Georgia Freedom of Information Act

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In Georgia, the Open Records Law under O.C.G.A. 50-18-70 is meant to provide interested individuals with the public records they are looking for. These documents are open to “any citizen of this state” and to everybody who is an employee of a nonresident corporation. These corporations are companies that are part of a state other than Georgia and which are allowed to exercise their rights under GORA

The Open Meetings Law under O.C.G.A. 50-14-1 also clearly defines all meetings as being gatherings of a certain quorum of members, which are part of a public body where business will be discussed. The public must have access to these open meetings and they must also be allowed to use any kind of visual and sound recording tools during the gatherings.

Nevertheless, some of the public records in Georgia might be subject to protection from disclosure. Therefore, certain documents, papers, maps, letters, books, photographs or tapes and computer information that were received in the course of the operation of a public office or agency might not be open to the public. A court of law in the state of Georgia might have prohibited or exempted these documents from being open to inspection. In such a situation, these pieces of information should not be placed in the hands of a private person or a private entity. Certain information of public personnel in Georgia is an example of information that should not be disposed off and should be kept private. It can be used for identity thefts and therefore can harm public employees. Birthday dates and similar information fall into this category. Georgia public employees have the right to privacy; however, the government is not to keep certain information confidential simply because some personnel information might be included in a the same file. Georgia agencies are specifically asked to remove the information pertaining to the right to privacy and display the rest of it to the general public.

An additional reason as to why Georgian agencies will not reveal 100% of the information is that in order to do their jobs effectively, the information concerning ongoing investigations, pending litigation and preliminary notes needs to be kept away from the public eye for obvious reasons. As a side note, you should know that the Georgia sheriff’s department is not likely to display information about certain warrants of arrests that are yet to be served. This is why not all inquiries and searches for active arrest warrants will be successful.

Nevertheless, trying to access public records in Georgia during the usual office hours should not be very difficult. Direct inspection of the records and making copies of them are both possible. The Georgia Public Records Act is applicable in all the local agencies, offices, departments, bureaus, extensions and nonprofits. However, Georgian courts, the legislature, private nonprofits and federal agencies are exempt from the Public Records Act. Nevertheless, they still need to comply with other laws that address the release of records to the general public.

Whenever a citizen asks to gain access to public records under the Georgia Public Records Act, he or she must be granted both “prompt access and assistance” to accurately find the information they are searching for. You can ask for access to the records in an informal manner at first and then bring up the Georgia Public Records Act if your access is denied.