Knox County's mayor has proposed a change to the county's public records policy that he believes will increase transparency.
Right now, the county's public records policy does not allow citizens to use personal equipment, such as personal cell phones, to make copies of records they’ve asked to inspect. Instead, they have to pay to have copies made if they want them.
“In Tennessee, citizens can inspect public documents at no charge. There’s no reason they shouldn’t also be allowed to take pictures of those records with their own cellphone cameras,” said Mayor Burchett. “Our taxpayers already pay for these documents and access to public records shouldn’t be limited only to those who can afford to pay for copies.”
The county's current policy was adopted earlier this year in accordance with a new state law, and is based on the wording provided by the Tennessee Office of Open Records Counsel, but the mayor believes it contradicts the state’s public records act.
According to a press release from the mayor's office, the Tennessee Public Records Act states that any Tennessee citizen requesting to inspect public records “shall have the right to take extracts or make copies thereof, and to make photographs or photostats of the same while such records are in the possession, custody and control of the lawful custodian thereof or such custodian’s authorized deputy.” [T.C.A. §10-7-506(a)]
“Since taking office, I’ve worked to increase transparency in County government and this is another part of that effort,” said Mayor Burchett.
The proposed amendment must be reviewed by the Law Department, which originally drafted and presented the policy, and approved by the Knox County Commission before it takes effect.