The League of Women Voters of Tennessee has submitted a letter to Open Records Counsel Lee Pope, saying it was dismayed by the Office’s interpretation of the state’s public records laws that is encouraging governments to ban the use of cell phones to make copies of public records.
The League, which has a seat on the Advisory Committee on Open Government that was set up to advise the Open Records Counsel, has chapters throughout the state. The letter was written by its president, Marian Ott. The Oct. 13. letter:
RE: Policy Banning Photos of Public Records
Dear Mr. Pope,
The League of Women Voters of Tennessee was dismayed by your office’s interpretation of the Tennessee public records law that is encouraging state and local governments to ban the use of cell phones and other modern technology to make copies of public records. This is particularly discouraging in light of the growing mistrust of government among people across the political spectrum — not allowing common sense use of everyday technology is just one more time government is out of step.
The League supports the position articulated in the October 3 letter sent to you by the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG). The League’s mission is to stimulate informed citizen participation in government which is difficult to accomplish with barriers to information access. Similar to the proposal floated to charge the public to view public records, we view the banning or unreasonable limitation on the use of cell phones and other similar technology to be akin to a “poll tax” on civic participation.
The League notes the irony of an environmental agency proposing to ban photos and require paper copy of records! We applaud Senator Mike Bell for asking the agencies to reconsider the public records policies that would ban the use of cell phones. We ask that your office review the arguments presented in the TCOG letter as well as consider the best interests of the citizens of Tennessee who wish to access public records in Tennessee and revise the guidance to encourage use of cell phones and similar technology for copying public records.
Other members of the Advisory Committee on Open Government who have sent letters to the Office of Open Records Counsel are the Tennessee Press Association and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.