(LifeSiteNews) — A Knoxville court granted a local pro-lifer’s petition to review the actions of city officials who denied her access to public records related to a Planned Parenthood arson. The public review requires city officials to present just cause for not responding to public records request in accordance with Tennessee law.
Two months after the petition for judicial review was filed, the Knox County Chancery Court granted the request, making Eric Vreeland, deputy director of communications for the city of Knoxville, responsible for providing a legitimate reason for failing to respond to the public records requests to unearth all documents related to the fire.
“By Tennessee law, government officials have seven business days to respond to record requests; they must make the records available, justify denial or ask for more time,” local pro-lifer Jennifer Hay reiterated to LifeSiteNews via email.
She further explained that the request had been delivered on July 20 but received no response from the city until September 13, when Vreeland addressed Hay’s follow-up as well as LifeSiteNews’ request for comment. He said that while the city of Knoxville had “gathered its records,” it was “awaiting word from federal authorities about the status of their investigation.” Pending “clarity” from law enforcement, the city would “make a legal determination” regarding whether to grant Hay’s request.
“Nearly two years after this fire, it’s time for the citizens of Knoxville to have access to these records about how the fire started,” Hay said in a statement about the granted petition.
An explanation of the city’s response to public records requests will be given in court on November 7, according to the Order to Show Cause shared with LifeSiteNews.
As previously reported by LifeSiteNews, the records sought are all related to the December 31, 2021, arson that leveled the Knoxville Planned Parenthood. The request to the city includes all documents held by the Knoxville Fire Department, including the forensic report indicating the fire was started inside the building with the help of an accelerant.
Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has accused Mark Reno of the crime — a Catholic who died in custody in August 2022 awaiting a trial for unrelated charges — Hay told LifeSiteNews that something about the investigation doesn’t add up, leading her to seek answers herself.
The main discrepancy, she explained, is that two FBI agents submitted independent affidavits in which they both discuss video footage of Reno talking about plans to attack government property (charges for which he was booked at the time of his death). One agent simply provided this as evidence to support charging Reno with destruction of government property, but the other claimed that he had specifically mentioned targeting abortion facilities, thus linking him to the Planned Parenthood fire.
While seeking all information related to the arson, Hay explained that the video is the crucial record since that is the primary evidence against Reno, as cited by law enforcement.
The show-cause order comes two weeks after the FBI announced its decision to keep its records related to the fire confidential for nearly three years, until April 2026. The declaration was a response to pressure from Republican Rep. State Tim Burchett to have the federal agency answer two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Previously, Hay had written an open letter addressed to Burchett requesting he provide assistance in revealing the records through a subpoena.