State’s open records counsel exits

News release from Tennessee Coalition for Open Government:
Elisha Hodge, the Open Records Counsel for the state of Tennessee, is leaving her post to take a new job as a legal consultant for the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, she said Tuesday. Her last day will be Oct. 3.

State Comptroller Justin Wilson said in an email announcing the change Monday that Ann Butterworth, Assistant to the Comptroller, will serve as interim Open Records Counsel until a permanent replacement is named. Butterworth previously served in the position.

Wilson praised Hodge’s commitment in the email:

“Since joining our office in 2007, Elisha has dedicated her efforts to serving as a resource to citizens, media and governmental entities to assist with questions or concerns related to our state’s public records and open meetings laws.

“In addition to guiding citizens to correct offices and officials and working to resolve disputes regarding access to public records, Elisha has spent many hours traveling the state to promote education and awareness of the Tennessee public records and open meetings laws. Her commitment to making government work better is reflected in her work with our office for the last seven years.”

The Office of Open Records Counsel was created by former Gov. Phil Bredesen at the request of Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, and then formally established by statute by the Legislature in 2008 to assist citizens and public officials with information about the state’s open records and open meetings laws. The Open Records Counsel answers questions and can issue informal advisory opinions, as well as informally mediate and assist with the resolution of issues concerning open records law. The office also collects data on open meetings law inquiries and problems, and provides outreach and education on both the Sunshine Law and the Tennessee Public Records Act.

“Elisha’s departure will be a great loss for the Comptroller’s office and the hundreds of people she has helped over the last seven years,” said Frank Gibson, public policy director for the Tennessee Press Association and former TCOG executive director. “She made great strides in educating citizens, public officials and journalists on Tennessee’s open records and Sunshine laws. Education was sorely lacking when she took the job.”

“MTAS is getting a talented lawyer who happens to know more about our open government laws than anybody in the state. That should make it a win-win for everybody,” Gibson said.