CONSUMER ALERT: What You Need to Know About FOIA

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March 16, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is considered one of the strongest and most comprehensive open-records and open-meetings laws in the United States. The Arkansas law was enacted in 1967 by the General Assembly to highlight the importance of an open and transparent government.

 Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert in recognition of National Sunshine Week, March 13-19, and to give Arkansans a greater understanding of the Arkansas FOIA.

“Our strong FOIA law helps Arkansans hold government officials at all levels accountable,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The Attorney General’s office is committed to educating all Arkansans about their rights to an open and public government through the FOIA.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips regarding Arkansas’s FOIA:

  • The law gives Arkansans access to public records and public meetings, with limited exceptions.
  • When a governing body meets for the transaction of business, the meeting is a public meeting and subject to the provisions of the FOIA.
  • A public record is defined as any writing, sound or video that reflects the performance or lack of performance of an official function.
  • All records maintained by public employees within the scope of their employment are presumed to be public records, though several exemptions may shield a record from disclosure.
  • Government entities generally have up to three working days to provide a record requested under FOIA.
  • Custodians of records may only charge for the “actual costs” of reproducing public records, plus mailing expenses.
  • Notice of public meetings must be provided to anyone who has asked to be notified, and notice of special meetings must be provided to members of the news media who have requested notice of such meetings.
  • Governing bodies may only enter into closed sessions for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of an individual officer or employee.

The Attorney General’s office partners with the Arkansas Press Association (APA) and other organizations, to produce and distribute the Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook. The 17th edition was published in December 2015. Free copies of the handbook are available by contacting the Attorney General’s office at 800-482-8982 or oag@arkansasag.gov.

The Attorney General’s office and APA are also partnering to take FOIA Roadshows around the state. Last week a presentation was given in West Memphis and the program will travel to Russellville in May, Hope in September and Conway in October. An online webcast will be available on April 1 and at other times throughout the year. Each session, including the online statewide webcast, has been approved for 2.0 hours of general Continuing Legal Education credit.

For more information about the FOIA and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982, email consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Leslie Carol Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas. Elected on Nov. 4, 2014, she is the first woman and first Republican in Arkansas history to be elected to the office.

Rutledge, a native of Batesville, Arkansas, is a graduate of Southside High School, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. She began her legal career as Clerk for Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Josephine Hart, now Associate Justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. She was appointed Deputy Counsel for Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and later served as Legal Counsel on the Mike Huckabee for President Campaign. She served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Lonoke County and in subsequent service as Attorney for the State of Arkansas’s Division of Children and Family Services. She also served as Deputy Counsel at the National Republican Congressional Committee before joining the Republican National Committee as Counsel. Prior to her election as Attorney General, she founded and practiced law at The Rutledge Firm, PLLC. Rutledge lives in Little Rock.

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