Open Records and Open Meetings 101

By CIARA HODGES

KENNESAW, Ga. – President Sam Olens of Kennesaw State University was known as an advocate of Georgia’s Sunshine laws when he was attorney general, before coming to KSU.

He talked about leading a two-year effort to get the Georgia Legislature to revise the state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws during a Media Law class on Oct. 31. Joining him was KSU’s Chief Legal Affairs Officer Jeff Milsteen,  who Olens’ No. 2 man as  chief deputy attorney general. “The Open Records Act was created to make information more tangible to citizens,” Olens said.

When dealing with open records, clerks are supposed to get back within three business days with the appropriate documents or present a clear and precise reason on why they can’t be produced. Before the laws were revised, people have been having a hard time obtaining records that are meant for the public.

The attorney general’s responsibility is to be a resource to the public, while maintaining their rapport with their clients, the state agencies. Olens said he enjoyed being able to see both sides while being the attorney general.

“Our job was to tell them what the law was, and it was up to them to follow it,” Milsteen said. Milsteen has 32 years of experience in the Georgia Department of Law under his belt.

Part of Milsteen’s job was to handle complaints about violations of the Open Records and Open Meetings laws. He noted that both laws have exceptions. There are certain things that can be reserved from the public when it comes to private personnel matters or certain bids. He also talked about when meetings should be open and when they can be legitimately closed.

Students in attendance also asked questions regarding to parking and the current cheerleader issue. Olens response to the cheerleader issue: “I’ve already answered that question in a public statement.” As far as the parking issue, Olens said is always comes down to money, noting that one parking space costs $15,000. He said he’d rather spend that on faculty

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