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Secret code names a no-go
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Project Debunk Code Names is complete.

The Tennessee Comptroller’s office has warned the use of code names by the city’s Tourism Development Board is likely in violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act and would not withstand court scrutiny.

Alderman Mike Neal requested a legal determination last month.

“The Tourism Development Board is an entity of this board,” said Neal. “They should have to follow the same rules we follow.”

The state’s response:

“The Tennessee Open Meetings Act does not specifically address whether governing bodies may use code names for projects at public meetings and our office is unaware of any case law in Tennessee addressing that issue,” said Lee Pope, open records counsel with the Tennessee Comptroller’s office. “However, it is public policy in Tennessee that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and should not be conducted in secret. Additionally, courts construe TOMA liberally and interpret TOMA to promote openness and accountability in government. Accordingly, our office could see a court finding that the use of code names by a governing body to attempt to conduct public business in secret may violate the spirit of the act.”

Since the Tourism Development Board’s first meeting, members have been using project names such as Project Post and Project Blue in order to keep those endeavors hidden from the public, a procedure likely brought on by the Industrial Development Board’s use of code names.