Case Number: 2023 CH 2388
Court: Chancery Court of Cumberland County, Tennessee, for the Thirteenth Judicial District at Crossville
Client: Heather Mullinix
Petition for Access to Public Records Filed: June 6, 2023
Background: In September 2022, Heather Mullinix, editor of The Crossville Chronicle, submitted a public records request to the city of Crossville, Tennessee, seeking a copy of an investigative report regarding the closure of the Village Inn, a motel turned low-income housing facility. Months earlier, the city had closed the facility after law enforcement officers discovered unsafe living conditions during a search related to a narcotics investigation, prompting the city of Crossville to hire an outside law firm to look into how the closure was handled. The Crossville City Council discussed the report during a public meeting and relied upon it in deciding whether to retain the city manager.
The city responded to Mullinix’s request for the investigative report with a broad claim that the records are confidential under Tennessee law. The city offered no other basis for the denial but stated that it would reconsider the withholding of the records if Mullinix had legal authority to support releasing the records.
Paul McAdoo, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney for Tennessee, submitted a letter to the city’s attorney on behalf of Mullinix asking that the city reconsider its decision.
Mullinix, represented by McAdoo, then filed this lawsuit against the city of Crossville for access to the investigative report, arguing that she is entitled to the records under the Tennessee Public Records Act.