Utah SPJ Awards Attorney General Sean Reyes With "Black Hole" Award
The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has given Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes its annual Black Hole Award.
The Black Hole Award is intended to go to a person or organization that shows a particular resistance to transparency and public information laws. McKenzie Romero is the president of the Utah Headliners Chapter of the SPJ. She says they chose Attorney General Sean Reyes because there are many examples of the Utah AG’s office trying to prevent records from becoming public. Romero cites a specific incident where the office even wanted to make the public meeting used to mediate records disputes private.
“There’s some great irony in that, in coming before the State Records Committee to argue about whether records should be open and wanting to do it under seal,” she says.
Romero says the board of the Utah Headliners understands that some records need to be kept private and that it often takes time to fulfill a request, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have lots of room for improvement.
“And our hope would be that Attorney General Sean Reyes can see the concerns we have," she says. "And after receiving this Black Hole Award can make some efforts to improve these processes, to be more transparent and to make records accessible and maybe be a candidate for the better award, the Sunshine Award, here in the future.”
The Attorney General’s office declined an interview request, but in a statement sent to KUER, a spokesman for Sean Reyes wrote that releasing sensitive information about criminal investigations could be harmful to victims and create a chilling effect on witnesses and informants. But he also added, “As always, the Attorney General welcomes feedback and advice on how the Utah Attorney General’s Office can better serve Utah citizens in its constitutional role.”