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Ethics/Government TransparencyWatch

Attorney Joey McCutchen on FOIA Constitutional Amendment: “The Devil’s in the Details”

Joey McCutchen, Attorney & co-founder of the Arkansas Transparency In Government Group, says there is a tendency by our Arkansas Legislature to disrespect our FOI law, particularly open meetings and open records, and because of that, there is an opportunity ahead of Arkansans to forever protect transparency and open government in Arkansas with a constitutional amendment.

But McCutchen says, “If we don’t get it right in this initial draft, we’re going to lose a lot of people because this needs to truly be the people’s law.” McCutchen says the amendment needs to include language that gives a clear definition of a meeting.

“If you have a gathering of two or more members of the governing body and they’re discussing public business, that’s a meeting,” says McCutchen. He goes on to say that there should also include language regarding “chance encounters,” — this offers protection to public officials who happen to run into one another at school football games, restaurants, or even JPs who visit an on-sight inspection… chance encounters are not public meetings, McCutchen says, and the language should clearly spell that out.

“If you start doing a Mary Bentley bill (HB1610), which allows one-third of our quorum court members to meet in secret, that does not need to be in our Constitution or anything close to that. Don’t bring in these transparency groups that are willing to give millions of dollars to get this thing through if we’re going to have a watered down version that would pass through the legislature. This is a people’s bill, not a legislator’s bill, not a government bill, but a people’s bill. And if we don’t see that on the initial draft, I cannot support it and I will not support it.”


Language provided by McCutchen: SB382 — Lead Sponsor Sen. A. Clark

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