Attorney General Chris Carr has announced that two citations have been filed in Fulton County State Court following an investigation into violations of the Georgia Open Records Act committed by former City of Atlanta employee, Jenna Garland.
“Openness and transparency in government are vital to upholding the public trust. I am confident that this action sends a clear message that the Georgia Open Records Act will be enforced,” said Attorney General Carr. “I commend the Georgia Department of Law’s Prosecution Division and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their work on this first of its kind prosecution.”
The citations filed relate to two violations of the Open Records Act. The first citation states that the Department of Watershed Management received an open records request for billing, payment and usage records from WSB-TV for a specific address on March 7, 2017. The citation alleges that Garland instructed the Director of Communications for the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management to “[d]rag this out as long as possible [a]nd provide information in the most confusing format available.”
The second citation states that the Department of Watershed Management received another open records request from WSB-TV on March 21, 2017 for certain billing records. The citation alleges that several days later on April 21, 2017, Garland instructed the Director of Communications for the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management to “[h]old all” documents responsive to the request until the requestor asked for an update.
This case first came to the attention of the Office of the Attorney General following a news story, which aired on WSB-TV on March 8, 2018. The story alleged open records violations by then-mayoral press secretary Jenna Garland and potentially others. The Office of the Attorney General requested that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation open an investigation into the matter on March 12, 2018, and these citations are the product of that investigation.
Georgia’s Open Records Act provides that it is a misdemeanor to knowingly and willingly attempt to frustrate access to records that are not subject to exemption by intentionally making such records difficult to obtain or review. It further states that any prosecution under this code section may only be commenced by issuance of a citation. The Attorney General has authority to prosecute this matter and will be filing an accusation in Fulton County State Court for the conduct alleged in the citations.
This case was investigated by Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rocky Bigham and Special Agent Clint Thomas, both of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Assistant Attorney General Blair McGowan is prosecuting the case for the State of Georgia.
Members of the public should keep in mind that citations and accusations contain only allegations against the individuals against whom the citations and accusations are filed. The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.