LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – There are calls for the City of Little Rock to follow the law.
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller on Valentine’s Day in 1967.
Arkansas’ Attorney General describes the law:
Five decades later and at Little Rock City Hall, community watchdog Jimmie Cavin said the city is falling short on transparency and following the law.
“Roadblock, roadblock, roadblock,” Cavin said.
Records reveal on July 22, Cavin asked specifically for all credit card statements related to Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.’s travel.
According to state law, those statements should have been sent immediately or at least within three business days. If the city needs more time to gather the records, the law requires the city to provide a date of when the records will be available.
“They sent me the notice that I would have them no later than August 2,” Cavin said.
Cavin said he understands sometimes it can take longer so he didn’t mind the delay.
When August 2 came around though, the request was delayed again.
“Not only do I not get them, I got a very short email saying there’s a further delay and it’ll be August 8 before I get them,” Cavin said.
“There’s a problem somewhere in the process,” attorney John Tull said.
Tull is an expert on the state’s FOIA, which is a Class C Misdemeanor for people found violating it.
He calls the consistent delays concerning.
“I frankly don’t understand why the information, or the documents, aren’t being provided,” Tull said.
Cavin questions the delay as well.
“There’s only one reason to violate that law,” Cavin said.
As Cavin waits on the credit card statements, he’s calling for an investigation into how and why public records are getting harder and harder to get.
“It reveals to me that they’re hiding information,” Cavin said.
Last month, FOX 16 Investigates found the Little Rock Police Department never publicly disclosed a 2021 pursuit involving kids before the car crashed, killing a teenager.
FOX 16 wanted to know who knew what and when that night. A request was sent to LRPD and City Hall under the state’s FOIA.
LRPD responded timely to our request with phone logs of former Police Chief Keith Humphrey, former Assistant Chief Crystal Young-Haskins and Public Information Officer Mark Edwards. FOX 16 is reviewing the records now.
Our July 21 request for phone logs, emails and texts with Mayor Scott and other City Hall employees was returned Thursday, the same day we requested a comment on this story.
“The Mayor’s Office has no records responsive to your request,” Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Mayor Scott wrote. “We believe we’d already sent you this response, but are making certain through this email.”
Records reveal FOX 16 Investigates sent a follow-up email to the FOIA office and city attorney on August 1 asking for an update but that email was not returned.
Sadler also wrote the city would be interested in discussing its FOIA process in the future.
“Please know that the City is glad to discuss its FOIA process, but we won’t participate in any political attacks,” he wrote.
The Little Rock Board of Directors is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and we will be there.