Tennessee Coalition for Open Government: Government business is not a trade secret

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 9:00 pm (Updated: March 12, 9:00 pm) from RCN

By Deborah Fisher

Government officials have found an effective way to keep secrets, especially when they don’t want taxpayers and voters to know about sweetheart deals with favored businesses.

It works something like this.

First, the government officials sign a non-disclosure agreement with the business that says that anything in an upcoming government contract with the business could be considered proprietary, a trade secret or otherwise confidential information of the business, and not disclosable under Tennessee Public Records law.

Next, they agree they will not disclose anything to members of the public about the deal’s details, even at a public meeting in which a governing body must vote on it.

Often, they agree that any press release or information given out about the government contract must be approved in advance by the company, and that the company has control over what the government says.

Finally, if someone makes a public records request for the documents that outline specific terms, including how much the government is paying or granting, the government will alert the company and allow the company 30 days to object or file to get a court order to prevent disclosure.

Impossible, you say?

Read more.

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