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Tennessee Public Meetings Law (Sunshine Law)
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Tennessee Public Records Law
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Tennessee Shield Law
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Sunshine Law case tried by jury, Knox County Commission found guilty of violating Tennessee Open Meetings Law
Read about the News Sentinel vs. Knox County Commission case, from the January 31, 2007 Knox County Commission meeting through the October 5, 2007 nullifcation of Commission appointments in the case study special section of the January 2008 edition of The Tennessee Press
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Tennessee Office of Open Records Ombudsman http://comptroller.state.tn.us/openrecords/index.htm

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TPA Government Affairs Committee
Elizabeth Blackstone, Chairman, Kennedy Newspapers, Columbia
Michael Williams, Co-chairman, The Paris Post-Intelligencer;
Frank Gibson, TPA FOI Coordinator, Tennessee Coalition for Open Government
Greg Sherrill, TPA Executive Director

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government www.tcog.info

First Amendment Center http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/

Sunshine Week www.sunshineweek.org

National Freedom of Information Coalition http://www.nfoic.org/

STATE OF TENNESSEE PUBLIC RECORDS LAW
T.C.A. § 10-7-503 - 505
10-7-503. Records open to public inspection
— Exceptions. — (a) All state, county and municipal records and all records maintained by the Tennessee performing arts center management corporation, except any public documents authorized to be destroyed by the county public records commission in accordance with § 10-7-404, shall at all times, during business hours, be open for personal inspection by any citizen of Tennessee, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen,unless otherwise provided by state law.
(b) The head of a governmental entity may promulgate rules in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, to maintain the confidentiality of records concerning adoption proceedings or records required to be kept confidential by federal statute or regulation as a condition for the receipt of federal funds or for participation in a federally funded program.
(c)(1) Except as provided in § 10-7-504(g), all law enforcement personnel records shall be open for inspection as provided in subsection (a); however, whenever the personnel records of a law enforcement officer are inspected as provided in subsection (a), the custodian shall make a record of such inspection and provide notice, within three (3) days from the date of the inspection, to the officer whose personnel records have been inspected:
(A) That such inspection has taken place;
(B) The name, address and telephone number of the person making such inspection;
(C) For whom the inspection was made; and
(D) The date of such inspection.
(2) Any person making an inspection of such records shall provide such person’s name, address, business telephone number, home telephone number, driver license number or other appropriate identification prior to inspecting such records.
(d)(1) All records of any association or nonprofit corporation described in § 8-44 102(b)(1)(E)(i) shall be open for inspection as provided in subsection (a); provided, that any such organization shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection so long as it complies with the following requirements:
(A) The board of directors of the organization shall cause an annual audit to be made of the financial affairs of the organization, including all receipts from every source and every expenditure or disbursement of the money of the organization, made by a disinterested person skilled in such work. Each audit shall cover the period extending back to the date of the last preceding audit and it shall be paid out of the funds of the organization;
(B) Each audit shall be conducted in accordance with the standards established by the comptroller of the treasury pursuant to § 4-3-304(9) for local governments;
(C) The comptroller of the treasury, through the department of audit, shall be responsible for ensuring that the audits are prepared in accordance with generally accepted governmental auditing standards, and determining whether the audits meet minimum audit standards which shall be prescribed by the comptroller of the treasury. No audit may be accepted as meeting the requirements of this section until such audit has been approved by the comptroller of the treasury;
(D) The audits may be prepared by a certified public accountant, a public accountant or by the department of audit. If the governing body of the municipality fails or refuses to have the audit prepared, the comptroller of the treasury may appoint a certified public accountant or public accountant or direct the department to prepare the audit. The cost of such audit shall be paid by the organization;
(E) Each such audit shall be completed as soon as practicable after the end of the fiscal year of the organization. One (1) copy of each audit shall be furnished to the organization and one (1) copy shall be filed with the comptroller of the treasury. The copy of the comptroller of the treasury shall be available for public inspection. Copies of each audit shall also be made available to the press; and
(F) In addition to any other information required by the comptroller of the treasury, each audit shall also contain:
(i) A listing, by name of the recipient, of all compensation, fees or other remuneration paid by the organization during the audit year to, or accrued on behalf of, the organization’s directors and officers;
(ii) A listing, by name of recipient, of all compensation and any other remuneration paid by the organization during the audit year to, or accrued on behalf of, any employee of the organization who receives more than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) in remuneration for such year;
(iii) A listing, by name of beneficiary, of any deferred compensation, salary continuation, retirement or other fringe benefit plan or program (excluding qualified health and life insurance plans available to all employees of the organization on a nondiscriminatory basis) established or maintained by the organization for the benefit of any of the organization’s directors, officers or employees, and the amount of any funds paid or accrued to such plan or program during the audit year; and
(iv) A listing, by name of recipient, of all fees paid by the organization during the audit year to any contractor, professional advisor or other personal services provider, which exceeds two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for such year. Such listing shall also include a statement as to the general effect of each contract, but not the amount paid or payable thereunder.
The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any association or nonprofit corporation described in § 8-44-102(b)(1)(E)(i), that employs no more than two (2) full-time staff members.
(2) The provisions of this subsection (d) shall not apply to any association, organization or corporation that was exempt from federal income taxation under the provisions of § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3)) as of January 1, 1998, and which makes available to the public its federal return of organization exempt from income tax (Form 990) in accordance with the Internal Revenue Code and related regulations. [Acts 1957, ch. 285, § 1; T.C.A., § 15-304; Acts 1981, ch. 376, § 1; 1984, ch. 929, §§ 1, 3; 1991, ch. 369, § 7; 1993, ch. 475, § 1; 1998, ch. 1102, §§ 2, 4; 1999, ch. 514, § 1.]
10-7-504. Confidential records. — (a) (1) The medical records of patients in state, county and municipal hospitals and medical facilities, and the medical records of persons receiving medical treatment, in whole or in part, at the expense of the state, county or municipality, shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public. Any records containing the source of body parts for transplantation or any information concerning persons donating body parts for transplantation shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public.
(2) All investigative records of the Tennessee bureau of investigation, all criminal investigative files of the motor vehicle enforcement division of the department of safety relating to stolen vehicles or parts, and all files of the handgun carry permit and driver licenseissuance divisions of the department of safety relating to bogus handgun carry permits and bogus driver licenses issued to undercover law enforcement agents shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open to inspection by members of the public. The information contained in such records shall be disclosed to the public only in compliance with a subpoena or an order of a court of record; however, such investigative records of the Tennessee bureau of investigation shall be open to inspection by elected members of the general assembly if such inspection is directed by a duly adopted resolution of either house or of a standing or joint committee of either house. Records shall not be available to any member of the executive branch except those directly involved in the investigation in the Tennessee bureau of
investigation itself and the governor. The bureau, upon written request by an authorized person of a state governmental agency, is authorized to furnish and disclose to the requesting agency the criminal history, records and data from its files, and the files of the federal government and other states to which it may have access, for the limited purpose of determining whether a license or permit should be issued to any person, corporation, partnership or other entity, to engage in an authorized activity affecting the rights, property or interests of the public or segments thereof.
(3) The records, documents and papers in the possession of the military department which involve the security of the United States and/or the state of Tennessee, including, but not restricted to, national guard personnel records, staff studies and investigations, shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public.
(4) The records of students in public educational institutions shall be treated as confidential. Information in such records relating to academic performance, financial status of a student or the student’s parent or guardian, medical or psychological treatment or testing shall not bemade available to unauthorized personnel of the institution or to the public or any agency, except those agencies authorized by the educational institution to conduct specific research or otherwise authorized by the governing board of the institution, without the consent of the student involved or the parent or guardian of a minor student attending any institution of elementary or secondary education, except as otherwise provided by law or regulation pursuant thereto, and except in consequence of due legal process or in cases when the safety of persons or property is involved. The governing board of the institution, the department of education, and the Tennessee higher education commission shall have access on a confidential basis to such records as are required to fulfill their lawful functions. Statistical information not identified with a particular student may be released to any person, agency, or the public; and information relating only to an individual student’s name, age, address, dates of attendance, grade levels completed, class placement and academic degrees awarded may likewise be disclosed.
(5)(A) The following books, records and other materials in the possession of the office of the attorney general and reporter which relate to any pending or contemplated legal or administrative proceeding in which the office of the attorney general and reporter may be involved shall not be open for public inspection:
(i) Books, records or other materials which are confidential or privileged by state law;
(ii) Books, records or other materials relating to investigations conducted by federal law enforcement or federal regulatory agencies, which are confidential or privileged under federal law;
(iii) The work product of the attorney general and reporter or any attorney working under the attorney general and reporter’s supervision and control;
(iv) Communications made to or by the attorney general and reporter or any attorney working under the attorney general and reporter’s supervision and control in the context of the attorney-client relationship; or
(v) Books, records and other materials in the possession of other departments and agencies which are available for public inspection and copying pursuant to §§ 10-7-503 and 10-7-506. It is the intent of this section to leave subject to public inspection and copying pursuant to §§ 10-7-503 and 10-7 506 such books, records and other materials in the possession of other departments even though copies of the same books, records and other materials which are also in the possession of the office of the attorney general and reporter are not subject to inspection or copying in the office of the attorney general and reporter; provided, that such records, books and materials are available for copying and inspection in such other departments.
(B) Books, records and other materials made confidential by this subsection which are in the possession of the office of the attorney general and reporter shall be open to inspection by the elected members of the general assembly, if such inspection is directed by a duly adopted resolution of either house or of a standing or joint committee of either house and is required for the conduct of legislative business.
(C) Except for the provisions of subdivision (a)(5)(B), the books, records and materials made confidential or privileged by this subdivision shall be disclosed to the public only in the discharge of the duties of the office of the attorney general and reporter.
(6) State agency records containing opinions of value of real and personal property intended to be acquired for a public purpose shall not be open for public inspection until the acquisition thereof has been finalized. This shall not prohibit any party to a condemnation action from making discovery relative to values pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure as prescribed by law.
(7) Proposals received pursuant to personal service, professional service, and consultant service contract regulations, and related records, including evaluations and memoranda, shall be available for public inspection only after the completion of evaluation of same by the state. Sealed bids for the purchase of goods and services, and leases of real property, and individual purchase records, including evaluations and memoranda relating to same, shall be available for public inspection only after the completion of evaluation of same by the state.
(8) All investigative records and reports of the internal affairs division of the department of correction or of the department of children’s services shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open to inspection by members of the public. However, an employee of the department of correction or of the department of children’s services shall be allowed to inspect such investigative records and reports if the records or reports form the basis of an adverse action against the employee. The release of reports and records shall be in accordance with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The court or administrative judge having jurisdiction over the proceedings shall issue appropriate protective orders, when necessary, to ensure that the information is disclosed only to appropriate persons. The information contained in such records and reports shall be disclosed to the public only in compliance with a subpoena or an order of a court of record.
(9) Official health certificates, collected and maintained by the state veterinarian pursuant to rule chapter 0080-2-1 of the department of agriculture, shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public.
(10)(A) The capital plans, marketing information, proprietary information and trade secrets submitted to the Tennessee venture capital network at Middle Tennessee State University shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public.
(B) As used in this subdivision (a)(10), unless the context otherwise requires:
(i) “Capital plans” means plans, feasibility studies, and similar research and information that will contribute to the identification of future business sites and capital investments;
(ii) “Marketing information” means marketing studies, marketing analyses, and similar research and information designed to identify potential customers and business relationships;
(iii) “Proprietary information” means commercial or financial information which is used either directly or indirectly in the business of any person or company submitting information to the Tennessee venture capital network at Middle Tennessee State University, and which gives such person an advantage or an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use such information;
(iv) “Trade secrets” means manufacturing processes, materials used therein, and costs associated with the manufacturing process of a person or company submitting information to the Tennessee venture capital network at Middle Tennessee State University.
(11) Records that are of historical research value which are given or sold to public archival institutions, public libraries, or libraries of a unit of the Tennessee board of regents or the
University of Tennessee, when the owner or donor of such records wishes to place restrictions on access to the records shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public. This exemption shall not apply to any records prepared or received in the course of the operation of state or local governments;
(12) Personal information contained in motor vehicle records shall be treated as confidential and shall only be open for inspection in accordance with the provisions of title 55, chapter 25.
(13)(A) All memoranda, work notes or products, case files and communications related to mental health intervention techniques conducted by mental health professionals in a group setting to provide job-related critical incident counseling and therapy to law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, emergency medical technician-paramedics, and firefighters, both volunteer and professional, are confidential and privileged and are not subject to disclosure in any judicial or administrative proceeding unless all parties waive such privilege. In order for such privilege to apply, the incident counseling and/or therapy shall be conducted by a qualified mental health professional as defined in § 33-10-301;
(B) For the purposes of this section, “group setting” means that more than one (1) person is present with the mental health professional when the incident counseling and/or therapy is being conducted;
(C) All memoranda, work notes or products, case files and communications pursuant to this section shall not be construed to be public records pursuant to title 10, chapter 7;
(D) Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting a licensed professional’s obligation to report suspected child abuse or limiting such professional’s duty to warn about dangerous individuals as provided under title 33, chapter 10, part 3, or other provisions relevant to the mental health professional’s license;
(E) Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the ability of a patient or client, or such person’s survivor, to discover under the Rules of Civil Procedure or to admit in evidence under the Rules of Evidence any memoranda, work notes or products, case files and communications which are privileged by this section and which are relevant to a malpractice action or any other action by a patient against a mental health professional arising out of the professional relationship. In such an action against a mental health professional, neither shall anything in this section be construed as limiting the ability of the mental health professional to so discover or admit in evidence such memoranda, work notes or products, case files and communications.
(14) All riot, escape and emergency transport plans which are incorporated in a policy and procedures manual of county jails and workhouses or prisons operated by the department of correction or under private contract shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public.
(15)(A) As used in this subdivision (a)(15), unless the context otherwise requires:
(i) “Identifying information” means the home and work addresses and telephone numbers, social security number, and any other information that could reasonably be used to locate the whereabouts of an individual;
(ii) “Protection document” means:
(a) An order of protection issued pursuant to title 36, chapter 3, part 6, that has been granted after proper notice and an opportunity to be heard;
(b) A similar order of protection issued by the court of another jurisdiction;
(c) An extension of an ex parte order of protection granted pursuant to § 36-3-605(a);
(d) A similar extension of an ex parte order of protection granted by a court of competent jurisdiction in another jurisdiction;
(e) A restraining order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction prohibiting violence against the person to whom it is issued;
(f) A court order protecting the confidentiality of certain information issued upon the request of a district attorney general to a victim or witness in a criminal case, whether pending or completed; and
(g) An affidavit from the director of a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter certifying that an individual is a victim in need of protection; provided, that such affidavit is on a standardized form to be developed and distributed to such centers and shelters by the Tennessee task force against domestic violence; and
(iii) “Utility service provider” means any entity, whether public or private, that provides electricity, natural gas, water, or telephone service to customers on a subscription basis, whether or not regulated by the Tennessee regulatory authority.
(B) If the procedure set out in this subdivision (a)(15) is followed, identifying information compiled and maintained by a utility service provider concerning a person who has obtained a valid protection document shall be treated as confidential and not open for inspection by the public.
(C) For the provisions of subdivision (a)(15)(B) to be applicable, a copy of the protection document must be presented during regular business hours by the person to whom it was granted to the records custodian of the utility service provider whose records such person seeks to make confidential, and such person must request that all identifying information about such person be maintained as confidential.
(D) The protection document must at the time of presentation be in full force and effect. The records custodian may assume that a protection document is in full force and effect if it is on the proper form and if on its face it has not expired.
(E) Upon being presented with a valid protection document, the records custodian shall accept receipt of it and maintain it in a separate file containing in alphabetical order all protection documents presented to such records custodian pursuant to this subdivision (a)(15). Nothing in this subdivision (a)(15) shall be construed as prohibiting a records custodian from maintaining an electronic file of such protection documents provided the records custodian retains the original document presented.
(F) Identifying information concerning a person that is maintained as confidential pursuant to this subdivision (a)(15) shall remain confidential until the person who requested such confidentiality notifies in person the records custodian of the appropriate utility service provider that there is no longer a need for such information to remain confidential. A records custodian receiving such notification shall remove the protection document concerning such person from the file maintained pursuant to subdivision (a)(15)(E), and the identifying information about such person shall be treated in the same manner as the identifying information concerning any other customer of the utility. Before removing the protection document and releasing any identifying information, the records custodian of the utility service provider shall require that the person requesting release of the identifying information maintained as confidential produce sufficient identification to satisfy such custodian that he or she is the same person as the person to whom the document was originally granted.
(G) After July 1, 1999, if information is requested from a utility service provider about a person other than the requestor and such request is for information that is in whole or in part identifying information, the records custodian of the utility service provider shall check the separate file containing all protection documents that have been presented to such utility. If the person about whom information is being requested has presented a valid protection document to the records custodian in accordance with the procedure set out in this subdivision (a)(15), and has requested that identifying information about such person be maintained as confidential, the records custodian shall redact or refuse to disclose to the requestor any identifying information about such person.
(H) Nothing in this subdivision (a)(15) shall prevent the district attorney general and counsel for the defendant from providing to each other in a pending criminal case, where the constitutional rights of the defendant require it, information which otherwise would be held confidential under this subdivision (a)(16).
(16) (A) As used in this subdivision (a)(16), unless the context otherwise requires:
(i) “Governmental entity” means the state of Tennessee and any county, municipality, city or other political subdivision of the state of Tennessee;
(ii) “Identifying information” means the home and work addresses and telephone numbers, social security number, and any other information that could reasonably be used to locate the whereabouts of an individual;
(iii) “Protection document” means:
(a) An order of protection issued pursuant to title 36, chapter 3, part 6, that has been granted after proper notice and an opportunity to be heard;
(b) A similar order of protection issued by the court of another jurisdiction;
(c) An extension of an ex parte order of protection granted pursuant to § 36-3-605(a);
(d) A similar extension of an ex parte order of protection granted by a court of competent jurisdiction in another jurisdiction;
(e) A restraining order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction prohibiting violence against the person to whom it is issued;
(f) A court order protecting the confidentiality of certain information issued upon the request of a district attorney general to a victim or witness in a criminal case, whether pending or completed; and
(g) An affidavit from the director of a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter certifying that an individual is a victim in need of protection; provided, that such affidavit is on a standardized form to be developed and distributed to such centers and shelters by the Tennessee task force against domestic violence.
(B) If the procedure set out in this subdivision (a)(16) is followed, identifying information compiled and maintained by a governmental entity concerning a person who has obtained a valid protection document may be treated as confidential and may not be open for inspection by the public.
(C) For the provisions of subdivision (a)(16)(B) to be applicable, a copy of the protection document must be presented during regular business hours by the person to whom it was granted to the records custodian of the governmental entity whose records such person seeks to make confidential, and such person must request that all identifying information about such person be maintained as confidential.
(D) The protection document presented must at the time of presentation be in full force and effect. The records custodian may assume that a protection document is in full force and effect if it is on the proper form and if on its face it has not expired.
(E) Upon being presented with a valid protection document, the record custodian may accept receipt of it. If the records custodian does not accept receipt of such document, the records custodian shall explain to the person presenting the document why receipt cannot be accepted and that the identifying information concerning such person will not be maintained as confidential. If the records custodian does accept receipt of the protection document, such records custodian shall maintain it in a separate file containing in alphabetical order all protection documents presented to such custodian pursuant to this subdivision (a)(16).
Nothing in this subdivision (a)(16) shall be construed as prohibiting a records custodian from maintaining an electronic file of such protection documents; provided, that the custodian retains the original document presented.
(F) Identifying information concerning a person that is maintained as confidential pursuant to this subpart shall remain confidential until the person requesting such confidentiality notifies in person the appropriate records custodian of the governmental entity that there is no longer a need for such information to remain confidential. A records custodian receiving such notification shall remove the protection document concerning such person from the file maintained pursuant to subdivision (a)(16)(E), and the identifying information about such person shall be treated in the same manner as identifying information maintained by the governmental entity about other persons. Before removing the protection document and releasing any identifying information, the records custodian of the governmental entity shall require that the person requesting release of the identifying information maintained as confidential produce sufficient identification to satisfy such records custodian that that person is the same person as the person to whom the document was originally granted.
(G) After July 1, 1999, if:
(i) Information is requested from a governmental entity about a person other than the person making the request;
(ii) Such request is for information that is in whole or in part identifying information; and
(iii) The records custodian of the governmental entity to whom the request was made accepts receipt of protection documents and maintains identifying information as confidential; then such records custodian shall check the separate file containing all protection documents that have been presented to such entity. If the person about whom information is being requested has presented a valid protection document to the records custodian in accordance with the procedure set out in this subdivision (a)(16), and has requested that identifying information about such person be maintained as confidential, the records custodian shall redact or refuse to disclose to the requestor any identifying information about such person.
(H) Nothing in this subdivision (a)(16) shall prevent the district attorney general and counsel for the defendant from providing to each other in a pending criminal case, where the constitutional rights of the defendant require it, information which otherwise may be held confidential under this subdivision (a)(16).
(17) The telephone number, address and any other information which could be used to locate the whereabouts of a domestic violence shelter or rape crisis center may be treated as confidential by a governmental entity, and shall be treated as confidential by a utility service provider as defined in subdivision (a)(15) upon the director of the shelter or crisis center giving written notice to the records custodian of the appropriate entity or utility that such shelter or crisis center desires that such identifying information be maintained as confidential.
(b) Any record designated “confidential” shall be so treated by agencies in the maintenance, storage and disposition of such confidential records. These records shall be destroyed in such a manner that they cannot be read, interpreted or reconstructed. The destruction shall be in accordance with an approved records disposition authorization from the public records commission.
(c) Notwithstanding any provision of the law to the contrary, any confidential public record in existence more than seventy (70) years shall be open for public inspection by any person unless disclosure of the record is specifically prohibited or restricted by federal law or unless the record is a record of services for a person for mental illness or mental retardation. The provisions of this section do not apply to a record concerning an adoption or a record maintained by the office of vital records or by the Tennessee bureau of investigation. For the purpose of providing an orderly schedule of availability for access to such confidential public records for public inspection, all records created and designated as confidential prior to January 1, 1901, shall be open for public inspection on January 1, 1985. All other public records created and designated as confidential after January 1, 1901 and which are seventy (70) years old on January 1, 1985, shall be open for public inspection on January 1, 1986; thereafter all such records shall be open for public inspection pursuant to this part after
seventy (70) years from the creation date of such records.
(d) Records of any employee’s identity, diagnosis, treatment, or referral for treatment that are maintained by any state or local government employee assistance program shall be confidential; provided, that any such records are maintained separately from personnel and other records regarding such employee that are open for inspection. For purposes of this subsection, “employee assistance program” means any program that provides counseling, problem identification, intervention, assessment, or referral for appropriate diagnosis and treatment, and follow-up services to assist employees of such state or local governmental entity who are impaired by personal concerns including, but not limited to, health, marital, family, financial, alcohol, drug, legal, emotional, stress or other personal concerns which may adversely affect employee job performance.
(e) Unpublished telephone numbers in the possession of emergency communications districts created pursuant to title 7, chapter 86, shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public until such time as any provision of the service contract between the telephone service provider and the consumer providing otherwise is effectuated; provided, that addresses held with such unpublished telephone numbers, or addresses otherwise collected or compiled, and in the possession of emergency communications districts created pursuant to title 7, chapter 86, shall be made available upon written request to any county election commission for the purpose of compiling a voter mailing list for a respective county.
(f)(1) The following records or information of any state, county, municipal or other public employee in the possession of a governmental entity in its capacity as an employer shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for inspection by members of the public: unpublished telephone numbers; bank account information; social security number; driver license information except where driving or operating a vehicle is part of the employee’s job description or job duties or incidental to the performance of the employee’s job; and the same information of immediate family members or household members.
(2) Information made confidential by this subsection shall be redacted wherever possible and nothing in this subsection shall be used to limit or deny access to otherwise public information because a file, a document, or data file contains confidential information.
(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit access to these records by law enforcement agencies, courts, or other governmental agencies performing official functions.
(4) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to close any personnel records of public officers which are currently open under state law.
(5) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit access to information made confidential under this subsection, when the employee expressly authorizes the release of such information.
(g)(1)(A) Personnel information of any police officer designated as working undercover may be segregated and maintained in the office of the chief law enforcement officer. Such segregated information shall be treated as confidential under this subsection. Such segregated information is the address and home telephone number of the officer as well as the address or addresses and home telephone number or numbers of the members of the officer’s household and/or immediate family. Information in such file which has the potential, if released, to threaten the safety of the officer or the officer’s immediate family or household members may be redacted if the chief law enforcement officer determines that its release poses such a risk.
(B) If the person requesting the information or the officer disagrees with the determination of the chief law enforcement officer, the decision shall be reviewed in a show cause hearing in chancery court.
(2) Nothing in this subsection shall be used to limit or deny access to otherwise public information because a file, a document, or data file contains some information made confidential by subdivision (g)(1).
(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit access to these records by law enforcement agencies, courts, or other governmental agencies performing official functions.
(4) Except as provided in subdivision (g)(1), nothing in this subsection shall be construed to close personnel records of public officers, which are currently open under state law.
(5) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit access to information made confidential by subdivision (g)(1), when the employee expressly authorizes the release of such information.
[Acts 1957, ch. 285, § 2; 1970, ch. 531, §§ 1, 2; 1973, ch. 99, § 1; 1975, ch. 127, § 1; 1976, ch. 552, § 1; 1976, ch. 777, § 1; 1977, ch. 152, § 3; 1978, ch. 544, § 1; 1978, ch. 890, § 2; T.C.A., § 15-305; Acts 1983, ch. 211, § 1; 1984, ch. 947, § 2; 1985, ch. 421, §§ 1-4; 1985 (1st E.S.), ch. 5, § 29; 1987, ch. 118, § 2; 1987, ch. 337, § 20; 1988, ch. 783, § 1; 1988, ch. 894, § 2; 1989, ch. 75, § 1; 1989, ch. 278, § 27; 1990, ch. 888, § 1; 1991, ch. 129, § 1; 1992, ch. 823, § 1; 1996, ch. 724, § 1; 1996, ch. 745, § 16; 1996, ch. 1079, § 29; 1997, ch. 84, § 1; 1997, ch. 290, § 1; 1997, ch. 292, § 1; 1998, ch. 1075, § 1; 1999, ch. 176, §§ 1, 2; 1999, ch. 199, § 1; 1999, ch. 344, §§ 1, 2, 4; 1999, ch. 514, § 2.]
10-7-505. Denial of access - Procedures for obtaining access - Court orders -
Injunctions - Appeals - Liability for nondisclosure. — (a) Any citizen of Tennessee who shall request the right of personal inspection of any state, county or municipal record as provided in § 10-7-503, and whose request has been in whole or in part denied by the official and/or designee of the official or through any act or regulation of any official or designee of any official, shall be entitled to petition for access to any such record and to obtain judicial review of the actions taken to deny the access.
(b) Such petition shall be filed in the chancery court for the county in which the county or municipal records sought are situated, or in any other court of that county having equity jurisdiction. In the case of records in the custody and control of any state department, agency or instrumentality, such petition shall be filed in the chancery court of Davidson County; or in the chancery court for the county in which the state records are situated if different from Davidson County, or in any other court of that county having equity jurisdiction; or in the chancery court in the county of the petitioner’s residence, or in any other court of that county having equity jurisdiction. Upon filing of the petition, the court shall, upon request of the petitioning party, issue an order requiring the defendant or respondent party or parties to immediately appear and show cause, if they have any, why the petition should not be granted.
A formal written response to the petition shall not be required, and the generally applicable periods of filing such response shall not apply in the interest of expeditious hearings. The court may direct that the records being sought be submitted under seal for review by the court and no other party. The decision of the court on the petition shall constitute a final judgment on the merits.
(c) The burden of proof for justification of nondisclosure of records sought shall be upon the official and/or designee of the official of those records and the justification for the nondisclosure must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence.
(d) The court, in ruling upon the petition of any party proceeding hereunder, shall render written findings of fact and conclusions of law and shall be empowered to exercise full injunctive remedies and relief to secure the purposes and intentions of this section, and this section shall be broadly construed so as to give the fullest possible public access to public records.
(e) Upon a judgment in favor of the petitioner, the court shall order that the records be made available to the petitioner unless:
(1) There is a timely filing of a notice of appeal; and
(2) The court certifies that there exists a substantial legal issue with respect to the disclosure of the documents which ought to be resolved by the appellate courts.
(f) Any public official required to produce records pursuant to this part shall not be found criminally or civilly liable for the release of such records, nor shall a public official required to release records in such public official’s custody or under such public official’s control be found responsible for any damages caused, directly or indirectly, by the release of such information.
(g) If the court finds that the governmental entity, or agent thereof, refusing to disclose a record, knew that such record was public and willfully refused to disclose it, such court may, in its discretion, assess all reasonable costs involved in obtaining the record, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, against the nondisclosing governmental entity.
[Acts 1957, ch. 285, § 3; 1975, ch. 127, § 2; 1977, ch. 152, § 4; T.C.A., § 15-306; Acts
1984, ch. 929, §§ 2, 4; 1985, ch. 342, § 1; 1988, ch. 888, § 1.]
10-7-507. Records of convictions of traffic and other violations - Availability.—Any public official having charge or custody of or control over any public records of convictions of traffic violations or any other state, county or municipal public offenses shall make available to any citizen, upon request, during regular office hours, a copy or copies of any such record requested by such citizen, upon the payment of a reasonable charge or fee therefor. Such official is authorized to fix a charge or fee per copy that would reasonably defray the cost of producing and delivering such copy or copies.
[Acts 1974, ch. 581, § 1; T.C.A., § 15-308.]
Editor’s Note: The Tennessee Supreme Court, applying by inference Rule 16(a)(2) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, has held that investigative files of law enforcement officers involving open matters relevant to pending or contemplated criminal action are not subject to disclosure and are not relevant to any pending or contemplated criminal action. Appman v. Worthington, 746 S.W.2d 165, 166 (Tenn. 1987).
Where investigative records involve students at state colleges or universities, investigations may also bring privacy assertions under 20 USCA §1232g also known as the “Buckley Amendment.”

 


SUNSHINE LAW
T.C.A. § 8-44-101 - 201
CHAPTER 44
PUBLIC MEETINGS

8-44-101. Policy - Construction. — (a) The general assembly hereby declares it to be the policy of this state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.
(b) This part shall not be construed to limit any of the rights and privileges contained in article I, § 19 of the Constitution of Tennessee.
[Acts 1974, ch. 442, §§ 1, 8; T.C.A., § 8-4401.]
8-44-102. Open meetings — “Governing body” defined — “Meeting” defined.— (a) All meetings of any governing body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times, except as provided by the Constitution of Tennessee.
(b)(1) “Governing body” means:
(A) The members of any public body which consists of two (2) or more members, with the authority to make decisions for or recommendations to a public body on policy or administration and also means a community action agency which administers community action programs under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 2790 [repealed]. Any governing body so defined by this section shall remain so defined, notwithstanding the fact that such governing body may have designated itself as a negotiation committee for collective bargaining purposes, and strategy sessions of a governing body under such circumstances shall be open to the public at all times;
(B) The board of directors of any nonprofit corporation which contracts with a state agency to receive community grant funds in consideration for rendering specified services to the public; provided, that community grant funds comprise at least thirty percent (30%) of the total annual income of such corporation. Except such meetings of the board of directors of such nonprofit corporation that are called solely to discuss matters involving confidential doctor-patient relationships, personnel matters or matters required to be kept confidential by federal or state law or by federal or state regulation shall not be covered under the provisions of this chapter, and no other matter shall be discussed at such meetings;
(C) The board of directors of any not-for-profit corporation authorized by the laws of Tennessee to act for the benefit or on behalf of any one (1) or more of counties, cities, towns and local governments pursuant to the provisions of title 7, chapter 54 or 58. The provisions of this subdivision (b)(1)(C) shall not apply to any county with a metropolitan form of government and having a population of four hundred thousand (400,000) or more according to the 1980 federal census or any subsequent federal census;
(D) The board of directors of any nonprofit corporation which through contract or otherwise provides a metropolitan form of government having a population in excess of five hundred thousand (500,000) according to the 1990 federal census or any subsequent federal census with heat, steam or incineration of refuse;
(E) (i) The board of directors of any association or nonprofit corporation authorized by the laws of Tennessee that:
(a) Was established for the benefit of local government officials or counties, cities, towns or other local governments or as a municipal bond financing pool;
(b) Receives dues, service fees or any other income from local government officials or such local governments that constitute at least thirty percent (30%) of its total annual income; and
(c) Was authorized as of January 1, 1998, under state law to obtain coverage for its employees in the Tennessee consolidated retirement system.
(ii) The provisions of this subdivision (b)(1)(E) shall not be construed to require the disclosure of a trade secret or proprietary information held or used by an association or nonprofit corporation to which this chapter applies. In the event a trade secret or proprietary information is required to be discussed in an open meeting, the association or nonprofit corporation may conduct an executive session to discuss such trade secret or proprietary information; provided, that a notice of the executive session is included in the agenda for such meeting.
(iii) As used in this subdivision (b)(1)(E):
(a) “Proprietary information” means rating information, plans, or proposals; actuarial information; specifications for specific services provided; and any other similar commercial or financial information used in making or deliberating toward a decision by employees, agents or the board of directors of such association or corporation; and which if known to a person or entity outside the association or corporation would give such person or entity an advantage or an opportunity to gain an advantage over the association or corporation when providing or bidding to provide the same or similar services to local governments; and
(b) “Trade secret” means the whole or any portion or phrase of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula or improvement which is secret and of value. The trier of fact may infer a trade secret to be secret when the owner thereof takes measures to prevent it from becoming available to persons other than those selected by the owner to have access thereto for limited purposes;
(2) “Meeting” means the convening of a governing body of a public body for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter. “Meeting” does not include any on-site inspection of any project or program.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed as to require a chance meeting of two (2) or more members of a public body to be considered a public meeting. No such chance meetings, informal assemblages, or electronic communication shall be used to decide or deliberate public business in circumvention of the spirit or requirements of this part.
[Acts 1974, ch. 442, § 2; 1979, ch. 411, §§ 1, 2; T.C.A., § 8-4402; Acts 1985, ch. 290, § 1, 2; 1986, ch. 594, § 1; 1988, ch. 908, §§ 3, 5; 1997, ch. 346, § 1; 1998, ch. 1102, §§ 1, 3.]
8-44-103. Notice of public meetings. — (a) Notice of Regular Meetings. Any such governmental body which holds a meeting previously scheduled by statute, ordinance, or resolution shall give adequate public notice of such meeting.
(b) Notice of Special Meetings. Any such governmental body which holds a meeting not previously scheduled by statute, ordinance, or resolution, or for which notice is not already provided by law, shall give adequate public notice of such meeting.
(c) The notice requirements of this part are in addition to, and not in substitution of, any other notice required by law.
[Acts 1974, ch. 442, § 3; T.C.A., § 8-4403.]
8-44-104. Minutes recorded and open to public — Secret votes prohibited. — (a) The minutes of a meeting of any such governmental body shall be promptly and fully recorded, shall be open to public inspection, and shall include, but not be limited to, a record of persons present, all motions, proposals and resolutions offered, the results of any votes taken, and a record of individual votes in the event of roll call.
(b) All votes of any such governmental body shall be by public vote or public ballot or public roll call. No secret votes, or secret ballots, or secret roll calls shall be allowed. As used in this chapter, “public vote” means a vote in which the “aye” faction vocally expresses its will in unison and in which the “nay” faction, subsequently, vocally expresses its will in unison.
[Acts 1974, ch. 442, § 4; T.C.A., § 8-4404; Acts 1980, ch. 800, § 1.]
8-44-105. Action nullified - Exception. — Any action taken at a meeting in violation of this part shall be void and of no effect; provided, that this nullification of actions taken at such meetings shall not apply to any commitment, otherwise legal, affecting the public debt of the entity concerned.
[Acts 1974, ch. 442, § 5; T.C.A., § 8-4405.]
8-44-106. Enforcement - Jurisdiction. — (a) The circuit courts, chancery courts, and other courts which have equity jurisdiction, have jurisdiction to issue injunctions, impose penalties, and otherwise enforce the purposes of this part upon application of any citizen of this state.
(b) In each suit brought under this part, the court shall file written findings of fact and conclusions of law and final judgments, which shall also be recorded in the minutes of the body involved.
(c) The court shall permanently enjoin any person adjudged by it in violation of this part from further violation of this part. Each separate occurrence of such meetings not held in accordance with this part constitutes a separate violation.
(d) The final judgment or decree in each suit shall state that the court retains jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter for a period of one (1) year from date of entry, and the court shall order the defendants to report in writing semiannually to the court of their compliance with this part.
[Acts 1974, ch. 442, § 6; T.C.A., § 8-4406.]
8-44-107. Board of directors of Performing Arts Center Management Corporation. — The board of directors of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center Management Corporation shall be subject to, and shall in all respects comply with, all of the provisions made applicable to governing bodies by this chapter. [Acts 1981, ch. 375, § 1.]
8-44-108. Participation by electronic or other means. — (a) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:
(1) “Governing body” refers only to boards, agencies and commissions of state government, including state debt issuers as defined in this section;
(2) “Meeting” has the same definition as defined in § 8-44-102;
(3) “Necessity” means that the matters to be considered by the governing body at that meeting require timely action by the body, that physical presence by a quorum of the members is not practical within the period of time requiring action, and that participation by a quorum of the members by electronic or other means of communication is necessary; and
(4) “State debt issuers” means the Tennessee state funding board, Tennessee local development authority, Tennessee housing development agency, and Tennessee state school bond authority, and any of their committees.
(b) (1) A governing body may, but is not required to, allow participation by electronic or other means of communication for the benefit of the public and the governing body in connection with any meeting authorized by law; provided, that a physical quorum is present at the location specified in the notice of the meeting as the location of the meeting.
(2) If a physical quorum is not present at the location of a meeting of a governing body, then in order for a quorum of members to participate by electronic or other means of communication, the governing body must make a determination that a necessity exists. Such determination, and a recitation of the facts and circumstances on which it was based, must be included in the minutes of the meeting.
(3) If a physical quorum is not present at the location of a meeting of a governing body other than a state debt issuer, the governing body other than a state debt issuer must file such determination of necessity, including the recitation of the facts and circumstances on which it was based, with the office of secretary of state no later than two (2) working days after the meeting. The secretary of state shall report, no less than annually, to the general assembly as to the filings of the determinations of necessity.
(c)(1) Any meeting held pursuant to the terms of this section shall comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Law, codified in this part, and shall not circumvent the spirit or requirements of that law.
(2) Notices required by the Open Meetings Law, or any other notice required by law, shall state that the meeting will be conducted permitting participation by electronic or other means of communication.
(3) Each part of a meeting required to be open to the public shall be audible to the public at the location specified in the notice of the meeting as the location of the meeting. Each member participating electronically or otherwise must be able to simultaneously hear each other and speak to each other during the meeting. Any member participating in such fashion shall identify the persons present in the location from which the member is participating.
(4) Any member of a governing body not physically present at a meeting shall be provided, before the meeting, with any documents that will be discussed at the meeting, with substantially the same content as those documents actually presented.
(5) All votes taken during a meeting held pursuant to the terms of this section shall be by roll call vote.
(6) A member participating in a meeting by this means is deemed to be present in person at the meeting for purposes of voting, but not for purposes of determining per diem eligibility. However, a member may be reimbursed expenses of such electronic communication or other means of participation. [Acts 1990, ch. 815, § 1; 1999, ch. 490, § 1.]
8-44-201. Labor negotiations between public employee union and state or local government. —(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of Tennessee law to the contrary, labor negotiations between representatives of public employee unions or associations and representatives of a state or local governmental entity shall be open to the public, whether or not the negotiations by the state or local governmental entity are under the direction of the legislative, executive or judicial branch of government.
(b) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to require that planning or strategy sessions of either the union committee or the governmental entity committee, meeting separately, be open to the public.
(c) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to grant recognition rights of any sort.
(d) Both sides shall decide jointly and announce in advance of any such labor negotiations where such meetings shall be held. [Acts 1979, ch. 41, § 1; T.C.A., § 8-4421.]
Editor’s Note: An exception was created by the Supreme Court of Tennessee in 1984 regarding certain attorney-client communications. An attorney may meet with a client otherwise subject to the Sunshine Law for the purpose of discussing only present and pending litigation to which the public body has been named. Clients may provide the attorney with facts and information regarding the lawsuit and the attorney may advise them of the legal ramifications of those facts. Once any discussion whatsoever begins regarding action to be taken based upon that advice, whether settlement or otherwise, such discussion must be open to the public. This is a narrow exception. Smith County Educ. Ass’n v. Anderson, 676 S.W.2d 328, 334-35 (Tenn. 1984). This attorney-client privilege exception was extended to discussions of pending controversies or potential litigation. Cooper v. Williamson Co. Bd. of Education, 746 S.W.2d 176 (Tenn. 1987); Van Hooser v. Warren Co. Bd. of Education, 807 S.W.2d 230 (Tenn. 1991).


SHIELD LAW
T.C.A. § 24-1-208

24-1-208. Persons gathering information for publication or broadcast - Disclosure.— (a) A person engaged in gathering information for publication or broadcast connected with or employed by the news media or press, or who is independently engaged in gathering information for publication or broadcast, shall not be required by a court, a grand jury, the general assembly, or any administrative body, to disclose before the general assembly or any Tennessee court, grand jury, agency, department, or commission any information or the source of any information procured for publication or broadcast.
(b) Subsection (a) shall not apply with respect to the source of any allegedly defamatory information in any case where the defendant in a civil action for defamation asserts a defense based on the source of such information.
(c)(1) Any person seeking information or the source thereof protected under this section may apply for an order divesting such protection. Such application shall be made to the judge of the court having jurisdiction over the hearing, action or other proceeding in which the information sought is pending.
(2) The application shall be granted only if the court after hearing the parties determines that the person seeking the information has shown by clear and convincing evidence that:
(A) There is probable cause to believe that the person from whom the information is sought has information which is clearly relevant to a specific probable violation of law;
(B) The person has demonstrated that the information sought cannot reasonably be obtained by alternative means; and
(C) The person has demonstrated a compelling and overriding public interest of the people of the state of Tennessee in the information.
(3(A) Any order of the trial court may be appealed to the court of appeals in the same manner as other civil cases. The court of appeals shall make an independent determination of the applicability of the standards in this subsection to the facts in the record and shall not accord a presumption of correctness to the trial court’s findings.
(B) The execution of or any proceeding to enforce a judgment divesting the protection of this section shall be stayed pending appeal upon the timely filing of a notice of appeal in accordance with Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the appeal shall be expedited upon the docket of the court of appeals upon the application of either party.
(C) Any order of the court of appeals may be appealed to the supreme court of Tennessee as provided by law. [Acts 1973, ch. 27, §§ 1-3; T.C.A, § 24-113 - 24-115; Acts 1988, ch. 803, §§ 1, 2.]
Editor’s Note: The Shield protection granted by T.C.A. §24-1-208 applies even in a civil case where information has been previously published and the information or source of information was not obtained as a result of a confidential relationship. Austin v. Memphis Publishing Co., 655 S.W.2d 146 (Tenn. 1983).

 

 




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