Too many Open Records exemptions, TCOG points out

In Advocacy on June 4, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Kent Flanagan, Director of the Tennessee Coalition of Open Government (TCOG), reminded TCOG followers on Twitter today the Tennessee General Assembly has added more than 350 exemptions to the state’s open records law, over the years. Those exemptions are scattered throughout Tennessee Code Annotated are not codified in any one place in the Tennessee Public Records Act. Flanagan highlights a National Freedom of Information Coalition article that states, “Every state theoretically gives citizens the right to access government information. But an analysis of public records policies by the State Integrity Investigation reveals that, in state after state, the laws are riddled with exemptions and loopholes that often impede the public’s right to know rather than improve upon it.” If Tennessee has just 350 exemptions, that is most likely 349 too many. Regardless of the exemptions, citizens should always asume that all records in public offices are open records that belong to the citizens of Tennessee and are available for public inspection. The Tennessee Office of Open Records has opined that not only is the presumption that a record is open, but the burden of proof is not on records requestors to prove the records they are seeking are public records, but rather, the burden rests with a records custodian who is denying a public records request to prove that a specific document is exempt from the Act.

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