Fort Smith will appeal ruling that directors violated FOIA

FORT SMITH — City directors voted Tuesday night to proceed with appealing a Jan. 4 Sebastian County Circuit Court ruling that three directors violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by using emails to discuss city business.

The directors voted to confirm the Jan. 30 filing of a notice of appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court by city attorney Jerry Canfield. A memo to directors from City Administrator Carl Geffken said Canfield filed the notice to avoid missing the 30-day deadline to appeal Judge Michael Fitzhugh’s decision.

“Under the facts of this case, the court concludes that informal meetings subject to the FOIA were held by way of emails,” Fitzhugh wrote in granting a summary motion to Bruce Wade, who sued the city and its directors over the email discussions. “The purpose of which were to either opine or survey the members as to the demise of the [Civil Service Commission] and/or acceptance/rejection of a settlement. These are clearly matters that should have occurred in a public setting.”

Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen, who filed the suit on Wade’s behalf, said the email discussions constituted a public meeting for which notice to the public and media should have been given. Read more…