SEVIERVILLE — While county officials indicated the state Office of Open Records approved a new records fee for the medical examiner’s office, the state said they hadn’t heard from county officials about it.
Sevier County Commission approved increases to several fees during its regular meeting Monday, including the implementation of new fees at the medical examiner’s office. Those fees are a $50 charge for records and $50 for cremation permits.
County Mayor Larry Waters acknowledged they’d received questions about that measure, but said that Emergency Management Director Joe Ayers had contacted the state since then.
“He contacted open records office and my understanding is he has an email that indicates the open records office approves this and we also ran it by the county attorney and we got an email today from him concerning that,” Waters said during Monday’s Commission meeting.
The Mountain Press had inquired last week with the state Open Records Counsel, asking if the new fee followed state laws.
“Absent some other statutory authority for the county to impose charges for records held by the medical examiner, the medical examiner should charge its actual costs to produce copies of public records or impose charges for copies in accordance with our Schedule of Reasonable Charges,” Open Records Counsel Lee Pope said last week.
Asked Tuesday whether the county had gotten new clarification of the new fee, Pope said his office had sent the same information to them as it had to The Mountain Press, and hadn’t heard from them after that.
“I don’t recall the county mayor’s office providing our office with any additional information or reasoning behind the charges,” Pope said.
Asked for copies of the emails Monday, county officials said they would need to get an Open Records Request, which The Mountain Press submitted Tuesday.
The state’s open records law gives government agencies seven business days to respond to those requests; The Mountain Press did not receive a response Tuesday.
During Monday’s meeting, Waters noted Knox County had a $60 fee for records at its medical examiner’s office.
The fee schedule from that office indicates they charge $30 for an autopsy report; they charge $40 for cremation certifications.
Waters said the county medical examiner’s office asked to implement the fee because they’re getting so many calls that they need to add staff and they want to use the fees to help cover those new costs.
The documents fee will be waived for the first copy of an autopsy provided to next of kin.
Contact Jeff at email@example.com or Twitter at @jeffmtnpress