The public's business | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The public's business

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2008 at 10:26 AM

The group that represents Pulaski County Special School District support staff has issued a news release about the Pulaski School Board's decision to meet one-by-one with a private bus contractor to avoid the state's open meetings law. Jennifer Barnett Reed wrote about this outrage yesterday.

Amen. It's probably illegal to hold even one-on-one meetings in this circumstance. A decision is in the offing and it will be made on the strength of these secret sessions.


Members of the Pulaski County Special School District's (PCSSD's) administrative leadership team are working privately with representatives of First Student, Inc. to set up meetings with individual PCSSD School Board members. The purpose of the meetings is to help the company gather information from and present information to school board members concerning the acceptance of a bid from First Student, Inc. to provide transportation services for students in the school district.
The administratively arranged meetings give Cincinnati, Ohio based First Student, Inc., who acquired Laidlaw International, Inc. last February, a private forum with school board members that escapes public disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.     
The Arkansas Attorney General has written in Opinion No. 80-016,
            "[T]he conduct of public business, for the purposes of the Freedom of
Information Act, does not consist merely of the final result reached by
a public body, but rather is a spectrum including all phases of the process
by which an end result is achieved, including deliberations, discussion,
and information gathering. Accordingly, the Freedom of Information Act
gives the public the right to observe the entire spectrum, not just selected
Pulaski Association of Support Staff President Emry Chesterfield said, "We sincerely hope that the Pulaski County Special School District Board of Directors will not privatize our transportation services. These private companies have operated in big cities, and they know very little about us, our communities and our children."

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