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Nearly $57,000 Attorney Fee Award in Tennessee Public Records Case

by David Reutter

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County was found to be in willful noncompliance with the Tennessee Public Records Act. It was order to pay $56,884.55 in attorney fees and expenses as a result.

Plaintiff Bradley Jetmore filed suit against the two counties, claiming the police department records were not being promptly released as required by the act. Metro traffic reports could be released within three days, but Metro took the “position that it was promptly producing accident reports as long as it produced them within seven (7) days”.

The act, however required records be “promptly” made available for public inspection. If that is not practicable, the record custodian must within seven business days make the information available or deny the request in writing.

The Court found Metro relied on an improper interpretation of the sheriff and the county attorney. The focus is on the validity of the position that the governmental entity used to support its refusal of access to the requested record to make the required finding of willfulness to award attorney fees. Metro could not hide behind the incorrect interpretation to avoid a willfulness finding.

Metro was found in willful non-compliance pursuant to Friedmann v. Marshall County, 471 S. W. 3d 427 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015). As such, the Court ordered Metro to pay. See: Jetmore v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Ch. Ct. for Davidson County (Tenn. 2016), No. 16-418.

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Related legal case

Jetmore v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County