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Counsel helps residents obtain public records

Staff Report • Mar 19, 2012 at 8:19 AM

Tuesday is the first day of spring, and like sunshine and spring, nothing goes together better than transparency and good government. Sadly, there are some in our government who still seek to block the illuminating rays of public scrutiny.

Throughout this week, we’ve stressed the importance of open government. Sunshine Week has been a time to celebrate the benefits of openness in the public square, not only as a fundamental tool of citizenship, but as an essential ingredient for maintaining a free and open society.

Every Tennessean has a right to obtain certain information under the state’s open records law. These records are supposed to be open to the public — no questions asked.

Even so, enforcement of Tennessee’s public records law often ranks among the lowest in the nation because aggrieved citizens are forced to engage in costly litigation to inspect public records and documents.

This is where the Tennessee Office of Open Records Counsel helps Tennesseans who encounter problems in accessing open records. Citizens who face these problems often lack the money or knowledge they need to push an open records claim in court.

This ombudsman helps Tennesseans obtain the information they are guaranteed to see under the state’s public records law.

The open records counsel’s office can be reached by calling 866-831-3750, or by e-mail at open.records@state.tn.us.

The office responds to more than a thousand requests each year, with more than half of those questions coming from government officials.

As we’ve said in this space before, open government is essential for maintaining trust in the legislative process.

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