Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It Isn't Easy or Cheap to Find out Where Perdue Is; Information Exempt from the Law Must Be Blacked out First

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It Isn't Easy or Cheap to Find out Where Perdue Is; Information Exempt from the Law Must Be Blacked out First

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA - If any Georgians wanted to know whether their governor had been taking trips on the sly to Latin America, they'd better have a fat checkbook to get the chance to browse the official schedule.

That's because Gov. Sonny Perdue's staff would have to redact any information that is exempt from the state's Open Records Act, all done at an hourly rate determined by the least qualified employee capable of doing the redactions - often an attorney.

Such lawful exemptions include medical information, Social Security numbers and information about ongoing criminal investigations. Not exempt are topics some officials would just as soon keep confidential, like the names of industrial prospects and potential appointees.

Blocking the exempt information would cost thousands of dollars.

Perdue's communications director, Bert Brantley, said the schedule just isn't set up to be perused by the public or the press.

"The calendar is set up for the governor's use and to give him information at his fingertips," Brantley said. "I guess we could do a separate schedule that would be query friendly, but that would be more staff time and could give the appearance we were doing one just for show."

Perdue's staff has provided printouts to reporters who have requested his appointments on specific dates, Brantley said. And it did conduct a keyword database search for the names of cities supplied by the Times-Union that resulted in a tally of the number of trips to each city. In both cases, access to the information was limited to the request. If he made frequent trips somewhere else that might have been of interest to the public, details would be disclosed only if already known.

The Times-Union and the Augusta Chronicle already were researching how often Perdue visited Augusta and other Georgia cities when reporters raised questions about the whereabouts of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who eventually acknowledged he had been slipping off for rendezvous with a woman in Argentina.

Sanford didn't begin disclosing his schedule either until after the affair became public, according to Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association. …

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