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Norris: Shelby County’s Records Request a ‘Fishing Expedition’

by Andrea Zelinski on August 9, 2012

Sen. Mark Norris says he will comply with the Shelby County Commission’s requests for all correspondence dealing with the controversial Memphis-Shelby schools merger.

But the Senate majority leader and chief architect of legislation dictating rules for combining the school systems thinks the demand is being made principally in the spirit of hassling him and other lawmakers.

“It is a major fishing expedition, but you know, knock themselves out. We’ll give them what we have,” said Norris, a Republican from Collierville, told TNReport this week.

Lawyers for the Shelby County Commission are asking the General Assembly to fork over any communication related to laws dictating rules for the merger between the two school systems as they assemble a case in court to block six suburbs from beginning their own school systems.

The commission is asking for documents dating back as far as 2010 relating to three laws dictating rules for the merger, namely SB25, SB1923 and SB2908.

Norris said his office, and he expects others in the Legislature, will offer up the requested documents which specifically call for:

“All communications or letters received in any format, including electronic mail, from any citizen constituent, resident or anyone else concerning or related to the consolidation of the Memphis City School system with the Shelby County School system, the creation of municipal or special school districts in Shelby County and any legislation, bill, ordinance or resolution related thereto.”

“It’s largely for harassment. I don’t think the court will probably think there’s any merit in the aspects of their request,” Norris said. “It’s gotten personal down there. Not for me but for the constituency, I think.”

The county asked for similar records from the six suburbs, which approved the creation of their own new school districts via referendum last week. Lawyers representing the coalition of suburbs have also asked the county commission for any correspondence related to the consolidation laws — a practice lawyers on both sides of the debate say is “more than fair” and just business, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The commission is also seeking the identities of anonymous commenters who weighed in on the consolidation at the newspaper’s website.

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  • Tom Paine

    An enterprising reporter would likely ask Norris if HE’S ever filed any open records requests to state agencies in an effort to dig up dirt on a program he’s opposed to…?

    Was it harrassment when Norris filed similar requests with the previous administration seeking documents on TNInvestco, Electrolux and the West Tennessee megasite?

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

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