The attorney for the Evans County Board of Education has responded to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office after a complaint was filed by AllOnGeorgia in relation to an Open Records Request. The letter to the state’s highest ranking legal officer actually increases the cost of the Open Records Request from the first correspondence sent by the county superintendent.
The letter, sent by Ron Hallman of Claxton, was sent to Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo on Friday, July 13.
In the letter, Hallman doubles down on what Superintendent Martin Waters initially told AllOnGeorgia in his letter dated July 2. Waters quoted AllOnGeorgia nearly $11,000 for records related to salaries, a personnel file, and a series of emails related to a former employee with the Board of Education. He also said it would not be made available until November. It is unusual for a district superintendent to be the correspondent for an Open Records Request and the Evans County Board of Education website indicates that correspondence is to originate from the district records custodian. [See right] In previous requests, the point of contact has been Amy Rogers, secretary to the superintendent.
Hallman said in his letter that “key employees” were not employed during the summer period and the others were gearing up for the school year, but Waters’ original letter said Karen and the IT director were the qualified persons to fulfill the request and both of those employees are employed during the summer.
Hallman affirmed that Dr. Karen Bland, the second highest paid employee in the district, is the only person who can fulfill the requests related to the personnel file to avoid conflict among employees, however, the Open Records Act specifically says the request shall be filled by the lowest paid employee capable of completing the task, and makes no exception for avoiding drama within a governmental agency. Additionally, the requested personnel file is related to an employee who is no longer employed with the Board of Education.
AllOnGeorgia is pushing back on the quote of more than $300 for simple salary information. AllOnGeorgia has simply asked for the 2017-18 school year salaries and those set for 2018-19. The Board of Education has suggested to the Attorney General that AOG should narrow the request, however, AllOnGeorgia previously asked for the salary schedule and it included only a pay scale but no employee names or salary information, which is why documentation detailing the pay of the employees was requested. The Board of Education, in return, is claiming that they must sort through a year of payroll information in order to determine the salaries of those employed at the district office. By law, the Board is not required to create a document that does not exist, either, so the Board will not simply provide a list of the salaries with the corresponding name.
Hallman did backtrack on Waters’ statements that all emails had to be printed in order to be searched, saying they could first be electronically searched, but must later be printed to avoid the inadvertent forwarding of attachments. He said the initial search of emails related to AllOnGeorgia Open Records Requests yielded over 97,000 emails and therefore would be a cost of $7,347.22, not the initial $6,624. The request only goes back six months is related only to Sharon Threatte and the classification of employees in the district office. It is the position of AllOnGeorgia that 97,000 emails related to such request is ‘excessive.’
AllOnGeorgia filed an Open Records Request last week related to the email server hosts used by the Board of Education, which includes Microsoft 365, a common and user-friendly program that does include a mechanism to electronically search individual mailboxes. Knowing this, AllOnGeorgia has responded to the Attorney General indicating that no more than three mailboxes of district employees should need to be searched in order to comply with the Open Records Request – that of Dr. Martin Waters, Dr. Karen Bland, and Alison Boatright.
In his closing, Hallman told the Attorney General that there was a ‘similar situation’ last year with AllOnGeorgia and the Evans Board of Education that resulted in a $12.90 Open Records Request. The statement is inaccurate as the request related to the bank statements ultimately ended with a ~$100 fee for a report that Allison Boatright later said was ‘already prepared.’ Hallman also said AllOnGeorgia has filed ‘numerous’ requests over the years, however, the number is four, including the one related to this complaint.
Ultimately, Hallman said the Board of Education stands by the $11,000+ request.
You can read the full letter for Hallman below.Evans Co BOE Response to AG on 7.13.18
The next Board of Education meeting is set for Tuesday, July 16th at 6:00 P.M. at the Board Office. Meetings are usually held on the second Monday of the month at 6:00 P.M., but the meeting was rescheduled due to the fact that the superintendent was out of town.
For reference, AllOnGeorgia’s original request to the Board of Education, the response from Dr. Waters, the complaint to the Attorney General, and the response from the Attorney General are all below.Open Records Request - Evans BOE 06.28.18_2
Evans Board of Education Response to the initial request:Evans BOE ORR Response 07.01.18
AllOnGeorgia complaint to Attorney General:AG Complaint_Evans BOE 07.01.18
Attorney General letter to Evans County Board of Education:jc-ora-evans-sd_20180705160706