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On December 17, 2021 the Clinic partnered with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation to lead training on Georgia’s Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act for town and county government officials gathered in Hiawassee, Georgia. The presentation also included social media “do’s and don’ts” for officials who use Facebook, Twitter, and similar accounts to communicate with the public about their official duties and activities.

Left to right: Lindsey Floyd (UGA), Richard T. Griffiths (GFAF), 
Kathy Brister (GFAF) & Clare R. Norins (UGA). Photo by Shawn Jarrard.

The goal of the training was to increase officials’ understanding of public access to government processes required by Georgia’s sunshine laws and to explain the First Amendment violations that can arise when government officials censor or block members of the public on social media. Given the concentration of law enforcement attendees, the presentation also emphasized what types of police records are subject to public disclosure and when narrow exceptions apply.

Officials who attended the training included representatives from the City of Hiawassee; Hiawassee Police Department; Hiawassee Downtown Development Authority; Towns County Coroner’s Office; Towns County EMS, 911 Dispatch & Mapping; Towns County Sheriff’s Office & Jail; Blairsville Police Department; Dillard Police Department; and the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.

The training was spotlighted in this Towns County Herald‘s article.