Guide to Tennessee laws

open records and open meetings law in Tennessee

A guide to open records and open meetings laws in Tennessee

Check out our guide to Tennessee laws on public records and open meetings.

You can view and download a PDF version of the guide here, Keys to Open Government.

“Keys to Open Government” was published in 2015 with a grant from the Tennessee Press Association Foundation.

If you would like to purchase a copy or copies, we would be happy to mail them to you or as a gift from you to another person.

Just fill out the form below. If you have any questions, contact Deborah Fisher, TCOG’s executive director, at or (615) 602-4080.

Keys to Open Government: A Guide to Tennessee's Open Records and Open Meetings Law

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Open Meetings Act

Who is subject to the Open Meetings Law

Th e Legislature exemption

What constitutes a meeting

Deliberations must be public

Notice of public meetings

Fairly inform the public

Issues of pervasive importance

Three-pronged test

Methods for notice

Minutes and secret votes

Violations of the Open Meetings Act

Curing a violation

Electronic participation in meetings

Electronic communication – Internet relay chat

Labor negotiations

Chapter 2 – Exceptions to the Open Meetings Act 

Chance meetings and informal assemblages

Attorney-client privilege

Anticipated lawsuits

Other exceptions

Chapter 3 – Office of Open Records Counsel

Th e role of the OORC in disputes

Open Meetings complaint form

OORC advisory opinions and letters

OORC website

Chapter 4 – Tennessee Public Records Act

What is a public record?

Th e law on how government must respond to requests

Getting the legal basis for denial

Who is subject to the public records law?

Private, non-government entities

Others subject to the law

Records specifically listed as open

Chapter 5 – Exemptions to the Public Records Act 

Exemptions passed by the Legislature

Some email correspondence

Other laws that can exempt records

Rule 16(a)(2) and criminal prosecutions


Chapter 6 – Making a Public Records Request

Response deadlines

No charge to inspect

“May” and “Shall”

Copy fees: “Schedule of Reasonable Charges”

Electronic records and other tech questions

Self-service copies

What if records are denied?

What are the penalties for wrongly denying access?

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