Loudon commissioners defer action on records plan
By HUGH G. WILLETT, knoxnews.com February 7, 2007
Loudon County commissioners have joined citizens in expressing continued
concern about Mayor Doyle Arp's proposed procedures for accessing and
copying public records.
Arp didn't attend Monday's meeting, where commissioners cited possible
legal problems with Arp's plan to charge citizens for copies. They moved
quickly to defer action until next month.
The commission plans to turn the mayor's seven-page proposal over to the
County Technical Assistance Services for legal review.
The latest plan aims to address concerns expressed by citizens about the
cost of copying records. It allows up to 24 pages per month at no charge
and extra pages at a cost of 7 cents per copy. The previous plan charged
25 cents per copy plus a sliding fee of up to $23.47 per hour for the
cost of a county employee.
"I've got an opinion from another attorney who feels there are problems
with the resolution," Commissioner David Meers said. "I also believe we
need to make the process more friendly to the public."
Commissioner Bob Franke said he's received many calls on the new
resolution, "even more than when we raised taxes."
Rather than debate the cost of copying records, Franke said the goal
should be to make all public records available on the Internet.
Several citizens insisted on speaking about Arp's policy despite
commission's deferral of the matter.
"I think its unfair that all these people came here to address the
issue," said Pat Hunter, who along with two others filed a Chancery
Court petition to keep the mayor from enforcing the new policy. Hunter
said past attempts to restrict access to public records always have been
Loudon County resident Shirley Harrison, who wrote a letter to all the
commissioners asking them to vote against the mayor's proposal, said
there is more to the issue than simply the cost of making copies.
Citizens would still have to make a formal request of the mayor's office
to get access to the records, she said.
"This is still dictatorship and censorship," Harrison said. "It's
intimidating to make citizens have to get the mayor's permission to look
at public records."