Radio host sues state education association

Opponents say repealing FOIA could let groups spend your tax dollars in secret.

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act requires government agencies to make documents available to the public. FOIA also applies to private groups who get public money.

Executive Director Molly Spearman with the South Carolina Association of School Administrators says FOIA violates their First Amendment rights.

The FOIA is for government agencies and we are not a government agency, said Spearman.

SCASA is an alliance of public school leaders. They receive public funding through membership and professional development training within the school districts.

Spearman argues that getting tax dollars doesn't mean they have to open up their records.

We feel strongly that our First Amendment rights as an association is to join together and be heard freely without harassment of FOIA is our protection, said Spearman.

That's not the view of Charleston radio host Rocky Disabato, who is suing SCASA for information regarding the group's lawsuit against Governor Mark Sanford.

Last May, SCASA won its suit, which forced Sanford to accept federal stimulus funds.

Rocky Disabato wanted to see some records and information related to the reason why they brought that suit, said his attorney Butch Bowers.

Bowers says the law is clear and his client wants SCASA to comply with the open records law.

"It gets a little fuzzy when you get to an organization that is not a government agency, but they still receive public support, says Bowers, and because they receive public support, there is no question that they are subject to the open records law.

If the court rules in favor of SCASA, Bowers believes that it could severely impair the public's ability to know how tax dollars are being spent; however, it will probably be several weeks before the case is heard.