From the Knoxville News Sentinel‘s Tom Humphrey:
NASHVILLE – More than 1,200 people contacted the Office of Open Records Counsel during the past year, and most of them were government officials, according to a recent report.
The annual report shows 1,213 inquiries, all but about 100 dealing with access to public records and the remainder with interpretation of the state’s open meetings law. A majority of the inquiries, 628, came from government officials, while average citizens contacted the office 492 times.
Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and a member of an advisory council that works with the office, said the figures are significant because they show the office is working as envisioned when created in 2008.
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From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
A public records mediation office in Tennessee has ruled that statements made by juveniles who are neither victims nor being charged with an offense are part of the public record and must be released upon request, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
After the ruling, the sheriff of Knox County provided to the News Sentinel the statements given by two juveniles who witness the December accidental shooting death of the son of the county law director. The statements indicate that Trent Lockett III, 20, “engag(ed) his younger brother in a quick-draw scenario,” the newspaper reported — but had left round in the chamber of a 7.62mm pistol he’d handed to the 11-year-old youngster.
The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle has an editorial this morning about the state’s still-new Office of Open Records Counsel:
The state Legislature ought to look into whether the purview of the Office of Open Records Counsel could be expanded to more completely encompass the Sunshine Law, too.
When public officials know that someone is keeping an eye on them and will call them out for violations of state law, it should make them think twice about violating the law in the first place.
The state’s still-new Office of Open Records Counsel is keeping busy, AP says (via The Leaf-Chronicle):
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Office of Open Records Counsel says it’s received about 600 calls so far on issues related to open meetings and public records.
Director Ann Butterworth and open records specialist Elisha Hodge addressed members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday.
Tennessee’s new Open Records Counsel Ann Butterworth penned a column about her office’s work for the Oct. 22 Tennessean. An excerpt:
The Tennessee Public Records Act provides Tennessee citizens the right to inspect and receive copies of non-confidential public records in the possession of Tennessee governmental entities.
But citizens trying to understand their rights under the Public Records Act, as well as records custodians trying to comply with the act, often find it confusing.