Fort Smith and contempt for open government | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Fort Smith and contempt for open government

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 7:44 AM

click to enlarge JOEY MCCUTCHEN: FOI fight against Fort Smith continues.
  • JOEY MCCUTCHEN: FOI fight against Fort Smith continues.
Is there really any doubt that some members of the Fort Smith City Directors spit on the state Freedom of Information Act?

Dave Hughes writes in the Democrat-Gazette today about yet another FOI lawsuit by Joey McCutchen, who's successfully gone to war before with the local School Board and city government on the sunshine law.

No speculation here. The lawsuit contains smoking pistols in the form of e-mails among three city directors talking about how to respond to a proposed settlement of an earlier FOI lawsuit. This amounts to an unannounced private meeting.

The e-mails illustrate contempt for doing the public's business in public. It's not the first time.

The baseline law in Arkansas arose in a case against the city of Fort Smith in which the Arkansas Supreme Court said that informal meetings and one-on-one meetings conducted through an administrative intermediary could not be used to defy the open meetings law.

It is much easier to cook up decisions, defenses, alibis, etc., in private and then spring the done-deals on the public. You can do that in private business. When you are elected to serve the public and spend the public's money, you can't. Or so says the law. Why doesn't Fort Smith get that?

But ...... I have a suspicion that Fort Smith is not alone. An awful lot of stuff emerges pre-cooked at, for example, Little Rock City Board meetings. Directors often seem to know in advance just how votes are going to shake out. Maybe they are just particularly excellent mind readers.

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