University of Georgia Foundation Reverses Policy on Closing Meetings in Face of Threat of Open Government Lawsuit
(Atlanta) Attorney General Thurbert Baker announced today that the University of Georgia Foundation had agreed in writing to abide by all provisions of the Open Meetings Act and not to close meetings when discussing University System employees. The agreement marked a shift in policy from two recent meetings of the Foundation where they had closed meetings to discuss the compensation of UGA President Michael Adams.
The change in the Foundation’s position resulted from a February 26, 2004 letter from Attorney General Baker to University of Georgia Foundation Chair Lynda Courts. That letter informed the Foundation that the Attorney General would file suit against the Foundation under the Open Meetings Act on March 15, 2004 due to their continued violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act. The only way that the Foundation could avoid litigation was to provide written assurances to his office agreeing to abide by the provisions of the Open Meetings Act at all future Foundation meetings, which the Foundation did in the correspondence signed by Foundation Chair Lynda Courts today.
In announcing the agreement, Attorney General Baker stated that “Today’s resolution is a victory for Open Government in Georgia. It marks a recognition that all of the state’s business, regardless of how controversial it may be, should be conducted in full view of the public. I applaud the UGA Foundation for recognizing the merits of conducting the people’s business in public.”
The letter from Foundation Chair Courts specifically sets out that the Foundation agrees to conduct all of its meetings, both with the full Board of Trustees as well as all meetings of the Executive Committee, in complete accordance with the Open Meetings Act. In addition, the Foundation agreed that it would not utilize the employee exception of the Open Meetings Act to close any portion of meetings in which the Foundation was discussing individuals employed by the Board of Regents.