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Haslam Yet to Reconsider Opening Up Secret Meeting Schedule

by Andrea Zelinski on September 11, 2012

Gov. Bill Haslam vowed he and his staff would re-evaluate whether they should keep the governor’s meeting schedule secret, but he says he hasn’t gotten that far yet.

“We really hadn’t had that discussion again, and we will, in terms of looking at that,” Haslam told reporters Friday before a ribbon cutting at Saks distribution center in La Vergne.

Haslam’s administration rejected a TNReport request for the governor’s calendar dating back to his 2011 inauguration, citing “deliberative process privilege,” a common law provision not written into state code and meant to keep internal discussions private.

Haslam said his communications director, Alexia Poe, is looking into public records issues, but he did not say when he expected his administration would decide whether to reverse its decision.

“I don’t know of anything new on the Governor’s schedule,” Poe said over email. “It is my understanding we’re consistent with how Governor Bredesen handled similar requests.”

One advocate for greater government transparency says the governor should open up his past meeting schedule anyway.

“When Tennesseans can see his planner, it no longer becomes a big deal to opponents who thinks the governor may be up to no good and provides his supporters with documentation of the good faith effort he is making as the state’s highest elected official,” said Kent Flanagan, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

While Flanagan said he generally trusts this governor, keeping the schedule secret sets a bad precedent for when a public official does violate the public trust.

Haslam said earlier this year his staff would also work with other agencies to standardize how to handle requests for public records. He also said he wants to guard against what he described as “fishing expeditions” by reporters or political campaigns asking for a broad range of documents.

Poe said she was working on those changes and will likely have more details in the upcoming weeks.

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