Audit: Most policies don't give email contact for public records requests in Tennessee

Audit: Most policies don't give email contact for public records requests in Tennessee

May 21st, 2018 by Natalie Allison/The Tennessean in Local Regional News

NASHVILLE — Though most cities, counties and school districts in Tennessee list in their policies contact information for who will handle public records requests, fewer than half include an email address to which the public can direct those requests.

That's one of the findings of an audit of government entities across the state by the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, which examined 259 policies between October and March.

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, established in 2003, works to preserve and improve access to public information through an alliance of journalists, civic groups and residents. Its two dozen board members include leaders of news, civic and legal organizations around the state.

Under a state law passed in 2016, government entities in Tennessee were required to establish a written policy by July 1, 2017, on requests for public records, including the name, title and contact information for the person in charge of coordinating public record requests.

State law also requires that government entities using email to transact business must accept records requests through email.

Although 84 percent of the policies audited did contain the title or name along with the phone number of the government employee handling public record requests, just 33 percent of counties, 69 percent of cities and 55 percent of school districts — 50 percent overall — included an email address with the contact information.

The only contact information in some policies was the physical address of the government entity.

A small number of the policies TCOG audited appeared to have been outdated and not updated to meet the July 2017 deadline requirements, including not listing the name or title of the entity's public records request coordinator at all.

Document: THE AUDIT

An audit by the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government found that some agencies had adopted rules that were so rigid that they threatened to slow down or thwart the process of getting records.

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