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Sean D. Reyes
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Open Public Meetings Laws Keep the Public’s Business Public

Whenever a meeting involves the public’s business—whether it’s a city council, the legislature or any branch of state or local government—that meeting is subject to the Open and Public Meetings Act (OPMA).

These days, there are many meetings in our state, and controversial issues are often discussed. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is one of the entities authorized to field concerns about open meetings and enforce OPMA. The job belongs to the Civil Review Committee, led by Assistant Attorney General Elliott Clark, who joins Legally Speaking to discuss how OPMA works.

OPMA in Utah Code

OPMA Brochure

Listen to the podcast here.

Operation Cyber Strike: 31 Agencies Participate in Joint ICAC Raid That Results in 15 Arrests

SALT LAKE CITY—The Utah Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force executed Operation Cyber Strike between April 22 – 25, 2024. The purpose of this operation was to locate and apprehend those who were actively using the internet to sexually exploit children. Residential search warrants were served at the homes of offenders who downloaded, viewed, and distributed child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Task force agents also conducted undercover chat investigations on various social media platforms to find offenders who sought to meet with children for sexual activity.

“I want to thank the many agents, affiliates and partners of Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force for their bravery and hard work in last week’s Operation Cyber Strike. I am convinced we have the best ICAC agents, prosecutors and affiliates in America,” said Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “As disturbing as it is to have so many predators lurking in social media and gaming apps, it is equally comforting to know how effective our ICAC team is at combating those who actively seek to exploit children. This operation is another example of how local, state, and federal agencies work to keep Utah’s children and families safe from online threats.”

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office hosted the four-day operation in Provo, which resulted in 15 arrests with over 70 task force agents who participated from 31 different federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The felony level charges these 15 offenders face include (but are not limited to) the sexual exploitation of a minor, dealing in harmful materials to a minor, enticing a minor, and human trafficking of a child. The arrests occurred in Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Summit, and Utah counties.

Participating Agencies

American Fork PD – ATF – AP&P Northern Region – AP&P Region III – Bluffdale PD – Clearfield PD
Davis Co. Atty Ofc. – Davis Co. SO – Draper PD – HSI – Layton PD – Lehi PD – North Salt Lake PD –
Ogden PD – Park City PD – Payson PD – RCFL – Roy PD – Salem PD – Sandy PD – Sevier Co. SO – South Salt Lake PD – Summit Co. SO – US Secret Service – Utah Attorney General’s Office – Utah Co. Atty Ofc. – Utah Co. SO – Weber State University PD – West Jordan PD – West Valley PD – Woods Cross PD

CART: Utah’s Child Abduction Response Team

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Last month, the Utah Attorney General’s Office hosted a Child Abduction Response Team (CART) training with over 90 CART Task Force members from around the state.

The Utah CART is a resource to all Utah law enforcement agencies. It is comprised of 162 law enforcement officers and support personnel from 25 different agencies. All Utah CART members are trained in child abduction response. The Utah CART is nationally certified by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The mission of the CART is to create a rapid response to assist law enforcement in the recovery of abducted children or a child missing under the Endangered Missing Advisory. The CART will assist other law enforcement agencies throughout the state by providing experienced investigators and support personnel trained in child abduction response.

This team will activate at the request of any Utah law enforcement agency meeting the criteria of an AMBER ALERT or an Endangered Missing Advisory (child only) with the approval of the UTAG Chief of Law Enforcement. 

If you are unsure whether to activate the Utah CART, please speak to the Utah CART coordinator. Remember when a child goes missing, every minute counts! In the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the person leading our participation in the Utah CART is Sara Lundquist, who recently joined Legally Speaking to talk more about it.

Attorney General Reyes and the team at the Utah Attorney General’s Office are extremely grateful for the dedication of the men and women who comprise this effective force. Every year, we see examples of this response team saving the lives and livelihoods of innocent children from around the state and restoring them to their families. The individuals who work on these cases are heroes, and our state is thankful for their efforts on such a worthy cause.

Listen to the Legally Speaking podcast here.

Utah Joins Coalition of States Expressing Concern About DOJ Election Overreach

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland over “concerning comments [he] made regarding our country’s elections and election security laws passed by the states.” The letter was led by the States of Indiana and West Virginia and warns the DOJ against its “intimidation and fearmongering.”

The letter highlights Garland’s claim that democracy is under attack by “discriminatory, burdensome, and unnecessary restrictions on access to the ballot,” adding that he “double[d] the number of lawyers in the civil rights division” and “launched the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force.” The attorneys general assert that these actions “amount to a weaponization of the DOJ against the states, and [that Garland’s] views about elections are … a serious threat to the principles of federalism and separation of powers.”

The states point out lines in Garland’s speech that appear to undermine the Constitution and law and order. The first is when Garland alleged that voter identification is an “unnecessary restriction on access to the ballot.” The second is his claim that states have imposed “unnecessary restrictions” related to absentee voting, including “mail-in voting” and “the use of drop boxes.” The third is his statement that the Voting Rights Act has been “drastically weakened” with an “increase in legislative measures that make it harder for millions of eligible voters to vote and to elect the representatives of their choice.” The final issue is his threat that the DOJ is “fighting back” against commonsense election security measures approved by states.

The attorneys general write, “Public confidence in our election system is at record low. By using the DOJ against the states, you continue to sow the seeds of distrust among the American electorate. The DOJ has no authority to dictate to the states in matters that concern their sovereign right to ensure safe, secure, and free elections.”

The State of Utah has been a national leader in election integrity standards, giving our voters more assurances about the security and integrity of their ballots for all contests. Under the watchful purview of the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the state has taken many actions to safeguard voter registration, voter equipment, ballot processing, and voter responsibility. General Reyes and the team at the Utah Attorney General’s Office are committed to working alongside the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the State Legislature to defend our commonsense election integrity measures in state and federal court, whenever necessary.

Joining Utah, Indiana, and West Virginia were the States of Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Texas.

Read the letter here.

AGO Participates in 2024 Law Day Run Supporting Utah Legal Services Aid

This past week, a team from the Utah Attorney General’s Office participated in the 2024 And Justice For All Law Day Run, which was sponsored by the American Bar Association. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in this annual event, which according to its purpose, “raises funds that will be used to provide free and low cost civil legal aid services to help vulnerable people protect their rights, access essential services, and live with dignity.”

The Utah Attorney General’s Office appreciates all the sponsors of this event, including America First Credit Union, doTERRA, RCWilley, Sage Forensic Accounting, Real Property Section, Rocky Mountain Advisory, Select Health, WCF Insurance, EideBailly, The University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, Utah State Bar Bankruptcy Section, Utah State Bar, Trader Joe’s, Elizabeth’s Catering, and Costco Wholesale. We are also thankful for the members of the Law Day Run Committee – especially the Co-Chairs, Kim Blackburn and Kevin Glade from Ray Quinney & Nebeker – who spent countless hours planning and executing this run, ensuring that a great time was had by all involved and that many funds were raised for its designated purpose.

The funds raised by this event will be put to very good use, allowing Utahns to have the opportunity to access legal aid services to help with various stages and crises they may encounter in their lives.

It’s so important that public servants take time out of their lives to serve our community. Here at the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and the men and women on our exceptional team lead by example every day. We don’t just talk about service; we embody service in action. Our office can’t wait for the next Law Day Run in 2025!

Utah Joins Lawsuit Against EEOC’s Illegal Abortion Mandate

SALT LAKE CITY – On Thursday, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a 17-State coalition, led by Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin, in suing the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over its new rule mandating workplace abortion accommodations through an illegal interpretation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2022 (PWFA).

The PWFA fills a gap in federal law by ensuring pregnant women in the workplace receive accommodation to protect their pregnancies and unborn children. A diverse coalition of lawmakers, business groups, and nonprofit organizations supported that pro-family aim and secured broad bipartisan support.

Yet in a new rule, unelected commissioners at the EEOC seek to hijack these new protections for pregnancies by requiring employers to accommodate women’s elective abortions—something Congress clearly did not authorize. Further, the EEOC’s rule contradicts States’ duly enacted abortion prohibitions and undermines their commitment to protecting prenatal life at all stages of development.

If the EEOC’s rule stands, the State of Utah, the co-plaintiff States, and countless others must allocate resources to support women’s workers’ elective abortions or face federal suit—even if illegal under state law. Seventeen states now bring this complaint to enjoin and set aside the EEOC’s unprecedented and unlawful abortion accommodation mandate.

The following states joined Utah, Tennessee, and Arkansas in this lawsuit: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

The lawsuit can be read here.

AG Reyes Announces an Extension Agreement for 90s-era Tobacco Settlement, Securing Utah Over $55 Million

SALT LAKE CITY – The State of Utah continues to benefit from Utah’s enforcement of the 1990s-era tobacco settlement. The Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), orchestrated in 1998 by former Utah Attorney General Jan Graham, has resulted in over $800 million in payments to the State of Utah. Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced a settlement extension agreement, securing Utah’s 2023 and 2024 payments of $30 million and $27 million, respectively.

The MSA states that each covered state receives yearly settlement payments, which are at risk if a state fails to “diligently enforce” tobacco statutes. Attorney General Reyes settled diligent enforcement disputes on behalf of Utah in 2018 for the years 2004-2022 and the most recent agreement extends the settlement through 2024.

“Nearly three decades ago, the late Attorney General Jan Graham helped lead a landmark settlement (MSA) with big tobacco companies requiring them to pay damages to each state so long as the states complied with certain enforcement conditions. Thanks to diligent work by lawyers in the AG Office and other state agencies, we have been able to hold tobacco companies to their MSA obligations even when they have made claims of Utah not enforcing tobacco statutes,” said General Reyes. “It has taken a lot of work, negotiation, careful planning, and strategic decision-making to keep settlement dollars coming in every year to Utah now and into the future. We will continue to do what is necessary to protect Utahns and safeguard our children from the dangers of tobacco use in all forms.”

The 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement required the tobacco companies to make annual payments to the 46 states involved in the settlement, including Utah. The MSA settled state litigation for health care costs and other damages caused by cigarette smoking, according to the National Association of Attorneys General. The payment provisions partly compensate the states for the billions of dollars associated with treating tobacco-related diseases under state Medicaid programs.

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to ensuring that tobacco companies meet their obligations to Utah under the MSA without delay or uncertainty. This agreement again provides certainty for prompt and reliable payments into the State Endowment Fund and in support of vital health-related programs, including cancer research, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and alcohol, tobacco, and drug prevention.

Medicaid Fraud Control Unit: Preventing Medicaid Fraud and Abuse

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has an office dedicated to protecting the integrity of the Medicaid program. Working with federal agents, we take on fraud, waste, or abuse of the system. It’s called the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit—or MFCU.

Every state has a MFCU, but Utah received the 2023 Inspector General’s Award for Excellence, which is a huge feather in the cap of everyone who works in the office and to our guest, Kaye Lynn Wooten, its director. Listen to Kaye Lynn answer questions about how the MFCU does its job on behalf of victims and taxpayers.

To report fraud and/or abuse, visit the MFCU page on the Utah Attorney General’s Website. 

Read more about a recent case where a man was convicted of a 2nd-degree felony and sent to prison for financial abuse of a vulnerable adult—his mother.

Listen to the podcast here.

Aaron Shamo: Drug Kingpin Brought to Justice

This Legally Speaking episode examines one of the largest dark net drug trafficking cases in Utah.

In 2019, Aaron Shamo was sentenced to life in prison under the Controlled Substance Act for running a massive Fentanyl and Xanax manufacturing and distribution scheme.

A case of this magnitude is fascinating. In this interview, Assistant Attorney General Michael Gadd, who worked with the Department of Justice, shares more details about this case.

Listen to the podcast here.

Explore these resources to learn more:

AG’s Office Responds to BLM Rule

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) is deeply concerned about the recent Public Lands Rule issued by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), which could have a devastating effect on the health of Utah’s public lands. 

Assistant Attorney General Kathy Davis, section director of the Public Lands Section, cautioned, “Utah is America’s leader in proactive conservation, where state and local governments work cooperatively with local BLM employees to improve and restore landscapes while mitigating the risk of catastrophic wildfires. The Biden Administration’s new Rule seems specifically designed to hinder those efforts.”

The new Rule also drew criticism and concern from the highest levels of leadership at the Utah AGO: “The BLM’s efforts should be focused on working with Western States to help make our public lands more productive and resilient,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “It is disheartening to see the BLM adopt unnecessary layers of bureaucratic red tape that will make landscape improvements much more difficult to implement. The BLM is obliged by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”) to manage Utah’s public lands under the principles of “multiple-use,” a concept absent from the new rule. We will explore all options to challenge these short-sighted policies.”

The Utah AGO will continue defending Utah’s rights and ensuring Utahns can access and enjoy their public lands.