Mayor Goes To Court

Barely three weeks into his new job, Loudon County Mayor Arp finds himself in legal hot water. His self titled group of Loudon County residents, The Triple "A" Club, apparently have had enough of his illegal manipulation of public records. Through their attorney, the group has filed suit in Loudon County Chancery Court to make sure public records are in fact kept as public records. Although at Monday's workshop and in the news article below, the Mayor is now trying to take back water on his new policy, he can not hide from the facts. He tried to stop public access to public records. The citizens of Loudon County should be thankful to The Triple "A" Club for protecting the rights of all of us and standing up to those who do not hesitate to violate the law for their own benefit.

Who pays for the Mayor's shenanigans?  We the tax payers. The suit will have to be answered by the County and the legal fees paid by the tax payers. I would challenge, no demand, Mr. Arp personally pay all legal fees associated to the case, including those incurred by The Triple "A" Club. Mr. Arp stated boldly at at Monday's workshop "It's My Right" to make these absurd policies. So it should be his right to pay the bills. It truly is a sad state of affairs when private citizens have to take legal action to force a government official to obey the law.

Arp claims his new rules were just an "attention-getter." Well it worked. If we are lucky, Mr. Arp will learn his lesson, but I doubt he will. I fear we are in for a long four years. Maybe triple "A" should stand for "All About Arp"

Petition Targets Records Policy

Mayor: Fee for public-info access an 'attention-getter'; no one has been charged

LOUDON - A Chancery Court petition seeking an injunction to keep Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp from enforcing his policy of charging a fee for public records access was filed Thursday.

That part of his new public-records policy was just an "attention-getter,'' Arp said Thursday afternoon. He said nobody has been assessed any fee.  Still, he said, he wants requests for the county's accounting and purchasing records to be made in writing and given to his office.

Arp said he established the policy shortly after taking office after the previous administration was dogged by time-consuming requests for county records - some containing employees' Social Security numbers.

"I'm not going to jail for somebody wanting somebody's privacy information,'' Arp said.

Phil Harber, a Clinton attorney, filed the Chancery Court petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief on behalf of three Loudon County residents.

"This should not have been necessary,'' Harber said of his legal action on behalf of Pat Hunter, Joanne Turner and Aileen Longmire.

"They really don't want to make a big old fight out of it,'' Harber said of his clients. "They just want the records.''

The petition seeks a judgment declaring Arp's public-records access policy invalid.

A show-cause hearing on the Harber's petition is scheduled for Dec. 4 before Chancellor Frank V. Williams.

Arp's written policy:

  • Requires those seeking access to county records to come to his office and fill out a form
  • States that applicants must pay $25 an hour plus 25 cents per page for copies
  • Charges a nonrefundable, minimum charge for the first hour that must be paid up front

    Arp's policy is a "knowing and willful bad faith violation of the Open Records Act,'' according to Harber's legal challenge.

    State law doesn't allow a county to require that all requests to inspect public records be made in person "and to the county mayor,'' the petition states.

    According to the state's attorney general, local governments can't charge for employees' time spent fulfilling a public-records request, Frank Gibson said.

    Gibson is executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. That alliance of media, citizens and legal professionals seeks to preserve and improve public access to government records and meetings.

    "The attorney general says the only thing the law and the Tennessee Supreme Court has said is allowable under Tennessee law is the cost of the copies,'' Gibson said.

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