Mayor Reed's former press secretary plans to fight open records violations charges

ATLANTA — The one-time press secretary for former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was back in court Monday and signaled she will not accept a plea bargain on charges that she violated the state open records law.

Jenna Garland is the first ever criminally charged under the Georgia's Open Records Act.

Channel 2's Nicole Carr asked Garland as she walked to the Fulton County Courthouse if she had anything to say about the pending case, but her attorney responded, "Not this morning."

The announcement in court means the case is headed to trial, possibly starting this fall.

In court, Judge Jane Morrison told Garland that conviction on both counts could producer fines higher than most misdemeanors because the Open Records Law calls for a $2,500 fine on the second conviction. Most misdemeanors call for a $1,000 fine. The charges also carry a possible sentence of one year in jail.

Channel 2 Action News Investigative reporter Richard Belcher has followed this case for nearly two years.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Atlanta City Hall Investigation]

It began in 2017 when Channel 2 Action News asked for public records involving unpaid water bills by government officials but didn't receive the records for weeks.

Another city official, Lillian Govus, later provided a Channel 2 Action News producer with text messages showing that Garland ordered Govus to delay the release of the records.

In those text messages, 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.”

[READ: 'Drag this out’: Texts reveal Reed administration’s effort to keep public records from WSB]

The Georgia Open Records Act says public agencies shall notify persons requesting records within three days when the records will be available and provide the records in a reasonable time frame.
In the charging documents against Garland, both citations clearly reference Channel 2 Action News' role in seeking public records, which authorities contend Garland illegally defied. Both citations are misdemeanors.