Thomas is wrong on GRAMA
Summit County Deputy Tttorney Dave Thomas is in a difficult position and it’s only going to get more difficult as the next session of the Utah Legislature approaches. The source of conflict appears to be Thomas’ dual role as an attorney for Summit County and as a Senator for Davis and Weber counties.
The compatibility of the two jobs and how to pay Thomas during the 45 days that he will be at the state capitol representing his ‘other’ constituents has been discussed at length. The upshot was that he will be paid the difference between what he usually earns per pay period, and the compensation senators receive during the session.
That sounds fair considering that Thomas will probably continue to follow up on Summit County business during that time and also because he can keep an eye on legislative issues of concern to Summit County residents while representing his own district. However, compensation should not be the commissioners’ only concern. Thomas’ split personality as a politician and as their attorney should raise a red flag.
An attorney for a government body has a unique role. While other staffers are primarily charged with carrying out the elected officials’ policies, it is the attorney’s job to rein in those politicians when their policies overstep the law.
Of particular concern is Thomas’ recent participation on the task force to amend the Government Records Access and Management Act, a law originally adopted by the Utah Legislature in 1992 to guarantee access to public records. That committee recently drafted a set of bills that, if passed by the Legislature during the next session, would restrict access to some forms of electronic communication.
Predictably, Thomas’ support of the new restrictions has already drawn criticism from attorney’s litigating against the county. They say Thomas’ motives are to protect his personal correspondences, rather than to protect the public good.
Granted, this newspaper is heavily biased in favor of making government records as easily accessible as possible. Protecting public access to information in order to make officials accountable is our mantra. We are, therefore, opposed to Thomas’ position on GRAMA and increasingly concerned about his role as a counselor to the commission.
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