Hamilton County has 'willfully' violated multiple open records laws in recent weeks, according to experts

Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor speaks during a County Commission meeting in the County Commission assembly room at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Experts suggest the Hamilton County Attorney's Office "willfully" violated open records law by suppressing multiple recent public records requests.

Two records requests filed with the office by the Times Free Press in the last month have been initially denied or had illegal fees imposed by county general government public records coordinator Dana Beltramo.

According to attorney and Tennessee Coalition of Open Government board member Rick Hollow, these violations threaten not only the newspaper's ability to do its job, but more importantly, citizens' right to keep tabs on the elected officials that serve them.

"If they are denying or fighting some requests, you have to wonder how they are treating others," Hollow said after the first violation. "These records don't belong to the county, they belong to the taxpayers. And if they won't provide them to taxpayers, they're not doing their job."