What You Need to Know About FOIA
March 16, 2016
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.