FW Publishing, the parent company of the Nashville Scene, and reporter Stephen Elliot filed a public records lawsuit against Governor Bill Lee after the state failed to provide reports for the state compiled by consulting group McKinsey and Company.
The suit, which names both Lee and Tennessee Department of Human Resources Commissioner Juan Williams as respondents, argues the journalist is entitled to the documents under the Tennessee Public Records Act.
“These records are important to understand the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State’s current buyout program for State employees, and the State’s spending of more than $3 million taxpayer dollars on private consultants,” attorney Paul McAdoo, who is representing the group, told the Scene.
According to the court documents, Elliot filed requests with the proper officials numerous times. However, the petition for the documents was denied, citing the documents were protected “on the basis of the deliberative process privilege.”
However, the petitioners of the suit argue “deliberative process privilege” does not apply to the documents in question under the Tennessee Public Records Act.
Some of the reports under debate are connected to a contract issued to the consulting agency that awarded $3 million in state funds, addressing government efficiency and reopening after the coronavirus pandemic.
“In addition to seeking access to these records, this lawsuit offers the Court an opportunity to decide whether Tennessee law recognizes the deliberative process privilege, including as an exception to the Tennessee Public Records Act. Where the privilege is recognized, including at the federal level, we regularly see it abused and broadly asserted to withhold information that should be public. If recognized in Tennessee, the deliberative process privilege would be a significant impediment to fully understanding how our government operates,” McAdoo continued.
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Cooper Moran is a reporter for The Star News Network. Follow Cooper on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Gov. Bill Lee” by Gov. Bill Lee. Photo “Tennessee State Capitol” by FaceMePLS CC BY 2.0.