Ex-city spokeswoman faces prosecution under open records law

February 11, 2019 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — A former spokeswoman for the Atlanta mayor’s office faces a “first of its kind prosecution” for alleged violations of Georgia’s open records law, the state attorney general said Monday.

Two citations have been filed in Fulton County State Court against Jenna Garland, who served as press secretary under former Mayor Kasim Reed, Attorney General Chris Carr said in a news release. It’s the first time the attorney general’s office has sought criminal charges for alleged violations of the Georgia Open Records Act, Carr’s office said.

Contact information for Garland couldn’t immediately be found, and it wasn’t clear whether she had an attorney who could comment on the allegations. She no longer works for the city.

“Openness and transparency in government are vital to upholding the public trust. I am confident that this action sends a clear message that the Georgia Open Records Act will be enforced,” Carr said in the release.

When WSB-TV in March 2017 requested billing, payment and usage records for a specific address from the city’s Department of Watershed Management, Garland instructed a department spokeswoman to “drag this out” as long as possible, and to provide the information “in the most confusing format available,” the release says.

Later that month, the release says, WSB-TV requested more billing records from the Department of Watershed Management, and Garland instructed the department spokeswoman to hold onto the responsive records until the television station asked for an update, the release says.

Under Georgia law, “frustrating or attempting to frustrate the access to records by intentionally making records difficult to obtain or review” is illegal and can result in misdemeanor charges.

Any such charges must be initiated by issuing a citation. The attorney general has the authority to prosecute and plans to file an accusation in Fulton County State Court, the release from Carr’s office says.

Carr said he initially asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter in March 2018 following a report on WSB-TV about Garland’s alleged actions.