You are here

Unofficial Opinion 97-14

Unofficial Opinion 97-14

May 9, 1997
To: 

Representative
District 51

Re: 

In order for a publication to become a countys official legal organ, under the recently amended O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142, an independent audit must show that the publication has had an 85% paid circulation rate for the twelve months prior to its being declared the official legal organ.

You have requested my opinion "as to when a newspaper would have to have an independent audit as to paid circulation before becoming the ‘official organ’ of a county. In other words, would an audit done now have to show an 85% paid circulation for the past year, or does the audit have to be performed one year before a newspaper applies for the designation." It is my unofficial opinion that, under recently amended O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142, an independent audit must show that a proposed new legal organ has had an 85% paid circulation rate for the twelve months prior to its being declared the county’s official legal organ. The audit need not take place a year prior to this declaration.

The requirements for a change in a county’s official organ of publication are set forth at O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142. During the 1997 legislative session, O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142 was amended, effective upon the approval of the Governor. Governor Miller signed Act No. 187 into law on April 14, 1997. As a result, the new provisions of Section 9-13-142 took effect on that date.

There are, therefore, differing requirements for legal organ changes made by counties before April 14, 1997, and changes made by counties after that date. Prior to April 14 of this year, a county could not declare a journal or newspaper to be its official legal organ unless that journal or newspaper had been "continuously published and mailed or delivered to a list of paid bona fide subscribers in that county for a period of two years" or was the "direct successor of such a journal or newspaper" and unless "85 percent of the circulation of the newspaper or journal [was] paid circulation." O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142(a) (prior to 1997 amendments). Exceptions to this rule could be made, however, by a majority of the following group: the judge of the probate court, the sheriff, and the clerk of the superior court. O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142(b), (c) (prior to 1997 amendments).

After April 14, 1997, a county cannot declare a journal or newspaper to be its official legal organ unless it has been:

continuously published and mailed or delivered to a list of paid bona fide subscribers in that county for a period of one year or is the direct successor of such a journal or newspaper and unless 85 percent of the circulation of the newspaper or journal is paid circulation and has been paid circulation, as established by an independent audit, for a period of 12 months prior to the newspaper’s or journal’s being declared or made the official organ.

O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142(a) (emphasis added). As before, exceptions can be made by a majority of the probate court judge, the sheriff, and the superior court clerk. O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142(b).

The language of the newly amended statute requires only that the independent audit show that the publication has had at least 85% paid circulation for the twelve months prior to its declaration as official legal organ. It does not indicate that it would be necessary for the audit to have been initiated twelve months prior to the declaration.

It is, therefore, my unofficial opinion that, under recently amended O.C.G.A. § 9-13-142, an independent audit must show that a proposed new legal organ has had an 85% paid circulation rate for the twelve months prior to its being declared the county’s official legal organ. The audit need not take place a year prior to this declaration.

Prepared by:

CHRISTOPHER A. MCGRAW
Assistant Attorney General