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Thread: Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

  1. #1
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    Default Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

    ‘Drag This Out as Long as Possible’: Former Official Faces Rare Criminal Charges Under Open-Records Law

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/08/u...sultPosition=1


    ATLANTA — When he was mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed’s relationship with the news media was notoriously contentious.

    He was the kind of politician who punched back when he felt punched. He was well known for blocking reporters on Twitter, and his office regularly criticized journalists by name and issued news releases that vigorously pushed back against negative coverage.

    Once, at a February 2017 news conference, Mr. Reed responded to reporters’ requests for records by simultaneously releasing more than 1.4 million pages of documents on paper, stuffed into more than 400 boxes, some of them filled with blank sheets and minuscule spreadsheet printouts — a gesture interpreted by many in the local press corps as a dramatic act of nose-thumbing.

    Mr. Reed left office in January 2018 after two terms, but his tenure, and a federal corruption investigation focused on his administration, still linger over city hall like a hangover. Last week, his administration’s relationship with the media was on full display in a downtown Atlanta courtroom, where his former press secretary, Jenna Garland, was facing criminal charges for alleged failure to comply with Georgia’s open records law.


    It is a rare predicament for an American government official, and the allegations will do little to allay investigative reporters’ worst suspicions about the spirit with which bureaucrats receive their nagging, but legal, records requests.

    One of the charges against Ms. Garland accuses her of attempting to frustrate a reporter’s 2017 request for billing documents from the city water department by telling a subordinate, in text messages, to “drag this out as long as possible” and “provide information in the most confusing format available.”

    The two charges she faces are misdemeanors, carrying at most a total fine of $3,500. But they are milestones, representing the first time in Georgia history that any public official has been criminally charged under the state’s open records law. Nationwide, experts say, criminal actions against public officials for open records violations are extremely uncommon....


    David G
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    Default Re: Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

    He was well known for blocking reporters on Twitter . . .
    What does that mean? The article in the link doesn't explain.
    Trust me to defend the Constitution just as soon as I'm sure you're going to vote for me again.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

    Atlanta government has been corrupt for years. Won’t change.
    Fight Entropy, build a wooden boat!

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    Default Re: Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    What does that mean? The article in the link doesn't explain.
    seems pretty straight forward. He blocked reporters from seeing his twitter feeds
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    Default Re: Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    What does that mean? The article in the link doesn't explain.
    Any twitter user can "block" any other user. Very much like WBF ignore-list, except it works both ways. The two parties won't see each others (unless commented or re-tweeted by someone else in their feed), and the blockee cannot send direct-messages to the blocker.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

    While not in any way condoning the bureaucratic vindictiveness described in the OP, might I perhaps offer some context ... as at one point I was very involved in responding to a number of such requests here in NB, and later, in trying to improve the internal systems through which that all occurs...

    Right to Information legislation is grounded on the notion that the government is something citizens pay for, and which exists to provide services to and be accountable to them. Well and good - I'm all for that. But however it might have begun, Joe Schmoe citizen nowadays is rarely the person submitting those requests.

    Here in NB, the Department of Health receives something like 70% of all right to information (RTI) requests submitted to the entire government. You'd think that most of those would be Joe or Jane Schmoe asking information about their treatment, their physician or the hospital where they received care, approval decisions for providing this or that treatment or drug or etc. Or something like that for a family member.

    And you'd be wrong.

    Requests like those constitute maybe 15% of the volume we see. 85% of it has turned into letters from two specific professions looking to use tax-funded civil servants to be research assistants.

    Lawyers trying to find out information before they/their clients decide whether to take legal action on something. And which, since an RTI doesn't mean that a legal action has begun, it skirt the edges of "discovery."

    Reporters, submitting RTI requests not because they've any specific items they want to follow up for a story, but requests written as the equivalent of ocean drift-nets, intended to retrieve tens of thousands of pages on the chance that there might be a lead in there somewhere which could someday become a story.

    Under our legislation, there is no user-fee for this. But the cost to taxpayers ... well, imagine what you think a program-professional bureaucrat's salary might be. Now imagine that perhaps 20 such program professionals spend 30 minutes to 2 hours accessing old paper files, emails, texts, electronic documents etc., and forwarding copies to the RTI Director. Imagine that director collating that stack of stuff to remove duplicates, set it in chronological order, and follow up with folks copied into the email tracks who didn't forward anything.

    Then doing the same, when those folks' information arrives. Imagine then the RTI Director and his/her staff reading through all of those documents to redact what must be redacted under the legislation - for instance, to protect the privacy of any private citizens. To ensure that any personal health information is protected, or that if it is released this occurs only with the express permission of the individuals themselves.

    And then recommendations for the release package are drafted for Senior Management's signoff, highlighting any issues because material was redacted ... or because it wasn't. Did I mention that this was free to the requester? Free not just to Joe and Jane Schmoe individual citizens, but to well-resourced companies and organizations and professional firms, who intentionally write requests to drag the broadest net ...?

    As a taxpayer, how much of a subsidy do you want to give those corporate requesters? How much civil servants time and expertise do you want allocated to this task, instead of doing whatever their Departments were actually created to do?
    Last edited by TomF; 07-08-2019 at 01:04 PM.
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    Default Re: Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

    When I was a low-income advocate preparing for a Department of Public Utilities hearing it seemed that FOI requests simply got lost in the fog. I got in the habit of giving a day to bussing to Boston and living in the DPU library. The cost of copying was so punitive that I blew off a lot of time taking notes.

    When I went to work there, I was directed to make things hard for advocates to get precedents, but the companies had attorneys with free run of the place. Didn't seem fair, so I just quietly copied whatever an advocate or pro se consumer needed and mailing it from home.

    Now all's computerized. I understand there are safeguards to protect the records from hacking, but at least access is available now.

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    Default Re: Atlanta: official charged, violating 'open records' laws

    So a guy can block me from seeing his tweets on his account, but I still get them, forwarded by others, unless he blocks them too? He'd have to block the whole world. What's the point?
    Trust me to defend the Constitution just as soon as I'm sure you're going to vote for me again.

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