Bibb County school leaders will get a lesson on the states Open Records and Open Meetings laws Wednesday from representatives of the state Attorney Generals Office.
The visit was prompted by complaints from The Telegraph about the way the school system has dealt with accountability issues in recent months.
A forum is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. May 2 for the representatives to go over the sunshine laws. The forum will be held at the school systems central office, 484 Mulberry St.
The Telegraph contacted the Attorney Generals Office April 19, raising concerns over issues such as missing documents in open record requests, the redaction of information in documents released, and failing to give a timetable for requested documents as required by law.
In one case, The Telegraph was told initially that no documents existed related to a request, but the system later produced hundreds of pages.
The forum will be hosted by Stefan Ritter, the offices senior assistant attorney general. The session is open to the public.
Officials in the Attorney Generals Office thought there was a need to be proactive and hold a training session with Bibb school officials, said Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the office.
All governments need to follow the law and operate in an open manner, she said.
Randy Howard, the school systems in-house attorney, said he looks forward to Wednesdays session.
I think its going to be good, Howard said. We need to improve the working and the professional relationship between the district, the media, as well as the residents of Bibb County. It gives us some idea of how to proceed.
In the future, Howard said the system plans to post information on its website about how residents should file open records requests with Bibb schools, directing them to Howard.
That way, the system has a process in place to make sure the requests are handled in a timely manner, he said.
That initiative is not in response to The Telegraphs complaint or the upcoming session, he said. Rather, the decision came after a recent discussion Gainesville-based attorney Phil Hartley had with school system representatives around the state about recent changes to Georgias sunshine laws, Howard said. Those changes, signed into law earlier this month, include higher fines for agencies that do not follow the law, among other provisions.
Howard said he welcomes Ritters visit to clarify the law and set things in motion for a positive working relationship with those who seek information from the system in the future.
He can help all of us to give ... guidelines on how to maintain that transparency, Howard said. The response to those questions will be invaluable.
Wednesdays session with Bibb County school leaders will take place a year after Ritter and Attorney General Sam Olens held a session with Savannahs City Council members about the states sunshine laws.
That session was prompted by complaints over the way interviews of city manager candidates were handled, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Currently, the Attorney Generals Office is investigating a complaint filed by Nydia Tisdale, who was kicked out of an April 17 meeting of Cumming City Council after trying to record it, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Telegraph isnt the only outlet to raise concerns over the way the Bibb County school system has handled open records requests. Local blogger Bill Knowles wrote a letter to the Attorney Generals Office about seven such requests he submitted in March, five of which had gone unanswered when Knowles sent off his letter. Howard later wrote to Ritter that all of Knowles requests had been addressed.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.