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Lawsuit Seeks to Prevent Destruction of Public Records
I strongly believe that government operates best when it operates openly. The Attorney General’s Office has long served as government’s watchdog when it comes to the enforcement of open government laws, but citizens must also be ever vigilant in assuring that their rights in this area are observed by those who serve on their behalf.
Thurbert E. Baker
Attorney General of Georgia
The Georgia Open Records Act (GORA), which allows citizens to inspect all public records, is the cornerstone of good government. It allows citizens to know whether their tax dollars are properly spent and, in the context of the environment, whether the government is adequately protecting citizens from harmful pollution. That is why GreenLaw was dismayed to discover that the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) may have been destroying emails pertaining to the construction of new coal-fired power plants that have the potential to emit millions of tons of harmful pollutants.
State law prohibits government employees from destroying documents – and in this electronic information age – that includes emails. GreenLaw discovered that EPD has adopted a new policy that violates state law by allowing the deletion of emails, even if the email is of great public concern. GreenLaw filed suit against EPD on behalf of Friends of the Chattahoochee and Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment seeking an injunction to stop EPD from deleting or not producing internal emails and other documents on the decisions EPD makes.
“EPD has kept important documents from the public so we can’t figure out how they’ve made their decisions,” said Hutton Brown, senior attorney with GreenLaw. “If they don’t produce that information, Georgia citizens are hamstrung when they seek to challenge EPD actions.”
The lawsuit was filed in April. EPD is being represented by the Office of the Attorney General.
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