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City of Manassas Headed to Court Over Open Records Lawsuit

The war in the second Battle of Manassas now has a court date set in hopes of resolution of an Open Records Act policy.

Manassas residents Tom and Audrey Baugh, represented by attorney Benjamin O’Neal of Hinesville, filed a lawsuit against the City of Manassas and its’ elected officials in May of this year after the city instated a new Open Records Policy. The lawsuit alleges that the policy adopted “inhibits, restricts, and subjugates the rights of citizens and parties to obtain lawful records concerning the governance and actions of the City of Manassas.” Specifically, the lawsuit takes aim at the city’s $0.25 per page charge, which exceeds the state’s allowable $0.10 per page charge.

The Baughs, having filed an open records request themselves, also allege that the city has ignored their requests for documents and that the city’s 3-hour per week office hours for city hall and request for payment upfront limits access to records. A motion for discovery was filed in May but has subsequently been ignored by the City of Manassas. The City has denied any wrongdoing.

Read the history of the lawsuit here

In a letter to Manassas City Attorney David Laesser, O’Neal states that the City has neglected to return a response with regard to the case and Judge Jay Stewart subsequently set an August 30 court date in Tattnall County Superior Court.

The Tattnall County Superior Court has no records of discovery response on filed from the City of Manassas, but in June, the City filed for a Temporary Protective Order alleging that the suit filed by the Baughs was an attempt “to annoy and embarrass” which is “unduly burdensome.” . You can read all about that here. In mid-July, the Baughs requested that the motion for Protective order be denied and that the city reimburse the Baughs for leagl costs.

The Baughs are not native Tattnall County residents, but have resided in the city for a few years and Audrey Baugh briefly served on the City Council before resigning in early 2017. The pair has chronicled their issues on their blog LeechCity where they have referred to the council as ‘unruly small children’ in describing their actions in meetings and called their policies “Marxist.” Tensions have long been high between the Baughs and city officials and have only worsened since Mayor Rogers filed a harassment complaint with then-Sheriff Quinton Rush because Tom Baugh was “interrupting” meetings.

It is possible that no resolution will be reached on the August 30 court date, as Judge Stewart could compel the City to comply with Open Records laws, compel the City to respond to requests for discovery, or dismiss the case altogether.

The full case file complete with the summons is available at the Clerk of Superior Court Office at the Tattnall County Judicial Annex. The case number is 2017-V-98-JS.

Jessica Szilagyi is a former Statewide Contributor for

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