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City of Manassas Files for Protective Order Against Citizens in Complaint

The Second Battle of Manassas is still roaring as two residents of the small town battle city officials over open records policies.

The Second Battle of Manassas is still roaring as two residents of the small town battle city officials over open records policies. The latest development indicates that city officials issued their response to the Court and filed a Motion for a Protective Order against the Tom and Audrey Baugh.


Back in May of this year, former councilwoman Audrey Baugh and her husband, Tom, filed a lawsuit against the City of Manassas over the city Open Records Policy, specifically the cost, the office hours of City Hall, an avoidable delay in fulfillment, and alleged refusals of requests. You can read the background on the lawsuit by clicking here. The pair alleged that the city had in place a policy of excessive costs for documents and created an undue burden by requesting payment of all requests up front. Additionally, the City, the Baughs said, deliberately rejected certified mail requests for records.

The City, represented by attorney David Laesser of Claxton, denied the claims made by the Baughs, specifically “any and all factual allegations and legal conclusions presented in the allegations. The response filed on June 5 claims the Plaintiff’s Complaint “fails to state a claim against the Defendant which relief can be granted.” The City also requested a dismissal of the case and reimbursement of legal fees for defending the “frivolous” matter.

In the Baugh’s original Complaint, they allege that the the City approved the new city open records policy at the March 13 meeting. State law requires local governments and state agencies to provide copies of documents at no more than $0.10 per page. The Baughs alleged that the approved City policy required $0.25 per page, per the vote. In the response, the City admits that to be true, but said “specific forms to be promulgated were not yet complete at this time.” The City of Manassas has no official website and it is not clear whether or not the “adopted” policy is posted somewhere at City Hall, however, if the forms were not promulgated at the time of the vote, the city may need to vote on the actual policy adopted after conferring with legal counsel.

The Response by the City asserts that state statutes and the Georgia Constitution stand on their own merit, but makes no mention of conflicts between the local policy and the state Open Records Act.

[If you’re reading on a mobile device and cannot view the PDF, click here]

http://bulloch.allongeorgia.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2017/07/Baugh-v.-Manassas-Response-from-City-2.pdf

Two weeks after the City of Manassas filed its Complaint, Laesser filed a Motion for Protective Order on behalf of the city against the Baughs. The grounds for the request:

  • The Baughs are seeking to have a policy of the City of Manassas ruled invalid
  • The Baughs are seeking documents int he case are not relevant and claim they were “requested only to annoy and embarrass” which is “unduly burdensome.”

[If you’re reading on a mobile device and cannot view the PDF, click here]

http://bulloch.allongeorgia.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2017/07/Baugh-v.-Manassas-Motion-for-Protective-Order-3.pdf

Mayor Wanda Rogers previously filed a complaint with the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office over the Baugh’s behavior at council meetings, alleging that Baugh was speaking out of turn and passing notes to his wife who was on council at the time. No action has been taken and no formal charges were filed.

It will be up to a judge as to whether or not a Protective Order is granted. No court dates are currently set, but Judge Jay Stewart has been assigned to the case in the Superior Court of Tattnall County.

The full lawsuit filed by the Baughs is below. [If you’re reading on a mobile device and cannot view the PDF, click here]

http://tattnall.allongeorgia.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2017/05/Baugh-v.-Manassas-.pdf

 

Jessica Szilagyi is a former Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com.

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