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Newspaper's suit for sex-harassment records tossed

By The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that The Tennessean newspaper had filed over sexual-harassment documents it says Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration is withholding.

The state has no obligation to release certain documents from investigations of harassment at government workplaces because of attorney-client privilege, Davidson County judge Carol McCoy ruled on Sept. 29.

The judge also rejected the newspaper's argument that a record should be made available to the public once an investigation is closed, state spokeswoman Lola Potter said.

"This supports the state's belief than any documents that are privileged remain privileged unless waived by the employee," Potter said.

The Tennessean had asked a judge to open records that the state is withholding in five sexual-harassment investigations. The newspaper had argued that the records should be public under the state's public-records laws.

Alan Johnson, an attorney representing the newspaper, said a decision would be made in a few days whether to appeal.

"We're taking a close look at it," he said. "This case raises some pretty significant issues" involving transparency in government decision-making and using attorney-client privilege to shield it from public view.

The case came out of a records request in May for the past 10 harassment investigations conducted by the state. Some documents were withheld in five of the investigations, and no documents were said to exist in a sixth investigation.

Two of those investigations involved Robert "Mack" Cooper, the governor's former top lobbyist, and Quenton White, who headed the Department of Correction. Cooper and White have since resigned.

Tennessean sues for access to sexual-harassment records
Newspaper asks judge to open records that state is withholding in five investigations. 09.18.05


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Open records

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