Details on the statistics

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government conducted an audit of public records policies of cities, counties and school districts. We checked policies on a variety of factors.  In cases when there were multiple and different policies for different departments, we measured the policy for the main administrator’s office, such as the county mayor’s office.

Below are more detailed statistics on our highlighted findings.


IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS


Cities

Counties

School Districts

All

Identification required as a condition for inspection / copies (see Note 1) 

84%

74%

91%

84%

A requestor may be asked to provide identification (see Note 2)

10%

10%

0%

6%

No mention of identification requirements

6%

1%

9%

6%

Not required

0%

6%

0%

2%

Other / Unclear (see Note 3)

0%

8%

0%

2%

  • Note 1: Most required a Tennessee driver’s license or some other form of acceptable identification proving Tennessee residency.
  • Note 2: Some policies included language that requestors may be required to provide identification, but did not make it a condition in all instances for inspecting or getting copies of public records.
  • Note 3. Some policies were unclear about identification or had additional “citizenship” requirements. For example, some had language that says identification “will (not) be required” without indicating if identification will or will not be required. One required both a Tennessee driver’s license and a “valid unexpired Tennessee voter registration card with a street address.”

FEE WAIVERS, BASED ON AMOUNT

Cities

Counties

School Districts

All

YES, allows fee waivers based on amount

67%

58%

4%

41%

NO, no fee waiver provision based on amount 

33%

42%

96%

59%

For the government entities who decided to waive fees under a certain amount, that amount varied. Some government entities were clearly more generous than others. The thresholds found in this audit ranged from 15 cents to $50. No pattern was detected based on size of the government entity. 

Range: 15 cents to $50

Median: $5

Average: $7


“PUBLIC INTEREST” OR “PUBLIC GOOD” FEE WAIVER BASED ON DISCRETION OF CUSTODIAN

Cities

Counties

School Districts

All

YES, fee wavier discretion allowed (see Note 1) 

59%

41%

3%

33%

NO, fee waiver discretion not provided

41%

58%

95%

66%

Other / Unclear

0%

1%

2%

1%

  • Note 1: Nearly all policies that allowed fee waiver discretion had specific language derived from the Office of Open Records Counsel’s model policy that included a blank space for the government entity to name a person or title of a person within the entity “who is authorized to determine if such waiver is in the best interest of (the government entity) and for the public good.”  Sometimes the person named was an elected official, such as a mayor, and sometimes this was a non-elected official, such as a records custodian or a public records request coordinator who dealt directly with records requestors.

USING PERSONAL EQUIPMENT, SUCH AS A CELL PHONE OR SCANNER

Cities

Counties

School Districts

All

Prohibit use of personal equipment to make copies 

78%

67%

8%

48%

Allows use of personal equipment to make copies

4%

13%

0%

5%

Prohibits or permits use of personal equipment under circumstances that are described

5%

9%

0%

4%

Does not mention

13%

8%

92%

41%

Other / Unclear

0%

3%

0%

2%

 

PHONE NUMBERS AND EMAIL ADDRESSESType of contact information included

Cities

Counties

School Districts

All

Phone number

87%

85%

81%

84%

Email address

69%

33%

55%

50%