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Georgia Court of Appeals upholds conviction against former Kasim Reed press secretary for open records violations

Jenna Garland was convicted by a jury in Dec. 2019 on two misdemeanor counts of violating the Georgia Open Records Act.

ATLANTA — The conviction against Kasim Reed's former press secretary was upheld on Monday by the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Jenna Garland was convicted by a jury in Dec. 2019 on two misdemeanor counts of violating the Georgia Open Records Act. She had been accused of obstructing open records requests that had been made by a news station in Atlanta (11Alive was not the news station involved).

A citation alleged she had instructed the director of communications for the city's Department of Watershed Management to "drag this out as long as possible and provide information in the most confusing format available," Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in 2019.

RELATED: Jury finds former Kasim Reed press secretary guilty of obstruction

Garland had reportedly rejected a plea deal in the lead-up to the trial.

Georgia's Open Records Act requires a government agency to produce public records in response to requests "within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed three business days of receipt of request."

The Court of Appeals decision issued on Monday outlines how an employee at the Department of Watershed Management handled the request and retrieved records that showed properties belong to Reed, then mayor at the time, and his brother had not had their water bills paid in a long time.

In the course of further records requests, Garland told the director for communications at the Department of Watershed Management in texts to "be as unhelpful as possible," and communications showed Garland orchestrating a campaign of feet-dragging for the release of records that included some belonging to City Council members.

In her appeal, Garland argued prosecutors had failed to prove she "knowingly violated" the Open Records Act and "acted in bad faith in handling" the records requests, as well as prove that the crimes were actually committed in Fulton County where she was tried.

The Court of Appeals rejected her arguments.

Reed, who was mayor from 2010-18, is a leading candidate to return to office in Tuesday's election. 

He faced questions during the campaign about a federal inquiry into campaign spending his lawyers said has closed without charges, as well as a bribery scandal and indictments that followed several of the officials who served in his administration.

At least two Reed administration officials, former city Chief Procurement Officer Adam Smith and Reed's Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Taylor-Parks, pleaded guilty to taking bribes and were given federal prison sentences. Trials have yet to begin in the cases of two others - former city Director of Human Services Mitzi Bickers and former city Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard.

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