LITTLE Rock, Ark. – As the City of Little Rock admits liability and says it’s trying to do better, a Pulaski County judge has ordered thousands of public records be turned over — some connected to LITFest.
Matt Campbell, a Little Rock-based attorney and publisher of the politically focused Blue Hog Report website, is suing the City of Little Rock related to a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the city on Sept. 9.
Campbell has requested numerous emails and other documents, some of which are connected LITFest, a festival promoting itself to have live music and panel discussions earlier this month but was canceled after Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore terminated the contract with the festival’s organizer, Think Rubix, for alleged contract violations.
Alan Jones, an attorney representing the City of Little Rock, told Pulaski County 16th Division Circuit Court Judge Morgan Welch, that the city is in the process of reviewing thousands of pages and has hired additional people to assist.
Jones later confirmed there are approximately 30,000 pages that Campbell has requested which still have to be turned over. Some of the files relate to LITFest, however, Jones wasn’t able to provide an immediate number as of Tuesday afternoon.
Welch wants the city to turn over batches of records on a court-mandated timeline — which could be every 48 hours unless the files are large and the city will get some additional time.
The judge noted if the city fails to turn over the records on the agreed timeline, he will order Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. to testify, telling the court the buck stops with the mayor, as the custodian of the record.
Campbell believes the judge’s order will be followed.
“If they miss a deadline, it’s going to be a show-cause order for the mayor to show up and explain why the records were not produced. I think that’s going to be enough of an emphasis to stick to the deadline,” Campbell said.
Campbell said he doesn’t know why the records were not originally turned over but thinks the City Attorney’s office is making an effort to comply with the law.
The judge’s order comes one day after St. Sen. Ronald Caldwell (R), the Chairman of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, confirmed that the committee issued the record preservation request to the City of Little Rock related to LITFest.
The chairman said Monday the committee asked the city to save the records as of now but there has been no official request to the state for an audit.