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Watchdogs use open government laws to the fullest

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VALDOSTA — Not everyone at the Open Government Symposium on Friday were affiliated with a government.

Some of them, like John and Gretchen Quarterman, serve as watchdogs for the government. These watchdogs attend the open, public meetings held by governing bodies, acquire the documents and records of these meetings and other governmental affairs, and serve to make sure our local governments behave like they should.

Open Government symposium

An attendee of the Open Government Symposium holds a pamphlet detailing the Georgia Sunshine Laws, Friday.

The Quartermans run the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE), a repository of information about the governments of Valdosta and Lowndes County, video footage of meetings, as well as a number of other topics that pertain to the area, such as the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

They attended the Friday symposium, as well as the one held last month at Macon, recording both events for their LAKE site.

John Quarterman remarked that he was happy with the symposium.

“I think it’s great that this symposium has happened,” Mr. Quarterman said. “There’s a lot of things that a lot of people may be unaware of unless they fanatically follow the open government and open meetings laws. That’s a tiny minority of us.”

Quarterman expressed interest in what was said in the symposium, including that of a “presumption” of government openness, and that exceptions to the open records and meetings act were just that, exceptions, that governments could use to withhold meeting access or records.

Quarterman was also impressed with the steps that Lowndes County has already taken in addressing openness of government.

“I think it’s a public service of Lowndes County that they cite [the open records law] right there on the open records request.”

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