Governor Bill Haslam’s office released 72 pages of emails of his chief operating officer in charge of the state’s building-management outsourcing project, but held back some, saying they fell under a “deliberative process” exemption to the Tennessee Public Records Act.
The Knoxville News Sentinel and The Commercial Appeal requested correspondence dating back to September 2014 of Greg Adams relating to the controversial outsourcing plan. Haslam’s office has been considering the plan since November, but news of it did not become public until Aug. 17 when a “request for information” from potential vendors was posted on the state procurement office website.
The released correspondence offered new insight into the governor’s office response to the controversy that followed, but no emails released to the newspapers were from before Aug. 17. The state said it was withholding three emails containing information about the outsourcing project, saying they are confidential under a deliberative process privilege that has been recognized in state and federal court cases.
“The Tennessee Public Records Act contains no such exemption, but court rulings can also make law,” statehouse reporter Richard Locker wrote in the article. “The governor’s office has previously asserted a deliberative process exemption for records in the governor’s possession, but this appears to be the first time the ‘privilege’ been asserted for records of other top state officials. The legal counsel did not disclose whether the documents were correspondence between Adams and the governor, which would fall in line with previous citations of the exemption.”
The deliberative process privilege was upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2013 in Davidson v. Bredesen when a protester to Tenncare cuts requested documents related to how participants in sit-in demonstration were treated at the State Capitol in 2005. That opinion was written by Judge Richard Dinkins.
See Knoxville News Sentinel story: State won’t release some outsourcing emails