Members of that office “did agree to the concept,” she said. A spokesperson for the attorney general said the office had no comment about the proposal.
"There are numerous people who just repeatedly fire off open records act information, sometimes abusively, with regard to the language they use, with regard to the tone they take to the people they submit the request to, and they have no legitimate purpose," Perkins-Hooker said. "We did not have a provision to stop the county from running around in circles."
County commissioners expressed sympathy for the county attorney’s plight, but said they needed more information before they could support a change. Commissioner Joan Garner questioned who would determine what makes something frivolous, saying she didn’t know that commissioners should judge that.
And Vice Chairman Liz Hausmann questioned why a provision in the law that requires payment for records didn’t reduce the problem. If a record will cost more than $25, the county can confirm with the recipient that he or she is willing to pay it before work on gathering the records begins. And if it will cost more than $500, the county can demand payment in advance. Those provisions were meant to discourage requests from people who were not willing to pay for them.
Perkins-Hooker said some requesters were asking for electronic records, which don’t have a cost to produce them, aside from the employee’s time. Perkins-Hooker said the county “needed some way to stop people” she referred to as “frequent fliers.”
“I’m not sure I’m ready to sign on to this idea,” Hausmann said. “I don’t want us to be deemed as trying to do anything that’s not transparent.”
Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said the proposed law “cuts the citizens out of the process.” She said her group would vigorously fight the proposal.
“It’s among the worst ideas I’ve ever reviewed as leader of the First Amendment Foundation,” Manheimer said. “It blatantly undermines the whole concept of democracy, to clamp down on citizens who are seeking to get information.”