Utah County released the names of two local businesses that became COVID-19 hotspots eight weeks ago.
The businesses Built Brands LLC, located in American Fork, and Wasatch Truss, located in Spanish Fork, allegedly disregarded COVID-19 safety regulations, resulting in 68 cases of the virus.
A 4th District Court judge ruled June 29 that Utah County would be required to release the names of the businesses after KSL-TV filed a lawsuit against the county for refusing to release the names following a public records request.
Utah County argued revealing the businesses’ identities could violate the employees’ right to privacy, but KSL-TV said by redacting individuals’ private information, the county could protect the individuals while still keeping county residents informed.
The case gained national attention after the county made allegations that the businesses had violated COVID-19 safety regulations by forcing employees to work, even after receiving positive diagnoses. Utah County Attorney David Leavitt later recanted some of those claims, KSL reported.
Other news organizations supported KSL-TV’s legal effort. School of Communications Director and attorney Edward Carter represented Deseret News, The Salt Lake Tribune, the Logan Herald Journal, FOX 13, the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Utah Press Association. Carter filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of those organizations.
“Having opened the door and generated the public interest, the county cannot now avoid the reality of the situation it created,” he wrote in the brief. “That reality involves intense public interest in knowing the identity of the businesses that the county singled out.”
Carter told the Universe he felt the support of the other six news organizations was a factor in the judge’s ruling.
“I think the fact that the news organizations that I represented got involved made a difference,” he said. “It emphasized for the judge the public interest here and the importance of it.”
Utah County released the businesses’ names to KSL by court filing July 1, meeting the 48-hour deadline ordered by the judge.