Mike Beebe then and now on public-records transparancy | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mike Beebe then and now on public-records transparancy

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 2:02 PM

click to enlarge WORKING PAPERS: Beebe is for sunshine, sometimes
  • WORKING PAPERS: Beebe is for sunshine, sometimes
A local Republican politico e-mailed to point out that then newly elected Gov. Mike Beebe said this in 2007 after releasing the papers of Larry Zeno, a Parole Board member who had  jokes and photos of a racial and sexual nature on his state computer: 

I believe in the transparency of government and I support the strength and integrity of the Freedom of Information Act. If this document is a working paper, the public’s right to know outweighs any exemption from the reach of the FOIA.

Gov. Mike Huckabee, who appointed Zeno, had refused to release the papers even after losing a lawsuit on the matter. Beebe dropped the governor's office's appeal and released them. Here's the Arkansas Blog post on the Zeno papers in 2007. The situation isn't quite analogous to Beebe's refusal to release applications to state appointments (which led to a state GOP lawsuit this week) since Beebe probably has a stronger legal claim to governor's "working papers" than Huckabee did re: Zeno's files. But as Max pointed out in 2007 on the Zeno papers, just because a governor can claim an exemption, it doesn't mean that they should: 

He's not conceding that the papers aren't gubernatorial working papers. But he's saying the public's right to know outweighs the office's claim to that protection. This was always a distinction that Mike Huckabee refused to draw, even if he understood it. Just because a paper MAY be kept secret under FOI exemptions, it doesn't mean it MUST be kept secret. Thus Beebe has set an example that I suspect he'll follow on such matters as accounting of Governor's Mansion expenditures and the like. Even if it is a gubernatorial working paper (which those records are not) public interest is more important.

Political hypocrisy is so common as to be almost meaningless so it's more useful to look at the merits of the issue. Beebe was right in 2007 and, as Max argued this morning, hopefully the Arkansas Supreme Court will decide that he's wrong today (or, more precisely, that the exemption he's invoking is overly broad).  

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