Jim Zachery, editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and a member of the board for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, and fellow board member Ken Foskett, investigations editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, conducted a government transparency workshop at KSU on June 26. It was sponsored by the foundation and KSU’s campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which is a student group in the School of Communication and Media.
They spoke about how to use Georgia’s open meetings and open record laws to learn what is happening inside your local and state governments. They explained how to: access public records for information on operations, attend public meetings where elected officials make decisions that affect the public and challenge public officials when they don’t comply with open government laws.
Zachery told the audience, which included Cobb County citizens and elected officials in addition to KSU students, that it’s up to elected officials to prove they can meet in secret legally, not for the public to prove those meetings are illegal.
“Everything is open unless there is an exception,” he said. “So, the presumption in Georgia law is that it’s always open. The strong public policy of the state of Georgia is open government.
“So there has to be an exception that allows them to go back there behind closed doors. There has to be an exception that allows them to have those executive sessions and they have to be able to cite the legal exception. You don’t have to prove that something should be open. They have to prove that it can be closed.”
Posted: July 5, 2017