T.C.A. § 10-7-504 provides an extensive list of government records that are exempted from disclosure, and this statute is amended regularly. Following is a list of the most common exemptions for municipal records.
- Medical records of patients in state, county, and municipal hospitals and medical facilities and records concerning the source of body parts for transplantation or any information concerning persons donating body parts.
- Records of students in public educational institutions; however, statistical data not identified with a particular student may be released; and information relating only to an individual student’s name, age, address, dates of attendance, grade levels completed, class placement, and academic degrees awarded may likewise be disclosed.
- Certain books, records, and other materials in the possession of the office of the attorney general relating to any pending or contemplated legal or administrative proceeding.
- Records of historical research value that are given or sold to public archival institutions, public libraries, or libraries of a unit of the Tennessee Board of Regents or the University of Tennessee when the owner or donor requires that the records are kept confidential. This exception does not apply to any records prepared or received in the course of operating state or local governments.
- Personal information contained in motor vehicle records.
- All memoranda, work notes or products, case files, and communications related to mental health intervention techniques conducted by professionals in a group setting to provide job-related critical incident counseling and therapy to law enforcement officers, EMTs, paramedics, or firefighters. This privilege may be waived.
- Records of any employee’s identity, diagnosis, treatment, or referral for treatment by a state or local government employee assistance program.
- Unpublished telephone numbers in the possession of emergency communications districts.
- Information contained in employment records of municipal employees, including home or personal cell telephone numbers, residential street addresses, bank account information, Social Security numbers, or driver’s license information (except where driving or operating a vehicle is part of the employee’s job duties) of the employee or an immediate family or household member. [NOTE: Under the law, this information in employment records should be redacted whenever possible and not be used to limit or deny access to otherwise public information.]
- Certain personal information of undercover police officers and their immediate family and household members.
- Contingency plans of law enforcement agencies to deal with bomb threats, terrorist acts and other acts of violence.
- Audit working papers of the comptroller of the treasury and state, county, and local government internal audit staffs conducting audits includes, but is not limited to, auditee records, intra-agency and interagency communications, draft reports, schedules, notes, memoranda, and all other records relating to an audit or investigations; and all information and records received or generated by the comptroller of the treasury containing allegations of unlawful conduct or fraud, waste or abuse.
- Any information relating to a security system, including all records pertaining to licensure or registration of systems, photographs, presentations, schematics, and surveys.
- Any confidential public record in existence more than 70 years is open unless disclosure of the record is specifically prohibited or restricted by federal law or unless the record is a record of services for a person with mental illness or mental retardation.
Court-Created and Other Exemptions
This list of confidential records found in T.C.A. § 10-7-504 is not exclusive, however, and many other statutes, rules, and the common law dealing with a subject also can make a specific record confidential. The following is a non-exhaustive list of statutes that designate certain records as confidential.
- Many records regarding juveniles. T.C.A. §§ 37-1-153, 37-1-154, 37-1-155, 37-1-409, 37-1-612, 37-1-615, 37-2-408.
- Law enforcement photographs and recordings of juveniles. T.C.A. § 37-1-155.
- Mental health intervention techniques for municipal correction officers and dispatchers. T.C.A. § 10-7-504(a)(13)(A).
- Certain student information.
- Whistleblowing reports of violations of the Education Trust in Reporting Act. T.C.A. § 49-50-1408.
- Certain records of an employer’s drug testing program. T.C.A. § 50-9-109. See Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. 99-126.
- Tax returns, audits, letter rulings, and other taxpayer identifying information. T.C.A. § 67-1-1702.
- Business tax statements, reports, audits, and returns. T.C.A. § 67-4-722.
- Information or records held by a local health department regarding sexually transmitted diseases. T.C.A. § 68-10-113.
- Patient medical records of hospitals and local and regional health departments. T.C.A. § 68-11-305.
- Nursing home patient records. T.C.A. § 68-11-804.
- Audit working papers of an internal audit staff are confidential. See 2013 Pub. Chptr. 15.
Please note that this list highlights only some of the other provisions of the T.C.A. that make records confidential. Additionally, the Tennessee Court of Appeals recently held that municipal attorney work product is confidential. Arnold v. City of Chattanooga, 19 S.W.3d 779, 784 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999).
In addition to state law exceptions, there are federal statutes that create exemptions to the act. One example is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which makes all documents relating to medical treatment confidential.