The Augusta Chronicle asked for the records 16 months ago while looking into how campus safety officers were being hired.
Similar inquiries were made of Aiken Department of Public Safety, the Aiken County Sheriff's Office and Richmond County and Columbia County schools after fired Richmond County campus officer Charles Hutto tried to jump off a highway bridge while still in uniform in October 2005. The newspaper asked for background materials on all officers working full time at public schools.
North Augusta refused to turn over disciplinary records and filed a complaint against The Chronicle in May 2006, citing a state law exempting governments from releasing "information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy."
An order signed Friday by Aiken County Second Judicial Circuit Judge Jack Early said the documents don't rise to that level. Moreover, the issue already had been settled by state courts in a 2004 case, Burton v. York County Sheriff's Department.
"The manner in which the law enforcement officers who provide security and law enforcement in the public schools located in the City of North Augusta carry out their duties is a matter of serious and legitimate public interest," the order says, "and the review of the disciplinary records of those officers is related to the public's evaluation of the manner in which those duties are performed."
The order says the city must "disclose promptly" the disciplinary records of all officers who have worked campus safety positions since Oct. 14, 2005, the date The Chronicle filed its request for the documents.
The city has 30 days to appeal.
Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.