We encourage the city of Forest Park to let the sunshine in.
The state Attorney General’s Office has asked Forest Park to give an explanation for why public records have not been released.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter gave the city a week to explain why an Aug. 21 open records request has not been satisfied.
We have nothing against the city.
The newspaper merely asked for public documents related to a $35,000 settlement agreement with former City Councilwoman Karen-Brandee Williams.
We in no way want an adversarial relationship with city leaders or city attorneys.
That is why we asked the state’s leading authority on open records, David E. Hudson, if we were barking up the wrong tree by asking for copies of the settlement agreement.
Hudson told us, “There have been two Georgia cases, one federal and one Superior Court, that have held that settlement documents must be provided under the Open Records Act by a local government… The settlement documents are not protected by any ‘attorney-client privilege’ as they are between the city and the opposing party. Documents protected by the ‘attorney-client privilege’ are only those that are held by one side of a case and not disclosed to anyone else.”
We are not accusing city leaders of anything.
We simply believe these are public records and the public has every right to see them.
It will be interesting to see how the city chooses to respond to the demand for an explanation by the AG’s office.
We simply hope they do the right thing and make the documents available.
We are not alleging there is any smoking gun to be revealed in these public documents.
We simply believe that if the city settled a lawsuit for $35,000 that the public should know what that settlement agreement does and does not include and who signed off on the deal.
There is no doubt there has been a bit of controversy surrounding this issue.
There have been questions raised.
We are not taking any sides or even a position on whether the settlement was warranted.
What we are saying is release the documents, that belong to the public anyway, and most likely all the questions will be answered once and for all.
Releasing public documents is the legal thing to do.
It is the civic-minded thing to do.
It is the right thing to do.
When it is all said and done, what this is really about is the role of government in our lives.
The business being done by government is the people’s business — all of it.
And, the people have a right to know what government is and is not doing — at all times.
Forest Park — do the right thing.