State Rep. William Lamberth Seeks to Limit Public Records Access to as Little as Three Requests a Year

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If government officials accuse you of filing one too many public records requests, then they could use the courts to penalize you under a proposed bill at this year’s Tennessee General Assembly.

State Rep. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) introduced the bill this session.

As written, a government official could seek an injunction to keep people “from making records requests that constitute harassment.”

If an injunction goes through, then the person requesting government records could make no further requests for one year, according to the bill. That person, though, could ask a court to reverse the decision – but only if he or she shows “the public records request does not constitute harassment.”

“Harassment” means three or more public records requests within a period of one year that are made in a manner that would cause a reasonable person, including a records custodian or any staff of the public entity in control of the public records, to be seriously abused, intimidated, threatened, or harassed,” according to the bill, as currently written.

“For which the conduct in fact seriously abuses, intimidates, threatens, or harasses the person; and that are not made in good faith or for any legitimate purpose, or are made maliciously.”

But who decides what’s reasonable and what’s malicious?

Lamberth did not return The Tennessee Star’s requests seeking comment this week.

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government Executive Director Deborah Fisher told The Star she discussed the bill with Lamberth last week.

Lamberth, Fisher said, proposed the bill because someone in his district files an excessive number of public records requests every year.

“My initial reaction is that we think that if there are problems with certain requestors then that could be handled in a different way,” Fisher said.

“Allowing a government entity to sue a public records requestor is a really big step, and we’re concerned that could open the door for a lot of mischief. We want to work with Representative Lamberth.”

Fisher said, though, she worries about “a chilling effect.”

“Sometimes when you are requesting public records, sometimes, but not all the time, there is a record you are requesting that a public official may not want you to have,” Fisher said.

“We don’t want there to be a situation where someone is trying to get a record that they legitimately should have access to and might be important for a news story or for information, and yet they’re blocked because a government official could turn around and sue them.”

The bill, Fisher said, “could open the door to mischief.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.
Photo “William Lambreth” by William Lambreth.

 

 

 

 

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7 Thoughts to “State Rep. William Lamberth Seeks to Limit Public Records Access to as Little as Three Requests a Year”

  1. […] drafted HB 0626 to protect government employees from abusive requesters. As The Tennessee Star reported, the original bill would limit public records access to as few as three requests per year, and that […]

  2. TIM MORTON

    I HAVE REQUESTED A COPY OF A TAPED PRELIMINARY HEARING, WHICH IS DOCUMENT ON THE ORDERS OF CR 4941-2000, REMEMBER THE TAPED HEARING IS PERMANENT PART OF THE RECORD AND I HAVE REQUEST THIS SINCE 2005, EVEN FILING COMPLAINTS THROUGH THE BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, AND THE TENNESSEE DOESN”T ALLOW THE STATE TO SUE THE STATE. PEOPLE START TAKING SUMNER CFOUNTY, TO DISTRICT COURT IF YOU THINK THEY WORKED THEIR CORRUPUTION ON YOU. READ TENNESSEE RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, RULE 5.1 AND ABOVE THE ADVISORY READ THE LITERATURE. THEY CAN’T DENY YOUR REQUEST TO REVIEW ANY DOCUMENTS WHICH ARE A PART OF THE RECORD, THIS PROCEDURE STATES ITS A CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION. WILLIAM LAMBERT WORKED WITH RAY WHITLEY AND THE CORRUPT SUMNER COUNTY STAFF AND IS TRYING TO AISSIST THEM THROUGH HIS POSITION TO ASSIST THEM WITH CORRUPTION AGAIN. FELLOW MEMEMBERS OF THIS DISTRICT NEED TO GET RID OF HIM, HE’S NOT FOR THE PUBLIC, BUT THE SYSTEM IF ITS WRONG IT DOES’N’T MATTER. ITS NOT ANY EQUAL PROTECTIONOF THE LAW IN SUMNER COUNTY AND THE CORRUPT WILLIAM IS TRYING TO PROMOTE CORRUPTION AND OR OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT. STICK TOGETHER AND GET RID OF HIM,.

  3. TIMOTHY L MORTON

    why does sumner county, tn not have the records online as many other counties. what is it to hide by sumner county officials. if the records were online as stated, they are public record and as a citizen, you should have access to the records. what has sumner county have to hide, I know of a lot. I had a charged vacated due to double jeopardy, according how could I make bond on a offense twice? as stated in TCA 40-11-304 the court should have a receipt to show the return of funds, but better then that I made a 160,000 bond and have the witness who wrote the check willing to testify, but now it states a 50,000 bond. by not the records online is foolish, but for the corrupt administration, I understand why. why do natives of sumner county have to receive less of service from the courts than others in this state. Bill Lee is going to address criminal reform an much more, I have met him In the past at men of valor and boy sumner county has problems. Oldham Bonding Company has been performing duties against the statues in 40-11 series and many bonding companies are willing to step up now. 30 years of corrupt, and William lambert was a part of this. corruption has been in sumner county for in access of 30 years, read the statue 40-11-124 and 40-11-125, it’s a lot of corruption going on in sumner county and for years and the limit citizens access to the court records is directly in violation of the constitution of the us to access the court. tell sumner county to get out of the past and upgrade to the future. Anthony holt, ray whitley and many others should be oustered

  4. TIMOTHY L MORTON

    GET RID OF LAMBERT, HE CAME OUT OF A CORRUPT STABLE.

  5. Michelle Sexton

    Get him out of office!!! More freedoms taken away!!

  6. William Delzell

    Lamberth’s attempt to limit public access to public records smells. Since he is getting a salary and lavish health benefits as a legislator (medical care that he wants to deny to the average hard-put Tennessean) on the tax-payer’s dime, it looks like he has something to hide. These are PUBLIC records that are open to all citizens. With so many government officials in our country of both parties trying to escape accountability and public scrutiny, Lamberth’s bill looks suspicious.

  7. John J

    Mischief…like the $250 plus thousand dollars, Lambreth’s own Sumner County schools blew trying to prevent a citizen from accessing public records! Sounds like this Bill will simply give cover to shady government entities. And who is the sponsor in the Senate, Sumner’s very own Ferrell Haile, hmmm?

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