The Freedom of Information Act isn't free - but it's close | The Hoglawyer

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Freedom of Information Act isn't free - but it's close

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2007 at 9:45 PM


Free Freedom of Information Advice

I think the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act is great. So do most people, except maybe.....Mike Huckabee and lawyers at the U of A. The FOI is simple, citizen friendly, and surprisingly effective. You don't have to a journalist to use it. Anyone can send a request to most state agencies requesting most documents. Of course, not everything is available but correspondence, emails, phone logs, reports, lots of stuff is available for inspection and copying. They will copy it for you but they can charge a small fee per page of course. You can't get most personnel records, "working papers"  current investigation records, most juvenile records, most medical records, and similar materials. Who do you send it to ?    While in theory to the "FOI officer" you can send it to just about state employee and they should instantly flip it to someone who knows how to respond.

So for example - I want to look for any arrest records for gun running, attempted hijacking, or similar crimes by the Huckabee family. I can first call the Little Rock Police Department, records department, and see if they will confirm they have the records I want and they are available. Did you know you can even get things like mug shots? Then I write my letter. To be efficient - I would enclose a check for estimated copy fees ( hopefully 10 cents a page)  I would throw in a self- addressed stamped envelope to be polite. Of course some records tend to get lengthy so if you want say, the last five years of Frank Broyles expense accounts, you should probably get an estimate ahead of time and make arrangements. They are supposed to get the records in 3 days but, again, as long as they are making good faith efforts I'd give them a break -

If anyone ever gets some fun records through FOI - and wants it published without their name being published - send it my way. Of course, you would need to scan them first.

For an Arkansas specific FOI request generator, go here:
http://www.rcfp.org/foi_letter/generate.php

or use this generic sample letter.

Agency Head [or Freedom of Information Act Officer]
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, State, Zip Code

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

Dear ______________:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

I request that a copy of the following documents [or documents containing the following information] be provided to me: [identify the documents or information as specifically as possible ].

In order to help to determine my status to assess fees, you should know that I am (insert a suitable description of the requester and the purpose of the request).

[Sample requester descriptions:


an individual seeking information for personal use and not for a commercial use. I am a resident of Arkansas.

[Optional] I am willing to pay fees for this request up to a maximum of $_____. If you estimate that the fees will exceed this limit, please inform me first.

[Optional] I request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in my commercial interest. [Include a specific explanation.]

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Name
Address
City, State, Zip Code
Telephone number [Optional]

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