By Jack Brewer and Erica Lukes
The Utah Office of the Attorney General withheld seven pages of records responsive to a public information request that sought emails exchanged between AG Sean Reyes and Brandon Fugal, who is a cast member of the cable television show The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch and the reported owner of the ranch. The response contended that releasing the records would jeopardize the life or safety of an individual. The AG Office issued the response in an email Monday that stemmed from a December request submitted by Expanding Frontiers Research (EFR) under the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).
“After a reasonable search,” the Attorney General's Office wrote, “we have identified 7 pages of records responsive to your request. However, these records have been classified as protected under Utah Code § 63G-2-305(11) because their release would jeopardize the life or safety of an individual. Due to their protected classification, the records cannot be released to you.”
The request for the responsive records was subsequently denied and they were withheld in their entirety. The GRAMA response is available below:
Substantial controversy surrounds AG Reyes and his relationship with Tim Ballard, embroiled founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, a purported anti-human trafficking group. Criminal investigations, civil lawsuits and sexual assault complaints followed the spinning of bizarre stories about conducting international undercover operations. Sean Reyes, who was also prone to suggesting the FBI abused its power in retrieving Top Secret documents from former President Donald Trump and fanned the flames of the stolen election "Big Lie" fire, has since withdrawn his candidacy for re-election. He is the third consecutive Utah Attorney General who will leave office amid criminal investigations and tarnished by scandal.
In 2015, the Attorney General's Office was found to lack organization and be ineffective in filling records requests, among other managerial problems. Reyes vowed to improve the situation, but a 2023 ruling issued by Judge Randall Scanchy said he had "no expectation that a 'reasonable search' could even be conducted" for public records within the office.
Other questionable activities undertaken by Reyes include lending his name and the prestige of his office to dubious Skinwalker Ranch tales. Reyes appeared multiple times on the related cable television show, as well as at the FanX Salt Lake event with Brandon Fugal in 2022, as depicted below.
The Attorney General's Office emphasized in the past that Reyes's activities with Fugal were outside the Attorney General's official duties. EFR reached out and inquired if the Office might have any revisions to its previous stance, given the recently issued GRAMA response. The Attorney General's Office did not immediately respond to the request for comment.
Brandon Fugal was emailed and offered an opportunity to comment on the circumstances for potential inclusion in this article. He did not immediately respond.
Expanding Frontiers Research will appeal the denial of the request for the responsive records.