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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Department of Transportation says it won't release at least a dozen text messages and other communications between a key I-15 contractor and a UDOT employee. Open-records advocates question that move, made after major controversy erupted about the awarding of the I-15 CORE contract.
Questions abound regarding the awarding of the state's biggest-ever road contract, sparked by surprises about campaign contributions to the governor's campaign by the winning bid team, a $13 million settlement and an improper relationship between an I-15 contractor and a senior female UDOT staffer.
A key figure at the heart of it all: road builder Guy Wadsworth.
In response to a government records request from KSL-TV and Deseret News, UDOT released 31 pages of email communications between Wadsworth and UDOT employees -- but it's withholding at least a dozen text messages and e-mails.
UDOT spokesman Nile Easton said, "What we have not released is anything personal, anything that was a personal e-mail between those two people because, based on advice from the attorney general's office, we feel those are not a public record."
"Particularly the dollars at stake, the significance of the project, all the different revelations that have come out, I think you can make a compelling case for erring on the side of public disclosure," he said.
Of the documents released, much of it is routine. But some of it involves a trip to China taken by Guy Wadsworth and several employees of UDOT just before UDOT awarded Wadsworth's team with the I-15 contract.
Late last year, Wadsworth joined five UDOT staffers on a trip to look at accelerated bridge construction. UDOT says the trip had nothing to do with the I-15 bid.
One text UDOT did release confirms that Wadsworth was apparently in the loop on UDOT's deliberations before the official decision was made public.
The message was from Wadsworth to one of the staffers on the trip: the bridge specialist, who UDOT confirmed was the employee involved in an improper relationship with Wadsworth.
"Flatiron got CORE, we were 3rd," the Dec. 2, 2009, message read.
A week later, it was officially announced that Wadsworth's team PRC -- not Flatiron -- won the bid.
Open records advocates say other communications could help provide more context about that exchange. News outlets can and likely will appeal UDOT's decision to withhold some records.
Guy Wadsworth declined KSL's request for an interview Tuesday.