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Court hears argument on appeal in Right to Know case

Published May 17. 2011 05:00PM

A Carbon County judge heard legal argument Monday on an appeal filed in a Right to Know case involving the county commissioners and a county resident.

Judge Steven R. Serfass heard argument on the appeal filed by Robert Dages, owner of Vision Stone Stoves, of the state Office of Open Records rejection of his request for records concerning the Packerton Business Park project.

Dages had filed a request under the state Right to Know act for specific information concerning the project. Dages, a member of the Carbon County Constitutionalists, asked the county in mid-2010 for information related to the development of the yards. He asked for the "constitutionality of the development".

His request for the information was denied by the commissioners who based the rejection on case law which states the informatoin is protected by attorney/client privileges.

Dages then appealed to the Office of Open Records. On Jan. 14 the state office denied his appeal and sided with the county commissioners stating the attorney/client privilege is not covered under the Right to Know act.

Dages, who has been representing himself in the filing of all matters to date in the case, had the opportunity to argue his case before Serfass and present what legal evidence he had to support his appeal in which he claims the Office of Open Records erred in denying his appeal.

Dages told Serfass that he had a right of the information he sought under the U.S. and state constitutions and the Bill of Rights. Serfass interrupted Dages during his argument telling him the hearing had a narrow meaning, only for the purpose of deciding if the state office erred in denying his appeal.

Dages said the Office of Open Records's decision was against the spirit of the Right to Know act which entitles the public to inquire into all matters of government action.

Atty. Robert L. Knupp, special counsel representing the commissioners, argued that the attorney/client privilege is not only recognized by all courts but is rooted in "common law", that even precedes the constitution.

He said case law is clear that attorney/client privilege is not part of the Right to Know act and can't be disregarded.

Knupp suggested that Dages argument based on constitutionality might be better served if he challenged the constitutionality of the Right to Know act.

Serfass took the matter under advisement and told the parties he would issue an opinion at a later date.

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