Our opinion: State Attorney General diligent in upholding ‘sunshine laws’

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

We, as citizens of the great state of Georgia, enjoy many blessings such as a moderate climate, a bounty of natural resources, mountains and beaches, cities and small towns, an abundance of cultivatable land, and in some cases, elected officials who care.
Among those is newly elected state Attorney General Chris Carr who is fulfilling his pledge of transparency in government. By upholding the state’s Open Records Act, which protects citizens from secrecy by government officials, Carr is shining an even brighter light into government and those in it who wish to circumvent the law.
As state attorney general, Carr is holding officials accountable for their actions and we, as a free press, appreciate his ideals and the efforts of his office.
Carr’s toughness on violations of the Open Records Act came front and center to the public’s view just last week when charges were filed against the press secretary for former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Reed’s former chief of staff, Katrina Taylor-Parks, was charged in August 2018, with writing checks for thousands of dollars to a business which is controlled by her husband, a federal offense. Where there’s smoke …..
According to published reports, Jenna Garland, 34, the press secretary during Reed’s second term, has been cited for allegedly violating the Georgia Open Records Act. This is the first criminal complaint filed in connection with the law, according to the state attorney general’s office.
Garland is accused of ordering a subordinate in the one of the city departments in March 2017 to delay handing over public records that contained information damaging to the then mayor and other city officials. Those records had been requested by Channel 2 Action News.
According to the AG’s website, criminal violations of the law are misdemeanors and carry punishments of up to $1,000 in fines and a year in jail.
Although Garland faces only a very light punishment if convicted, the fact that the state’s AG brought the charges heralds a new age in state government in Georgia.
At a time when the media is under harsh scrutiny both domestically and abroad, it’s refreshing to have someone stand on the side of the law, a law created not to protect just the media, but to also make it more difficult for government to hide its actions from the public. Cases such as this should serve as a warning to public officials who wish to conduct public business in the dark: You will be caught sooner than later. Look how long the charges came for Garland. Take heed and do what’s right; go by the rules and make decisions that benefit all the citizens, not just select groups or personal favorites.
Georgia’s “sunshine laws” are designed to shine the light into government, and we applaud our state attorney general for holding the feet of those who violate the laws to the fire.