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June 11, 2013

Student sues Board of Regents for budget documents

ATLANTA — A former student journalist at Georgia Perimeter College filed a lawsuit Monday against the university system’s Board of Regents, saying it failed to produce documents under the state’s open records law.

David Schick, past editor of the student newspaper, had been seeking records related to the college’s $25 million budget shortfall and layoffs in 2012.

Schick is seeking an injunction compelling the university system to comply with his requests. The lawsuit filed in Fulton County claims the university system has not produced all the records requested and engaged in “obstruction, delay and at times outright misrepresentations.”

Schick, who is now an Atlanta-based freelancer and blogger, is receiving legal counsel referred to him through the Student Press Law Center.

“The public deserves to know how so much money could have gone ‘missing’ from the budget and how it could go undetected for such a long period in time,” Schick said in a statement. “The buck stops with the Board of Regents and the records I requested could go a long way towards revealing what officials knew and when they knew it.”

SPLC officials say Schick filed two requests with Georgia Perimeter College and with the Board of Regents for emails, memos and other communications related to the budget shortfall. The University System asked Schick to pay nearly $3,000 to receive the records. SPLC officials say University System representatives eventually said they could fulfill Schick’s request for about $300, but continued withholding the documents when he asked for them.

Schick’s attorney, Daniel Levitas, says Georgia Perimeter College also asked that he pay nearly $1,000 for the records.   

“This is an exorbitant and illegal fee and should be reduced,” Levitas said in a release.

“What’s going on in Georgia is a microcosm of what’s happening all over the country, with state universities contemptuously defying their public disclosure responsibilities through foot-dragging and astronomical fees,” SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte said in a release. “This is the 21st century, and emails are searchable and retrievable within a matter of seconds, not months.”

Regents’ spokesman John Millsaps told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://bit.ly/14sffnL) he’s unaware of the lawsuit, and system policy prohibits commenting on pending litigation.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

 

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