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Chattooga Local Government

Commissioner Bans Cameras at County Office After Soda Incident

The county commissioner whose wife was arrested for pouring soda on an AllOnGeorgia reporter has upped the ante and barred cameras and video recording devices in the Commissioner’s Office less than a week after his wife had warrants taken out for her arrest.

The county commissioner whose wife was arrested for pouring soda on an AllOnGeorgia reporter has upped the ante and barred cameras and video recording devices in the Commissioner’s Office less than a week after his wife had warrants taken out for her arrest.

Sole Commissioner Jason Winters of northwest Georgia’s Chattooga County placed the sign up at the county office on Tuesday saying that no cameras were permitted in the building.

AllOnGeorgia contacted the county office about the specifics of the policy on Tuesday morning. A county employee who answered the phone placed the call on hold for several minutes before County Clerk Martha Tucker confirmed the policy is in place. Tucker said it has ‘always’ been the county policy, but the office just posted the policy officially. It has not been enforced to date either. She also noted that an exception would be made when there are public meetings taking place at the office, which happens a couple times every year. 

“They will be checked before they go to the back, but they’re only allowed in the meetings,” Tucker said. “They’ll be checked when they come in the door to make sure it’s a camera.”

The policy does not address cell phones or tablets, most of which are equipped with photo and video cameras. The policy seems to somewhat contradict the Chattooga County website biography of Winters which says he is “committed to an open and accessible county government.”

Georgia’s Open Meetings Act, a state law governing transparency, reads “Visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.” See OCGA 50-14-1(c), a provision that is not exclusive to the media. 

But the barring of camera and recording devices in public places where a person is lawfully present is not a policy most counties – even in larger and more metro areas – utilize. Public places are generally defined as a place where there is public access or ‘in plain sight,’ like inside a government building (though courts are governed by their own rules for privacy).  

Additionally, Georgia is a one-party consent state, meaning that no person who is a party to a conversation is required to inform the other party or parties that a recording device is being used.  In most places, it is only illegal to use a hidden video camera in areas where subjects have a reasonable expectation of privacy – like a home or public restroom. 

The courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of recordings made for editorial and journalistic purposes and have held that police and government officials carrying out their duties are protected activities so long as they are not disruptive to the employees or officials carrying out their duties. 

Chattooga County is represented by attorney Chris Corbin, who was also the attorney advising Abbey Winters as she faced criminal charges last week. Winters has scheduled a meeting this coming Friday, December 20th, at 11:00 A.M. to adopt the budget

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Bromyslaw

    December 17, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    Good Bye – Mr. Jason Winters. Youi are disgrace for our County. Please resign quietly or we will impeach you.

    • Avatar

      Theyfish14

      December 18, 2019 at 12:45 pm

      Lots of people are throwing that word around currently….I bet your a DemoRAT.

  2. Avatar

    mistercates

    December 17, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Hopefully that can be reversed when he is soon sent on his way. LOL!

  3. Avatar

    Not So Thoreau

    December 17, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    I’m beginning to suspect this Winters dude has a really small pair of inferior frontal gyri and his domestic partner has an even smaller prefrontal cortex. Pretty good article though, despite the missing punctuation in the final sentence. (Alas! Perfection is unattainable.) Nice to see a young libertarian in print. Presumably the author is a minarchist? Good news: keep watching minimalist government in non-action like this one-man bLand and there’s a high probability you’ll transition to anarchy in just a few years. Anarcho-pacifism feels and is more liberating. Review the works of Voltairine de Cleyre, won’t you? May hurry your conversion, and the world needs more quality anarchist writing yesterday. If you persist in libertarianism, however, or go off into something totally different, that’s fine too. Just keep thinking, and writing, and pestering these complacent bozos. It’s both needful and entertaining.

    • Avatar

      HisDivineShadow

      December 18, 2019 at 1:20 am

      the grammar of the article is hardly relevant. ive always liked Jason. he has done a good job for the county. but this step is troubling and is a bad move for him. his wife did the crime. its a little late to be trying to save embarrassment. hopefully the public will take him to task on this policy. im tempted to just go down there and openly defy the so called law. and challenge it in court.

  4. Avatar

    Bret Douglas

    December 18, 2019 at 1:50 am

    Seems like they should just ban Mrs. Winters.

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