ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned the state attorney general's office asked the GBI to open an investigation into possible violations of the state open records law by the press office of then-Mayor Kasim Reed.
This will be the first ever criminal investigation under the records law.
The request for an investigation comes days after Channel 2's Richard Belcher revealed text messages that showed an effort by Reed's press secretary to delay releasing potentially embarrassing information about unpaid water bills by Atlanta city officials, and when finally released, to make it as difficult as possible to understand.
The texts were provided to Channel 2 by Lillian Govus, who was the top communications officer for Atlanta's Department of Watershed Management and now works out of state. They document exchanges between Govus and former press secretary Jenna Garland between late February and early April of 2017.
In one of the exchanges referencing an open records request by Channel 2 Action News, Garland texted Govus: "I'd be as unhelpful as possible. Drag this out as long as possible. And provide information in the most confusing format available."
Tuesday afternoon, Belcher broke news of the investigation to the city council members and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' top lawyer.
Jeremy Berry, now the chief legal advisor to Bottoms and before that the top lawyer for Mayor Reed, said he hadn't heard about the fallout from our investigation.
"No one's contacted me about anything. I see news reports like you, and there's really nothing more for me to say at this point," Berry said during a city council meeting Tuesday.
Bottoms sent Belcher a statement about the investigation, saying, "While I was not privy to decisions made by the previous Administration regarding the Georgia Open Records Act, I want to reaffirm my pledge to rebuilding trust with the public and members of our local media. Transparency is paramount and my Administration will always follow both the spirit and letter of the Georgia Open Records Act."
We were unable to reach Garland for comment on the investigation.
Cox Media Group