Documents provided to AllOnGeorgia on Wednesday by a third party indicate that Evans County Board of Education emails requested in a June Open Records Request are no longer on the server.
AllOnGeorgia filed an Open Records Request in late June seeking the personnel file of former employee Sharon Threatte, documentation on employee salaries at the district office, and emails related to the pay of Sharon Threatte and the pay classification of district office employees. Superintendent Martin Waters quoted more than $11,000 in fees for said records and a complaint was filed with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office. That inquiry is still open and pending as the Attorney General’s Office has been in communication with Board Attorney Ron Hallman.
But the documents provided Wednesday show that an Atlanta-based attorney who filed an Open Records Request with the Evans County Board of Education cannot file a similar for the documents and emails because the emails no longer exist.
The Board of Education has implemented a new email server retention policy that only hosts emails for 180 days. The emails requested by AllOnGeorgia included a date range beginning January 1 and running through June 27, 2018. Emails currently on the server only date back to May 2018. The attorney has said he plans to follow up with the Evans County Board of Education to ensure that no emails outside of the 180 day window are deleted in the event of litigation.
The new letterhead for Open Records Requests responses from the Evans BOE has a disclaimer that indicates that “if payment is not made within 30 days, the request is considered null and void.” This was not the policy when AllOnGeorgia filed the Open Records Request in June, but it does illustrate that despite an open complaint with the state attorney general’s office, the Evans County Board of Education has not only closed the request by AllOnGeorgia, but has altered their policies to ensure the records requested are no longer available.Response from Waters
Waters previously said more than 90,000 emails existed in the search terms for the AllOnGeorgia request, but the more recent request filed by the Atlanta attorney yielded just 330 emails. Because the emails only date back to May 27, 2018 at this time and Sharon Threatte left on June 27, 2018, the Evans Board of Education is alleging 330 emails related to Sharon Threatte exist for a 30 day period.
Also of note – the attorney that filed the Open Records Request received a quote of just $641, more than $10,000 less than the quote provided to AllOnGeorgia. Additionally, AllOnGeorgia was quoted for costs using one of the highest-paid employees in the office – Karen Bland – at more than $50/hour, but the attorney was quoted for just $18.17 per hour.
The details of a lawsuit or any potential lawsuit with the Evans County Board of Education have not been made publicly available and no other information is available at this time.
AllOnGeorgia has filed two complaints against the Evans County Board of Education with the Attorney General’s Office. As mentioned, the Open Records Act complaint is still open and the Board of Education was recently offered a settlement, including a fine and training on open government, for the Open Meetings Act violations. AllOnGeorgia has been barred from covering school events since the dispute began in June.