A fascinating open records case is unfolding in Georgia.
Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s central park.
The organization that controls Piedmont Park, the Piedmont Park Conservancy, is a private non-profit. In conjunction with other organizations in Atlanta–mostly the also-private Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the city of Atlanta–they plan to start building a six-story parking garage.
This is controversial. It is opposed by Friends of Piedmont Park.
What Doug Abramson, head of that group, wants is access to the financial records of the Piedmont Park Conservancy and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens: two private groups.
Abramson wanted some other things, as well, to stop the garage. A judge denied his other requests but has kept alive the part of Abramson’s suit where he is asking for access to records of the two private non-profits under Georgia’s open records laws.
An attorney for one of the private non-profits says:
“This deck is being constructed solely by the Atlanta Botanical Garden, not by the city of Atlanta or the Piedmont Park Conservancy, to solve a longstanding parking problem. We believe the law is clear that the open records act does not apply to a purely private entity discharging a private function.”
However, the lawsuit to open the records contends:
…the garden, conservancy and the City of Atlanta are collaborating to build the deck. And that relation means the garden and conservancy should follow the same rules a government does when building a project, including opening their records.
On the other hand, the private corporations defending against the open records lawsuit say that if any corporation who does business with the city of Atlanta is FOIAable…where do you draw the line?
That’s a good question.