Frivolousness in Fulton

The county attorney for Fulton County apparently believes her desire to squash the public’s access to records trumps state law.

At a Commission meeting Wednesday, attorney for the county, Patrise Perkins-Hooker, proposed limited open records requests to the same agency from persons not affiliated with a media outlet to 15 per year. Along with other stipulations, she also wants to make it a crime accompanied with a fine.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke the story Thursday.

Perkins-Hooker also seeks to cap the number of requests at two per person every 10 days. The punishment for violating this “law”? A misdemeanor charge and a $1,000 fine for the first offense and a $2,500 fine for any additional offenses in the same year.

The AJC reports that Perkins-Hooker justified the proposal like this:

“There are numerous people who just repeatedly fire off open records act information, sometimes abusively, with regard to the language they use, with regard to the tone they take to the people they submit the request to, and they have no legitimate purpose,” Perkins-Hooker said. “We did not have a provision to stop the county from running around in circles.”

She also blamed a growing trend in requests for electronic documents, which do not generate the same fees as paper requests.

Here are a few problems with Mrs. Perkins-Hooker’s suggestion:

  1. There isn’t a concrete way to determine what is “frivolous”
  2. In an era where bloggers and alternative media are just as common as “the main stream,” how will the county define “media”?
  3. It directly conflicts with state law.

The Commissioners, luckily, seemed wary of the proposal with Commissioner Liz Hausmann noting her concern of anything given a perception of lacking transparency.

The First Amendment Foundation has pledged to fight the initiative. And I’m sure they won’t be alone.

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