FOI Daily Dose: Arkansas blogger sues Secretary of State in ongoing records fight

An Arkansas blogger filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mark Marin and his office July 1 for slowly and inadequately responding to his public records request, according to Arkansas Blog for the Arkansas Times.

Matt Campbell, the plaintiff, has been in and out of FOI bouts with the Arkansas GOP since 2011, when he published a series of articles on his left-leaning blog, the Blue Hog Report, criticizing alleged misdeeds of Martin’s office and its reserved response to the Hog’s FOI requests.

When the GOP learned Martin was a state employee, they turned the tables, requesting information about his work through the state’s open records law, according to The Arkansas Project.

At the time, Martin was an employee of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Although the GOP couldn’t prove he was blogging on state time, the Supreme Court allegedly made it clear to Campbell they wanted him to stop blogging, so in May 2011, he quickly killed the Hog and its social media accounts, The City Wire said.

But after Campbell’s last day at the Court on April 30, 2013, he resurrected the Hog and the fight.

On June 2, he filed a freedom of information request for communications between Martin’s office and a law firm regarding the office’s defense against suits filed by two fired Capitol police officers, Arkansas Blog said.

Campbell requested:

“All client-engagement agreements or similar documents between Secretary of State Martin in his official capacity, or the Secretary of State’s office generally, and the law firm of Chisenhall, Nestrud and Julian, P.A., or any of its individual attorneys.

“All written correspondence between the Secretary of State’s Office and Chisenhall, Nestrud and Julian, P.A., or any of its individual attorneys. This request encompasses letters, faxes, and emails between the parties, regardless of which party sent the correspondence.

“All invoices payable from state funds received from Chisenhall, Nestrud and Julian, P.A., or any of its individual attorneys.”

But one month after Campbell filed his request, he filed a lawsuit, complaining that even though the office gave him PDFs and printouts of the documents he wanted, they did not provide the documents digitally, as he requested. He also said their response was riddled with “lies and half-truths” about their email-retention policy, according to Arkansas Blog.

Campbell allegedly thinks the office is withholding electronic versions of Word documents because they often contain underlying information about editing.

“By the end, they seemed convinced that I wouldn’t actually file a lawsuit to get the stuff, so I decided to call their bluff,” Campbell told Arkansas Blog.

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

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  • http://www.bluehogreport.com Matt Campbell

    Two minor corrections. First, the SOS did comply with the June 2 request. Based on information in emails provided in response to that request, I sent a follow-up request on June 10, which is when I requested the .pdf, .doc, and .docx files.

    Second, they only provided printouts of two of the requested .doc/.docx files; they claim to have deleted the other four, despite still having the emails in their possession.


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