Update; Where are the Utility Deposits? Part II

Published on 5 June 2024 at 22:48

On May 16, 2024, I sent a request for records pertaining to the utility deposits paid by citizens of Washington. I sent the request to Jerry deBin, city administrator, and to Debbie Bazemore, city clerk. These are records I have been requesting since November 2023 but have been refused by deBin. 

My original request in November 2023, was for a list of individuals who paid additional deposits as a result of disconnection for the month of October 2023 and the amount that they paid. I was told this information is not listed in their system. Specifically deBin stated on December 8, 2023:

"The kind of report you are requesting does not exist. It would have to be created." 


He went on to say that to extract the information from the system and compile it in a record while redacting information such as social security numbers and bank information, would take 1.5 hours and would cost $26.51. I agreed to pay the fee and suggested I could pick the records up at city hall. I did not receive a response and did not receive the records. 


I have made mayor Bruce Bailey and all members of the city council aware of my request and the refusals to provide the documents which are to be made public per the open records law. I have revised my request many times because I have been told the records don’t exist and/or need to be created. Below is my May 16, 2024 request:


Per Georgia Open Records law I am requesting the following:


The amount collected in utility deposits in total in 2023.


The number of new utility accounts opened in 2023. Just the number not names of account owners. 


Evidence the city council approved the additional deposit amounts of $250 and $350 when utilities are disconnected.


What account the deposits are held in, meaning are they held in an account separate from the general fund and the amount in interest earned on the funds in 2023.


Thank you,




The law also states that records are to be provided within three business days and if not able to be provided within that time frame, an estimate of when they will be available and cost if any, provided within three business days.


On May 31, 2024 (not three business days) I received the following email from Bazemore:


"Ms. Chaffee,


I am writing in response to the request you made on May 16, 2024. The estimated staff time is 9.5 hours at a cost of $289.46.  In addition, there is an outstanding balance of $77.00 for a prior request that will need to be paid as well.


Please let me know if you would like us to proceed."



Firstly, the “outstanding balance” was for records I requested on February 29, 2024 regarding communication mayor Bailey had with city board members and I was told by Bailey, on March 12, 2024, that he would not provide them. To be exact, he stated via email:

As for your recent request I am consulting with the city attorney as this is about a real estate deal and now according to your article with a threatened lawsuit, I will have to ensure I/We can send any further information regarding the housing authority, Mrs. Booker, and Mr. Jones. So, stand by as I am in receipt of your request and will process it as deemed appropriate by the lawyer. "


I stood by and never received the records or an update to the status. 



As for the utility records I requested, it seems 9.5 hours is a surprising amount of time to retrieve records that it is reasonably assumed, people running the city, would already have. One would think knowing how much money has been collected in utility deposits and what type of account these funds are in, would be something the city administrator and all members of council and mayor would want to know, especially when changing policies as they did in the May city council meeting. It is also something that should be reflected in the yearly budget and balance sheet. If it will take 9.5 hours to assemble this information, it tells me, it is not already known, which is a concern. If it was already known, it would not take 9.5 hours to provide to me.


I sent my response to Bazemore via email and copied the mayor and council so they certainly are aware of the time she has stated it will take and the monetary fee I would be charged. I again, revised my request to be simply what type of account the deposits are being held in i.e. checking, savings, interest bearing or non-interest bearing, and who approved the escalating deposits of $250 and $350 when utilities are disconnected. I have received no response from Bazemore, deBin, mayor Bailey or members of city council.  If you'd like to read more about the history of my request you can do so here.



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