Tag Archives: open records

Transparency in government is essential to the public trust –VDT

VDT editorial yesterday, Violating public trust,

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens successfully fought for and implemented changes to the state’s Open Records law, believing that transparency in government is essential to the public trust. The law passed in 2012 states, “The General Assembly finds and declares that the strong public policy of this state is in favor of open government; that open government is essential to a free, open, and democratic society; and that public access to public records should be encouraged to foster confidence in government and so that the public can evaluate the expenditure of public funds and the efficient and proper functioning of its institutions.”

The VDT asked for records from the Lowndes County school system and didn’t get them. Their experience sounds quite similar to many LAKE has had with the county government in particular, with records not being provided in the statutory three days, and sometimes not even an excuse or a list of what might eventually be available.

That plus failure to make even agendas for the Planning Commission available in a timely fashion so citizens can see whether they need to attend (somebody explain to me the expense of agendas; clearly I don’t understand this Internet suff), and even in response to open records requests returning paper when the documents are obviously composed in electronic formats, agendas for County Commission meetings that are just plain incorrect, resulting in people taking time off from work to show up unnecessarily for a Sabal Trail pipeline item that didn’t happen, a public hearing that wasn’t listed as such on the agenda, a secretive retreat “work session”, and not even being clear about what tax dollars for SPLOST would go for. That’s not even all; just a sample of county government lack of transparency.

And it’s not just the County Commission. Look at Continue reading

Transparency not a problem –Bill Slaughter @ VLMPO 2013-10-23

Defining away another problem, like he already did Internet access, Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter said:

I can’t honestly just buy into the real problem of transparency in this community.

This was after numerous people in the room at the VLMPO Open House on Common Community Vision at Mildred Hunter 23 October 2013 expressed concerns about needs to video local government meetings and put them online, and to make various processes more open.

Regarding videoing, Slaughter trotted out former Valdosta Mayor John Fretti’s old chestnut about allegedly in cities where meetings are televised citizens grandstand and the meetings drag on forever. Nevermind that there are numerous ways to do it, such as putting videos on the web and not simulcasting, and in places like Tallahassee that do both not many citizens usually show up. The people I’ve seen grandstanding consistently at local government meetings around here are Continue reading

7.b. Lovell Eng. letter to EPD for Lowndes County @ LCC 2013-07-23

in the 22 July 2013 Work Session Here is the letter discussed (“So at this point, in order to comply with the deadline submitted by EPD, it was necessary to go ahead and work with Lovell on this.”) and approved (“The water is good, right?”) at the 23 July Regular Session of the Lowndes County Commission, obtained through an Open Records Request by April Huntley, plus a transcription. You may wonder, as I do, why the county didn’t just put it online along with the agenda, like so many other county commissions and city councils do. Continue reading

Directors and Officers Insurance: ACCG IRMA for Lowndes County

With almost $22 million in liability coverage, why do Lowndes County Commissioners and staff express such apprehension about lawsuits? This is what Lowndes County returned in response to an open records request for its contract for Directors and Officers insurance: paperwork about its ACCG IRMA subscription. IRMA is Interlocal Risk Management Agency, and ACCG is Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

ACCG IRMA as D&O Insurance for Lowndes County
[Open Records Request]
Open Records Request
[Summary of Insurance]
Summary of Insurance
[Contribution Breakdown]
Contribution Breakdown
[Contributions by Coverage]
Contributions by Coverage
[Renewal Contribution Worksheet]
Renewal Contribution Worksheet

Copies of these documents are on the LAKE website.


Now with sound! @ LCC 2013-06-10

After the soundless 10 June 2013 Lowndes County Commission Work Session, Gretchen requested, County Clerk Paige Dukes promised and a few days later delivered, sound recordings on CDs of both that meeting and the next day’s Regular Session. LAKE thanks the County Clerk for those recordings. Gretchen has integrated the county sound with the LAKE video recordings and I have updated the Work Session blog post. But what about state open records law?

Two CDs of sound recordings

These CDs demonstrate the county does make recordings of the Commission meetings, at least of sound. The County Clerk told Gretchen the recordings are erased after the Clerk is finished with them. Hm, since such recordings are records of public meetings, wouldn’t that make them public open records? And if they are, wouldn’t destroying them be illegal?

According to state law on the GA Secretary of State’s website:

Continue reading

Tipping fees: no contract, no list of fees, no details of expenses

No copy of the contract for tipping fees from the landfill it privatized some years ago, no list of what those fees were, and no detailed accounting of what they were used for: that was the answer from Lowndes County’s Open Records Officer. She also took more than 3 days to produce this non-information, answering the day after the recent County Commission meeting. Here’s her answer:

2008 CAFR page 38 From: pdukes@lowndescounty.com
Subject: Open records requests
Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2013 20:42:16 +0000

Good Afternoon,

In response to your open records requests of June 6, 2013, please find the following:

For the contract or agreement addressing tipping fees, you may contact Regional Commission Representative, Julia ShewChuk, at 229-333-5277. Lowndes County is not the custodian of this information. You many find fee amounts in Lowndes Countys Comprehensive Annual Reports located on the countys website, www.lowndescounty.com. To access these reports, go to the Government tab at the top of the homepage, then County Manager, then Finance, then Financial Reports. Fees are located on page 38 for 2008, page 38 for 2009, page 38 for 2010, page 39 for 2011 and page 36 for 2012.

To be clear, Continue reading

About that flyer

Sent Wednesday. -jsq

Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2013 19:43:49 -0500

Dear Mr. Pritchard,

Thank you for your message of 1 February.

Yes, the binders of the documents for the closings of the various bonds are the sort of financial instruments I requested in my message of 28 January, and that Chairman Slaughter listed in his letter dated 18 January (that I received 28 January). Monday 11 Feb 2013 after the Work Session will be a good time for me to inspect and copy those binders. I will bring a camera and a photocopier. If that time will not work, please advise me of times that would.

Yes, there are other documents I would like to inspect. Please provide

Continue reading

I have obtained the binder of the documents —Joe Pritchard

The County Manager has found the legal documents on issuance of the the bonds Chairman Slaughter listed in his letter of 18 January.

Received yesterday (as a *.docx file, and still to the wrong email address, but this time including both residence and postal addresses), County Manager Joe Pritchard followed up on his email of 29 January, in which he had seemed puzzled about the term "financial instruments" (it's a standard term in business and investing) such as I asked for 28 January. I thank Mr. Pritchard once again for responding. (I thanked Chairman Bill Slaughter in person the other day.) The relevant correspondance about the flyer that Mr. Pritchard previously wrote was created by the VDT is still missing. I will ask for that Monday, when I respond to Mr. Pritchard's most courteous offer to inspect the financial instruments.

Here's Mr. Pritchard's letter. -jsq

Joe Pritchard February 1, 2013

John Quarterman
6565 Quarterman Road
3338 Country Club Road #L336
Valdosta, GA 31605

Dear Mr. Quarterman:

To follow up my email of yesterday, I have obtained the binder of the documents executed at the closing of the $15,500,000 CVDA

Continue reading

Created by the newspaper, not the county —Joe Pritchard

Thanks to County Manager Joe Pritchard for responding to my letter of Monday. He partly (but not completely) answered my question by saying the VDT did it. More on that later.

He included a PDF copy of Bill Slaughter’s letter of January 18th. Perhaps Mr. Pritchard was unaware that letter didn’t reach me until after my letter of Monday, because the county sent it to the wrong address. Mr. Pritchard’s email response was also sent to the wrong address, although fortunately email to that business address does reach me. He also copied the Chairman at his business address instead of at his Lowndes County address. In any case, electronic copy is almost always more useful than paper, so I thank Mr. Pritchard for sending that PDF copy.

Here’s Mr. Pritchard’s letter. -jsq

Continue reading

Regarding the recently refinanced bonds —Bill Slaughter

Many thanks to Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter for taking the time to respond to a citizen's question in Citizens Wishing to Be Heard! The response didn't actually answer my question, but that may be because the question wasn't clear enough without a copy of the flyer that claimed the county's new judicial and administrative complex was "100% Paid by SPLOST" and "$0 Balance Owed"; see next post.

An hour or two after I sent a letter to County Manager Joe Pritchard Monday, someone from the county called to say Chairman Bill Slaughter had sent me a letter in response to my question to the Commission about bonds, but it had been returned by the Post Office. As you can see by the image of the envelope, they sent it to my residence address, where I don't get mail. That's why I always include my postal address on Citizens Wishing to Be Heard forms, open records requests, etc. Anyway, they made it available for pickup at the county palace. Ten days after the PO sent it back to them is better than never.

Here's Chairman Slaughter's letter. -jsq

Continue reading