Monday, March 20, 2017

The University of Arkansas's attack on public records law

Posted By on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 9:35 AM

click to enlarge unnamed.jpg

Robert Steinbuch, a UALR law professor who has written a book on the Freedom of Information Act, writes here to dismantle arguments made by University of Arkansas counsel Joanne Maxey in defense of the UA-written bill to wreck the FOI law by putting attorney-client discussions and work product outside public reach.

Designate just about anything work product and the public can't see it. Steinbuch explains in detail, but I'd prefer to focus on the big picture.

UA has ALWAYS been an enemy of freedom of information. The system and Fayetteville campus will turn out a phalanx of lawyers to defeat the little citizen who dares to challenge them. The Arkansas Times learned that when they filled the courtroom with $300-an-hour lawyers to defeat our effort to find out what promises they'd made to the Walton family in return for a $300 million gift. (A lot, it turned out.)

That case created the laughable "competitive advantage" exemption that UA claims for its fund-raising activities.  That phrase was written into law to protect PRIVATE business (I happen to have been a plaintiff in a critical case on the issue, over secrecy of economic development commission files), not public institutions. UA has perversely turned the notion on its head.

UA hides it's major fund-raising operations, the UA Foundation and the Razorback Foundation, behind veils of secrecy. (These secrecy tricks have been challenged with some success in other states, because the idea that such foundations operate independently of the public institution with which they coordinate is ludicrous on its face.) They also contest FOI requests as unduly burdensome and have gotten some home judicial cooking on the point.

In short, you already have to be rich and lucky to pry information from UA . With this law change, even money won't help.

The legislature isn't very kindly disposed to higher education these days, which otherwise might cause UA some problems on this sunshine-blotting proposal. But they rank higher with lawmakers than the media. The legislature is gleefully attacking the FOI law on multiple fronts. Lawmakers tend to forget that the FOI law is not a media law, but a public law. Legislation like this punishes the public at large, not just some reporter or columnist they don't like.

Tags: , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Speaking of...

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • In defense of Planned Parenthood and abortion rights

    An op-ed in today's New York Time by Katha Pollitt says what I've been struggling to say about the reaction to the attack on women's reproductive rights launched by means of the undercover videos made by anti-abortion activists.
    • Aug 5, 2015
  • The inspiring Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton's campaign for president illustrates again the double standard applied to women. Some writers get it. They even find the supposedly unlikable Clinton inspiring.
    • Oct 16, 2016
  • Matt Campbell files ethics complaint against Dennis Milligan

    Little Rock attorney and blogger Matt Campbell, whose knack for deep research brought down Mark Darr, Mike Maggio and Dexter Suggs, now has his sights trained on another worthy target. Today, he filed a 113-page ethics complaint against state Treasurer Dennis Milligan that includes 14 separate allegations.
    • Aug 20, 2015

Most Shared

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments



© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation