Magazine article Information Management

Court to Rule on Arkansas FOIA

Magazine article Information Management

Court to Rule on Arkansas FOIA

Article excerpt

The Arkansas Supreme Court soon will decide whether prosecutors can pursue misdemeanor criminal charges for individuals who violate the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

A circuit judge recently declared parts of the state's FOIA unconstitutional. Judge James Cox issued the ruling in a lawsuit brought by Fort Smith lawyer Joey McCutchen against the city of Fort Smith. McCutchen accused the city of violating the FOIA when former City Administrator Dennis Kelly discussed the hiring and firing of department heads with members of the city board of directors in one-on-one conversations in May 2009.

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The state's FOIA requires meetings of government bodies to be open to the public, according to the Arkansas News Bureau. Under current Arkansas law, the city officials could be fined up to $200 and spend up to 30 days in jail if they are found guilty of violating the open government law.

In his ruling, Cox noted that all 50 states have open meetings laws, but only 19 states have criminal sanctions in their laws. …

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