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Georgia State student journalist sues Board of Regents

It’s been a tireless battle for David Schick.

Today, the Georgia State student journalist filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Regents for failing to produce public records regarding Georgia Perimeter College’s $25 million budget shortfall last year.

The unaccounted money resulted in the layoffs of 282 GPC employees and president Anthony Tricolli.

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Shortly after, Schick, former Editor-in-Chief of the GPC student newspaper The Collegian, began requesting information regarding the shortfall and layoffs via emails, memos and numerous open records requests that remain unsatisfied, according to his complaint filed today in Fulton County Superior Court.

“What’s going on in Georgia is a microcosm of what’s happening all over the country, with state universities contemptuously defying their public disclosure responsibilities through foot-dragging and astronomical fees,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said in a press release.

“The public has an absolute right to know — while it is going on, not a year later — how one of its colleges ran up a seven-figure budget deficit. This is the 21st century, and emails are searchable and retrievable within a matter of seconds, not months,” LoMonte said.

Schick filed a records request to GPC, a two-year college from where students transfer to other universities like Georgia State, in July of 2012. By that time, open records requests were nothing new to him.

“Before this one, I had filed three open records requests at GPC,” he said. “And I got them all for free.”

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Originally, the University System demanded $2,963.39 for the records, an amount Schick was later able to reduce with the help of SPLC data-management expert Nathan Raper.

In his sworn affidavit, Raper said, “it would take no more than one hour of time” for a trained IT technician to search for the records requested by Schick.

Raper’s affidavit along with a detailed report by Schick, dropped the asking price for the records down to $291, or a tenth of the cost, but the University System still did not give out the records, forcing Schick to sue, he said.

“It’s become very tiresome because of their unwillingness to cooperate,” he said.

Claiming the records were part of an “ongoing investigation,” the Board of Regents will have to disprove Schick’s claims saying they took close to 140 days before officially responding to his requests, well over the three-business day limit for open records under the Open Records Request Act.