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Attorney General says foundation subject to state Sunshine Laws

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Attorney General says foundation subject to state Sunshine Laws

  • The Georgia attorney general said the University of Georgia’s main fund-raising organization must comply with state open records and meeting laws.

Nov. 19, 2003 — The University of Georgia Foundation, the fund-raising arm of Georgia’s largest public university, is subject to state open records and meeting laws, Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker ruled last week.

Because the foundation shared management staff, equipment and other resources with the university, it must comply with Georgia’s Sunshine Laws, he said Nov. 14.

“I would strongly encourage [the foundation] to find ways to make [its] activities as transparent as possible, and to always comply with the letter and the spirit of the law,” Baker ruled, in resolving a dispute between the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the foundation.

In October, the foundation denied Journal-Constitution reporter Alan Judd’s request for audit records chronicling the spending of foundation funds by university President Michael Adams. Although the audit was released to the public Oct. 29, foundation attorney Letitia McDonald told the newspaper in a letter that it “will not confirm that it is ‘legally obligated’ to comply with any request made” under Georgia’s open government laws.

McDonald said the foundation was exempt from the state’s Sunshine Laws because it is a nonprofit organization that receives less than a third of its funding from taxes.

The foundation continued to hold closed meetings and, according to Thomas Clyde, attorney for the Journal-Constitution, the press and public were ushered out of a Nov. 6 foundation meeting as it was called to order.

According to a recent report by Atlanta law firm King & Spalding, the foundation’s board of trustees manages an endowment of more than $400 million, and pays approximately 58 percent of Adams’ annual salary of $575,000. However, the university’s Board of Regents hired and oversees Adams.

“Ultimately, we are a better state and our public institutions are best served, when the public has access to information,” Baker said.


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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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