New City Public Records Ordinance up for Final Passage Monday Night

August 19, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen are scheduled to vote on a proposed new ordinance Monday night governing access to public records. The vote was four to one for passage on first reading on August 6th.

Alderman Tonya Sullivan, Willie Thomas, Jerry Hutchins', Sr., and Cecil Burger voted for it. Alderman Steve White voted against it, saying he had concerns with some passages of it.

If approved, the new ordinance will replace an existing ordinance, which poses some legal concerns.

Under the proposed new ordinance, " all records maintained by the City of Smithville, that are not Federally or State protected are hereby declared open records."

"Copies of open records that are requested during regular business hours are required to be provided to the requester. If the request is five pages or less, the copies will be free. However, copies will cost twenty five cents per page, starting with the sixth page and every page thereafter, unless otherwise excepted in this ordinance. If the request is of five pages or fewer and is readily available, the request will be fulfilled the same business day. If the request is more than five pages or not readily available, the request will be fulfilled within five business days. If the request is complex or of a personnel file then the request shall be fulfilled within ten business days. The fee for copies of items such as cd roms, computer disks, and audio/video cassettes, etc. will be charged at the rate paid by the city for such recording medium. However, if the requester provides the recording medium, there will be no additional charge from 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."

"Copies of the City Charter, current City Code and Ordinances, and all Minutes of City Council meetings and Resolutions passed in the previous five years shall be readily available for review by the public. An area shall be designated for these items to be reviewed by the public."

"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. No copies of a personnel file shall be turned over to a third party without being reviewed by the City Attorney."

"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 (Tennessee Code Annotated) 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 an/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.'

"Ordinance number 382 (existing ordinance) of the City of Smithville is hereby repealed in it's entirety. Citizens that were charged fees under Ordinance Number 382 that are in excess of fees under (new ordinance) shall be entitled to a refund of those excess fees upon showing proof. This refund does not apply to prior requests of five pages and under."

The ordinance will be considered for second and final reading passage following a public hearing August 20th at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

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