Atlanta Citizen’s Fight For Open Government Finally Gets Its Day In Court
Atlanta Ga., May 31 - On Thursday June 2, 2005, at 9:00 a.m., an open hearing pertaining to Feltus vs. DeKalb County will be held in the DeKalb County Superior Court to determine whether DeKalb County Government, and DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) director Lee Remmel, County Executive Assistant Richard Stogner, and County CEO Vernon Jones have illegally withheld critical public documents from the citizens of DeKalb County.
As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (March 16, 2005) “The lawsuit accuses DeKalb County of illegally concealing information about its expansion of the airport (DeKalb County owned and operated DeKalb-Peachtree Airport) as a haven for the private jets of some of Atlanta’s major corporations. The allegations bring to the surface three decades of community fears of a “Hartsfield North” encroaching on their homes” (referencing Atlanta’s major International Airport, with suburban Dekalb-Peachtree airport now rated as second in traffic to Hartsfield).
In just four years, between 2000 and 2004, many DeKalb county citizens submitted hundreds of unfulfilled Georgia Open Record Act (GORA) requests to PDK director Lee Remmel & his staff, applicable leadership within DeKalb County Government, and many other requests to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), all seeking public records relating to activities at PDK. Finally, on May 14, 2004, Mr. Feltus, a DeKalb County citizen, sued DeKalb County and Vernon Jones to enforce the community’s right to open government, and seeking the public records pertaining to PDK activity.
One question seeking an answer via both the GORA and FOIA requests pertains to frequent reports of large commercial aircraft utilizing PDK, hoping to clarify if these aircraft violate a federal contract between PDK and the FAA which limits the weight of aircraft utilizing PDK to 66,000 pounds. This contractual weight limitation was reportedly established in exchange for a waiver of a required environmental impact study on the part of PDK.
Additional questions pertain to ownership records of aircraft that are reported to fly exceeding low and dangerous altitudes in and around the neighboring single-family homes, as well as clarifications concerning future expansion at PDK and planned noise abatement programs seemingly within the exclusive control of PDK director Lee Remmel.
At the beginning of current CEO Vernon Jones’ Administration, and the employment of Richard Stogner as Executive Assistant, the community’s concern turned to fear. At this time, the citizens that support this lawsuit (via donations and community support) contend that Jones’s Administration was not only encouraging PDK’s use of oversized aircraft, but was intentionally concealing the aircrafts owners’ identities from the public, as well as preventing DeKalb County’s Tax Assessor from collecting property taxes on the many aircraft based on the onetime local airstrip. Those supporting the lawsuit contend that the public records Mr. Feltus is seeking will show over 20 million dollars in un-collected tax revenue.
Over the past year, members of the media throughout the state of Georgia have called for DeKalb County to release its public records. Most recently, Georgia’s Attorney General has issued an opinion suggesting that DeKalb County’s concealment of public records is unlawful. Thursday’s hearing will be the first time in over a decade that a court in Georgia will have an opportunity to hear the facts regarding DeKalb County’s public record cover up.
About the hearing: Thursday’s hearing will begin promptly at 9:00 am. at the DeKalb County Courthouse, Decatur, Georgia 30030 in the courtroom of DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Castellani. Recently filed documents, including the Plaintiff’s Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, relating to this hearing can be obtained in the Media Room of Mr. Feltus’s attorney, Brandon Hornsby, at www.hornsbylaw.com.
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- Michael Schwartz
- Group Communications Corp.
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