The “scandal rag” of Floyd County — aka the Roman Record — is a collection of records each week that every Georgia citizen has access to under the Georgia Open Records Act.
This includes (the favorites) arrests and divorces, but also includes a number of other things such as animal control and jail stats, probated wills, bankruptcies, recent deaths, business licenses, building permits issued, sales tax distribution tables for SPLOSTs and ELOSTs, real estate transfers, marriage licenses and recent births.
Again, while it’s famous for the arrest reports, there has never been a move made to make it live up to the reputation it has been given. Detractors have railed about information published and more than one of us has been approached with the offer of money to keep pieces of information out of the weekly publication.
An interesting aside — did you know the much-maligned Roman Record has won numerous awards for reporting under the Open Records Act? It has.
It also contains information about people who have done well in the business community and features photos of pets that are available for adoption at the Floyd County PAWS animal shelter.
Primarily, it serves a function. What function could that gossipy publication serve, you ask? All of these items are available to any member of the public and if agencies aren’t used to giving those items out — they don’t believe they have to.
That’s what we’re here for — we’re here to make sure that when you ask, you’ll get the information you’re entitled to by law. FYI — we’re in pretty good shape here. We have longstanding relationships with our local governments and law enforcement agencies, and they do a good job in providing us with publicly accessible materials — in many cases, every day.
The public depends on the state’s open records laws to get information about the functioning of government and the performance of our public officials. Those laws were written to ensure governments remain accountable to us — the citizens. Georgia’s law requires that public agencies respond to open records requests within three days and provide those records as soon as they are available.
A group of students tested the law by requesting publicly available records from agencies across the state in 2016. In many cases the students were stonewalled and, in at least one case, a police agency in Cobb County only complied after nearly two months. They wrote about their exercise and then repeated it last year. This time many of those agencies complied quickly and within the time limit allowed by law.
Earlier this year the Georgia Attorney General’s office filed the first criminal charges for reportedly violating the Open Records Act.
The press secretary for former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed reportedly ordered a subordinate to delay handing over public records requested by Channel 2 and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Those records contained information they viewed would be damaging to Reed and other city officials. Her case hasn’t been resolved yet, but it underscores the power that governments can wield when they believe they don’t have to follow their own laws.
If you ever go to an agency that isn’t used to dealing with the public — and journalists are just that, members of the public — and ask for something, just as likely as not they’ll refuse because they don’t know any better.
This publication is a weekly reminder that these items are codified in Georgia law as the public’s right to know. While we are certainly representing our own interests in putting out a product, we are also representing you.
As part of that general gathering of information we found out the Rome police — as they are supposed to — granted a woman’s request to protest outside our offices this past week and early next week.
We’ll leave the who out of it and move more to the why. She said she didn’t like the fact that her address was published in an arrest report in one of the police briefs we ran in our daily edition (not the Roman Record this time) among other things.
That’s reasonable and she certainly has a right to protest and went through the proper channels to do so.
We continue to print identifying factors such as name, age and address in arrest reports in order to show who it is that was arrested. There are many shared names in this community; providing addresses and ages helps to clarify which person was charged.
Many other things we don’t print are also publicly available but we’ve chosen not to put them in the publication. One of the main things we attempt to keep out of our reports are the identities of complainants who have been sexually assaulted, and the names of those who attempt suicide on private property.
So the “scandal rag” will continue to exist. We’ll continue to inform you about all the good (and bad) things within our county, hopefully to the benefit of us all.
Editor’s Note: We would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Jeanne Krueger, president and CEO of the Rome Floyd Chamber, as well as to Mary Catherine Chewning, who has been promoted to Fire Marshal. We have worked with both women for many years and look foward to a continued relationship.