ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Representatives from Appen Media Group met with officials from the City of Roswell Aug. 1 to discuss resolution of a lawsuit the publishing company filed over release of police records.
Appen, publisher of the Alpharetta-Roswell Herald and other area newspapers, filed suit in December claiming the Roswell Police Department was in violation of Georgia’s Open Records Act by supplying the newspaper with heavily redacted crime incident reports that contain almost no information. Appen also charges the department has constantly exceeded the three-day turn-around for supplying the reports.
“It was a productive meeting,” Appen Publisher Hans Appen said. “I think we made our concerns clear. I am optimistic that it was a good first step toward a resolution Roswell citizens will be happy with.”
The publishing company has so far spent more than $10,000 pursuing the suit. A month ago, it launched a Go Fund Me page to help cover costs. So far, it has received $4,220 in donations, many of them from Roswell residents.
Latest records from the city show it has mounted more than $12,000 in legal fees related to the suit.
Appen said the newspaper is seeking reimbursement for attorney’s fees and a guarantee the city adhere to the Open Records Law.
For its part, Roswell City Manager Gary Palmer and City Attorney David Davidson issued a memo dated July 10 to the Police Department and city clerk ordering that full initial police arrest reports and incident reports for misdemeanor violations be released on request.
However, the memo adds that “request for initial reports and incident reports for felonies or items under investigation shall be immediately sent to the City Attorney’s Office for response.”
State law does not exempt felony reports from release, although it does allow police to redact some information, such as confidential sources and Social Security and driver’s license numbers.
“I still have concerns about Mr. Davidson’s approach to crimes involving felonies,” Appen said. “There is no provision in Georgia open records laws that give the city attorney authority to ‘clear’ incident reports before they are made available to the public.”
In response to those concerns, Davidson said this week that the city will comply with the three-day response time for requests for felony reports. He said he simply wants to see the reports before they are released.