An online newspaper filed suit Monday against the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. to demand records associated with a harassment investigation.
NashvillePost.com cited the state's open records law in seeking all documents pertaining to an internal investigation that led to the forced departure of Steve Adams as the lottery's chief administrative officer.
Lottery officials have refused requests from several news organizations for details or records in the case, citing attorney-client privilege.
Attorney Jerry Martin said the lottery's claim of attorney-client privilege is a "sweeping statement" that is unsupported by state law.
"There certainly is attorney-client privilege in Tennessee and elsewhere, but it's not so broad that you can shield an entire investigation," Martin said. "So we think it's incredibly broad, and they need to be called into account and explain why they believe the entire investigative file ought to be shielded."
The lawsuit also names the lottery's president and CEO, Rebecca Paul.
Lottery officials issued a statement late Thursday that Adams left after an internal investigation into allegations of workplace harassment. Since then they have refused requests from NashvillePost.com and other news organizations for details or records in the case. Lottery officials did not immediately return calls Monday.
Adams, state treasurer from 1987 to 2003, said in a statement that he's never harassed an employee and is consulting with lawyers as to what his options are.
The lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court contends the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. is subject to the provisions of the state Open Records Act as an arm of state government and should have to release the records.
"The Lottery is an instrumentality of the state of Tennessee and acts under the color of law," the lawsuit says.
The court filing includes copies of e-mails from the NashvillePost.com to lottery spokeswoman Kym Gerlock, requesting Adams' personnel files; any bonus, compensation and severance agreements with Adams; related e-mails; and mobile phone records.
Gerlock's response dated Sunday said the personnel files would have to be edited before release, and she was awaiting a response on whether to make the other requested material available.
Richard Lawson, a reporter with NashvillePost.com, said it's important to find out what happened with Adams.
"He has a long reputation in government and a very good reputation in government and a good reputation with the lottery. So we want to make sure as a public watchdog group, a media group, that nothing was arbitrarily done," Lawson said.
Chancellor Carol McCoy has set a hearing for Jan. 18 to decide if the lottery must release the documents.