Gun permit secrecy spreads to Arkansas…

Arkansas’ state senate has passed a bill banning the release of gun owners’ names and ZIP codes, the only information currently available to seekers of public records under the state’s Freedom of Information law.

“Republican state Senator Bruce Holland, the bill’s sponsor, said he introduced the legislation after a constituent contacted him with concerns about the Journal News’ actions,” Suzi Parker reports. The suburban New York paper published a map of local gun-permit holders in late December, a move that caused New York state to tighten access to the records. The Journal News removed the map last month.

Nicholas Stehle of the gun-advocacy group Arkansas Carry said the names and ZIP codes of gun owners are “more information than I’d be comfortable sharing if I were a single woman with an abusive ex-husband.” Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe opposes the bill, which now goes before the state house of representatives, in which Republicans have a small majority.

On Monday, Arkansas approved a law allowing people to bring guns into churches.

FOI at work: Wisconsin coach was writing love notes to Arkansas AD long before hire…

A shrewd use of FOI in Arkansas

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

demonstrates, once again, the power of public records on the sports beat…

Strange as it seems, the nuances of the Freedom of Information Act have loomed improbably large lately over Arkansas football, having played a key role in fanning the flames that lapped at both Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino on their way out of town. Now, in the case of new head coach Bret Bielema, his first Fayetteveille FOIA might as well be a rite of initiation.

Unlike his predecessors, Bielema isn’t being pursued for scandal, but rather for a friendly note he wrote his new boss earlier this year – at least two months before the Razorbacks left the rest of the country gobsmacked last week by poaching the architect of back-to-back-to-back Big Ten championship teams at Wisconsin. According to documents released by the university, Bielema actually made contact with Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long in September, when he sent Long a handwritten note supporting his decision to fire Petrino after a motorcycle accident revealed an inappropriate relationship with an athletic department staffer. Reporters picked up the scent when Long mentioned the note from Bielema last week, and on Monday got their hands on the original…

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A Fine Example of Why the Public Needs Access to Dashboard Cam Video…

A state FOI law working just as it should:

Police video recorded the night a young man was fatally shot in a northeast Arkansas patrol car while his hands were cuffed behind his back hasn’t resolved questions about whether he shot himself in the head as officers said.

Jonesboro police released footage to The Associated Press and other news organizations under a Freedom of Information Act request this week. They released more footage Friday amid questions about why the first batch of video appeared to end before the officers found Chavis Carter, 21, slumped over and bleeding in the back of a patrol car on July 28 as described in a police report. Police have said officers had frisked Carter twice without finding a gun.

Police said the second batch of video occurred after Carter was discovered, but that footage wasn’t immediately available in its entirety.

“There’s still nothing in there about what actually happened with Chavis,” Benjamin Irwin, a Memphis-based lawyer representing Carter’s family, said Friday before the second batch of video had been released.

FOI At Work: There is a “Callin’ the Hogs” Line Somewhere, But I’m Gonna Let It Go…..

The man has suffered plenty, and then along came this…

Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and his mistress exchanged more than 4,300 text messages and nearly 300 phone calls over the past seven months — on game days, before dawn and even as the police report that hastened his downfall was being released to the public, according to a review of his business cellphone records by The Associated Press.

The messages, among some 300 pages of records released under a Freedom of Information Act request, appear to include picture and video files, though there was no way to verify the content. But the records clearly show a married father of four in frequent contact with Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old former Razorbacks volleyball player.

Petrino was fired Tuesday night for failing to disclose his relationship with Dorrell, whom he hired last month without disclosing his conflict of interest or the fact he had once paid her $20,000. Athletic director Jeff Long said he had determined their relationship had been ongoing for a “significant” amount of time, but he did not say for how long.

The phone records show that Petrino remained in close contact with Dorrell following the April 1 motorcycle accident in which Petrino suffered four broken ribs, a cracked neck vertebra and scrapes and bruises

That day, Petrino and Dorrell went for a motorcycle ride on a two-lane highway southeast of Fayetteville and skidded off the road. Petrino and Dorrell talked for 16 minutes earlier that day before the crash at 6:45 p.m., and they also had a 22-minute conversation the following day — while Petrino was apparently still in the hospital recovering.

The traditional "running hog" image ...

The traditional "running hog" image is once again the official logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Arkansas Supreme Court: Police Use-of-Force Records Are Public

Reports from police officers that explain why they use force against someone are not exempt from the state’s public record law, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The opinion from the state’s highest court came months after an attorney, Keith Hall, requested use-of-force reports in the case of an off-duty police officer who allegedly hit his client outside a Little Rock restaurant.

When Hall didn’t get the records he asked for, he filed a petition against Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas, claiming that Thomas violated the Freedom of Information Act.

Thomas argued that the reports are exempt from the public records law as employee-evaluation or job-performance records.

The matter made its way to a circuit court judge, who said the reports are not exempt from the public records law.

Thomas appealed that judge’s decision and the Supreme Court granted his request for a stay in the case.

In Thursday’s opinion written by Associate Justice Robert L. Brown, the Supreme Court sided with the lower court judge and said the use-of-force documents are public record.

The Constitutional Challenge to Arkansas Sunshine is Getting Weird…

A western Arkansas judge has refused a request from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to review a ruling against part of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, a move likely to send the case to the state Supreme Court.

Sebastian County Circuit Judge James Cox said in a brief letter Tuesday that he didn’t see the need to temporarily halt the effect of his Oct. 4 ruling declaring that the criminal penalty of the state sunshine law was unconstitutional.

The judge also denied the attorney general’s request to intervene in the case so his office could formally defend the law in court.

“I conducted a trial in this case in which the issues were thoroughly presented after notice had been given to all interested parties,” Cox said in his letter. “I have been unable to discern any new information … which compels me to amend the final order which was entered in this case.”

The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act has a possible criminal penalty, a misdemeanor that carries up to 30 days in jail, for violators of the law. When the city of Fort Smith was sued by a local attorney over several conversations between the former city administrator and board members, Fort Smith’s attorneys argued the law was too vague for the criminal penalty to be fair.

Cox agreed, saying in his decision that the state Supreme Court had erred in previous rulings on the law and the Arkansas Legislature needed to clarify whether sending emails, making phone calls or handing out material before a meeting could be considered a violation.