SPWSS approves customer records policy

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A new policy on the release of public records was adopted on Tuesday by directors of city utilities here.

To find people who owe him money, a local businessman has sought their addresses from the Shelbyville Power, Water & Sewerage System, according to discussion among members of the utilities' board.

To be sure that system officials can prove that the record was provided as requested, a form is being created. It's to be signed by those who request the information.

If an individual requesting the address and phone number of a city utility customer refuses to sign the form, then the information will be withheld, said Fred Hunt, attorney for the system.

"We've dealt with this before," Hunt said of requests for information about utility customers. "It used to come from the credit agencies."

A court case in West Tennessee indicates it would be inappropriate to require requests in writing, but Hunt questions the applicability of that decision, the lawyer said.

Hunt proposed creating a document that would be kept on file to show that the request was made and that it was fulfilled.

A similar procedure is used at county election commission offices across the state when campaign financial disclosure statements are sought. But when someone requests those public documents, election officials send a copy of the signed request form to the candidate whose documents are viewed.

Chairman Jim Warren asked Hunt why a record of the request for records is needed, and the lawyer replied that it would serve as proof that the request was made and that there is a receipt showing the request was granted

The new forms will become a new public record for the system.

There is an exception to the open records law in this situation. Law enforcement officers' addresses aren't to be provided upon request, Warren said.

That issue was confronted nearly a decade ago and resolved by state lawmakers.

Tennessee's open records law calls for government records to be available for public viewing during regular business hours.

The utility board unanimously voted to adopt the policy as suggested by Hunt.