Register now for GFAF’s annual Weltner Freedom of Information celebration

Attendees to our virtual event will participate in our tribute to First Amendment heroes, preview the foundation’s legislative agenda and gain exclusive access to a bonus training event on law enforcement and the First Amendment.

Join the Georgia First Amendment Foundation for our virtual 2020 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information event from 1-2 p.m. on Oct. 15.

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Our 19th annual Weltner event will commemorate how First Amendment rights have helped shape this unprecedented year. We also will look ahead to our legislative agenda and initiatives to protect and expand government transparency, accountability journalism and free speech in Georgia in 2021 and beyond.

Commemorating this year’s First Amendment heroes

In a break from tradition, we are not naming a 2020 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information honoree because of the unparalleled circumstances of the pandemic. Instead, we are applauding those whose work has demonstrated the importance and power of First Amendment principles that are foundational to our democracy, particularly in this challenging year. During our virtual event, we will recognize as 2020 First Amendment heroes:

  • The Supreme Court of Georgia for vision, preparation and leadership that have allowed courts in our state to remain operational and open to the public during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
  • The late state Rep. Jay Powell for ushering an expansion of Georgia’s Sunshine Laws through the General Assembly in 2012. The resulting laws improved citizens’ access to their government and established a legal framework for the virtual public meetings that have become so essential this year.
  • Nineteen-year-old activist Zoe Bambara, who leveraged our right “peaceably to assemble” by helping organize protests in late May calling for an end to police brutality and discrimination. The protests raised awareness and sparked change; two months later, Georgia’s first hate crimes law took effect.

We also will preview the foundation’s legislative agenda for the 2021 General Assembly session; celebrate the life and legacy of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a former Weltner Award honoree; and pay tribute to long-serving foundation member Tom Budlong, who died this year.

In addition, we’ll auction a one-of-a-kind cartoon from Pulitzer Prize-winning Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich — framed and ready to hang on your wall.

Bonus training event: Law Enforcement and the First Amendment

Recordings of police activities have become catalysts for change. How does the First Amendment protect citizens’ right to record police on the job? What rights do the public and the media have to access video from officer body cams and other official sources? What are the rules of non-engagement when journalists and citizens record police in action? How do free speech rights come into play in confrontations between the public and police? On the panel:

  • Vic Reynolds, Director, Georgia Bureau of Investigation
  • Alyssa Pointer, Photojournalist, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Sarah Brewerton-Palmer, First Amendment Attorney, Caplan Cobb LLP
  • Clare Norins, Director, First Amendment Clinic, UGA School of Law
  • Gerry Weber, First Amendment Attorney, Gerry Weber LLC and Southern Center for Human Rights

Attendees registered for our Oct. 15 Weltner celebration will receive exclusive access to this hour-long training event at 1 p.m. on Oct. 9.

Your support matters more than ever

Our annual Weltner event is the greatest source of regular financial support for the foundation. 2020 has highlighted the crucial role our organization plays in protecting and expanding the public’s right to know in Georgia. We’ve educated elected officials on keeping meetings accessible to the public during the pandemic. We’ve pushed for greater transparency in public health data. We have helped journalists understand their rights when covering protests. And we have called for police departments across the state to adopt Citizens’ Right to Record policies.

This is all possible because of backing from our members and donors. Here are three ways you can support the foundation today:

  1. GFAF members have free access to both our Weltner celebration on Oct. 15 and our Law Enforcement and the First Amendment training event on Oct. 9. Become a member
  2. Buy a $50 ticket to our 2020 Weltner event and also receive free access to the Oct. 9 training session.
  3. Donate to support our work to protect and expand Georgians’ right to know.

We look forward to seeing you online for our 2020 Weltner events!

2019 Weltner Banquet to honor legacy of late Ga. Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines

Chief Justice Harold Melton will be the keynote speaker for the event, which will mark the foundation’s 25th anniversary with an award to GFAF co-founder Hyde Post.

Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice P. Harris Hines, who died last fall, was praised for his judicial acumen, fairness and kindness. The Georgia First Amendment Foundation remembers him as a

The late Ga. Supreme Court Chief Justice P. Harris Hines is 2019’s Weltner Award honoree.

friend of our organization and our open government cause, and we are honoring his legacy with a posthumous Weltner Freedom of Information Award at our annual Weltner Banquet on Oct. 10.

Buy tickets now.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton, a close friend and former colleague of the late chief justice, will give the keynote address at the banquet.

This year also marks GFAF’s 25th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, we will present our Founder’s

GFAF founding member Hyde Post

Award to Hyde Post, co-founder, board member and past president of the foundation, to recognize his many years of service to our organization and his tireless advocacy for open government in Georgia and across the country. Post was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Coalition’s Open Government Hall of Fame in April.

This year’s Weltner Banquet will take place at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 10, at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta. See details below on how to become a Weltner Banquet sponsor.

Honoring Chief Justice Hines’ legacy

Hines, who retired from the bench in August 2018 at the age of 75, was a regular at our annual Weltner banquets, named for the late Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles L. Weltner, an unyielding champion of government transparency. Last year, Hines appeared in a video tribute to our 2018 honoree, Cobb Superior Court Senior Judge James Bodiford, whom we recognized for repeatedly protecting the public’s right to courtroom access, even as he presided over some of Georgia’s highest-profile criminal cases.

Hines himself was a Cobb County Superior Court judge in the early 1990s when the Marietta Daily Journal filed a lawsuit against Promina Health System and Northwest Georgia Health System seeking an injunction requiring the defendants to comply with Georgia’s Sunshine Laws. Hines ruled in favor of the Journal, setting a precedent of public access to records of a private, nonprofit hospital doing work on behalf of a governmental hospital authority. The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed his ruling in 1995.

Then-Justice Hines also wrote the Court’s unanimous opinion in Howard v. Sumter Free Press in 2000, which compelled the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office to comply with the state Open Records Act. The opinion rejected an allegation that the newspaper’s records requests were not bona fide because they were made verbally. As recently as early 2018, in Tucker v. Atwater, Chief Justice Hines joined justices Keith Blackwell and Nels Peterson in questioning whether Tift County school officials had gone too far in punishing a teacher for comments made on her private Facebook account.

Chief Justice Hines was killed in a Nov. 4 car accident on I-85. He was en route to his home in Marietta from Newnan, where he had heard his granddaughter sing in a church choir. The day after his death, Georgia Supreme Court Presiding Justice David E. Nahmias gave a heartfelt statement about how much Hines would be missed.

GFAF President Richard T. Griffiths said, “Chief Justice Hines’ legacy of service is an inspiration to all of us who strive to make a difference in the lives of Georgians. We are grateful for his many years of support for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and look forward to welcoming his family and friends to celebrate of his life and legacy at our 2019 Weltner Banquet.”

Join the celebration as a sponsor

Join the celebration of Hines’ legacy and the foundation’s quarter century of essential work as a sponsor of this year’s Weltner Banquet. The annual fundraiser is the greatest source of regular financial support for the foundation’s mission to protect and expand government transparency, accountability journalism and free speech in Georgia.

Sponsorships are available at four levels:

  • Platinum—Eight tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full-page advertisement in the program; all benefits of being an institutional GFAF member, including legislative updates and one complimentary open government workshop for your organization or company, $10,000.
  • Gold—Eight tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full-page advertisement in the program, $5,000.
  • Silver—Six tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage, and a half-page advertisement in the program, $2,500.
  • Bronze—Four tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage and a quarter-page advertisement in the program, $1,500.

To become a sponsor, please call Lenora Kopkin at 678-395-3618 (office) or 770-331-2524 (mobile) or email info@gfaf.org. Sponsorship deadline is Sept. 24.

Learn more about GFAF’s Weltner Award, named for the late Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles L. Weltner, an unyielding champion of government transparency, and see a list of past honorees.

Teaching the public’s right to know

Richard T. Griffiths

Barely a week goes by that you don’t hear about a public agency or official in Georgia falling short of the transparency required by the state’s Sunshine Laws.

Some have almost certainly been intentional violations in which public officials were caught red-handed, deliberately thwarting the public’s right to know.  But many violations are unintended, the result of well-meaning public officials simply not understanding what is required of them.

Hunger for understanding the Sunshine Laws was on display in October in Alpharetta when more than 40 public officials from as far as Gainesville – many records custodians – attended another Georgia First Amendment Foundation training session explaining the requirements and intricacies of Georgia’s open government laws.  The officials showed they were enthusiastic about the benefits of open government and anxious to do the right thing.

The same day as that Alpharetta training event, supporters of the foundation were gathering in Atlanta for our annual fundraiser, the Weltner Award Banquet, where we honored Cobb County Senior Judge Jim Bodiford for his extraordinary career-long efforts to keep courts open and transparent.

But it was also the fundraising component of the evening that was extraordinary.  Donors pledged to write checks for more than $136,000 for the foundation’s work, donations that will allow us to shift our training programs into overdrive.

AJC Editor Kevin Riley and WSB News Director Misti Turnbull announce $80,000 donation at the foundation’s 2018 Weltner Award Banquet.

During the banquet, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News announced an $80,000 donation that the foundation will use to provide open government training across Georgia. The news organizations, both part of the Cox Media Group, in April filed a complaint with the Georgia attorney general alleging the City of Atlanta maintained “a culture of political interference” with open records requests under the administration of former mayor, Kasim Reed.

The AJC and WSB settled with the city in early October. Under the terms, the City Council and new Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms agreed to take substantial steps to increase transparency and also to pay the news organizations $80,000 as partial reimbursement of legal fees. That money will now be used by the foundation to provide transparency training for public officials, members of the public and journalists statewide.

We offer training like the session we delivered in Alpharetta to citizens, public servants and journalists all over the state, including the City of Atlanta.

We were also delighted to announce during our banquet that the Georgia First Amendment Foundation received funding to republish significantly updated versions of our guidebooks that detail the public’s right to access its government under state law. The Department of Journalism at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, through its William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management, will provide $10,000 to update the books. The Georgia Press Association is contributing $1,000 toward the effort.

The guidebooks are key tools of the foundation’s open government work in Georgia. They include the Red Book, A Citizen’s Guide to Open Government, and the Blue Book, a Law Enforcement Officer’s Guide to Open Records in Georgia. We last updated those books in 2014 and we’ve used them extensively in our training of public officials. The new funds also will help us create a new Yellow Book, A Guide to Open Records and Courts in Georgia, detailing transparency requirements in the workings of the state’s legal system.

Our next major event is our Legislative Breakfast near the start of the General Assembly session, and we are in the process of scheduling training events throughout 2019 for the public and government officials.  If you would like to schedule training on open government in your area, send us an email and we’ll figure out how to work you into the schedule.  Keep up with our news on gfaf.org and via our e-newsletters.

As Judge Jim Bodiford reminded us at the Weltner Banquet, quoting Georgia’s constitution: “’Public officers are the trustees and servants of the people and are at all times amenable to them.’ That’s something that we could probably read and review every day.”

Wise words from Jim Bodiford.

We hope you will engage with the foundation as we take on this important educational work.

Wishing you the best for the holiday season,

Richard T. Griffiths

President, Georgia First Amendment Foundation

Donors pledge more than $136,000 in great show of support for the foundation’s open government mission

Contributions announced at Oct. 17 Weltner Award Banquet will help educate Georgians on the public’s right to access public documents, meetings and proceedings.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation has received pledges, sponsorships and individual donations adding up to more than $136,000 — a robust display of support for protecting and expanding open government in our state.

Cobb Judge James Bodiford, with Jim Zachary (L) and Amelia Weltner

The funds were contributed in conjunction with the foundation’s annual Weltner Award Banquet on Oct. 17. The banquet, which honored Cobb County Superior Court Senior Judge James Bodiford, was one of the nonprofit’s most successful fundraisers ever, attracting more than 120 attendees and 11 event sponsors.

During the banquet, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News announced an $80,000 donation that the foundation will use to provide open government training across Georgia.

In addition, the Department of Journalism at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced a generous donation through its William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management. The university will provide $10,000 to update the foundation’s popular open government guidebooks. The Georgia Press Association also is contributing $1,000 toward the guidebook revisions.

“In a time when trust in government is at all time lows, transparency is one of the best tools for building trust,” said Richard T. Griffiths, president of the foundation’s board of directors. “We intend for these funds to be used to provide training in Atlanta and throughout the state for the public, journalists and government officials. That means, in particular, we will be in a position to help the City of Atlanta as it builds out its extraordinary openness initiative.”

Donation emerges from settlement with city

The AJC, Channel 2 and the City of Atlanta recently settled a complaint that the newsrooms filed in April with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. The complaint alleged “a culture of political interference” with open records requests under the administration of former mayor, Kasim Reed. Under terms of the settlement, the city council and new Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms agreed to take substantial steps to increase transparency and also to pay the news organizations $80,000 as partial reimbursement of legal fees. That settlement money will fund the news organizations’ donation to the foundation.

Alex Taylor, chief executive officer of Cox Enterprises, parent company of the news outlets, said in a statement, “We couldn’t be more proud of the team at WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for its watchdog reporting on this incredibly important matter and proving, once again, that local journalism matters.

“The First Amendment and state laws such as the Georgia Open Records Act are essential to our democracy and freedom as citizens because they enable us to see how our government works,” Taylor said. “We support the Georgia First Amendment Foundation in its mission to hold our public officials accountable and demand transparency in government.”

Honoring commitment to courtroom access

At the banquet, Bodiford accepted the foundation’s 2018 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award, making him the 17th honoree to receive the award. It was presented by Amelia Weltner, granddaughter of the late Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles L. Weltner, an unyielding champion of government transparency for whom the award is named.

The foundation recognized Bodiford for his 30-year commitment to protecting the public’s right to courtroom access. The Cobb senior judge kept his courtroom open while presiding over some of Georgia’s highest-profile criminal cases.

In his keynote speech, Bodiford encouraged other judges to remember that the judicial system needs “the confidence of the public” to succeed. “The more they know, the better they’ll feel about it,” he said.

>>> Watch WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News report, read The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s article about the donation and check out the Daily Report’s coverage of the foundation’s 2018 Weltner Award Banquet.

Georgia First Amendment Foundation names Judge James Bodiford 2018 Weltner Award honoree

Cobb County senior judge recognized for keeping courts open during some of the state’s highest-profile criminal cases.

Cobb County Superior Court Senior Judge James Bodiford has earned a reputation for protecting the public’s right to courtroom access while presiding over some of Georgia’s highest-profile criminal cases. Rather than restrict the public and media from attending those trials, Bodiford made provisions to keep the proceedings open — and maintained an orderly courtroom. He encourages other judges to open their courtrooms, as well, arguing that our judicial system works best when it’s accessible and transparent to citizens.

Judge James Bodiford

The open-courts commitment Bodiford has upheld over his more than 30-year career is why the Georgia First Amendment Foundation is honoring him with our 2018 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award. Bodiford will receive the award at the foundation’s annual Weltner Banquet at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 17, at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta.

A prime example of Bodiford’s dedication to courtroom access was the State of Georgia v. Ray Brent Marsh. In 2002, a tip led investigators to a northwest Georgia crematory where 334 corpses were discovered. Marsh, the crematory operator, was charged, and a local judge immediately entered a sweeping gag order that created chaos. Hundreds of families from three states were desperate for information about the remains of their loved ones, and people across the country closely followed the case.

The gag order left the Georgia Bureau of Investigation unable to provide basic information to families and the public. Bodiford was asked to take control of the case, and one of his first acts was to announce that he would be handling it in an open way, giving law enforcement and the media the latitude needed to keep the public informed. National, state and local media reported on every hearing. The public had full visibility into the legal process, which ultimately resulted in a plea that sent Marsh to prison.

Bodiford stayed true to these First Amendment principles in other high-profile cases, as well, including the murder trials of courthouse shooter Brian Nichols; Lynn Turner, who poisoned her husband with anti-freeze; and Fred Tokars, a one-time Atlanta lawyer and prosecutor who had his wife executed by a hit man in front of his young children. Bodiford kept proceedings open, gavel to gavel, amid constant media coverage. As the jury heard evidence, so did the public — a demonstration of the power of open courtrooms.

Bodiford’s record reflects an understanding of how modern media coverage provides a tremendous opportunity for the judiciary to make court proceedings more accessible and understandable to citizens. Even under the harsh scrutiny of high-profile trials, his commitment to transparency has not wavered.

A Cobb County native, Bodiford stepped down from daily trial work in 2014 and began serving as a senior judge. In addition to educating Georgia judges about the importance of courtroom access, he has traveled to Estonia, Bosnia and the Republic of Georgia to teach judges in those countries about how the American justice system works.

Learn more about GFAF’s Weltner Award, named for the late Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles L. Weltner, an unyielding champion of government transparency, and see a list of past honorees.

Weltner Banquet art auction: No Obstruction to Free Speech

Large mobile represents relationships between U.S. presidents and free expression; auction proceeds will support the foundation’s mission.

The tangle of quotes in Richard T. Griffiths’ hanging mobile, No Obstruction to Free Speech, is designed to give context to the current relationship between the press and the President. The artwork shows how tensions of today are nothing new, says Griffiths, president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and a retired journalist who oversaw CNN’s global editorial quality control for more than 20 years.

Griffiths created the 6-by-4-foot mobile from wood, lasered urethane, stainless steel and galvanized wire. The artwork displays quotes from every U.S. president, as well as from Founding Fathers and select quotes from Supreme Court justices. Their words illustrate how America’s leaders have respected the ways independent journalism and free expression contribute to the stability of our democracy.

No Obstruction to Free Speech will be auctioned at the Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s 2018 Weltner Award Banquet, happening the evening of Oct. 17 at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta. The annual banquet is the foundation’s most important fundraiser, and proceeds from the auction will directly support our mission to protect and expand free speech and public access to government records, meetings and court proceedings in Georgia. (Tickets are now on sale.)

Griffiths’ mobiles are on display at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism and private collections. No Obstruction to Free Speech was in part inspired by the tangle of coat hangers in Man Ray’s Dadaist work Obstruction that hangs in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Join us: Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet, Oct. 17

Sponsorship opportunities and tickets available now — join us to celebrate and support open government in Georgia.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s annual Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet is the greatest source of financial support for our narrow and essential mission: fighting for free speech, government transparency and access to public information in Georgia.

Our 2018 banquet is scheduled at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 17, at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta.

We will honor Cobb County Superior Court Senior Judge James Bodiford as recipient of our 2018 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award. Bodiford has earned a reputation for protecting the public’s right to courtroom access while presiding over some of Georgia’s highest-profile criminal cases.

Join us by buying individual tickets, or become a sponsor and invite your colleagues and friends. Sponsorship benefits extend beyond the banquet and are at four levels:

  • Platinum—Eight tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full page in the program; all benefits of being an institutional GFAF member, including legislative updates and one complimentary open government workshop for your organization or company, $10,000.
  • Gold— Eight tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full page in the program, $5,000.
  • Silver—Six tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage, and a half-page in the program, $2,500.
  • Bronze—Four tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage and a quarter-page in the program, $1,500.

For information about becoming a 2018 Weltner sponsor, please call Lenora Kopkin at 678-395-3618 or email info@gfaf.org.

The Weltner Banquet and the foundation’s annual Freedom of Information Award are named for Charles L. Weltner, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who championed freedom of information and ethics in state government. The award honors his commitment to open, transparent government.

See photos from our 2017 banquet and a list of past Weltner Award winners at gfaf.org.

 

How to get the public information you want: Guidance from an elected official

By Lisa Cupid

One area where my positions as a citizen and an elected official fully align is in my support for government transparency. Transparency helps citizens get information they need, and it also helps elected officials get out information about what we are doing, how we are doing it and why.

Lisa Cupid

The process of transparency is often adversarial. Instead of citizens and elected officials working together to get to the bottom of a matter, transparency is often hampered by a presumption of conflict that gets everyone off on the wrong foot. Requesters of information may think that elected leaders always have something to hide. Elected officials and even government staff may be frustrated by requests that seem too broad or seem to make demands without regard for courtesy.

Let me be clear: Information that is accessible to the public under Georgia law and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution must be provided by government entities without exception. Even if the request is broad or demanding. Still, if you are a citizen or journalist making a request, the way you ask for information can actually improve the likelihood of getting relevant information as soon as possible.

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Watch a video of Commissioner Cupid discussing the importance of good communication when seeking public information.

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So, what’s behind our transparency process problem? In my experience, there are a few causes.

There might truly be bad intent on behalf of those requesting information or those with a desire to withhold it. But this is actually the least common of all the causes I’ve witnessed.

  • More often, a request for information might take a long path to the right source. As an elected official, I often get requests for information from constituents, and while I am happy to help them, the quickest route would be to for them to walk into or call the county clerk’s office. Making the request of those closest to the documentation will almost always yield a more thorough and faster response.
  • A problem with transparency also might be caused by a downright lack of knowledge about the law. Georgia’s Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act are long and complex. That’s why the Georgia First Amendment Foundation produces a citizen’s guide to the state’s Sunshine Laws. Even though I am a foundation board member, lawyer and two-term elected official, I have found myself in the awkward position of not knowing that an action taken by the board of commissioners was in violation of the Open Meetings Act. I’m confident many other public officials have had the same experience.
  • By far, most transparency issues emerge from miscommunication or from challenging exchanges between those seeking information and those charged with providing it.

So, what can we do to smooth and simplify the flow of public information?

If you are a citizen or journalist, ask for help — not just in receiving information, but also in how to ask for it clearly and concisely. Go to the clerk’s office, email the planning department, call the staff person who administers a program in which you are interested. Tell them what you would like to know and ask for guidance on the most efficient way to get that information. Most of us in public service feel we are called to help. Requests framed with that understanding appeal to the very core of why we are in our respective positions: to serve the public good.

Become versed in Georgia’s open government laws so you can identify whether access to information is being intentionally or ignorantly subverted. Check out the foundation’s tips for requesting public information, as well as our Red Book, A Citizen’s Guide to Open Government, mentioned above. In addition, look for opportunities for in-person training; our foundation experts lead or participate in several government transparency training sessions throughout the year. If you don’t already receive our training schedules and updates, email us at info@gfaf.org and ask to be added to the list.

If you are a government employee or elected official, seek out information and training sessions — including refresher courses — to ensure you understand transparency laws and have current knowledge. Again, the foundation is a great resource. Check out not only the Red Book, but also the Blue Book, Georgia Law Enforcement and the Open Records Act. The foundation provides in-person open government training to agencies, as well; email us at info@gfaf.org to learn more.

In today’s climate of political contentiousness and “fake” news, it can be wise to go to the original source of public information. The foundation’s efforts help support a free flow of facts that creates more informed citizens and more engaged and responsive elected officials. Whether you’re an interested citizen, an elected official — or, as in my case, both — that is help we all can benefit from.

Lisa N. Cupid, a GFAF board member, is an attorney and a Cobb County commissioner representing District 4.

SAVE THE DATE: Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet, Oct. 19

Event to honor the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program and the late Judge Stephanie B. Manis of Fulton County Superior Court.

The Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program works to improve governance and transform citizens’ lives worldwide by providing governments with actionable advice and technical assistance that increase transparency and help citizens exercise their fundamental right to information. The Georgia First Amendment Foundation is honoring that important work by naming the Atlanta-based program as recipient of the 2017 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award.

The foundation also is honoring the late Fulton County Superior Court Judge Stephanie B. Manis with its Open Government Hero Award. Manis, who died in December, was an unwavering advocate of open records and open meetings during her years in the Office of the Georgia Attorney General and on the bench.

Both awards will be presented during the foundation’s annual Weltner evening banquet on Oct. 19 at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta.

Laura Neuman, director of the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program, will accept the Weltner Freedom of Information Award and serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Manis’ family will accept the Open Government Hero Award in her honor.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s Freedom of Information Award is named for Charles L. Weltner, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who championed freedom of information and ethics in state government. The annual Weltner Banquet provides financial support for the foundation’s narrow and essential mission: fighting for free speech, government transparency and access to public information in Georgia.

For information about becoming a 2017 banquet sponsor, please email info@gfaf.org.

Invest in the First Amendment—become a Weltner Banquet sponsor today

Reserve space now for the Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet, Oct. 19.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s annual Weltner Banquet is the greatest source of financial support for our narrow and essential mission: fighting for free speech, government transparency and access to public information in Georgia.

This year’s event, scheduled at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 19, at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta, will honor the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program and the late Judge Stephanie B. Manis of Fulton County Superior Court.

Welter sponsorships are at four levels:

  • Platinum—at least 8 tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full page in the program; all benefits of being an institutional GFAF member, including legislative updates and one complimentary open government workshop for your organization or company, $10,000.
  • Gold—8 tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full page in the program, $5,000.
  • Silver—6 tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage, and a half-page in the program, $2,500.
  • Bronze—4 tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage and a quarter-page in the program, $1,500.

For information about becoming a 2017 Weltner sponsor, please call Lenora Kopkin 678-395-3618 or email info@gfaf.org.

The Weltner Banquet and the foundation’s annual Freedom of Information Award are named for Charles L. Weltner, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who championed freedom of information and ethics in state government. Honorees reflect his commitment to open, transparent government.

The 2017 Weltner Award honoree is the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program, which works to improve governance and transform citizens’ lives worldwide by providing governments with actionable advice and technical assistance that increase transparency and help citizens exercise their fundamental right to information.

The foundation also is honoring the late Fulton County Superior Court Judge Stephanie B. Manis with its Open Government Hero Award. Manis, who died in December, was an unwavering advocate of open records and open meetings during her years in the Office of the Georgia Attorney General and on the bench.

Both awards will be presented during the Weltner Banquet. Laura Neuman, director of the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program, will accept the Weltner Freedom of Information Award and serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Manis’ family will accept the Open Government Hero Award in her honor.