The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government has filed a motion to intervene in an open meetings lawsuit in Greene County.
One of the claims in the case is that the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act by holding a meeting in which some members of the audience could not hear deliberations.
The meeting occurred in July 2014. Members of the audience told the board it could not hear the deliberations, and when one audience member spoke out about it, he was removed from the meeting, charged with disrupting a public meeting, and put in jail. (The charges were later dropped.)
The industrial development board and US Nitrogen, the two defendants in the case, argue in pleadings that the Open Meetings Act does not require that a governing body make the meeting audible to the public.
“TCOG seeks this limited intervention for the purpose of urging the Court to disregard and disallow the interpretation of the Act asserted by the Defendants. It is clearly wrong. If the Court should adopt the position of the defense with respect to the Act, the rights and opportunities of all citizens to have access to information concerning their government and its operation will be permanently and significantly destroyed,” the motion says.
In the motion, TCOG states that it “does not take any position with respect to the merits of the underlying litigation or whether the correctly interpreted Open Meetings Act has been violated by any party. It is simply the urgent and sincere request of the Intervenor that this Court correctly interpret the Act in order to preserve citizen access to the fullest information about their government and its functions. Because of the significance of the Court’s ruling regarding the Act, TCOG requests the right to be heard and to address the Court on this issue at any subsequent hearing where this matter is being discussed in this cause.”
Richard Hollow, with Hollow & Hollow, LLC, is representing TCOG. Hollow is a member of TCOG’s board.
Tennessee Coalition for Open Government was founded in 2003. It is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and preserve transparency in government. It is a member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.