Mike Terry, Deseret News
Peter Corroon

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon reiterated his commitment to open and accountable government Tuesday, pledging to abide by the current requirements of the state Government Records Access and Management Act regardless of how state lawmakers handle the issue.

"I believe in open, honest, efficient government and have conducted my office accordingly," Corroon said. "HB477 takes several steps backward from the progress we have made in Utah toward a more accountable government."

HB477, passed recently by the Utah Legislature, restricts access to many government records. If allowed to become law, it would exempt the Legislature and several forms of electronic communication from GRAMA, allow for increased fees for records requests and eliminate language favoring openness. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has called state lawmakers into special session Friday to repeal the bill.

"If state law is ultimately changed to provide less access to records than what the county currently provides, we pledge to continue to provide the same easy, open access to our records that we have in the past," Corroon said.

Corroon said he could, through executive order, affirm the county's policy on open government. He would prefer a resolution from the Salt Lake County Council and his office to support the current policy.

"Restricting access costs (residents) more in the long run," Corroon said. "When you do things behind closed doors, people make decisions that are not always in the best interest of the public."

Corroon said Salt Lake County residents "can feel secure that their county government will always put transparency first."

"Transparency is essential to maintain public credibility," he said. "As the late (Supreme Court) Justice Louis Brandeis said, 'Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant.'"

Salt Lake County's website recently received the Sunshine Review Transparency Checklist's highest grade among all Utah counties, which was an A+. The Sunny Awards recognize the best state and local government websites in the nation. Other Utah winners included Salt Lake City, Draper, Park City, Provo and Riverton. 

Marjorie Cortez