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Tennessee Municipal League refuses to open its records
Putnam Pit editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 28, 2000) -- The Tennessee Municipal League's Risk Management Pool -- an organization that insures local governments and which is funded with public money, refuses to make public how it spends that money.

Dawn Crawford, the agency's vice president and chief financial officer, said Monday that the organization is exempt from the state's open records law because it meets "other," unspecified criteria that she could not name. See letter.

However, the Tennessee Attorney General's office has issued no ruling on whether the TML's files are exempt from state open records requirements.

The Tennessee Municipal League "is a voluntary, cooperative organization established by the cities and towns of the state for mutual assistance and improvement," according to its web site.

The TML is paying the legal fees of Cookeville in a case in which a city employee was ordered to run from the municipal building when a reporter sought access to public records. That case is one of three federal trials scheduled next year in which the Cookeville government is the defendant.

The League’s primary function is to lobby on behalf of city governments, with the Tennessee General Assembly, and the state administration. The staff includes a team of full-time, professional lobbyists who work with the General Assembly promoting legislation helpful to cities, and opposing legislation harmful to cities.

Two extensions of the League include the TML Risk Management Pool and the TML Municipal Bond Fund. For more extensive information on their services click here.

The TML hires lawyers to defend politicians who are accused of violating, among other things, the civil rights and free-speech guarantees of citizens. In recent years, the TML has funded Cookeville's defense in federal cases involving censorship, police brutality and corruption within the police department.

It was a lawyer working for the Municipal League who said that threatening "to shoot a nigger" is not a "citeable offense" in Tennessee.

In a telephone conference on Monday, Nov. 27, Crawford said that although quasi-governmental agencies like the TML are covered by the state's open records statute, the law does not require the TML to make public records that would allow the public to monitor where it spends the public money it receives from member governmental entities.

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