Fayette Commission subverts open records law

After being in government for 20-years, nothing surprises me anymore. However, it was deeply depressing to watch my colleagues squirm in our March 22 Board of Commissioners meeting as they acted to prohibit elected officials and staff from transmitting records subject to the Georgia Open Records Act in official government communication channels such as BOC agenda items, county government website, etc., out of public view.

Of course, our April 12 Board of Commissioners meeting has an agenda item regarding the cover-up of an accident involving the county administrator and a county government vehicle.

I have requested that items from the county administrator’s personnel file be included in my April 12 agenda item. I am certain that they will attempt to block the request even though the records fall clearly within the bounds of the Georgia Open Records Act.

My statement regarding last night’s vote is below.

It is of the utmost importance that every jurisdiction in the state of Georgia, including Fayette County, strictly adhere to state open meetings and open records laws known as the “sunshine laws.”

The true value of our government is determined by our ability to represent the best interests of our citizens and being honest brokers of the law.

There is no doubt what the state’s sunshine laws mandate. We have received legal confirmation from our county attorney and the Georgia First Amendment Foundation regarding access to government records.

Any attempt to subvert or limit the public viewing of government records in the public forum should be harshly rebuked. Additionally, the government should never price-gouge on the costs of access to open records or create other obstacles to hinder access.

To quote reporter Gary Pruitt, “It’s getting harder and more expensive to use public records to hold government officials accountable. Authorities are undermining the laws that are supposed to guarantee citizens’ right to information, turning the right to know into just plain ‘no.’”

The state law was created to give citizens information about their government and any attempt at keeping publicly accessible records out of the public forum in any way should be construed as glaring sign that new political leadership is required.

What Vice Chairman Ognio is espousing on limiting exposure to open records in very public government channels is nothing less than government tyranny.

Steve Brown, Commissioner
Fayette County Board of Commissioners
Peachtree City, Ga.