Little Rock School District begins FOI page that happens to spotlight John Walker | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Little Rock School District begins FOI page that happens to spotlight John Walker

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 10:48 AM

SUPT. SUGGS: He touts page that happens to showcase attorney John Walker's FOI requests.
  • SUPT. SUGGS: He touts page that happens to showcase attorney John Walker's FOI requests.
Interesting. Little Rock School Superintendent Dexter Suggs announces here a new Freedom of Information Act page.

Says Suggs:

At the click of a button, the core features of this impressive webpage will:

· Increase the user’s knowledge regarding State law that governs compliance with FOIA requests

· Provide answers to frequently asked questions about the FOIA

· Provide access to specific public requests

I call B.S. on the grandiose verbiage.

The page contains three things: 1) a link to the FOIA; 2) a link to a booklet compiled by the attorney general, governor and various media groups with a Q&A on the FOIA, and 3) a searchable list of all FOI requests made to the district.since April 24. Nos. 1 and 2 are readily available all over the web. No. 3 is, I think, the real point of the exercise.

I'd submit this page is a pretext to showcase how much work attorney and state Rep. John Walker creates for the School District with FOI requests, some of them requiring extensive research.

Of the 49 requests in the archive, 39 were made by Walker. And one of the 10 was a request by former School Board member Melanie Fox for a list of all Walker's and all other FOI requests. His questions have long rankled leaders of the district, who see them as, at worst, harassment, and, at least, time taken from other tasks.

Check the list at this page.

The usual critics  LOVE this page, of course. It's perfectly legal. It would also be perfectly legal to create a page listing travel expenses and meals and hotels charged to the School District by administrators; or a page with leave time taken by administrative employees; or a page compiled, in descending order, of the top 100 salaries in the district, with name, title and pay and perks. Or how about a list of all district contractors, in order of expenditure? Or how about this? The superintendent post all his internal e-mails that don't deal with exempt subjects? These are just a few  web-friendly projects the district could undertake in the name of accountability.

John Walker can defend himself. And he is unlikely to be deterred from his mischief by any heightened public inspection this page might bring of his activities. It might even serve to encourage him.

But I  have a small concern. Yes, anybody can always ask any public agency for all FOI requests it has received. I've done it on occasion for a variety of reasons. But does the fact that an FOI request will be posted on the Internet for the whole world to see serve as any sort of deterrent to a parent or student with a fair question they'd rather not advertise to the world? I'm mostly thinking out loud. But my thinking is related to the sort of issues that have arisen at courthouses around the country. It's one thing for a divorce file, say, to be open to inspection to a person who presents himself at the county courthouse and asks for a file. It's another thing — at least in the minds of some — to leave that same information open to midnight trollers from Saudi Arabia to Salt Lake City. Heck, somebody might not want it to be instantly and universally known that they had asked for a list of John Walker's FOI requests.

Open records mean open records. More sunshine is more sunshine. But the selectivity of this particular project nonetheless leaves me skeptical about the stated motivation.

What do you think?

PS — Please note that it took a great deal of time to set up this webpage and to create the record of Walker's FOI requests. Please note too, that the district doesn't appear to have provided the information it assembled for Walker, only his questions. Impressive.

I just noticed that Melanie Fox's request is for ALL FOI requests back to 2005 and she wants a count of how many pages of information were required in response, along with the cost in fulfilling the request in personnel time. So there could be a good bit more to come.

UPDATE: I talked further to Fox about this.
She said this grew out of her concern some years ago about the effort the district put into complying. She said the format now in place was discussed some years ago, but put aside. She thinks Suggs is now moving on some issues that had languished.

Tags: , , , , ,


Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Free Zinn book for Arkansas teachers

    Arkansas teachers! Get your free Howard Zinn book here! Whether Kim Hendren likes it or not.
    • Mar 3, 2017
  • Payday lenders on the march at legislature

    Payday lenders are working hard to get legislative cover for the reintroduction of their usurious loan business to Arkansas. Some are fighting back.
    • Mar 10, 2017
  • Among the last words from Kenneth Williams: 'Finger Lickin' Good Fried Chicken'

    What's purported to be a final-words essay from condemned prisoner Kenneth Williams was distributed today by Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist in Arkansas.  He reflects on his execution, his victims, reactions of inmates and big servings of fried chicken, which he says are given to all inmates on execution days.
    • Apr 27, 2017


Most Viewed

  • Pine Bluff native wages war on fraternity culture

    Bloomberg has an interesting feature on Deborah Dunklin Tipton of Memphis, a native of Pine Bluff and heiress to an Arkansas agricultural fortune, who's put her money to work investigating the death of her son Robert in 2012 of what's been ruled an accidental drug overdose following fraternity hazing at High Point University in North Carolina.
  • School superintendent Poore not registered to vote

    Blogger Russ Racop dug up a factoid of interest this week on Little Rock School Superintendent Mike Poore: He's not registered to vote in Pulaski County.
  • Judge denies Jon Woods' request to be free pending appeal UPDATE

    Judge Timothy Brooks has rejected former state Sen. Jon Woods' request that he be allowed to remain free pending appeal of his public corruption conviction to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. UPDATED with news on co-defendant Randell Shelton and a request for a trial delay by Jeremy Hutchinson in another public corruption case.
  • Breaking: Ken Starr doesn't like the Clintons. Look who's talking about morality

    Surprise. Former Whitewater persecutor Kenneth Starr's new book trashes Bill and Hillary Clinton, as the Democrat-Gazette made clear this morning. You'd think Starr was some moral exemplar as he whines about his "persona non grata" status in Arkansas.
  • Judge strikes down Rogers' anti-panhandling ordinance

    The ACLU has won another lawsuit against an anti-panhandling ordinance, this time in Rogers.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation