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Georgia Open Meetings Act

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The Georgia Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Chapter 14, Statutes 50.14.1-6 of the Georgia Code define the law.

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA

Here is a list of all open meetings lawsuits in Georgia. For more information go to the page or go to Georgia sunshine lawsuits. For more specific criteria, see our lists of education institution related lawsuits and municipalities related lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading.)


Lawsuit Year
Athens Newspapers, Inc., et al. v. Classic Center Authority for Clarke County 1989
Atlanta Journal v. Babush 1988
Atlanta Journal v. Hill 1987
Beck v. Crisp County Zoning Board of Appeals 1996
Brennan v. Commissioners of Chatham County 1993
Bryan County Board of Equalization v. Bryan County Board of Tax Assessors 2001
Camden County v. Haddock 1999
City of Atlanta v. Pacific & Southern Company, Inc. 1987
Claxton Enterprise v. Evans County Board of Commissioners 2001
Crosland v. Butts County Board of Zoning Appeals 1994
Davis v. Shavers 1994
Deriso v. Cooper 1980
Dozier v. Norris 1978
Evans County Board of Commissioners v. The Claxton Enterprise 2002
Fathers Are Parents Too v. Hunstein 1992
Guthrie v. Dalton City School District 1994
Harms v. Adams 1977
Jersawitz v. Fortson 1994
Johnson v. Nicely 1988
Kilgore v. RW Page Corporation 1989
Kilgore v. RW Page Corporation, 1991 1991
Macon Telegraph v. City of Forsyth 1988
Maxwell v. Carney 2001
McLarty v. Board of Regents 1973
Moon v. Terrell County et al. 2001
News Publishing Company d/b/a Rome News-Tribune v. Board of Education of the City of Rome 1991
Newsome v. City of Union Point 1982
Northwest Georgia Health System, Inc. v. Times-Journal, Inc. 1995
Phillips v. Hawthorne 1998
Red & Black Publishing Company v. Board of Regents 1993
Schoen v. Cherokee County 2000
State of Georgia v. Kennedy 1985
Steele v. Honea 1991
Times-Journal, Inc., d/b/a Marietta Daily Journal v. Cobb County, et al. 1989
Walker v. City of Warner Robins 1992
Wiggins v. The Board of Commissioners of Tift County, GA 2002
Worthy v. Paulding County Hospital Authority 1979

Education


"Lawsuit Year
Red & Black Publishing Company v. Board of Regents 1993

Municipal bodies


We do not currently have any pages on litigation in Georgia. To add some see our Sunshine litigation project page.

Proposed open meetings legislation

2010

See also Proposed transparency legislation, Open meetings legislation


We do not currently have any legislation for Georgia in 2010.

Which government meetings are open to the public?

The law defines meetings as any gathering of a quorum of members of a public body where business will be discussed or action will be taken.

Notable exceptions to this definition include:

  • The on-site inspection of facilities
  • Meetings with other agencies outside of the original agency's jurisdiction, where no action is taken.[1]

What government bodies are subject to the laws?

The act defines government body as all state departments, all political subdivisions, as well as all nonprofit organizations which receive at least 1/3 of their funding from state allocation.

Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:

  • Hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies and other health care providers[1]

==== Legislature====

No.pngf

The legislature is explicitly exempted from the Georgia Open Meetings Act under Coggin v. Davey.

Notice requirements

Agencies are required to maintain a posted notice of regularly held meetings. In addition, every agency must post specific notice for every meeting at least 24 hours prior to the start of the meeting. They are also obligated to contact any media agencies who have requested to be notified of public meetings. The law does, however, permit the agency to call a meeting with less than 24 hours notice, provided that the agency justifies the special meeting within its minutes. The act also requires the agency to post an agenda within a reasonable time period before the meeting. However, the agenda is not binding and the agency may address any material that is not on the agenda.[1]

The agenda of all matters expected must be available upon request and must be posted at the meeting site, as far in advance of the meeting as possible. It must be posted at some time during the two-week period immediately prior to the meeting. Anything not included on the agenda which is addressed during the meeting cannot be considered or acted upon.[1]

Meeting process

The public must always have access to open meetings and are allowed to use visual and sound recording during open meetings.

Agencies are required to take minutes of all meetings. These minutes should be posted within two business days of the meeting.[1]

Executive sessions

Common executive session exemptions
Personal privacy (including employees)Yes.pngp
Attorney-client privilege/litigationYes.pngp
Security/police information
Purchase or sale of propertyYes.pngp
Union negotiations
Licensing exams/decisions
Exempt under other lawsYes.pngp

When a meeting of an agency is closed to the public the agency must provide the specific reasons and record them in the official minutes. The meeting may only be closed to the public by a vote of the present body and the minutes must record who voted which way. This part of the minutes must be available to the public, just as are all minutes. The only parts of the closed meeting that are not to be available to the public through minutes are the items that closed the meeting in the first place.

During a closed meeting the chairperson or other presiding person must take and file a notarized affidavit stating under oath that the subject matter indeed qualified the meeting to be closed. The reason must then be identified and this must be filed with the minutes.[2]

The exceptions that could close a meeting after a public body's vote:

  • Staff meetings held for investigative purposes under duties or responsibilities imposed by law
  • The deliberations, voting, or receiving of information or evidence of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles
  • Meetings of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or any other law enforcement agency in the state, including grand jury meetings
  • County commission meetings must be open to the public unless personnel matters will be discussed.
  • Meetings when any agency is discussing the future acquisition of real estate
  • Meetings of the governing authority of a public hospital or any related committee when discussing the granting, restriction, or revocation of staff privileges or the granting of abortions under state or federal law
  • Meetings when discussing or deliberating upon the appointment, employment, compensation, hiring, disciplinary action or dismissal, or periodic evaluation or rating of a public officer or employee but not when receiving evidence or hearing argument on charges. Any votes on this must be taken in public.
  • "Adoptions and proceedings related thereto"
  • Meetings of the board of trustees or the investment committee of any public retirement system created by Title 47 when such board or committee is discussing investment securities trading or investment portfolio positions and composition
  • Meetings when discussing any records that are exempt from public inspection or disclosure
  • Meetings between the public body and its attorney that are sensitive and timely enough to be closed
  • Meetings about tax matters which are otherwise made confidential by state law.[3]

Agencies also reserve the right to close meetings in order to discuss matters that are subject to attorney-client privilege exemption, when the agency is faced with pending or potential litigation or claims.[4]

If violated

Any person, firm, corporation, or other entity may file suit against a public body or its members if they feel the Open Meetings Act has been violated, as long as it is within 90 days of the meeting in question. The Attorney General has the authority to enforce, either civil or criminal, actions in the event of a violation. The superior courts can grant injunctions or other equitable relief if a member of a public body violates the Open Meetings Act.

The court must determine that an agency violated the act without substantial justification. If this happens without "special circumstances," the court assesses reasonable attorney's fees and other litigation costs incurred, paying back the party that brought suit against the guilty body or member. The record as a whole will determine whether the complaint was substantially justified.

Any agency or person who brings information about a violation to light will not be liable in any action on account of the information they provided.[5]

Violations of the law are considered misdemeanors, and are punishable by up to a $500 fine.[6]

See also

External links

References