In This Issue
Property Conservation Matching
Local Government Risk Academy
Property Valuation Program
Tennessee Public Records Act
Workers' Compensation Reform Update
Q. Why does the Tennessee state flag have three stars on it?
Click here for the answer
Message from the President
Most of you have probably heard of the Tennessee Public Risk Management Association (TnPRIMA). This year marks the 31st anniversary of the statewide education and networking organization. All public entity personnel have something to gain from this organization.
It is our belief that risk management is not only the concern of public risk management personnel, but is everyone’s responsibility. In recognition of the importance we place upon active risk management, we have once again awarded scholarships to PE Partner members for attendance at the TnPRIMA annual conference, to be held Nov. 1 - 3 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs.
In addition to opportunities to network with peers and learn from others, attendees will also have access to excellent educational sessions on topics such as changes in gun laws that affect the public sector, transition plans for the Americans with Disabilities Act, property valuation, disaster response, contracts liability, handling mental and emotional disabilities in the workplace, and an update on workers’ compensation reform.
We hope to see you there!
Dawn R. Crawford
Property Conservation Matching Grant Program
The application process for Public Entity Partners’s third annual Property Conservation Matching Grant Program is now open. All members who have property coverage with Public Entity Partners are eligible to apply. This program offers financial assistance for purchasing items designed to protect insured property from a variety of covered perils.
Many items are eligible for this grant, including, but not limited to:
- Lightning attenuation (lightning protection) systems;
- Security fencing;
- Infrared thermography;
- Sprinkler head protective cages;
- Affixed barricade devices/bollards (or other protective devices); and
- Security cameras or security lighting.
Grant funds may also be used for:
- Recommended loss prevention/control items identified by Public Entity Partners' property conservation loss control surveys;
- Transformer oil and gas testing recommendations to electric utilities generated by a transformer oil or gas analysis (TOGA) program; and/or
- Deficiencies or maintenance recommendations generated by infrared thermography inspections.
All applications are due by Nov. 17, 2017 (close of business). To begin the application process, visit https://www.PEpartners.org/Propertygrant/. Application instructions are located at this site and should answer any questions. The grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you apply, the greater your chances of receiving funding.
For questions, please contact Tahtia Mitchell at TMitchell@PEpartners.org or 800.624.9698.
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Local Government Risk Academy Training Courses Qualify for POST Credit
Are you looking for cost-effective, quality law enforcement training coursework to satisfy the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission’s annual in-service training requirements? Public Entity Partners offers nearly 30 Tennessee POST Commission-approved online training courses at various times throughout the year. These online training courses can be utilized to complete up to 30 of 40 annual training hours for POST-certified law enforcement officers. Over the next few months, we will add several new law enforcement courses, and we encourage members to periodically check for additional content.
Public Entity Partners’ law enforcement-specific training courses include:
- Use of Force for Law Enforcement
- Social Media and Law Enforcement
- Racial Profiling
- Pursuit Driving Fundamentals
Public Entity Partners’ Local Government Risk Academy provides our members with online training courses that are specifically designed for local governments and governmental agencies. Numerous courses are available in the areas of law enforcement, general safety, human resources, transit operations, water and wastewater, customer service, and management. This resource offers PE Partner members increased training flexibility and the ability to track training completed by individual employees of their entities.
To learn more about Public Entity Partners’ Local Government Risk Academy, visit www.PEpartners.org/localgovriskacademy. To view the course list, visit www.PEpartners.org/onlinecourses.
If you have questions about the Local Government Risk Academy, please contact Tahtia Mitchell at TMitchell@PEpartners.org or 800.624.9698.
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Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation
At the October 2017 meeting of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP), the Lenoir City Police Department (LCPD) completed a comprehensive evaluation process to meet the requirements of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Accreditation (TLEA) Program. Shortly after, the LCPD became Public Entity Partners’ 30th member agency to be accredited through this program.
Each PE Partner-member police agency accredited through the TLEA Program and/or the international Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) program receives a Law Enforcement Liability (LEL) coverage incentive. This consists of a $100 annual premium reduction, per commissioned officer, for the life of the accreditation. Public Entity Partners’s Board of Directors voted to initiate this incentive in the late 1980s to support professional standards in law enforcement.
Public Entity Partners's member agencies that have received accreditation through the TLEA Program include the police departments of:
Note: The nine agencies designated with an asterisk (*) are also CALEA accredited. Fourteen additional PE Partner member agencies are also at various stages of the state accreditation process, which typically spans a period of three or more years.
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Property Valuation Program
All members with property coverage are provided with a professional valuation for properties valued at $100,000 or more. This important program helps ensure that your properties are properly valued and adequately insured. It also allows Public Entity Partners to provide true replacement cost and actual cash value coverage — without a coinsurance clause or penalty.
This in-person property valuation is conducted on a rotating, four-year schedule at no additional cost to members. Report copies are automatically provided to members and include:
- Color photos
- A description of any improvements
- Property details
- Physical address
- GIS location
- Flood map information
- Actual cash value
- Replacement cost
For questions about the Property Valuation Program or your property coverage, please call our Underwriting Department or Member Services Department at 800.624.9698, or email MemberServices@PEpartners.org.
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Eight Things You Should Know About the Tennessee Public Records Act
By Ross V. Smith, Attorney at Farrar & Bates, LLP
The Tennessee Public Records Act (“TPRA”) provides the public with a right to request and receive records from governmental agencies and offices. 1 The TPRA requires that all state, county, and municipal records be open for personal inspection by any citizen of Tennessee during business hours unless otherwise provided by state law.2 This language may seem quite broad and it is intended that way. In fact, the legislature has directed the courts to interpret the provisions of the TPRA “broadly . . . so as to give the fullest possible access to public records.”3
Courts in Tennessee have continually held that it is the government entity’s responsibility to maintain awareness of its obligations under the TPA. The Court of Appeals expressed that “when a governmental entity is confronted with a public records request, it assumes ultimate responsibility for a faithful and legal administration of the TPRA. A request for access to a public record imposes a duty on the entity to inform itself of its legal obligations.” 4 As a result, it is your responsibility as a government employee to know the law and act appropriately when confronted with a public records request.
Several changes to the TPRA took effect recently and the following is a non-exhaustive list of relevant provisions of which you should be aware:
- You MUST adopt a written public records policy.5 Effective July 1, 2017, every municipality is required by state law to adopt a written records policy. The policy cannot be less open than state law allows and it should explain how citizens can make a request to either inspect or copy public records and any fees/procedures for obtaining copies of the records.
- Records requests may be submitted electronically.6 Public Chapter 233 now requires governmental entities to allow requests to view public records to be submitted by telephone, fax, mail, or email, as long as the entity uses these means of communication to conduct official business. You cannot require a request for inspection of records to be in writing. You may only require written requests for copies of records.
- Failure to inspect after a request may result in a suspension of privileges.7If a person makes two or more requests within six months and fails to inspect the records within fifteen business days of the request, the entity does not have to comply with additional requests from that person for six months following the last failure to inspect. If copies are requested and the requestor fails to pay the appropriate charges for copies, the entity does not have to respond to requests until the charges are paid – as long as the entity previously provided the requestor with an estimated cost for producing copies.
- There are special provisions for law enforcement body cameras.8 Video content from law enforcement body cameras is confidential if it depicts minors at a school, the interior of a health facility, or the interior of a private residence that is not being investigated as a crime scene. Attorneys, courts, and government agencies performing official functions may be provided with non-redacted video files.
- Be careful with personally identifying information. Personally identifying information should be redacted from any records. Addresses generally are no longer considered personally identifying information and could be subject to disclosure.9 However, addresses of municipal employees remain protected from disclosure.10 It could be a criminal offense to improperly disclose the residential information of a law enforcement officer.11
- There is NOT a seven business day waiting period for responses to records requests.12 When you receive a records request, you must promptly make the records available for inspection. IF prompt production is not practicable, THEN within seven business days you must make the records available, deny the request in writing, or furnish a response form indicating the time necessary to produce the records.
- No Charges for Inspection.13 You cannot charge a fee for the inspection of public records. Period. End of story. This rule warrants repeating anytime public records are a topic. If a citizen requests to inspect a public record, you cannot charge a fee even if producing the record costs the city money and requires several hours of labor – there is no leeway or wiggle room and you will be penalized if you improperly charge a fee for inspection of public records. Even if you must physically copy the record in order to redact information, you cannot charge a fee if the requestor has only requested to inspect the record. BUT, if a citizen requests a copy of a record, you may charge an appropriate fee subject to the conditions outlined in the Office of Open Records Counsel’s Schedule of Reasonable Charges.14
- Contacting the Office of Open Records Counsel provides a safe harbor for actions under the TPRA.15 If your entity denies a records request, the requestor may petition the Court to order turnover of the requested records. The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently held that following the advice of the Open Records Counsel provides a safe harbor against any alleged willful violations of the TPRA. Under the safe harbor, any denial of records is not willful and attorney fees will not be available to the requesting party. You may choose to seek advice from your City Attorney or MTAS but relying on their advice does not provide the same safe harbor as that of seeking advice from the Open Records Counsel. As a result, contacting the Office of Open Records Counsel is the best manner to confirm you are in compliance with the TPRA and the evolving world of citizen oversight.
Additional information is available by contacting the Office of Open Records Counsel at 866.831.3750 or visiting https://www.comptroller.tn.gov/openrecords/.
1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-501, et seq. 2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503(a)(2)(A) 3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-505(d) 4. Taylor v. Town of Lynnville, 2017 WL 2984194, at *8 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 13, 2017) (citations omitted) 5. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503(g) 6. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503(a)(7)(A)(i)-(ii) 7. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503(a)(7)(A)(vii) 8. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504(u)(1) 9. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504(a)(29)(C) 10. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504(f)(1)(D)(ii) 11. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504(f)(8) 12. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503(a)(2)(B) 13. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503(a)(7)(A)(i) 14. The Schedule of Reasonable Charges is available on the Office of Open Records Counsel website located at https://www.comptroller.tn.gov/openrecords/forms.asp. 15. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-505(g) (“In determining whether [a TPRA violation] was willful, the court may consider any guidance provided to the records custodian by the office of open records counsel.”). See also Taylor, 2017 WL 2984194, at *7-8; Friedmann v. Marshall Cnty., TN, 471 S.W.3d 427, 439 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015).
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Workers’ Compensation Reform Update
Have you been wondering what effect the 2013 Workers’ Compensation Reform Act has had in Tennessee? The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation released their Annual Report to the General Assembly, which outlines the impacts the Bureau has seen following the implementation of the statute.
Since the reform act went into law on July 1, 2014, there have been many changes in the workers’ compensation system in Tennessee. Click here to read more about those changes, including:
- The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims
- Medical Treatment Guidelines
- Effects of the reform
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