Penalties and Remedies for Noncompliance

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Any action taken at a meeting in violation of the Sunshine Law is void.  T.C.A. § 8-44-105. While this provision does not forever bar a public body from subsequently ratifying an action taken in violation of the act, it does not allow a public body to ratify an action in a subsequent meeting by perfunctory affirmation of its earlier action.  In order to remedy a violation of the Sunshine Law, however, the ultimate decision must be made at a meeting that satisfies the Sunshine Law and there must be new and substantial reconsideration of the issues involved.  Neese v. Paris Special School District, 813 S.W.2d 432 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1990); Johnston v. Metropolitan Gov't of Nashville and Davidson County, 320 S.W.3d 299 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009), permission to appeal denied (Tenn. 2010).  Even if a subsequent meeting is held in compliance with the Sunshine Law, the ratification and confirmation of an action will not remedy a prior violation of the Sunshine Law if it is merely a "perfunctory rubber stamp."  Souder v. Health Partners, Inc., 997 S.W.2d 140 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998).

Under the act, any citizen may bring an action in circuit court, chancery court, or any court of equity to enforce the Sunshine Law.  These courts are given broad authority to issue injunctions, impose penalties, and otherwise enforce the purposes of the act. T.C.A. § 8-44-106.

Questions concerning the application of this law may be referred to the county attorney or the CTAS staff.