Georgia Open Meetings Act
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.)
|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|
|Red & Black Publishing Company v. Board of Regents||1993|
We do not currently have any pages on litigation in Georgia. To add some see our Sunshine litigation project page.
Proposed 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.
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
The legislature is explicitly exempted from the Georgia Open Meetings Act under Coggin v. Davey.
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.
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.
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.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
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.
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.
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.
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.
Violations of the law are considered misdemeanors, and are punishable by up to a $500 fine.
State of Georgia
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