The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning that Gov. Asa Hutchinson
plans to keep secret the applications for director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission
Hutchinson says he wants to underscore the importance of the job to him by having applications sent to his office. Coincidentally, he says, this will make these applications gubernatorial working papers
and thus exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Hutchinson's interpretation follows long-standing custom of Arkansas chief executives of every political party. All have attempted to throw a complete blanket over paper in their offices under the "working papers" exception. I have legal doubts about the theory, for what it's worth.
That's why I hoped the Arkansas Republican Party, led by Doyle Webb
, had been successful back when they sued Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe
for claiming a working papers exception on — wait for it — applications for state jobs. The GOP was after documents about appointments to state boards and commissions. They hoped to establish a connection between appointments and political supporters. Circuit Judge Mary McGowan
ruled against the GOP, but they filed an appeal. The appeal was quietly dropped after a Republican was elected governor.