Nearly a third of Georgia’s largest state government agencies and departments don’t provide virtual or dial-in access to the public for board meetings, according to an investigation by State Affairs. And the vast majority do not keep video or audio records of those meetings.
While the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the transition from offices to remote work for millions and made video-conferencing and virtual meetings a staple of daily life, only certain state agencies seem to have embraced the opportunity to make public participation in government as easy as a button click.
“Trust in government institutions is at an all-time low,” said Richard T. Griffiths, president emeritus of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. “One of the best ways to rebuild trust is to make government as transparent as it can be, so whatever steps can be taken to allow the public to see what's going on helps that.”
State law only requires agencies to give public notice for the date, time and location of meetings and for written minutes to be available upon request. Still, it’s a gap in transparency and accessibility that effectively cuts out millions of Georgians from easily watching the business of their government and providing public comment without commuting for hours to meeting locations. Meanwhile, those state agencies that do live-stream their meetings and keep video archives told State Affairs the cost to do so is effectively zero.