AG: Bennett flooding office with records requests



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Attorney General's office says justice may not be served anytime soon, so long as a political campaign keeps state workers hopping with public records requests.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff claims Sen. Bob Bennett is flooding his office with paperwork, ultimately keeping his more than 430 employees from doing the state's business.

While the requests don't have Bennett's name on them, they're coming from a research group out of Virginia hired by his campaign. Bennett's son and campaign spokesman, Jim Bennett, says the campaign just wants to completely research Shurtleff's record as attorney general.

Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Shurtleff, says regardless of the reason, the hundreds of AG staffers have had to drop everything to do what he calls political research.

"The attorney general wrote the book on open records," says Murphy, "so we believe in open records. But at some point, you have to decide whether or not this is the best use of taxpayers' money."

Still, neither Murphy nor anyone else in Shurtleff's office has the right not to comply with the requests Utah's open records laws.

Murphy says it's taken hours, days and maybe even weeks away from prosecuting cases and other legal work.

"We have one request that took just one person a day and a half, and so far she's collected eight boxes of documents, and that's just, she believes she's about halfway done."

Murphy says he plans to spend all of next week on the requests himself.

He says he's worried about what it will mean in the future, when journalists or private citizens request documents.

He says, "You have a right to these documents, but sometimes rights and freedoms come with a cost. This is coming with a heavy cost to taxpayers."

To date, Shurtleff's office has not charged journalists for requests under Utah's open records laws. Murphy says that may have to change as the result of the requests from Bennett's campaign research group.

E-mail: bbruce@ksl.com

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Becky Bruce

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