Transparency wins in Arkansas – ‘Undisputed’ violation

Score a significant victory for the Fort Smith law firm that's been fighting one battle after another to ensure and preserve freedom of information and transparency in that community.

I've written some lately about attorney Joey McCutchen and his law partner Chip Sexton in their lawsuits involving the Fort Smith School Board alleging Freedom of Information Act violations by holding what amounted to business sessions by email exchanges over several days. During those electronic back-and-forths members discussed who would be best to fill their slate of officers for the coming year. 

Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor in his order the other day found it was undisputed fact that the board unintentionally conducted what amounted to an extended meeting, all without legally required notice to the public.

Then the judge permanently enjoined the board from repeat performances.

I'm proud of McCutchen and Sexton for taking a stand to defend the Freedom of Information Act and what is clearly the right thing. If only all were so committed to important causes that affect all of us.

And they did it all without expectation of personal aggrandizement or enrichment. Although McCutchen is within his rights now to seek legal fees connected with this months-long battle, he was forgoing that option as long as the board agreed to accept the decision without appeal.

Up in Fayetteville, McCutchen and company continue to use the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to review relevant financial records maintained by Springdale's beleaguered Ecclesia College. Just how has that tiny college been spending the public money it's received courtesy of our elected lawmakers?

But the private college's attorneys say they won't permit a review because those records supposedly have been sealed in a protective order by a federal court in the ongoing public corruption criminal case against a former state legislator, a business consultant and Ecclesia's president, Oren Paris III. The other former legislator entangled in the case pleaded guilty in January. Read more…