Nov 12 2007
06:24 pm

Ok, Dennis and Tommy...Just so you guys know where I stand...If either one of you votes to weaken the sunshine laws regarding local government, you will have lost my support.

Lawmakers formed a committee to study changes to the state's open government laws.

Last month a subcommittee from that group voted 7-2 to make it legal for two or more members of a panel to deliberate in private as long as a quorum of the body is not present.

Supporters of the proposed change say it's not meant to circumvent public meetings laws, but instead to let a few members of a public body discuss important issues without having to call a public meeting. Detractors worry the change would allow private dealmaking.

We still haven't seen any public statement from our local Commissioners and Councilmen...Well?

The Roane County News is on My side

A lot of folks will join you, I'm sure


While I strongly suspect that making group decisions wholly in public is not the way humans are used to doing things, I agree that it is time we gave it a try.

I hope our lawmakers feel the same way.

-- OneTahiti

Call your lawmakers and tell them you want sunshine.

I plan to call Dennis today and ask him where he stands on this. Just in case anybody else is interested, here is Dennis' phone number:

(865) 882-5930

Here's the complete contact info:

Capitol Location
34 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-7658
Fax: (615) 253-0163

Home Office
2851 Roane State Highway
Harriman, TN 37748
Phone: (865) 882-5930

Ain't Broke -- Don't "Fix" It

No one has persuasively made the case that our sunshine laws are broken. There were some Knox County commissioners that came up with "creative" interpretations of the law when they were caught red-handed breaking it. A lot of Knox County political will went into arguing that the Act was unclear or somehow difficult to comply with. There is no reason the rest of the state needs to be damaged by Knox County politicians' unwillingness to simply be honest about their reasoning behind their decisions.

By the way, there is a very simple solution to the "problem" of commissioners being unable to talk to each other outside of meetings. They can send each other emails. Email is how business is done in the private sector, and there is no reason why the public sector cannot operate in the same way.

The need for public review would be met because, under the Public Records Act, those emails are public records. If anything in our open government laws needs "clarification", it is that any citizen may obtain copies of commissioner emails electronically, without the need to appear at a government office and request to inspect the records.

Mark -

I don't doubt ya, bro. But how do ya do dat?

"If anything in our open government laws needs "clarification", it is that any citizen may obtain copies of commissioner emails electronically, without the need to appear at a government office and request to inspect the records."

You and I can't access their Exchange servers, etc... How is this done electronically without going somewhere to request it?


Most of our Commissioners

Most of our Commissioners won't give out their email addresses. Even those that have them.


Ideally, you could simply send an email to the County Commission office requesting all emails from Commissioner X's office to Commissioner Y's office. The Commission office would then forward the requested emails to you.

Do real-life commissioners consider their email public records? I don't know. But T.C.A. 10-7-503 provides that the general rule (which of course is subject to a boatload of exceptions) is that "all state, county and municipal records... 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."

Knoxville state representative Bill Dunn has a proposal for a publicly-accessible chat-room for commissioner communication that would probably serve the same purpose as providing access to commissioner email.

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