Open Records Act


Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A §50-18-70)
Adopted January 2000
Last Revised October 2014

The amended Georgia Open Records Act (2012) has significant consequences for the University of West Georgia, as well as all state-supported colleges and universities. The amended Act made nearly all records accessible to any citizen who requests them. In compliance with the law, UWG will make records available, when appropriate, in a non-adversarial and open manner.

The University of West Georgia is subject to the provisions of the Georgia Open Records Act (GORA) that entitles all citizens the opportunity to view records of state agencies upon request and to make copies for a fee, unless the records are exempted by law from disclosure.

The Department of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (IEA) is designated by the University President to respond to ORA requests and to serve as the custodian of records. All UWG departments and units must work in cooperation with IEA to ensure University compliance with the ORA. The open records officer is responsible for compliance with the ORA. The University requires all written requests for records be made upon the duly designated Open Records Officer. The 3-day period begins when the Officer receives the written request.

The University will respond in writing within three (3) business days of the date the request was received. The requestor will be notified of:

  • The existence of the records. O.C.G.A.§50-18-71(b)(1)(A)
  • A time the records will be available for inspection or provided. O.C.G.A. §50-18-71(b)(1)(A)
  • The costs (actual or estimated) for search, retrieval, redaction, production, copies, and postage. The University shall utilize the most economical means to calculate and produce the documents O.C.G.A. §50-18-71(c)(1). The University charges ten cents ($0.10) per page for copies. The hourly rate charged for search and retrieval may not exceed the rate of the lowest-paid, full-time employee capable of performing the search beyond the fifteen (15) free minutes allowed by statute. If the information requested is available on the computer, the University may charge the actual cost of a computer disk or tape onto which the information is transferred and may charge for the administrative time involved. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment may, but is not required to, contact the requester with an estimate prior to fulfilling a request. O.C.G.A §50-18-71(c)(2)
  • When the estimated cost is in excess of $25, the requester will be notified in writing and the University may defer search and retrieval until the amount is agreed upon, unless the requester states in his or her request a willingness to pay an amount that exceeds the search and retrieval costs. When the estimated cost exceeds $500, the University requires prepayment prior to beginning search, retrieval, review, or production of the records. O.C.G.A. §50-18-71(d)
  • When the University is required to or has decided to withhold all or part of a record, the requester will be notified of the specific legal authority exempting the disclosure by Code section, subsection, and paragraph within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed three (3) business days. O.C.G.A. §50-18-71(d)
  • The University may also require prepayment if a requester did not pay for a previous request where the costs were properly estimated. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71(c)(3), (d).
Submit Requests to:

Tara Pearson, Open Records Officer
Attn: Open Records Officer
Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment
University of West Georgia
1601 Maple Street
Carrollton, GA 30118

(678) 839-4765
(678) 839-6449

Or deliver to the office:
Sanford Hall, Suite 112

Full Georgia Open Records Act Document


  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A §50‐18‐70)
    The questions and answers below are meant to serve only as a brief overview of how the Georgia Open Records Act
    affects University employees and is not meant to be all inclusive of every aspect of the Act. The Director of Institutional
    Effectiveness and Assessment (IEA) was named custodian of records and the President of the University designated the
    department to respond to ORA requests. If you have questions about the Act itself, or questions about your response to
    a request for information, please contact the Office of Institutional Research at 678‐839‐6449.

    1. What is the Georgia Open Records Act?
      State law requires that public records be open and available for inspection by any member of the public.

    2. What is the purpose of the Open Records Act?
      The purpose is not only to encourage public access to certain information, but to maintain the public's
      confidence in government by discouraging secrecy and closed records. The act allows the public to evaluate the
      function of its institutions.

    3. What is a public record?
      Public records include virtually all records of state agencies regardless of format. Documents, maps,
      photographs, videotapes, handwritten notes, computer data, including e‐mails, are public records. Records held
      by private persons for a state agency and records held away from the work site all are subject to the law.

    4. Does the Open Records Act apply to the University of West Georgia?
      Yes. All State‐supported colleges and universities, including UWG, are public agencies and are subject to the Act.

    5. Who may make an Open Records request?
      Any member of the public has a right to inspect, take extracts, or make copies from public records, instruments,
      and documents. The requestor does not have to invoke the phrase “Open Records request,” nor does the
      requestor have to give reason why he or she wants to inspect records.

    6. Does an Open Records request have to be made in writing?
      No. While an office or agency can ask that the request be in writing to ensure understanding of what is being
      requested and for documentation, the law does not require it to be in writing.

    7. What is the institution obligated to do?
      The University must provide access to existing public records in its custody or under its control, including those
      the University created and those it has received in the course of its operation. We are not required to create a
      record which does not exist at the time of the request. While the Act states that we may not be required to
      compile requested information into a single document (i.e. additional analysis, programming, data manipulation
      or formatting), the Georgia Attorney General advises that the University make every reasonable attempt to
      comply with these types of requests.

    8. What are examples of UWG records subject to the Open Records Act?
      - Student evaluations of academic courses
      - Personnel files and Performance Evaluations, however, exempt material in personnel files, such as social security
      numbers, medical information, financial, or information relating to the designation of beneficiaries, will not be
      - Emails sent and received on UWG‐owned equipment, no matter where it is housed, or through private equipment
      housed on UWG property, whether or not it is business‐related, is subject to disclosure. E‐mail is not confidential
      and is subject to disclosure under the Georgia Open Records Act.

    9. Are any UWG records exempt from the Open Records Act?
      Yes. There are exemptions, but they are limited and have been interpreted very narrowly by the courts. The law
      presumes all records are open and places the burden on the University to demonstrate that any requested
      materials are exempt. If a public record contains both exempt and non‐exempt material, the exempt portion
      must be removed and the remaining non‐exempt material disclosed. The exemptions most relevant to UWG are:

      - Medical records and other documents involving matters of personal privacy;

      - Records relating to pending investigations;

      - Records required by the federal government to be kept confidential, such as student educational records
      defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA);

      - Trade secrets and certain information of a proprietary nature;

      - Certain research data, records, or information that has not been published, patented, or otherwise publicly

      - Confidential evaluations submitted to, or examinations prepared by, a governmental agency and prepared in
      connection with the appointment or hiring of a public employee; and records consisting of material obtained in
      investigations related to the suspension, firing, or investigation of complaints against public employees until
      ten days after the same has been presented for action or the investigation is otherwise concluded.

      - An individual´s social security number, mother´s birth name, credit card information, debit card information,
      bank account information, financial data or information, and insurance or medical information in all records, day
      and month of birth, which shall be redacted prior to disclosure of any record requested pursuant to this article.

    10. Are student records subject to disclosure under the Open Records Act?
      Yes, some are. Under the Act, student directory information is considered open. Student directory information is
      defined in the Family Equal Rights and Privacy Act and includes: name, address, telephone listing, major field of
      study, dates of attendance, previous institutions attended, degrees and awards received, participation in
      officially recognized activities and sports, height and weight of members of athletic teams , photograph, and fullor
      part‐time status.

    11. What if it costs us money to comply with a valid request?
      A reasonable charge may be collected for search, retrieval, and other direct administrative costs for complying
      with a request. The hourly charge will not exceed the salary of the lowest paid full‐time employee who, at the
      discretion of the custodian of the records, has the necessary skills and training to perform the request provided,
      however, that no charge shall be made for the first quarter hour. Any agency receiving a request for public
      records shall be required to notify the party making the request of the estimated cost for copying, search,
      retrieval, and other administrative fees authorized by Code Section 50‐18‐71 prior to fulfilling the request as a
      condition for the assessment of any fee; provided, however, that no new fees other than those directly
      attributable to providing access shall be assessed where records are made available by electronic means.

    12. What happens if a valid request is not honored?
      The Code provides for “any person knowingly and willfully violating the provisions of this article by failing or
      refusing to provide access to records not subject to exemption from this article or by failing or refusing to
      provide access to such records within the time limits set forth in this article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and
      upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $100.00.”

    13. What obligation does the Open Records Act place on the University of West Georgia?
      UWG must provide access to existing public records in its custody or under its control, including those the
      University created and those it has received in the course of its operation. We are not required to create a
      record which does not exist at the time of the request. We are not required to compile information into a single

    14. As a University System employee, what is my responsibility to preserve public records?
      Although other federal and state laws require the University to maintain certain records for a period of years, no
      particular records are required to be maintained by the Georgia Open Records Act until they have been
      requested. Once they are the subject of a request, records may not be erased, shredded, or otherwise disposed
      of under penalty of law.

    15. Must the University notify employees named in records being disclosed?
      While there is no such requirement in the law, the University will notify employees whose performance
      evaluations or personnel files are being released under an open records request.

    16. How critical is the time element in complying with the Open Records Act?
      It is very critical that any unit receiving a request for records immediately notify Institutional Effectiveness and
      Assessment. The 3‐day clock for the University to comply under the law starts running when you receive the
      request, not when you relay it to IEA. It is the responsibility of department heads to assure there is no delay in
      this notification to Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment, which is responsible for compliance under
      University policy.

    17. In connection with my duties at the University of West Georgia, what should I do if I receive a legal document such as a summons, lawsuit, or a subpoena?
      You should call the University Legal Counsel immediately, and provide a copy of the document(s). Upon receipt
      of the document(s), the office will instruct you as to what actions are necessary.

    18. In connection with my duties at the University of West Georgia, what should I do if an attorney contacts me?
      You should contact University Legal Counsel or Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment immediately and
      further inform the attorney that he/she should contact one of those offices.

    19. In connection with my duties at the University of West Georgia, what should I do if I receive a request under the Georgia Open Records Act?
      You should contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at 678‐839‐6449 immediately. Upon
      receipt, the request will be handled appropriately.
  • Internal Procedures for Routing/Processing/Responding to Open Records Requests

    Adopted January 2000
    Last Revised July 2012

    The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment is responsible for coordinating the University’s search, retrieval
    and disclosure of records pursuant to open records requests, subpoenas, and requests for production of documents. IEA
    ensures that the University is in compliance with the Open Records Act. However, this law also places important
    responsibilities on all University administrators and staff to understand the policies and procedures associated with
    compliance and to help eliminate unnecessary barriers to records. The procedures outlined below will help determine
    in a timely manner, whether the requested records exist, fall under the law, and how to make them quickly accessible to
    the requestor.

    1. Upon receipt of an ORA request, immediately notify the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.
      If you or your department receives a verbal or written request for records of any kind, please forward the request to the
      Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment immediately.

      There is no legal requirement that an ORA request be in writing; oral requests are acceptable. If you do receive an oral
      request, the employee receiving the request may ask for written documentation, but the requestor does not have to
      comply. If the request is verbal it is mandatory that the employee create written documentation to include requestor’s
      contact information reflecting the date/time the request was made.

      The law provides only a very short time for making the records available and the search, retrieval, and copying of
      documents is often time intensive. Some records may not be released due to a privacy law or statute that prohibits their
      release. An individual department should NOT contact the person making the request, even for clarification, unless
      directed to by the Open Records Officer or University Legal Counsel. To expedite such requests to IEA, you may hand
      deliver them to Sanford Hall Front Campus Drive Room 112, fax them to (678) 839‐4765 or email the request to

    2. If the ORA request originates from IEA, you must respond promptly to IEA.
      IEA frequently receives ORA requests directly. If you receive an inquiry from IEA, respond promptly.

    3. The University of West Georgia must provide a good‐faith estimated cost before fulfilling the request.
      UWG is permitted to recover its costs in responding to ORA requests. Estimate how long it will take you to search for
      and retrieve the records. If you believe it will take less than one hour, notify IEA and proceed to fulfill the request. If you
      believe it will take longer than one hour, notify IEA in writing and await further direction.

      Most requests are straightforward in asking for specific documents, such as a particular personnel file. Others are more
      complicated, or do not give enough information to enable us to form a response. In those instances, IEA will help you
      narrow the scope of the request or determine whether additional information from the requestor is needed.

      The hourly rate charged for search and retrieval time may not exceed the rate of the lowest‐paid, full‐time employee
      capable of performing the search. Many requestors do not realize that their requests for documents can be expensive.
      Upon the agreement of the requestor to pay the costs, IEA will instruct you to begin retrieval and copying records.

    4. When you finish searching for the requested documents, notify IEA that the documents are ready for review.
      - Any questions you have about producing certain information can and should be discussed with the Open
      Records Officer. All records held by an employee or department must be provided without redaction. To
      avoid violating the Georgia Open Records Act, it is strongly advised to provide all documents pertaining to the
      request. The Open Records Officer, with guidance from the University's Legal Counsel, will determine if the
      records are subject to disclosure.

      The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the federal government's equivalent of the ORA and applies to requests for
      information made to federal agencies. Each agency may have its own rules with regard to handling FOIA requests. The
      University is responsible for meeting its FOIA responsibilities. Requests for student records are governed by the Family
      Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).