Legal and Legislative Update for GA Public Libraries, Dec. 12

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by Marti A. Minor

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Legal and Legislative Update for Georgia Public Libraries:

Legal and Legislative Update for Georgia Public Libraries Marti Minor, J.D., M.L.I.S December 2012

Legal Disclaimer:

Legal Disclaimer These materials are provided as general information only. No legal advice is being given by the Georgia Public Library Service, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, or any other person. You should consult with your attorney on all legal matters.

Open Meetings/Open Records:

Open Meetings/Open Records 2012 Legislative Changes

Board Meetings by Teleconference:

Board Meetings by Teleconference Prior to the 2012 changes to the Open Meetings Act, there was no law that prohibited library board members from attending meetings via teleconference. The new law clarifies that an agency without state-wide jurisdiction may conduct public meetings by teleconference only under “ emergency conditions ” or when a participant cannot attend in person because of health reasons or absence from the jurisdiction O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(g ).

Disclosure of Library Director Candidates:

Disclosure of Library Director Candidates Records identifying persons applying for or under consideration for employment as library director are subject to inspection and copying at least 14 calendar days prior to the meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken on the position. O.C.G.A. § 50-17-72(a)(11). All documents concerning as many as 3 persons under consideration whom the board has determined to be the best qualified for the position shall be subject to inspection and copying. O.C.G.A. § 50-17-72(a)(11).

Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse:

Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse 2012 Legislative Changes

Child Service Organization:

Child Service Organization 2012 revision expanded the definition of “child service organization personnel” to include “persons employed by or volunteering at a business or an organization, whether public, private, for profit, not for profit, or voluntary, that provides care, treatment, education, training, supervision, coaching, counseling, recreational programs, or shelter to children.” O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5 (b)(5).

Resources for learning how to identify abuse:

Resources for learning how to identify abuse Division of Child and Family Services http :// dfcs.dhr.georgia.gov access the “Services” drop-down menu to select “ Child Abuse & Neglect.” Governor’s Office for Children and Family offers a free on-line training course http :// children.georgia.gov/press-releases/2012-07-27/governor-signs-amendment-expanding-mandated-reporter-laws .

When is a Report Required?:

When is a Report Required? Immediately upon the formation of a reasonable belief that abuse is or was occurring . No longer than 24 hours.

Who Receives Report?:

Who Receives Report? Ultimately , oral reports are made to the local child welfare agency or, in the absence of such agency, the appropriate police authority or district attorney. In most locations the child welfare agency that provides protective services is the county Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFACS). To find the DFACS nearest your library go to http:// dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/county-offices . After hours contact info: 1-855-GACHILD.

Chain of Command Reporting:

Chain of Command Reporting Subsection 2(c) slightly alters the procedure as to employees or volunteers at “a hospital, school, social agency, or similar facility” to allow compliance through notification of the person in charge of the facility. It then becomes the responsibility of the person in charge of the facility to make the immediate oral report to the proper authority . Does this apply to public libraries??? Discuss with your municipal attorney.

What Information is Reported?:

What Information is Reported? The reporter should provide a description of what was observed or the circumstances that led to the suspicion of abuse. The reporter has no obligation to investigate, and, in fact, investigation should be left to child protection professionals . Library personnel will have complied with the statute if all known information is reported.

Revealing Info About Library Patrons:

Revealing Info A bout Library Patrons Georgia has a confidentiality statute regarding library records. O.C.G.A . § 24-9-46. Applies to circulation records. Providing the identity of a suspected abuse victim and that of the parent or caretaker to child protection services does not violate the confidentiality statute.

Reporting Statute is a Criminal Law:

Reporting Statute is a Criminal Law Any person required under the statute to report abuse who knowingly and willfully fails to do so is guilty of a misdemeanor. Courts have determined that the statute does not create a private right of action. Therefore, monetary liability is not an issue for the library in the event an employee or volunteer fails to comply.

Odds and Ends:

Odds and Ends Issues raised by library directors 2012

Patron Access:

Patron Access In addition to First Amendment concerns, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits public providers of programs and services from (a) discriminating against “a qualified individual with a disability;" and (b) excluding such individual from participation in or denial of the benefits of services, programs or activities. 42 U.S.C. § § 12131 et. seq. Therefore , a public library may not remove or bar a patron who is covered by the ADA for the reason of his disability.

ADA applies to “a QUALIFIED individual with DISABILITY”:

ADA applies to “a QUALIFIED individual with DISABILITY” Not all physical impairments are “ disabilities.” Only impairments that “substantially limit” ability to perform a major life activity implicate ADA. T emporary or transitory impairments are NOT disabilities. Would NOT be a “qualified individual” if condition poses a direct threat to the safe operation of the library or if the individual “poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”

Minors With Children:

Minors With Children Prior suggestion: libraries should always contract with a minor’s parent or guardian to be legally responsible for the child’s account. Person under the age of 18 does not have the capacity to enter into a valid contract. Jones v. State , 166 S.E.2d 617 (Ga. Ct. App. 1969). Contract to which a minor is a party is voidable. O.C.G.A. § 13-3-20(a ). Parent of minor child is not liable for debts incurred by child. Wilkins v. Barnes, 75 S.E. 361 (Ga. Ct. App. 1912 ). If parent is a minor, no liability.

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See you in 2013! In the meantime, send questions and concerns to Julie Walker.

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