request, the City would need longer than ten days to complete the request and estimated it would take another two weeks. This is allowed under GRAMA laws.
On July 27, 2012, the City had gathered all the emails within its possession at that time and provided Mr. Cromar with a CD with these public records. However, the City soon realized that some protected documents were inadvertently provided to Mr. Cromar, and on July 30, 2012, the City contacted Mr. Cromar and asked that the CD be returned so that the protected information could be properly redacted. The City Attorney, Eric Johnson, reached out to Mr. Cromar on several occasions requesting the return of the CD and indicated that any distribution of copies should be returned or destroyed. On August 6, 2012, Mr. Cromar responded to the City Attorney stating he would first seek legal advice before returning and/or destroying any protected information. He did return the CD to the City, but stated that he had already disseminated the information.
On August 21, 2012, the City provided Mr. Cromar with thousands of pages of emails in paper copy as it was determined that was the best way to prevent protected records from inadvertently being disclosed. Mr. Cromar was upset with receiving paper copies and requested he receive electronic copies. The City Attorney has notified Mr. Cromar that once he has returned all copies of inadvertently disclosed records from the CD provided on July 27, 2012, or destroyed these records, the City will be willing to provide all additional emails in an electronic format.
Within the last ten days the City has received additional emails from former mayor Eric Richardson that fall within the scope of this request. However, the emails provided are scanned copies and illegible in part. The City has notified Mr. Richardson of the need for better copies and has also notified Mr. Cromar that additional emails have been received and will be provided as soon as clear copies are given to the City.
This issue was never about the City’s willingness to provide the emails requested. The City agreed to provide all emails in its possession within the scope of the request, and City officials agreed to provide any City-related emails that could be obtained that may be stored on personal accounts. The issue was payment for this request. Due to the size of this request the City felt it was only fair to residents to charge Mr. Cromar for the compilation of this request, which took many hours to complete. Mr. Cromar continues to dispute this and has filed yet another appeal with the Utah State Records Committee requesting a refund of fees he has paid.
It is concerning that Mr. Cromar and others continue to claim that the City has not complied with this request as they clearly know this is not true. In reference to 18 points made by Mr. Cromar and others in their most recent letter the Mayor and Council would like to state:
- Point #1 inaccurately implies that this GRAMA request was filed by a group of individuals, where in reality it was filed by Mr. Ken Cromar only.
- Point #4 falsely states that the City did not begin collecting emails until after the June 26 order. Mr. Cromar knows this is a falsehood as he personally reviewed the emails that had been collected to date in April and picked up the paid for portion of his request on May 2. The City did not continue to compile data after that, as Mr. Cromar refused to pay for his request.
- Point #5 states that all records have not been provided. Mr. Cromar is fully aware that when he was provided with a CD in July that the City had provided all emails within its possession at that time. As mentioned above, the City only received Mr. Eric Richardson’s emails within the past ten days and is now working on obtaining legible copies, which will then be provided to Mr. Cromar.
- Point #6 falsely claims that the GRAMA request specified for the records to be provided electronically. The GRAMA request filed by Mr. Cromar says no such thing.
- Point #11 states that the City has not provided a financial accounting for the $700 paid; however, Mr. Cromar has been told that this accounting will be provided after all records have been received and provided to Mr. Cromar and that if, once completed, the total amount of the request is less than $700, the City will refund Mr. Cromar the difference.
- Point #13 states the City has not complied with providing former councilmember Jim Perry’s City-related emails. The City has in fact notified Mr. Cromar that Mr. Perry had previously destroyed these emails as his personal retention policy is 90 days. Neither Mr. Perry nor the City has any ability to obtain these deleted emails.
- Point #15 claims that providing these emails at no cost will “gain public trust and confidence.” Both the City and the Utah State Records Committee have stated that Mr. Cromar must pay for the cost of fulfilling this request. It is well known that Mr. Cromar has unsuccessfully run for public office on multiple occasions. This request is purely political in nature and the City cannot expend public funds to help further Mr. Cromar’s political agenda.
- Point #16 falsely states that Mr. Cromar has been “required to appeal again” to the State Records Committee. There has been no such requirement made; Mr. Cromar willfully chooses to go this route, costing the City additional legal fees.
- Point #17 falsely implies that the City has not complied with State Records law. The City has complied with every aspect of the law from the time this request was made.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Cromar and others continue to knowingly make false statements with the intent to mislead the citizens of Cedar Hills. However, the City will continue to work diligently to fulfill this request as additional records come in. Staff and officials are committed to transparency and honest government and have demonstrated this time and time again.
The Mayor and Council encourage any resident who has a concern to contact them. Contact information may be found at www.cedarhills.org/mayor-city-council.