Most oppose new public records charges in Tenn. hearings

Most oppose new public records charges in Tenn. hearings


Every Tennessean has the right to view any public record for free, but some lawmakers believe you should pay for that information.

The Office of Open Records Counsel held a hearing on Wednesday where citizens, journalists and public servants testified.

Some argue if this law is passed, the rights of the people will be diminished.

“We couldn’t confidently report on crimes, crashes, arrests or elections, births or deaths without seeing something in writing,” said Channel 4 anchor Demetria Kalodimos.

Without open records, citizens may have never known about radioactive dumping in public landfills, questionable practices within a local sheriff’s department or city officials double-dipping on the taxpayers’ dime.

But those documents could cost the taxpayer more than they already do.

“We get these records because citizens rely on us to get them,” testified Channel 4 I-Team chief investigator Jeremy Finley.

More than 80 people packed a downtown Nashville conference room hoping to weigh in on a new proposal.

It poses this question, among others, should the government impose a fee for inspection of public records? All but two speakers said no.

“Everything’s relative,” said Ken Jakes, who lives in Sumner County. “Five dollars to one person is Coke money. Five dollars to someone else is the difference in reviewing a record or not.”

“This is not an issue of right or left, but right or wrong,” said Fisk student Justin Jones.

Jones relies on records for research. He said the cost should be the least of his worries.

“It’s very discouraging to pay extra fees when you need gas money to go get the documents,” said Jones.

In many cases, the public already pays for copies or records.

But behind every request is someone who puts it together.

“When numerous files are requested, it can take several hours or days, and depending on staffing level, it could hamper something else from being done,” said Mount Juliet City Recorder Sheila Luckett.

Others said some abuse the right to request documents.

“The requestor spends a fraction of time, if any, reviewing what took staff hours to compile,” said Teresa Corlew, Chief Customer Care Officer for Nashville Electric Service.

Those who rely on records said the truth is priceless.

“I tell them sorry, you know about corruption or taxpayer waste, that is the future that will be created if you start charging to view public records,” said Finley.

“It’s information that belongs to the public and taxpayers have already paid for it,” said Channel 4 reporter Nancy Amons.

The panel will take these comments and make recommendations to the legislature in January.

The panel will make recommendations to the state legislature in January.

If you’d like your voice to be heard, you can click to send an email to the state. The deadline is Sept. 30.

Copyright 2015 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Source: NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) Channel 4
Most oppose new public records charges in Tenn. hearings


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