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

October 24, 2013 2:27 PM

From The Tennessean: It has always troubled me that ignorance of the law can be used as a legal defense for not complying with the Tennessee Public Records Act.

That absurdity came back a few weeks ago when The Hendersonville Star News reported on a brouhaha that had been raging for months between Hendersonville city officials and a group of local residents. The issue was whether (and how much) the city could charge to produce copies of public records.

Visit The Tennessean for more.



October 24, 2013 1:44 PM

From KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — A judge has ruled that the Knoxville News Sentinel should have access to Knox County emails it requested under the state's open records law.

The newspaper reports Blount County Circuit Court Judge David Duggan ruled on Tuesday that nine of the 13 emails in question were public record and the county should release them.

Visit for more.



October 3, 2013 8:07 AM

From The Tennessean: A public records battle between the city of Hendersonville and a group of citizens requesting hundreds of pages of documents has prompted the state to weigh in — on the side of the residents.

That means the city will have to reapprove a new records policy. It passed a resolution establishing fees for labor and copying in July, but an opinion from Elisha Hodge of the state’s Office of Open Records Counsel says aldermen must instead pass an ordinance for the changes to become law, as the city charter requires.

Visit The Tennessean for more.



June 10, 2013 1:00 PM

From  NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state agency that oversees the welfare of Tennessee children is again at financial odds with news organizations seeking more information.

The Tennessean reported the Department of Children’s Services said this week that it would charge $34,952 to produce public records of children who died or nearly died during the past 11 months after having some contact with DCS.


March 15, 2013 1:02 PM

Opinion from The Nashville City Paper:

For months last year, I kept asking members of the Coalition for Open Government and the Tennessee Press Association if they knew anything about the history of the Tennessee Public Records Act of 1957.

I found details about the TPRA and what it covered, but little in the way of context until I visited the Tennessee State Library and Archives and began reading about who developed the legislation and how it was enacted. And, yes, TPA was the driving force behind it.

During the summer convention of 1956, TPA began an ambitious campaign to make state and local government records and meetings more accessible to citizens.

The effort was lead by Carl A. Jones, then publisher of the Johnson City Press-Chronicle and incoming TPA president, and Coleman Harwell, editor of The Nashville Tennessean and chairman of the organization’s FOI Committee.

Kent Flanagan is executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds

February 25, 2013 10:17 AM

From The Republic:

The Tennessee Sunshine Quiz is letting Tennesseans test their knowledge of open government issues with an online survey. The quiz measures knowledge of the state's Public Records Act and Public Meetings Act.

This quiz is sponsored by the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government through the support of the Tennessee Press Association, Tennessee Association of Broadcasters and The Associated Press. The quiz is being conducted in advance of Sunshine Week, March 10-16.

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds

February 8, 2013 2:25 PM

Access Freedom of InformationA few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.


New York's real-time snow plow map to get its first major test this weekend

PlowNYC, the interactive map that allows New York City residents to watch their army of plow-nosed garbage trucks deploy through the city in real time, will have its first test this weekend. Unveiled during last year's mild winter, it has yet to receive the same publicity as a similar program in Chicago. But with a foot of snow in New York City all but assured by Saturday morning, PlowNYC is about to hit the big time.

Visit The Atlantic Cities for the rest.

Closing Airport City meeting violates Colorado Sunshine Laws, experts say

Keeping the public out of a meeting next week that could change the direction of development at Denver International Airport — the state's largest economic driver — would break Colorado open-meetings law, experts said Thursday. Adams County would prefer that the meeting among three elected officials, the mayor of Denver and two of his appointed representatives be conducted behind closed doors.

Visit The Denver Post for the rest.

Henry Sibley principal's $64,590 payout draws questions from open government advocates, MN

The West St. Paul school district paid Henry Sibley High School principal Robin Percival $64,590 to resign—but the district's not saying why Percival resigned or why she received a payout. The secretive termination agreement has rehashed old debates among lawmakers, lawyers and freedom of information advocates.

Visit The Patch for the rest.

Scientist, activist Ian Trowbridge dead

He was the product of early post-war England who developed a keen interest in how things work, first on the cellular level and then in local government. … Trowbridge, the retired Salk Institute researcher who turned his attention to local politics and became a thorn in the side of many an elected official, died Wednesday of an undisclosed illness. He was 65. … He filed perhaps hundreds of California Public Records Act requests over the years and filed lawsuits when he believed public meetings were improperly held in secret.

Visit U-T San Diego for the rest.

Nevada Assembly reviews government transparency

The Nevada attorney general’s office made its case Thursday for a pair of bills before the state Legislature aimed at increasing government transparency. The proposals target laws addressing public records and open meetings, said Keith Munro, the chief of staff for the prosecutor’s office.

Visit for the rest.

Judge (Colorado): Public records still public in Jensen case

District Judge Valerie Robison on Thursday rejected a defense bid to seal the public court file in the case of accused mother Heather Jensen, ensuring continued access to public records in the case. Robison said in a written order that a motion filed by attorney Ed Nugent seeking closure of the public file was “lacking in authority” under state law, while Colorado’s rules of criminal procedure have “no provision” for sealing public court files.

Visit The Daily Sentinel for the rest.

Gov. Haslam denies state lost DCS records case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam denied Thursday that the state was the loser when a judge ruled that the Tennessee Department of Children's Services must make public its records of abuse and neglect investigations of children who died or nearly died. The Republican governor insisted the state is simply "doing what the chancellor asked us to do" in a ruling last month that the documents are public records.

Visit for the rest.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs joins legislative leadership to announce government transparency, pension legislation

(AUSTIN) – Texas Comptroller Susan Combs joined legislative leadership today (February 7, 2013) to announce the filing of legislation aimed at improving government transparency and empowering taxpayers to make informed decisions about taxes and public debt. Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 14, authored by State Senator Tommy Williams and State Representative Jim Pitts and focused primarily on government transparency, would provide taxpayers with vital information about government spending and debt.

Visit The Office of Comptroller for the rest.

Open records advocates say city should put more records online, Colorado

Instead of charging citizens for open records requests, Colorado Springs should be working to put more public information online. That is the advice open government advocates offered Thursday as the city began charging $20 per hour to fill public records requests.

Visit The Gazette for the rest.

Group grades online transparency for states, local governments

Many state and local government websites recently made strides in boosting transparency, a new report published last week finds. Open government watchdog Sunshine Review issued grades for 1,014 government websites, assessing a range of criteria measuring the availability of information.

Visit for the rest.

January 11, 2013 1:55 PM

From Kingsport Times-News:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The top Democrat in the state Senate is calling on Republicans to make the upper chamber of the General Assembly subject to open government laws, saying he wants to see more transparency in government.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis said he's just trying to create more transparency in government, and "level the playing field for ideas, where they can be judged on merit, not politics."

"That's what the Open Meetings law does," he said. "By amending the rules, their deliberations will be subject to public scrutiny, as should be the standard in state government."


November 14, 2012 9:29 AM

From The Tennessean:

An eight-month review of how the executive branch responds to requests for public records has resulted in Gov. Bill Haslam deciding not to make any major changes.
The Republican governor said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that his initial fears about the potential abuse of open-records laws had been allayed. Haslam said he has instructed his Cabinet to expedite records production to the public and the media and to try to keep costs as low as possible.
“The biggest problems that newspapers have isn’t with the state, for the most part. It’s more with local governments, particularly in the rural areas,” said Kent Flanagan, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.
Flanagan applauded the governor’s decision not to impose across-the-board fees on records requests, but he noted that not all requests will necessarily appear reasonable to records custodians at first blush.

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC.--eds.

September 28, 2012 8:10 AM

From Knoxville News Sentinel:

The News Sentinel received the Freedom of Information Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors during the journalism organization's national convention this week in Nashville.

The award recognizes journalists or newspapers who advance freedom of information, make good use of FOI principles or statutes, or significantly widen the scope of information available to the public.

April 10, 2012 10:37 AM

From Jackson Sun:

The state of Tennessee has moved aggressively to expand the role of charter schools in public education, and we have been supportive of those moves. Now, additional legislation is being debated in the General Assembly to ensure that charter schools adhere to state open meetings and open records laws. These bills are an absolute must, as charter schools are paid for with public funds.

March 28, 2012 2:54 AM

From Tennessee Secretary of State

The 2011-2012 Tennessee Blue Book, considered the manual of state government and state history, is now available online.

"Making the Blue Book available online is another way we can provide better service to our customers, the citizens of Tennessee," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "The newest edition of the Blue Book has updated graphics, photos and other enhancements that have not been available in previous editions. The staff of our Publications Division has embraced my challenge to look for new ways to add value to the work that we do here."

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