City Council to Consider Passage of New Ordinance Governing Access to Public Records

July 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen Monday night will consider passage of a new ordinance governing access to public records.

The new ordinance basically sets fees for making copies of records requested by the public.

Questions have arisen concerning the legality of certain portions of the city's existing ordinance. That ordinance is expected to be repealed, upon passage of a new ordinance.

Under the proposed new ordinance, \"Copies of open records that are requested during regular business hours are required to be provided the requester, within a reasonable time at a cost of twenty five cents per page, unless otherwise excepted in the ordinance. Fees for items such as, but not limited to, cd roms, computer disks, and audio/video cassettes, will be charged at the rate paid for such items by the city. All fees and charges for records shall be due and payable at the time such costs are incurred. City staff may require pre-payment of fees and charges for copies where the fees and charges would exceed twenty dollars.\"

\"Removal of original open records, including personnel records, from the offices of the city is strictly prohibited.\"

\"If copies of personnel records of city employees are requested, the City Recorder, or other city staff authorized by the City Recorder, shall notify the employee, for whom the records are requested, which documents have been copied, and to whom they have been provided. The employee shall be notified that the information has been requested within 48 hours.\"

\"Accident Reports provided by the Smithville Police Department shall be provided to anyone requesting the reports at a cost of four dollars per report. The city has determined that this is a reasonable charge, inasmuch as it is the same amount that is charged for such reports by the Tennessee Department of Safety under state law, and other cities in Tennessee.\"

\"It shall be the policy of the City of Smithville to cooperate fully with any Tennessee resident requesting the right to inspect and/or receive copies of open records at a reasonable charge; however, the city staff is prohibited from undertaking research projects to place records requested in any other form than normally maintained by the city, unless the requester agrees to pay for changing the form.\"

The proposed new ordinance states that \"The law provides that the city may stipulate that requests be received during regular business hours, and the city staff shall have a reasonable time to comply with requests for information.\"

\"The City may not provide copies of public records that violate an individual's right to privacy as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.\"

\"The City has the right to charge a reasonable charge for reproducing or copying records.\"

\"The City has the right to verify that the requester of information is in fact a Tennessee resident.\"

If the ordinance is adopted on first reading, second and final reading passage will be scheduled at the July 16th city council meeting.

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