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Contracting with state does not subject nonprofit to records act

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         TENNESSEE         Freedom of Information         Mar 21, 2001    

Contracting with state does not subject nonprofit to records act

  • A newspaper lost its attempt to review the financial records of a child care organization that receives nearly all its money from state contracts.

A Tennessee Court of Appeals in Nashville held March 15 that a nonprofit organization that receives almost all of its revenue from the government is not a state agency and not subject to the state’s open records law.

Cherokee Children and Family Services, Inc., contracts with the Department of Human Services to provide day care for low income families. Block grants from the federal and state government provide the organization with 99 percent of its revenue.

The Commercial Appeal in Memphis requested financial records from the nonprofit organization in 1999. After extensive negotiations with the organization failed, the newspaper asked a trial court to force release the records. Despite the amount of government funding received by the organization, the trial court ruled that it was an independent contractor of the state not subject to the open records act.

The appeals court agreed with the trial court. Because the organization was not “created by the legislature,” but only contracts with the state, it is not a state agency subject to the Tennessee open records act, the court said..

(Memphis Publishing Co. v. Cherokee Children & Family Services; Media Counsel: Lucian T. Pera, Memphis) CC

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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