Efforts to keep records private may be too late

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By The Staff



Property Assessor Teresa Kirkham’s fight to keep certain portions of her cell phone bills private might be too late.

Steven Robinette, Kirkham’s opponent in the August election, wants to see the call detail records of her cell phone bills and won the right to do so in court.

Now Kirkham has taken further steps to block the records, but they’ve already been turned over.

Robinette filed a complaint in Roane County Chancery Court to force Kirkham to provide the records. Since public money was being used to pay for the cell phone bills, Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland reached an agreement with Robinette attorney Gregory P. Isaacs that the call details are public record and must be made available for inspection.

Chancellor Billy Joe White signed off on the agreed-upon order, but Kirkham vowed to fight, saying she didn’t want Robinette to view her private calls.

Her attorney, J. Polk Cooley, filed a motion in chancery court on Thursday, asking the court for a trial or amended judgement. The motion contends that Kirkham’s personal calls are confidential and should be redacted.

Cooley’s attempt to intervene appears to be too late. A motion is just a request and cannot override a court order.

McFarland has already turned the call records over to Isaacs.

“I was under a court order to provide those records,” McFarland said.

Robinette has copies and planned to spend part of his weekend reviewing the records, which he said are between 300 to 400 pages.

White signed the order on June 16.

Isaacs sent McFarland a letter on July 1, threatening to hold the county in contempt for not complying with the agreed-upon order.

“If there is an effort to delay production of the public cellular telephone re-cords, my client intends to file a motion for contempt and request that Roane County be responsible for all attorney fees, costs, etc.,” Isaacs wrote in his letter to McFarland.

Isaacs is an expensive Knoxville attorney.

McFarland said not complying with the order could have resulted in the county paying a substantial cost to cover Isaacs’ attorney fees.