Transparency issue may not be transparency issue, AP’s Travis Loller reports

In Advocacy on June 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Travis Loller of the Associated Press, Nashville, has reported this week that government transparency groups including the Tennessee Coalition of Open Government (TCOG), Tennessee Press Association and the Tennessee Transparency Project have had a rather subdued response to a  court ruling in Rutherford County that could have been construed as setting “higher standards,” for public notices by local governments in Tennessee. Loller reported, “Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled May 29 that county officials violated the state’s Sunshine Law by not providing adequate public notice of the meeting where the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s new building was approved.” For the article that appeared in newspapers and websites throughout the nation, the AP reporter interviewed prominent Knoxville attorney Rick Hollow, TCOG’s Director Kent Flanagan, Tennessee Press Association Public Policy Director Frank Gibson, Rutherford Neighborhood Association spokesman Steve Schroeder and Tennessee Transparency Project Director Jim Zachary. Flanagan told Loller, “My perspective on it, it was not an open meetings issue.” 

The Transparency Project agrees with Flanagan on that point. In fact, it would appear that the public notice issue was a tool being used by religious zealots opposed to the building of a mosque. Not only is the court’s ruling specific to this case and vague in its application, it does even address the most pertinent issues in the Rutherford County case. This is not a landmark decision that will strengthen Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act or enhance public notice requirements. 

Nevertheless, TCOG, the Tennessee Press Association, the Neighborhood Alliance, Attorney Rick Hollow and the Tennessee Transparency Project are committed to open government advocacy and continue to fight for greater transparency in state and local government. 

This just wasn’t the case to make the case. 

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