Today, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the State of Georgia’s strong policy of open government, ruling that non-roll-call votes taken in open meetings must be recorded. Attorney General Sam Olens filed an amicus brief supporting the position of Matthew Cardinale, who filed a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta for failing to record how each City Council member voted when a non-roll-call vote was taken at a February 2010 retreat.
Attorney General Olens praised the ruling as a victory for government transparency. “By ruling in favor of Mr. Cardinale, the Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the legislative intent of Georgia’s sunshine laws, which is to protect and promote citizens’ access to their government, not to serve as a shield from accountability,” said Olens. “This ruling sets a strong precedent that government should err on the side of openness.”
In Cardinale v. the City of Atlanta, et. al., the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals ruling that the Open Meetings Law does not require meeting minutes to reflect how members voted when the vote it not unanimous. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein said,
“While the Act provides for public access to agency meetings, it also fosters openness by, among other things, requiring agencies to generate meeting minutes that are open to public inspection so that members of the public unable to attend a meeting nonetheless may learn what occurred. See OCGA § 50-14-1 (e) (2)…To adopt a contrary holding that agencies possess discretion to decline to record the names of those voting against a proposal or abstaining in the case of a non-roll-call vote would potentially deny non-attending members of the public access to information available to those who attended a meeting.”
A copy of the amicus brief filed by Olens is attached.