Tennessee Sued Over Secretive Pandemic Report

Photo Credit: Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook

The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

The Public Citizen Litigation Group helped file a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court against the Tennessee Department of Human Resources last week over a report that outlined recommendations on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state denied a public records request, filed by plaintiff Thomas Wesley, a state employee who requested the document as a Tennessee citizen. 

McKinsey & Co. undertook the report at the request of Governor Bill Lee’s administration, which  was later kept from public view. The consulting firm was asked to provide a government efficiency assessment and review to identify potential performance improvements and aid in Tennessee’s response to the pandemic.

Thomas Wesley made the public records request in September, and court documents show an attorney for the Department of Human Resources denied it shortly after the filing. The reason for the denial was because the records were “subject to the deliberative process privilege and contain confidential information regarding operational vulnerabilities.”

Attorneys for the plaintiff disagree and noted that a deliberative process exemption isn’t technically contained in state law. Under a 2004 intermediate appeals court decision, certain documents can remain secret if officials decide they are part of their decision making process but the report in question isn’t exempt they say because it “does not reflect conversations or deliberations among high government” and is “not a draft report, but a final one.”

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The lawsuit also claims the “operational vulnerabilities” exception is meant to apply only to the state’s computer systems or technical networks. Even if such information were contained in the report, the state had the authority to redact those sections and still give the public access to it.

Wendy Liu, an attorney representing the plaintiff said, “The information in the report – which contains information about Tennessee’s COVID-19 response in connection with the State’s operations as a public employer – is directly relevant to public employees and all Tennessee citizens.” She concluded, “There is no basis for Tennessee to withhold the McKinsey report from public access.”


The Associated Press reports that Governor Lee’s office regularly excludes documents that they request citing deliberative process, especially if the documents pertain to communications between members of Lee’s team.

Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government said, “In my view, this particular governor’s admin has used this exemption more aggressively than other administrations.”

Lee has been criticized for his handling of the pandemic from Democratic lawmakers and public health advocates. The governor has stressed the importance of personal responsibility over issuing statewide mandates and has opposed federal mandates for workers, recently joining legal challenges that seek to block the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.


About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at paula@tennesseeconservativenews.com.

One thought on “Tennessee Sued Over Secretive Pandemic Report

  • December 23, 2021 at 5:24 pm

    Who cares what the Democrat’s want!! All they care about is the power grab and use COVID as a excuse for their existence.


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