By Rachel O'Brien
Deputy Policy Editor at OpenTheBooks.com
While Metro Nashville officials say it’s going to take until at least August to produce 2022 spending records, the government still hasn’t produced its 2021 spending records.
Local and state governments all over the country have obliged Open The Books’ requests for checkbooks — spending records that show which vendors they’ve done business with, how much money they were paid and for what.
But Nashville denied our request in early 2022 for the prior year’s spending, saying it was “not sufficiently detailed” even though the request had the same language we use for the federal checkbook, all 50 state checkbooks and 15,000 other cities, school districts and counties, all of which have resulted in copies of checkbooks given to us.
Metro employees can’t search within its system for all “vendor transfer of property or services payee payments” as we requested, they claim. Public records with the information we’re seeking doesn’t exist, the records officer said.
We changed our language slightly, and Metro said it identified 110,000 invoices processed for payment in 2021.
The records officer said, “If you wish to restate and/or narrow your request, Metro will review its records to identify records that meet your request. However, as currently stated, there are no responsive records will all the requisite information.”
In July 2022, we requested information from those invoices. After several requests for updates on the 2021 spending request, in mid-September we were told that the report is estimated to take six months, which brings us to this month, March.
We’ll follow up with Metro in a few weeks for the production of those records.
In the meantime, Metro also estimated our February request for the 2022 spending records will take until at least August to produce.
Public records don’t exist for payments Metro Nashville has made — that’s a larger problem then a government watchdog having to wait six months for the records to be collected.
That means that Metro Nashville taxpayers don’t know what their money is being spent on, which companies are being hired to work for the local government, how much they’re being paid and what service or good they’re providing.
The mayor’s office didn’t respond to our request for comment by our deadline.