FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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August 28, 2015 11:34 AM

Loudon County Mayor Buddy Bradshaw's decision to support proposed legislation that would charge residents to view public records seems at odds with his campaign promise to increase government transparency.

Bradshaw will testify next month at hearings sponsored by the Office of Open Records related to HB-315/SB-315 sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads.  Continue>>>

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August 17, 2015 11:30 AM

The Office of Open Records Counsel has set public hearings for Sept. 15-17 in Knoxville, Nashville and Jackson to gather input on whether citizens should have to pay local and state government to inspect public records.

The hearings will be conducted after the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the Tennessee Press Association opposed bills in the last legislative session that would allow for the first time local governments and state agencies to charge labor fees to provide public records for citizen inspection.  Continue>>>

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August 14, 2015 10:46 AM

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — State officials are seeking input on whether government offices should be able to charge citizens to inspect public records.

Current state law allows charges for copying records, but inspection is generally free.  Continue>>>

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July 30, 2015 10:26 AM

The first day of testimony began on Wednesday in a trial to decide whether the Sumner County Board of Education violated the Tennessee Public Records Act by not responding to a Joelton man’s email request.

Ken Jakes filed a lawsuit in Sumner County Chancery Court in April 2014 challenging the school board’s policy requiring a citizen wanting to inspect a public document to submit the request in person or via U.S. mail rather than email.  Continue>>>

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April 14, 2015 12:11 PM

Legislation allowing local governments to charge fees for access to public records was pulled from debate this session for summer study designed to prepare a comprehensive open records bill.

State Sen. Jim Tracy, a Bedford County Republican who sponsored the measure, took the bill off notice recently after holding several meetings with interested groups such as Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and Tennessee Press Association.

"Open records are important to me, and I want to ensure that they are readily available," Tracy said in a statement. "There are bad actors on both sides of this issue, so I was glad to have all parties at the table trying to find language that would continue to allow records to be open and ensuring that they are available in a timely and proper manner." Continue>>>
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April 9, 2015 5:22 PM

Legislation allowing local governments to charge fees for access to public records was pulled from debate this session for summer study designed to prepare a comprehensive open records bill.

State Sen. Jim Tracy, a Bedford County Republican who sponsored the measure, took the bill off notice recently after holding several meetings with interested groups such as Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and Tennessee Press Association.

"Open records are important to me, and I want to ensure that they are readily available," Tracy said in a statement. "There are bad actors on both sides of this issue, so I was glad to have all parties at the table trying to find language that would continue to allow records to be open and ensuring that they are available in a timely and proper manner." Continue>>>
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April 2, 2015 12:31 PM

House Bill 315 and its companion in the Senate is a top legislative priority for the Tennessee School Boards Association. Before pulling the bill, McDaniel kept the idea of new public records fees alive by saying the Office of Open Records Counsel has agreed to conduct public hearings in conjunction with the Advisory Committee on Open Government this summer on the proposal, and make a recommendation on the bill by January 2016.

Ann Butterworth is the open records counsel who would be in charge of making the final recommendation, according to McDaniel’s comments. Although McDaniel indicated discussions and hearings would include members of the Advisory Committee on Open Government. The advisory committee has 14 members and 3 ex-officio members, including the chairs of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and House State Government Committee.

The Tennessee Coalition on Open Government has a seat on the advisory committee, as do other civic groups such as the League of Women Voters and representatives from government such as the Tennessee School Boards Association and Tennessee Municipal League. Continue>>>
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April 2, 2015 12:13 PM

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee gave the green light to the once-dead Insure Tennessee proposal Wednesday.

High praise to those senators who made this significant victory happen. It showed leadership for the citizens of the state of Tennessee.

Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, pushed for the bill to be heard when the committee considered adjourning and finishing its long agenda another time. Continue>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:03 AM
Knoxville officials have begun offering training sessions for city board members after finding possible violations of the state’s sunshine laws.
 
The move stems from a public records request by the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1ycCqPj) in relation to a proposed $9 million digital radio system being discussed by the Knox County E-911 Board of Directors. The newspaper reports the city gave it copies of emails that show some board members discussed the contract in private.
 
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero announced on Feb. 12 that she had ordered Law Director Charles Swanson to review city appointees serving on boards and develop a training program for them. Continue>>>
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March 12, 2015 12:32 PM

 A panel of experts assembled to offer advice on transparency issues is not subject to the state's open meetings law. At least that's the opinion of Ann Butterworth, who heads the Comptroller's Office of Open Records Counsel.

She made the finding in response to an email activist Ken Jakes requested for more information about a recent teleconference held by the 14-member Advisory Committee on Open Government.

"Is that not ironic that the very office that holds the responsibility of seeing that the citizens have access is involved in blocking access?" Jakes said. Continue>>>
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February 26, 2015 1:36 PM

A new guide to Tennessee’s open records and open meetings laws should have a lasting impact on good government across our state.

“Keys to Open Government” a 52-page book, was released earlier this month at the Tennessee Press Association’s winter convention. Perhaps no one was waiting breathlessly, but that doesn’t diminish the need for such a resource.

Written by yours truly and edited by my colleague Deborah Fisher at the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, “Keys” is a guide we hope will help journalists, citizens and elected and appointed officials navigate the laws designed and enacted to keep government actions open and above board. Continue>>>
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February 19, 2015 1:09 PM

Two First Amendment groups have requested permission to file briefs in support of a public records lawsuit brought by The Tennessean and other media organizations that goes before the state's Supreme Court in May seeking evidence in a rape case against four former Vanderbilt University football players.

The Tennessean, eight media organizations and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government filed suit against Metro Nashville last fall seeking access to records in the case that were not created by government entities but were in the hands of police. Those records include text messages between Vanderbilt football coaches and players.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled against the media coalition, but in January the state's highest court agreed to review the case. Continue>>>
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