LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Little Rock’s city attorney said he found numerous deleted city documents related to an upcoming festival originally requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The situation came to light when attorney Matt Campbell, who publishes the politically focused Blue Hog Report website, said something seemed off about the documents he originally received from the City of Little Rock under a FOIA request.
“There seems to be some parts missing, so I kind of followed up and tried to drill down a little further,” Campbell said. “It’s alarming.”
Campbell has been looking into LITFest, an upcoming event with music and panel discussions, scheduled to take place in Little Rock in October. He filed a lawsuit against the city over emails he requested on Sept. 9 about the festival. Campbell said the city has not turned over the documents within the three days required by FOIA.
“This is about the least transparent thing I can imagine,” Campbell said.
Long-time Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter said his office started to oversee public record requests last month. Carpenter said he uncovered hundreds of deleted emails and documents from a city computer on Friday, some related to LITFest. He said his office is trying to recover the documents and review what has already been released.
Little Rock attorney John Tull is an expert on Arkansas public records law. He wants to know what search was done initially and why they were allegedly deleted.
“It’s a clear violation of the law,” Tull said. “Were these deleted pursuant to a normal policy? Were they searched when they were still in existence before being deleted?”
Campbell has requested the documents Carpenter said he is recovering because he is curious about a possible light that could soon shine on LITFest.
“It wasn’t just one thing. There were just documents missing that should’ve been there in terms of sponsorship agreements,” Campbell said, adding he is calling for a full investigation into the matter.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s spokesman issued a statement on the Campbell’s, calling it “concerning.”
“It’s unfortunate that the City Attorney took it upon himself to send an email to the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against the City, making unsubstantiated allegations. It appears he is working against his own client in a retaliatory manner, which is concerning.”
LITFest is currently scheduled for Oct. 7-9 throughout Little Rock.