LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The prosecutor in Pulaski County has ordered the City of Little Rock to comply with the state’s open-record law after it found some requests were not responded to completely or within the required time frame.
In an August 25 letter, Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley notified Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., City Attorney Tom Carpenter and the Board of Directors that two July requests sent by community activist Jimmie Cavin had still not been fulfilled.
Cavin filed an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on July 22 requesting the mayor’s compensation package for the years 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.
FOIA is an Arkansas law giving citizens the capability of requesting city records. The law requires public records be open to inspection during regular business hours or if it’s in storage, the document must be turned over within three working days.
Jegley found that request was only partially.
“On August 5th at 2:11 pm, the city FOIA coordinator emailed compensation information for the years 2019, 2020, 2020, and 2021, but neglected to send any documentation on the Mayor’s compensation for the year 2022,” Jegley wrote.
In a separate request on July 22, Cavin requested credit card statements for city credit cards issued to the mayor.
Jegley told the elected city officials that neither request appears to have been fully completed.
“Any person who negligently violates any provision of the FOIA law shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor,” Jegley wrote.
Jegley told the city if it believes there are exceptions to the FOIA requests filed or has any other explanation for the city’s actions to notify him.
A request for the city to comment on the letter was forwarded to City Attorney Tom Carpenter.
Carpenter wrote the city is taking the letter seriously.
“This office has the letter, is gathering information, and will answer the letter next week. The letter was sent to each member of the Board of Directors, and this office has received some telephone calls from BOD members as to what steps this office will take. We have essentially stated to them the same thing contained in this email.”Email from Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter
A July FOIA request by KARK Working 4 You for communication records from the city related to a 2021 fatal accident resulted in records being sent by the police department. The mayor’s office, however, stated it “has no records responsive to your request.”
After Working 4 You’s investigation, Scott announced on August 8 a major overhaul to how the city will address FOIA requests.
A statement released earlier this month by the mayor’s office announced the creation of a FOIA Division.
“These changes will be implemented immediately,” Mayor Scott assured at a city board meeting Tuesday night. “I’ve been displeased with some recent actions that have taken place as it relates to the Freedom of Information Act within the City of Little Rock.”
Included in the earlier announcement was that the city had earlier purchased software to process FOIA requests faster but was facing delays in its implementation. The city also plans to hold FOIA refresher training for employees and streamline its response process by removing unnecessary steps.
“We take FOIA requests seriously, and it has always been our intention to reply to them completely and promptly,” Scott stated.
At the time, City Director Kathy Webb called the mayor’s announcement welcoming, but something to monitor since the city must follow the law.
“I think we’ll be looking very carefully to make sure these new changes, which I hope we have in writing tomorrow, will take care of the problems we’ve been having,” Webb said at the time.
Click here to read the full letter from the Arkansas Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley.