SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Democrats have filed a lawsuit seeking records from last year's redistricting process and to have $5,000 in fees returned.
Democrats accuse Republicans who control the Legislature of conspiring behind closed doors to redraw state and congressional districts. In a statement Wednesday, Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said Democrats, the media and the public "are being locked out of our government."
"There is a dangerous precedent being set," Dabakis said. "Public documents are being kept in secret, gathering dust behind closed doors. This lawsuit seeks a judge's order to do what the Republican legislature has consistently failed to do — running the public's business in the public's view."
Senate President Michael Waddoups said the lawsuit is more a political publicity stunt than a legitimate probe of the redistricting process.
"There's nothing sinister going on here," Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, told The Salt Lake Tribune for a story Thursday. "They just want to make a campaign issue out of it is all this is."
Last October, Democrats filed an open-records request seeking all email and correspondence between lawmakers, the Republican Party and others regarding the process of redrawing Utah's congressional and legislative district boundaries, which occurs every decade. They were told the extensive research and record retrieval would cost about $5,000.
The minority party sought a fee waiver, but was denied and paid it. Legislative officials say it took 55 employees a combined 506 hours to compile the records.
Democratic party officials were given 5,000 pages of records in May and were told another 11,000 pages were available upon payment of an additional $9,250. The Republican Party offered to pay the balance, but Democrats said no one should have to pay for the documents.