Carr Recognizes National Sunshine Week, Continues to Champion Open Government during Coronavirus Outbreak
ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr is recognizing March 15 - 21, 2020 as National Sunshine Week and reinforcing to all public officials at the local, state and federal level the importance of continuing to operate openly and transparently in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Each year, we recognize National Sunshine Week in order to promote good open government standards that are built on the rule of law, integrity and good judgement,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We understand the challenges that the pandemic may create, and we will continue working with our clients, city and county governments, members of the media and all of Georgia’s citizens to ensure that our government maintains the public’s trust by continuing to operate openly and transparently.”
Department of Law Open Government Mediation Program:
The Department of Law is a leader in promoting an ethical culture and transparency in government. One of the main ways the office protects the public’s interest is by reinforcing the Open Records Act (OMA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA). Through our office’s Open Government Mediation Program, led by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo, we help mediate local government disputes by addressing complaints from Georgia citizens. We accomplish this either by assisting them with getting documents or by answering questions and providing information about the requirements of the ORA and the OMA.
Department of Law Open Government Tour:
Because our office has found that many of the issues that we hear about occur not because of malicious intent, but rather due to a lack of understanding or lack of knowledge about the law in Georgia, we conduct presentations as part of our Open Government Tour.
- March 22 - City of Riverdale
- March 29 - City of Norcross
- April 9 - Association of Police Chiefs
- April 22 - Gwinnett County Police Department
- April 29 - University System of Georgia
- May 2 – Georgia Department of Education
- May 2 - Ivy Prep Charter School
- May 7 - Professional Standards Commission
- June 10-11 - Georgia Records Association
- June 13 - Public Service Commission
- June 14 - State Agency Training (all)
- June 20 - Columbia County Sheriff’s Office
- July 18 - Forest Park Police Department
- Sept 18 - Rockdale County
- Oct 1 - Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police
- Oct 22 - Cobb County Police Department
- Oct 25 - Georgia Ports Authority Police Department
- Nov 4 - NBI, Inc.
- Nov 4 - Criminal Justice Coordinating Council
- Jan 13 - City of Hampton
- Feb 3 - Gwinnett County Law Enforcement
- Feb 5 - City of Kennesaw Police Department
- Feb 12 - ACCG
- Feb 19 - GMA
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Georgia Department of Law will continue to adhere to the advice of public health officials, like the Center for Disease Control’s warnings about gatherings or more than 50 persons, and suspend in-person presentations. Please contact [email protected] if you are interested or have questions about setting up a virtual presentation. If you have a previously scheduled event, please also contact our office, [email protected] or [email protected], to work through scheduling concerns.
How to make an Open Records Request:
Any Georgia citizen can make an open government request by submitting a request directly to a particular government agency’s custodian of records. Request forms can be found.
Guidelines for local governments regarding the Coronavirus:
The Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) published a high-level memorandum to members containing general information in the event of a coronavirus outbreak in their community.
“Public Meetings – The Georgia Open Meetings Act requires meetings of the city and agencies of the city to be open to the public. O.C.G.A. §50-14-1(g), however, very specifically allows cities to conduct a meeting via teleconference, without a requirement of having a quorum present in person, when “necessitated by emergency conditions,” so long as notice is provided and simultaneous access is afforded to the public to the teleconference meeting. It would be wise for city leaders to consider agenda items when contemplating this provision and to postpone discussion items that can wait and are not necessary to be deliberated and/or voted on under such emergency conditions. The city should also consider its own technological capabilities to provide appropriate access to the public, as well as the requirements under certain law for public hearings (the zoning procedures laws, for example) when making such decisions.
By no means is this an endorsement, but cities lacking technological capabilities to host virtual meetings may look at alternative resources tailored to dealing with COVID-19. For instance, Google is offering free video conferencing services until July 1.”
The Association of County Commissioners (ACCG) also published this advice for county officials.
*The Georgia Department of Law will continue to provide legal advice to client agencies regarding Open Government responsibilities during the Coronavirus outbreak and assist citizens with issues through our informal Open Government Mediation Program. It is important to note that questions regarding the protocols and procedures of a specific local government entity should first be directed to the local attorney that represents the entity (i.e. city or county attorney).