Tennessee has multiple options to report meeting, record concerns

Published 9:38 am Monday, September 22, 2014

If a citizen feels a government agency has violated state laws regarding open meetings or open records, how do they report it and who do they report it to?
Tennessee law requires government meetings be open to the public, properly noticed to the public and states that appropriate records must be maintained.
Title 8, Chapter 44 of the Tennessee Code Annotated covers state law regarding public meetings. The first part of that Chapter states: “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.”
One option available to citizens who feel a government agency has violated state laws on open meetings and open records is to file a complaint or inquiry with the Office of Open Records Counsel which is part of the state’s Comptroller of the Treasury.
Contact information for that office is:
Office of Open Records Counsel
James K. Polk Building
505 Deaderick St., Suite 1700
Nashville, TN 37243-1402
Phone: 615-401-7891
Toll-free line: 1-866-831-3750
Fax: 615-741-1551
e-mail: open.records@cot.tn.gov
There is also an option for citizens to file their complaint or inquiry online through the office’s website www.comptroller.tn.gov/openrecords.
To submit a complaint or inquiry, the citizen must provide his or her name, telephone number and e-mail address. The website states that neither the complaint/inquiry form nor the information contained within it is confidential and that complaints or inquiries filed are matters of public record.
State law has a provision allowing a citizen to file a lawsuit against a government agency suspected of violating open meetings statutes.
“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,” says state law in T.C.A. 8-44-106(a).
The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury also provides a means for citizens to report suspected illegal or improper actions or suspected incidents of fraud or wasteful spending by a government agency or by any agency which receives funding or grants from the state.
Citizens may report those suspected incidents by calling the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-232-5454 or online at www.comptroller.tn.gov.

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