Hamilton County Attorney Admits Conflict with State Law in Charging for Records Requests
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — During the Hamilton County Commission meeting, Commissioner Greg Martin asked the county attorney about some recently deleted county records being requested by members of the press.
At a recent meeting of the Hamilton County Public Records Commission, 4 of the 6 members of that body voted to delete emails of records requests.
Commissioner Greg Martin asked County Attorney Rheubin Taylor for some clarification on the issue.
“The only thing that was destroyed was the requests. The requests, yes sir. Why would you destroy the requests? Because there’s no statute that requires the requests to be kept, first of all,” Rheubin Taylor, Hamilton County Attorney.
Times Free Press reporter Sarah Grace Taylor, who has been requesting records of other requests, stepped to the podium to explain.
“No, the records I asked for do not exist if they got rid of the requests. Because what we wanted to see is what had been asked for, and how had that office responded to those requests, after they had improperly responded to one of our requests,” said Sarah Grace Taylor, reporter for the Times Free Press.
The Times Free Press was told the records would cost over $700 just to view.
“The state law says you do not charge for someone wanting to inspect records. The problem, particularly in this situation and in other situations, is when someone want to inspect records that have to be first of all, compiled, records have to be reviewed, there may be some redaction needed in those records,” said attorney Taylor.
But when pressed on the matter, by Commissioner Chip Baker, attorney Taylor admitted:
“So, but we do conflict with state law? Is that right? We conflict. Yes. We do. But there is, like I said, there are some counties that don’t interpret it or practice it as the statute may be written, and that’s what’s in court right now, in Knox County,” said attorney Taylor.
To clarify, Hamilton County’s attorney admitted that the county is not complying with Tennessee law.
How the case in Knox County referenced by Hamilton County’s attorney will affect local response to open records requests remains unclear.