Audit: New sunshine law "created new hurdles for citizens"

May 23, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  A recent audit gives local officials a mixed score for their response to a new state law intended to make access to public records easier.

The law requires that each municipality create and publish a policy outlining how residents could access its public records.

Credit tcog.info

The watchdog group Tennessee Coalition for Open Government conducted the audit. Executive Director Deborah Fisher says TCOG wanted to find out if the 2016 law was being followed and what local officials were including in their policies. 

“Specifically, we wanted to see what kind of rules they might be putting in their policies that either helped or hindered the public from getting access to public records.”

Fisher says she was pleased to discover most municipalities surveyed had created and published the policy as required.

However, she says the audit also reveals that, as the report reads, “many policies created new hurdles for citizens with increasing layers of bureaucracy and rules, some of which could conflict with state law.”

Fisher says, for example, that many local officials are requiring that citizens show proof of residency before they’re allowed to view government records. Fisher says she believes that requirement makes little sense.

Fisher says many local officials also refuse to allow citizens to use their cell phones to take photos of public records, something she believes violates state law.

“This issue of taking photos of public records has come up in other states and has been well settled/ But, unfortunately in our state, government entities – some government entities are holding to that.”

Would you like to review TCOG's audit?