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Researching Public Information FAQ

The mural at the corner of N. Candler and E. Howard on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Photo by: Jonathan Phillips

The mural at the corner of N. Candler and E. Howard on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Photo by: Jonathan Phillips

Decaturish.com uses a variety of public databases in its reporting. Some are easier to navigate than others. A few cost money to use. But a surprising number of them are free.

These databases compile publicly available information. They are great resources for keeping an eye on your government and the activities of your public officials.

We’re constantly finding new sources of information so we’ll be updating this list. If you have any suggestions, shoot them over to editor@decaturish.com

Researching Public Information FAQ

How do I …. 

Make open records requests? 

Check out our how-to on making open records requests by clicking here.

Look up campaign finance info for state and federal races?

Followthemoney.org

Learn more about candidates for state and federal office?

Votesmart.org

Look up campaign finance and ethics disclosure forms for local candidates and elected officials?

http://ethics.ga.gov/

How do I see who owns a piece of property in Fulton County?

http://gaassessors.com/loadpage.php?refurl=http://www.fultonassessor.org

How do I see who owns a piece of property in DeKalb County?

http://gaassessors.com/loadpage.php?refurl=http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/PropertyAppraisal/index.html

How do I see who owns a business in Georgia?

http://sos.ga.gov/index.php/?section=corporations  You’ll need to create a user name and password for this one, but it’s free.

How do I track website changes?

http://www.changedetection.com/  This is a great way for keeping up with websites that don’t have RSS feeds.

How do I look up a lawsuit or criminal case in DeKalb County?

www.ojs.dekalbga.org  This page loads very slowly for some reason, but you eventually will be able to use it. When it asks you to choose a user profile, you can select any of them. They all produce the same result. Don’t ask me why someone would design it this way. Also, you won’t actually be able to see the court document itself. You’ll most likely have to go down to the courthouse if you want a copy of it.

How do I look up a federal court record?

Go to Pacer.gov. Pacer requires you to create an account and there’s a fee of 10-cents per page for each file you download. Compared to some other databases out there, it’s quite reasonable.

How do I look up environmental enforcement actions by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division?

http://www.gaepd.org/Documents/enforcement.html

How do I research nonprofits?

There are several excellent resources for looking at the financial records of nonprofit entities.

The most popular one is www.guidestar.org. It requires you to create a user name and password. It charges you for some premium services, but most basic info is available.

Recently I’ve discovered this excellent and easy to use resource: http://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/ It’s free to use and I’ve found it to be more up to date than Guidestar in some instances.

How can I find a restaurant’s health inspection score? 

In DeKalb County: http://atlanta.digitalhealthdepartment.com/dekalb/recent.cfm

In Fulton County: http://ga.state.gegov.com/georgia/search.cfm?county=Fulton

How do I check a broker’s background reports? 

http://www.finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck/ This tool can provide information about brokers/firms registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and or securities exchanges. According to FINRA.org, “It includes current licensing status and history, employment history and, if any, reported regulatory, customer dispute, criminal and other matters. It should be the first resource investors turn to when choosing whether to do business or continue to do business with a particular firm or individual.”

How do I research an attorney’s background?

The State Bar of Georgia website has a member directory and keeps records of disciplinary actions against attorneys.

How do I research a Realtor’s background? 

You can verify a Realtor’s credentials by searching this database: https://www.arello.com/?SHOWNAV=1

How do I research a doctor’s background?

The Georgia Composite Medical Board contains extensive information about physicians, including their licenses and whether they’ve had any malpractice judgments against their license. http://medicalboard.georgia.gov/look-licensee

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