Public officials who violate the state’s Open Meetings Act and who withhold public records are going to have pay — and pay dearly — because of action by the Georgia General Assembly.
While lawmakers in many states have failed to enact real penalties for violations of the “Sunshine Law,” the Georgia Press Association (GPA) reported this year that lawmakers approved stiff penalties during the most recent legislative session of the General Assembly.
According to GPA’s Sean Ireland, “Willful violations of the ORA (Open Records Act) now will result in a $1,000 fine for a first violation and a $2,500 fine for a second violation within 12 months. Violations of the OMA (Open Meetings Act) increase from $500 to $1,000 for the first offense and $2,500 for a second offense within 12 months.”
A law without penalty has little teeth and is difficult to enforce. Perhaps Georgia lawmakers are beginning to realize that laws worth having are worth enforcing. The Georgia Press Association has served not only its members but the citizens of the state by advocating for laws with meaning. This victory in Georgia was not a victory for the “media,” it was win for all the citizens of our state.