Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government

  • Nashville, TN
  • www.tcog.info

Mission Statement

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is a non-partisan organization whose mission is to promote and preserve citizen access to government records and meetings in Tennessee through education and outreach about our state's open records and open meetings laws. TCOG's mission rests on the belief that access to government information, through public records and public meetings, is crucial in allowing informed citizen participation in a democratic society.

Main Programs

  1. Help Line for open government problems
  2. Public presentations
  3. Journalist and student training
  4. Surveys and audits
  5. News and resources

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Service Areas

Self-reported

Tennessee

We serve citizens in all 95 counties of Tennessee.

ruling year

2004

Principal Officer since 2013

Self-reported

Ms. Deborah Fisher

Keywords

Self-reported

open government civic education media

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EIN

65-1190353

 Number

5411036838

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Civil Liberties Advocacy (R60)

Citizen Participation (W24)

Community Coalitions (S21)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

In 2015, we significantly increased assistance to citizens and journalists through TCOG's Help Line. Inquiries to the Help Line grew 65 percent. We also increased communication through News Updates on our website and through our email newsletter on significant issues impacting open government. We continued to conduct presentations and workshops, and collaborated with peer organizations to raise awareness of a proposal to increase fees on citizens to view public records. TCOG increased its visibility across the state through news columns and media interviews, sharing information about our resources and the importance of a citizens' right to know about government business. Our membership doubled. Adn we broadened the representation on our Board of Directors to include a former Knoxville mayor and additional civic groups. Our top goals in 2016 are to develop a process to adopt public policy priorities, more fully utilize volunteers to expand our resources and programs, conduct useful research and increase helpful resources that would be publicly available on our website.

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Help Line for open government problems

TCOG operates a help line for citizens and media who face obstacles related to government records or public meetings in communities throughout Tennessee. We can answer questions and explain potential options as well as guide citizens through the process of their particular issue. We also can guide citizens through how to make a formal open records request and what to expect. We do not offer legal services.

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Population(s) Served

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Program 2

Public presentations

We provide public presentations giving an overview of citizen rights under Tennessee's open records and open meetings law as well as provide education on current issues related to access, such as fees, privacy concerns and litigation and legislation impacting access.

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Population(s) Served

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Program 3

Journalist and student training

We provide training on Tennessee's open government laws to equip journalists or students with the tools and information necessary to acquire public records or access to public meetings in situations where such access is being resisted or denied. Our training also gives an overview of public records exempt from access by statute, as well as meetings that can be closed from public view. This training is for media professionals or others who interact regularly with government in the acquisition of information. Our aim is for students to leave this training with new knowledge of the breadth of public records available for public interest journalism, and how to more effectively acquire government records.

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Program 4

Surveys and audits

TCOG periodically conducts surveys on the status of open government laws in Tennessee and the availability of government information to the public.

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Population(s) Served

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Program 5

News and resources

TCOG tracks proposed legislation, court cases and legal opinions that impact open government in Tennessee, as well as tracks violations of open government laws. It provides news and perspective of these developments through its website, contributed columns and media interviews. TCOG also provides resources on its website to assist the public in public records requests, and research into particular issues.

Category

Population(s) Served

Budget

Service Areas

Self-reported

Tennessee

We serve citizens in all 95 counties of Tennessee.

Additional Documents

Funding Needs

TCOG is funded through annual donations of individuals and organizations. We continue to need volunteers willing to participate in statewide research to check the status of open government throughout Tennessee, particularly volunteers in communities outside of the state's major metro areas.

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Financials

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2014 and 2014
  • Board Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
Need the ability to download nonprofit data and more advanced search options? Consider a Premium or Pro Search subscription.

Principal Officer

Ms. Deborah Fisher

BIO

Deborah Fisher spent 25 years as a journalist, holding positions of reporter, city editor, business editor, managing editor and executive editor. She worked 10 years at The Tennessean, where she was senior editor for news, and 15 years in Texas where for part of this time she served as vice president and executive editor at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. She is a past president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and is currently on its board as treasurer. She graduated with a bachelor's of arts degree in journalism from Baylor University. She recently co-authored a booklet with Tennessee Press Association public policy director Frank Gibson, Keys to Open Government: A guide to Tennessee's open records and open meetings laws.

STATEMENT FROM THE Principal Officer

"Although public access to government is among the missions for some other organizations, TCOG is the only organization in the state that focuses solely on this topic and is non-partisan. Many national organizations focus on freedom of information on the federal level, but TCOG fills the gap to promote and preserve openness in state and local government in Tennessee where citizens interact directly and daily. TCOG partners with other organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Tennessee Press Association, Tennessee Association of Broadcasters and other groups that work on good-government and open-government issues."

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Lucian Pera

Adams & Reese LLP

Term: Jan 2016 - Jan 2018

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

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RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?