FOIA enforcement shouldn’t hinge on whims of judges, Arkansas attorneys say

Attorneys Robert Steinbuch and Joey McCutchen, in a June 17, 2021, opinion piece for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, contrasted two Freedom of Information Act cases before two judges, resulting in far different outcomes. “When litigating FOIA cases, the outcome significantly depends on the judges’ commitment to transparency over politics,” they write….

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Arkansas judge rules text messages in public-records dispute subject to disclosure

Text messages between a state agency director and vendor’s representative are public under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act and the representative’s name “should be disclosed,” a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled Monday. “The messages reflect the performance or lack of performance of official functions because they inextricably intertwine personal and public-business matters such that…

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Arkansas citizens can photograph public documents under FOIA

Citizens who request access to public documents under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act have the right to photograph those documents using their cellphones, the Arkansas Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. By a 5-1 decision, the appellate court sided with Ben Motal, a Little Rock attorney who had argued against a city policy prohibiting him…

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State Legislatures Scramble to Meet in the Age of Coronavirus

In Arkansas, lawmakers convened inside of a basketball arena, maintaining social distancing in the tiered rows of seating to cast in-person votes on emergency legislation. Ohio legislators voted from separate rooms, dressed in casual clothing after Senate leaders observed that business attire typically requires dry cleaning so is washed less frequently. In New York, senators passed a resolution permitting…

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Op-Ed: In Arkansas, transparency should be proactive with data

The Arkansas Attorney General’s website states that “the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is one of the most comprehensive and strongest open-records and open-meetings laws in the country.” Let’s keep it that way. On April 11, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the Arkansas FOIA Task Force voted to have fewer exemptions and no time extensions on…

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Governors Association Works with Eight States to Improve Health Data Sharing

Eight states are in the early stages of a collaboration with the National Governors Association that could enhance their ability to use and share health-care data enterprise-wide, ultimately improving operations and services to residents. On June 13, NGA, which works with governors on public policy and governance issues, announced a health policy partnership around data best practices…

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City of Fort Smith (AR) and school district accused of Open Meeting violations on several occasions in 2017

The city of Fort Smith and the Fort Smith School Board were accused of violating the Freedom of Information Act on more than one occasion this year. In one instance, Sebastian County Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor found the school board to be in violation, calling an email exchange between school board members a “meeting” with…

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Judge rules Arkansas State Police public information officer violated Freedom of Information Act

A judge has ruled that Arkansas State Police public information officer, Bill Sadler, violated the Freedom of Information Act.

Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor found Sadler had committed five civil violations of the FOIA law when he relied on a "blanket police" and failed to give valid reasons for not releasing dashcam videos.

Judge Tabor ordered those videos be released Monday in five cases being overseen by attorney W. Whitfield Hyman.

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Proposed bills offer secrecy provisions in Arkansas

Arkansas lawmakers are considering new secrecy provisions for the State Capitol Police, some attorney-client relationships and Arkansas Community Correction.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the proposals Thursday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The bills are among at least 10 removing coverage of records under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Transparency concerns have been raised by the Arkansas Press Association, which represents the Democrat-Gazette and newspapers across the state.

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