Consequences for violating the Freedom of Information Act | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Consequences for violating the Freedom of Information Act

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 8:43 AM

I was happy to read in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (subscription required) today that Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley intends to file a charge of violation of the Freedom of Information Act against Rodney Forte, director of the Metropolitan Housing Alliance of Little Rock.

The federal financed housing agency, a creature of city government, has been giving the newspaper the runaround for months on its internal workings, the public evidence of which isn't confidence-inspiring. The last straw was the agency saying it would cost $16,000 for the Democrat-Gazette to receive personnel records it had requested.

Arrogant. Laughable. Stupid. But that's been a pattern at the agency.

Perhaps an arrest warrant will get their attention. Or maybe not. Sadly, this agency has been in turmoil for years. The city of Little Rock — and the mayor — shoulder some of the blame. People good and not so good have been confirmed to the agency's governing board by the City Board and mayor. (They blocked one nominee they didn't like.) But they haven't been good enough to prevent mismanagement or hold mismanagers accountable.

CORRECTION: I wrote incorrectly originally that the Board appointed members. Nominees come from the Alliance board, but they are subject to confirmation by the City Board.

A tough prosecutor of better government is needed on the board as well.

I can't let the episode pass without remembering the many times other public officials have shown disdain for the public. Secretary of State Mark Martin, particularly, has been unfriendly to the FOI, with slow-walking of even routine requests, exorbitant copy charges and his — arrogant, laughable and stupid come to mind as modifiers — disdain for the public's law. His race-car driver name, he believes, guarantees him re-election. But there is a solid alternative — the experienced, accessible, qualified Susan Inman.

Just yesterday, a Martin employee complained about the burden of FOI requests on the office's work (not much burden on Martin; he spends a lot of his time on Facebook back home in Prairie Grove, Blue Hog Report has documented). I'm still awaiting an answer about notices it has received about people identified by a multistate database as being registered as voters in multiple states (Leslie Rutledge, for example). The only answer so far has been that the information is passéd directly on to county clerks and no list is maintained. I would like to know in what form the information is received before it is passed on and to see copies of those notices should they exist in email or other form. Maybe in four years unless there's an Inman miracle.

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