The City of Thomaston has filed suit against Upson County over the county’s alleged failure to respond to the city’s Open Records requests
Following a lengthy Executive Session Tuesday night, the Thomaston City Council came back out into open session and voted 4-0 (Councilmember Jim Richards was absent) to approve a resolution authorizing Mayor Hays Arnold, City Manager Patrick Comiskey and City Clerk Dennis Truitt to take all actions necessary, including filing suit, to enforce the Georgia Open Records Act. The suit was filed Wednesday morning at the Upson County Courthouse.
At issue is financial data from the county that the city has allegedly been seeking for more than year for a tax equity study. The city planned to use the results from that study in upcoming negotiations with the county regarding the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST). LOST is renegotiated every 10 years between Upson County and the cities of Thomaston and Yatesville, with each government getting a portion of the sales tax.
In the past, LOST negotiations have centered on population as determined by the latest U. S. Census. But in 2002, the Georgia General Assembly expanded the criteria for determining LOST percentages to include the value to a community of a central business district, the point of sale and use which generates the tax, and other factors. The city has been requesting financial data from the county regarding the new criteria so as to better define what percentage of tax the city should receive.
According to the Georgia Open Records Act, OCGA 50-18-70 (f), once a request for information is made, the entity in control of the information has three business days to determine if the information requested is allowed by law to be shared and to permit inspection and copying. If the records exist, but are not available within three business days of the request, the entity in charge will provide a timetable for their inspection and copying. The exception to this is if a superior court in the state has stayed or refused requested access to the records.
According to the resolution passed Tuesday night, “the City of Thomaston has made multiple requests for public records to Upson County, Georgia,” and “Upson County, Georgia has failed to comply with the provisions of the Georgia Open Records Act by providing the City of Thomaston with the requested public records which are in the control of Upson County, Georgia, and are open to inspection and copying by the general public under the Georgia Open Records Act.”
The resolution goes on to state, “Upson County, Georgia, has not offered a legally justifiable reason for failing to comply with the City of Thomaston’s Open Records Requests.”