At issue: What is lawful public access to records held by individuals who are both contractors for and employees of a government agency?

The Supreme Court of Georgia is reviewing a lower court ruling that, as it stands, diminishes Georgians’ power to seek public records from government contractors working on behalf of government agencies.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation is supporting the petition before the high court, and on April 18, 2024, GFAF filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Milliron v. Antonakakis. The foundation filed an earlier brief in the case in December 2023.

At issue is a Georgia Court of Appeals ruling, handed down in August 2023, holding that members of the public must submit requests for public records held by government contractors to a government agency’s designated open records officer, even if the agency does not have custody of the records. The records at issue in the case were held by an individual who was both an employee of the government agency and performed work for the agency as a contractor.

GFAF’s latest brief addresses questions from the Georgia Supreme Court regarding the Milliron case: Does the state’s Open Records Act apply if a contractor for a government agency also is an employee of the agency? If so, can an open records request be sent directly to the contractor, or must the request be sent to the agency’s designated open records officer?

The high court’s review and anticipated response will have an impact beyond this case. The potentially harmful outcome: The justices’ decision could effectively shield public records held by a government contractor from disclosure in Georgia. In many circumstances, records relating to the work of contractors may be only in the possession of the contractor. If courts require that a request for those records be sent to the agency’s open records officer, the agency would have no records to produce, and the contractor would be able to avoid disclosing public records.

The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case in June 2024.

>>> LEARN MORE: GFAF encourages high court to protect access to public records held by private persons and companies