Gov. Lee claims ‘executive privilege,’ denies public records

Tennessee

FILE – In this Jan. 7, 2020, file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks to the media during a tour of Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Tenn. Lee’s administration has invoked executive privilege multiple times to withhold documents from public records requests, even though such privilege is not defined in the state’s law, nor mentioned in its constitution. (Robin Rudd/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration has invoked executive privilege multiple times to withhold documents from public records requests, even though such privilege is not defined in the state’s law, nor mentioned in its constitution.

Officials in Lee’s office say they are using it interchangeably with a separate protection when documents are deemed part of the executive office’s decision-making process.

Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, says open government advocates worry that deliberative process exemptions will be used too broadly, thus making it difficult to know whether it’s being used improperly without involving the courts.

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