Georgia Open Records Act

Sometimes the easiest way to find out something from your local government is by filing an open records request. Some local governments provide forms for that online: The basic request is one sheet of paper on which you spell out what you want (be specific), your name and address, and where they can send it.

Valdosta’s web page sums up the situation:

O.C.G.A. 50-18-70 through 77, called the Georgia Open Records Act, establishes the right of every citizen to inspect and take a copy of all records except those specifically exempt from being open. When an agency receives a record request under the Open Records Act, it must comply with guidelines established in the law:
  • The agency has three business days from the date of the request to determine if the requested records are open or closed.
  • If the records are closed, the agency must respond in writing specifying the legal authority for restricting access to the records.
  • Otherwise, the records are to be provided within the three-day period or a plan for providing access to the records provided to the requester.
There are various exemptions and sometimes records can be redacted; such things are spelled out on the above web pages.

They can charge you for copies. Since per-page paper copy charges can be as high as 25 cents a page, it’s usually more cost-effective (and less trouble for the providing entity) to ask for electronic copy, on a CD or DVD or via email.

What organizations are subject to the open records law? The county website includes the relevant legal language:


“Agencies” Subject To the Open Meetings Law:

(A) Every state department, agency, board, bureau, commission, public corporation, and authority;

(B) Every county, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision of this state;

(C) Every department, agency, board, bureau, commission, authority, or similiar body of each such county, municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the state;

(D) Every city, county, regional, or other authority established pursuant to the laws of this state; and

(E) Any nonprofit organization to which there is a direct allocation of tax funds made by the governing authority of any agency as defined in this paragraph and which allocation constitutes more than 33 1/3 percent of the funds from all sources of such organization; provided, however, this subparagraph shall not include hospitals, nursing homes, dispensers of pharmaceutical products, or any other type organization, person, or firm furnishing medical or health services to a citizen for which they receive reimbursement from the state whether directly or indirectly; nor shall this term include a subagency or affiliate of such a nonprofit organization from or through which the allocation of tax funds is made. (O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(a)(1)(A)through(E))


“Agencies” Subject To the Open Records Law:

As used in the open records law, the term “agency” or “public agency” or “public office” has the same meaning and application as provided for in the definition of the term “agency” in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of the Code Section 50-14-1 and additionally includes any association, corporation, or other similiar organization which: (1) has a membership of ownership body composed primarily of counties, municipal corporations, or school districts of this state or their officers or any combination thereof; and (2) derives a substantial portion of its general operating budget from payments from such political subdivisions. (O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(a))

These definitions include, for example, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA), which does not, as far as I know, have its open records request form anywhere on its web site, although I hear you can pick one up at its offices on 2110 N. Patterson Street in Valdosta.

Of course, filing a form doesn’t always mean you will get the requested information, as the Valdosta Daily Times discovered:

Following an open records request by the Times for information regarding the study, an email from Southern Georgia Regional Commission to Lofton, but not a copy of the study, was produced.


3 thoughts on “Georgia Open Records Act

  1. Leigh Touchton

    Dear Mr. Quarterman:
    I wanted to let your readers know that they cannot demand prepayment for the Open Records. I was initially told that I would be charged $350 by the VLCIA via Brad Lofton. Subsequent complaints to the Attorney General’s office resulted in my ORR being fulfilled without any prepayment demands. However, Mr. Lofton subsequently blocked my email address such that I can no longer transmit ORRs via email.

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