SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court is not the place to debate the question over who has the right to challenge release of the investigation into Kerry Gibson, the former Weber County commissioner — at least not right now.
In a Supreme Court filing on Wednesday, Gibson argues that a lower court decision in the legal battle over public release of the Ogden Police Department probe he faced was the correct one.
Beyond that, if journalist Cathy McKitrick wants to fight the Aug. 13 decision in question — that Gibson has a right to sue to block release of the investigation — the time to do so would be after the 2nd District Court makes a final determination.
McKitrick, who argues that Gibson does not have legal authority to challenge release of the police investigation, filed a request with the Supreme Court on Sept. 30, asking it to review the Aug. 13 decision by District Court Judge Noel Hyde. Now the high court must review McKitrick’s request and Gibson’s response to decide if it takes up the matter.
McKitrick exaggerates the potential impact of the Aug. 13 decision and, furthermore, the district court case is “nearly over,” Gibson argues. All along, he has emphasized that the police investigation, related to his functions as a county commissioner, resulted in no charges of wrongdoing.
“It would therefore be more efficient and economical to allow the district court to resolve this case before any appeals are potentially taken, which would eliminate the possibility of multiple appeals and piecemeal litigation,” reads Gibson’s filing from Wednesday, prepared by his attorney Matthew Strout.
At issue is whether Gibson, now commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, has a legal right to appeal the Sept. 6, 2018, Ogden Records Review Board decision partially granting McKitrick’s public records request for access to the investigation. The Standard-Examiner also seeks a copy of the investigation, completed last year.
Gibson filed suit in 2nd District Court in Ogden against the Ogden Records Review Board and the city of Ogden after the decision to release a redacted version of the police probe, aiming to block the move. The allegations that led to the probe are “false and unsubstantiated,” he says, and publicly releasing the document would be an unwarranted invasion of his privacy.
McKitrick, a freelance journalist who sometimes contributes articles for the Standard-Examiner, got involved as an intervenor and filed a motion to dismiss Gibson’s case, arguing he doesn’t have legal standing to sue.
The state’s public records law, the Government Records Access and Management Act, states that only those seeking public records or political subdivisions, like cities, may sue over access to public records, she’s argued through attorney Jeremy Brodis.
Ogden police launched the investigation into Gibson in late 2017 at the request of Weber County officials. The probe focused on allegations that Gibson misused county equipment, among other things. Gibson has denied any wrongdoing and charged that political foes were behind the investigation.