The complaint outlined 10 examples of alleged violations of the Georgia Open Records Act dating back to July 2016.

GBI inquiry into Atlanta City Hall focuses on water bills

As part of an ongoing investigation into criminal violations of the Georgia Open Records Act at Atlanta City Hall, state investigators have begun scheduling interviews with past and current city council members.

According to a Channel 2 Action News report, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents are inquiring about water bills — the same records that former Mayor Kasim Reed’s press officer tried to avoid releasing.

Two GBI agents showed up at City Hall unannounced last week.

But before they went to City Hall, they had paid the city’s Watershed Department a visit where Channel 2 Action News last year requested water bills for a handful of elected officials.

Former Mayor Kasim Reed (left) and then-press secretary, Jenna Garland (right). Channel 2 Action News and the AJC have obtained text messages of Garland instructing another communications officer to “be as unhelpful as possible” in response to a request under the Georgia Open Records Act for water billing history of properties owned by Mayor Reed and his brother, Tracy. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Former communications officer Jenna Garland, who now works in the private sector, directed a communications officer for the city’s Watershed Department to “be as unhelpful as possible” and to “drag this out as long as possible” when responding to the requests.

The text messages appear to be a violation of the Georgia Open Records Act, which mandates that government officials provide responsive documents within three business days of a request if they are available. Obstructing or “frustrating” the release of documents is explicitly prohibited.

The texts prompted Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to launch an investigation.

Channel 2 Action News has confirmed that the GBI has scheduled interviews with former City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and council members Ivory Young and Andre Dickens. Mitchell, Young and Dickens are among the officials whose water bills were requested by Channel 2 Action News.

Channel 2 Action News also requested the bills for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who was a council member at the time.

A spokesperson for Bottoms said the GBI has not requested an interview with the mayor.

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