A complaint against the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office has been filed with the Georgia Attorney General after the open records office inflated prices of record production and then refused to provide cost estimates for accounting documentation after being challenged on the inflated prices even though the accounting documentation was part of the initial request.
AllOnGeorgia filed an Open Records Request with the District Attorney’s Office in June seeking electronic copies of emails between one particular private practice attorney and the office, a list of open cases with that particular private practice attorney, text messages between said attorney and District Attorney Jackie Johnson, and office expenditures for a narrow window of time.
Part of the records were refused due to ‘nonexistence’ and others due to ‘open case exclusions’ and these exemptions were not challenged, but over the course of the next three emails, the cost to produce records increased and when AllOnGeorgia disputed the calculations and the information redacted, Open Records Officer Cathy Browning said no other documentation or production of records would be provided until a payment was made. While it is the belief of AllOnGeorgia Team that the District Attorney’s Office is improperly applying the law, redacting information not subject to redaction, and inflating costs of public records to the level that would make them cost prohibitive to many, AllOnGeorgia filed a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office due to Browning’s repeated refusal to provide a cost estimate for the accounting documentation – which AOG maintains should have no cost – within the parameters of the law.
The office additionally:
- Did not account for the fact that the law requires the first 15 minutes of time spent producing records to be provided at ‘no cost;’
- Attempted to bill AllOnGeorgia for paper fees for copies of 200 pages of documentation that were provided electronically;
- Increased the number of copies billed in the request to 265 pages in the second email but then admitted in that request, only 31 pages were pertinent to the AllOnGeorgia request;
- Billed AllOnGeorgia for hours the open records officer spent determining how much she would bill AllOnGeorgia for the request;
- Billed AllOnGeorgia for time it took for the Open Records Officer to re-type emails and ‘notify’ staff that an Open Records Request had been filed (when the initial request could have been forwarded to any additional staff);
- Billed AllOnGeorgia for the time spent reading an email from the Prosecuting Attorneys Council regarding the request;
- Billed AllOnGeorgia for time spent reading and responding to emails to and from AllOnGeorgia
- Bill AllOnGeorgia to redact to redact the ‘search term’ for the emails that was provided BY AllOnGeorgia;
- Redacted email addresses and correspondence in emails between Jackie Johnson and a private practice attorney when such information was not subject to redaction under the Open Records Act; (Had this not been done, at least 4 hours of work would not have been billable to AllOnGeorgia as 4 hours were spent redacting 31 pages that were not permitted to be redacted in the first place;
- Billed AllOnGeorgia for time spent having someone check the work of the Open Records Officer;
- Said accounting documentation would exceed $150 for production because information would need to be redacted, despite such information not being subject to redaction exemptions;
The complete correspondence is below. (You can click to enlarge all photos)
If you have filed an Open Records Request with the District Attorney’s Office in Brunswick and were quoted and/or charged an exorbitant amount for costs or time, please contact AllOnGeorgia.