The Collegian campus newspaper has filed complaints against the administration of Georgia Perimeter College over apparent Georgia Open Records Act violations.
The Collegian contends that state laws were violated when the school denied access to public information regarding budget proposals.
The human resource department, which is responsible for processing open records requests, failed to respond to multiple requests made by The Collegian. According to the Georgia Open Records Act, the requests must be responded to within three business days.
The newspaper filed a letter of complaint to the Georgia Attorney General's office on March 24, after Human Resource Director Amanda Reddick told a reporter that the records were not ready as previously indicated.
"Taking nearly a month to ‘review' and provide access to budget information already discussed at a public meeting is unacceptable, and is indicative of an attitude that is totally at odds with the purpose and intent of Georgia's Open Records Act," said Mike Hiestand, a consulting attorney with the Student Press Law Center, a group that advocates for open government on college campuses.
The Collegian requested an electronic copy of final recommendations presented at the 2010 student activity fee budget hearing on Feb. 25, but the request was denied by Dean of Student Services Deborah Homer, which forced the newspaper to file an Open Records Request for the documents on March 1.
The Collegian was also denied copies of four campus budget proposals (only Decatur campus provided the documents to reporters) that were discussed at the campus student activity fee budget hearing on March 18. Reporters were told to file open records requests, which were submitted on March 21.
These requests, along with three requests submitted on March 18, did not receive responses until the administration was notified of the complaint to the attorney general on March 28; the responses arrived the next day.
The March 1 request was also processed on the same day. The department charged the student newspaper $143 for more than four hours of labor costs in gathering the electronic files.
While the attorney general's office indicated they will "forward the complaint to the right places," Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter would neither confirm nor deny that the administration's actions were unlawful. Because the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia is a client of the attorney general's office, performing a mediation between The Collegian and GPC would be a conflict of interest, Ritter said.
"We cannot get them to respond to the records if they haven't already," said Ritter. "We just don't have the authority to do that. They have to do it themselves."
On April 1, Perimeter legal consultant Warren Fortson said he was unaware of the situation and had not received any notification from the attorney general's office.
During the weekly student government meeting at the Newton campus on April 1, the documents on the agenda were emailed to committee members prior to the meeting, including a revised form of the campus' special allocations requests. These forms were not made available to reporters and observers.
Student Life Director Stephan Moore said there will no longer be physical documents available for the public during the meetings. Agenda sheets are regularly made available during the public meetings of cities and counties in Georgia.