Arkansas government corruption
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"Let's get one thing straight from the beginning — the Ozark Regional Airport Commission is a public body and its work is to be done in public. Period.
Contrary to what Commission Chairman Bob Hamm or Vice Chairman Gary Green may think, the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act isn't a "technicality". It's the law, and it applies to the commission and to them as commissioners." Read the full article here.
"Airport commission members plan to submit their appointment information to the Baxter County Clerk's office in an effort to satisfy county residents and officials who are questioning the validity of their appointments.
The commission decided to submit the information to the clerk's office Monday after several commission members sparred with Baxter County Judge Joe Bodenhamer about vacancies on the commission and his refusal to appoint new members." Read the full article here.
"Legislation that would keep the names and zip codes of the holders of concealed handgun permits public but exempt other information from the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act received Senate approval Monday.
“This bill does very little,” Sen. Jerry Taylor, D-Pine Bluff, said while presenting House Bill 1623 in the Senate. The measure, which passed 34-0, now goes to the House for concurrence on an amendment." Read the full article here.
"As the state Senate considers a bill that would limit the amount of information publicly available on Arkansans licensed to carry concealed handguns, local public officials and legislators are expressing mixed opinions regarding the matter.
While Rep. Andrea Lea of Russellville has co-sponsored several bills in support of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), she voted with Rep. Randy Stewart’s original proposal to keep the entire list of concealed-carry permits private." Read the full article here.
"The public's right to know posted a rare win in Arkansas this week.
Fittingly, the action came during Sunshine Week, which began Sunday and is being marked nationwide by advocates of open government.
An all-too-obvious erosion of transparency in government nationwide prompted creation of the weeklong annual event several years ago. Advocates of freedom of information — defenders all of the First Amendment — wanted the public to realize what was being lost as government at all levels shielded more and more from public view." Read the full column here.
"Diamond City’s mayor, police chief and a police officer have sued the city, the recorder/treasurer and four aldermen to try to bring budget cuts to an end.
The plaintiffs allege the other city officials conspired to hold secret meetings to keep the mayor and other aldermen from being involved in plans to slash the police department budget and to avoid the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)." Read the full article here.
Affidavits in the two counties have been withheld from the public for at least a decade. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette inquired of the other judicial districts in the state and found that no other district automatically seals its affidavits. The documents contain the details assembled by police of the offenses for which the defendant is charged." Read the full article here.
"A House panel Tuesday endorsed measures that would allow plaintiffs in Freedom of Information Act challenges to recover attorney’s fees from government officials and allow the past 10 years of a drunken driving suspect’s criminal history to be considered.
House Bill 1326 by Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville, which would allow, in most cases, plaintiffs who “substantially prevail” in FOI lawsuits to collect attorney’s fees, was unanimously recommended by the House Judiciary Committee.
The measure does not allow courts to force state agencies to pay attorney’s fees in FOI cases. Under the proposal, a claim could be filed with the State Claims Commission to recover attorney’s fees." Read the full article here.
Greenland aldermen went into executive session to discuss the resignation of the mayor, which may have violated the state Freedom of Information Act, because the mayor hadn't offered a resignation." Read the full story here.
"Minutes from White County Medical Center board meetings can be analyzed by lawyers for two citizens suing the hospital, but a judge has issued a gag order concerning others wanting to view those records.
Gillam and Pruitt filed a lawsuit in 2006 that seeks to invalidate the lease for the hospital from White County and that challenges the validity of bond issues for the hospital authorized by the quorum court." Read the full story here.
"Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Pulaski County Clerk Pat O’Brien have reached an agreement regarding private information posted on the internet. O'Brien will now take real estate documents off the county website after talks with McDaniel. The Pulaski County Clerk has put two million public records on-line and some of those documents contain social security numbers." Read the full story here.
"Gov. Mike Beebe rebuked good friend Lu Hardin, the president of the University of Central Arkansas, on Tuesday for initially concealing a $300,000 bonus from the school.
In May, the university Board of Trustees apparently decided in executive session to award the bonus two years earlier than the five-year time frame it set three years ago. Later, in open session, the board voted to approve unspecified personnel decisions and made no specific mention of a bonus for Hardin." Read the full article here.
Recently, Circuit Judge Xollie Duncan requested that reporters leave her courtroom. The reason: A hearing in a civil lawsuit. The suit had been filed under seal, which meant not only court filings were sealed, but the proceedings in June were held outside of the press and public."
"A bill that would make it easier to search the backgrounds of elected officials for possible criminal history was defeated Friday in the House in a vote the bill’s sponsor called “a victory for secrecy in government.”
House Bill 1051 by Rep. Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock, received 33 “yes” votes and 56 “no” votes on the House floor. The bill would require the Arkansas Crime Information Center to provide information on the backgrounds of elected officials, political candidates and state agency directors upon request."
City boards should bring up these discussions in public, said John Tull, an attorney for the Arkansas Press Association.
"Going into executive session to discuss salary is an improper executive session," Tull said. "I don't think that discussion has any place in executive session.""
"Tontitown Mayor Joe Edgmon watched aldermen on Tuesday unanimously overturn his vetoes of four council decisions after an alderman and consultant filed suit against him earlier in the day.
The council also approved an ordinance on three readings that reduces the mayor's ability to approve expenses from $1,000 to $250. The emergency clause was approved to make the change effective immediately.
Alderman Arthur Penzo initially proposed the ordinance to reduce the spending limit to $1, but amended the amount after officials said $1 would be impractical for paying bills and punitive to the city's staff." Read the full article here.
"The former Mountainburg police chief is suing the mayor who fired him, but the suit was filed a month before the termination.
Ralph Bryant, who was fired as Mountainburg’s police chief on Jan. 2, sued Mayor Stanley Moore on Dec. 3 in Crawford County Circuit Court alleging violations of his rights under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
A half-hour hearing has been set for Feb. 23 before Circuit Judge Mike Medlock. Bryant, who filed on his own behalf, said Wednesday that he was looking into hiring a lawyer to represent him." Read the full article here.
"Head up Highway 65 past Greenbrier. Just before Damascus, take a left. There you'll find the little burg of Twin Groves. Amongst the town's 300 people is Mayor Theodore Brown.
The mayor may be a great guy. We must admit we hardly know him. Our exposure thus far has pretty much consisted of arguing about whether he plans to adhere to the state's Freedom of Information Act. To date: Not so much.
Judging from the mayor's nearly complete ignorance of the state's FOIA, a primer is in order. (Note to all elected, appointed and hired public officials: feel free to take notes.)" Read the full column here.
"Mayor Joe Edgmon believes the Tontitown City Council should pay for his legal fees and Freedom of Information Act requests.
Edgmon issued four vetoes this week stemming from council actions taken at the Jan. 6 council meeting.
Edgmon vetoed a resolution stipulating the council did not authorize Edgmon to file complaints with the county prosecutor and state ethics commission against other Tontitown officials. The resolution also stated taxpayer money would not be spent in his defense should he be sued." Read the full article here.
"State Rep. Dan Greenberg filed a package of legislation Thursday seeking to tweak the state's Freedom of Information Act, but one bill put him crossways with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.
Greenberg said his motivation was to improve governmental transparency. He filed five bills that dealt with public accessibility to government information.
"With a strong Freedom of Information Act, what you have is accountability on the part of the public that comes with good government," said the Republican from Little Rock." Read the full article here.