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Politics

Tenn. Open Government Advocates Alarmed by "Deliberative Process" Ruling

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — Transparency advocates are warning about the ramifications of a recent Tennessee appeals court ruling that "high government officials" can keep documents secret if they deem them part of their decision-making process.

 

The appeals court decision upheld a lower court's ruling that then-Gov. Phil Bredesen was justified in denying records on the basis that they were part of his "deliberative process" about how to deal with TennCare protesters encamped in the Capitol in 2005.

Frank Gibson, Public Policy Director for the Tennessee Press Association, calls it a “bad decision” and says the ruling will be easily abused.

“It’ll be no time before we have mayors of the smallest cities and towns in Tennessee trying to claim this same deliberative process exemption, which basically just exists in a Court of Appeals case.”

The unanimous opinion written by Bredesen appointee Judge Richard Dinkins endorsed the argument that "advice high governmental officials receive be protected from disclosure."