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Thomas Winterton Responds, Threatens EFR with 'Legal Action'

Thomas Winterton

Thomas Winterton told EFR he objected to the release of Uintah County 2023 PhenomeCon contracts because he does not like the details of his financial agreements made public. He also suggested in an email received Saturday it was EFR "tasked with doing the research" to prove or refute his revenue-related claims surrounding the event before closing the message by threatening EFR with "legal action."

"I am very upset at your targeted untrue claims and if you make one more untrue claim about me, I will take legal action," Winterton wrote in response to a request for comment emailed Tuesday. "I contacted my attorney yesterday and had a consultation over the phone with him about you and Ms. Lukes. I will not tolerate anyone to repeatedly impugn my name or make false claims damaging my reputation without taking legal action."

It is not entirely clear exactly what Winterton deems "untrue" and "false" about EFR reporting on PhenomeCon. He has expressed ambiguous objections and insinuations via a variety of online mediums about material obtained by EFR through the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).

Proponents of PhenomeCon, which promotes doubtful paranormal claims, argue ticket sales offset the expenses covered by Uintah County public funds, and that attendees spend dollars in the area. Critics counter that the revenue raised is primarily shared among select event organizers and speakers, leading to multiple conflicts of interest.

The Tuesday EFR email sought comment from Winterton about why he objects to EFR obtaining PhenomeCon contracts, known as "Talent Agreements," from Uintah County. The County budgeted $215k for the event in 2023. He was also offered an opportunity to provide documentation to support his claims the conference creates over $600k in local revenue during the week it takes place.

"Just like ANYONE," Winterton wrote, emphasis his, "I do not like the details of my financial agreements made public. Surely you could understand this."

He added, "Making the details public could easily lead to hard feelings with other events moving forward."

EFR reported throughout what has now become a two-year process of investigating the Uintah County public PhenomeCon records that it often seemed the involved parties did not understand the GRAMA, the transparency responsibilities of managing public funds, and the fundamentals of public records legislation. That assessment results from interactions with government officials, PhenomeCon organizers, and those entering into agreements with them. It could be well argued that Mr. Winterton's above statements support that assessment. To wit, a cornerstone aspect of the GRAMA, the Freedom of Information Act, and any open records legislation is the public has a right to know how its business is conducted.

As EFR successfully argued in its case versus Uintah County at the State Records Committee, resulting in release of the contracts at issue, the GRAMA is an impersonal process. The only relevant factor when requests are submitted is whether or not the responsive records are subject to disclosure.

In an arguably rambling paragraph about PhenomeCon finances, Winterton wrote in part, "How do you know that the sales numbers would not have reflected a $600K drop had Phenomecon not taken place? The truth is Mr. Brewer, is that neither you nor anyone else can honestly make that claim, because the overall numbers do not even begin to tell the story. I can go much more in depth on this but you are the one tasked with doing the research, so I will just say that if you make the claim that the sales tax numbers do not support the $600K, then be prepared for me to do another YouTube video sharing the facts and making your claim look like complete lies."

In closing, Winterton wrote, "Your last report was grossly misrepresenting. I have yet to see any public retraction or apology to the Skinwalker Ranch team. IF you do another report that refers to me in any form, and you misrepresent or lie in it at all, thereby attaching my name to some type of unethical or illegal behavior, You [sic] better make sure you have your facts straight and well sourced because at this point, I am very upset at your targeted untrue claims and if you make one more untrue claim about me, I will take legal action."

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