LITTLE ROCK – An open and transparent government is imperative for both the press and the public to hold government officials accountable for their actions. The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted by the General Assembly in 1967 and is considered one of the strongest and most comprehensive open-records and open-meetings laws in the United States.
National Sunshine Week, March 12-18, brings sunshine laws and the FOIA to the forefront to educate citizens about their rights when it comes to government accountability.
“Arkansas’s FOIA holds government officials accountable at all levels, including state and local leaders,” 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 broad access to public records and public meetings, with limited exceptions.
- When a governing body meets to conduct the people’s business, the meeting is a public meeting and is subject to the open-meetings provisions of the FOIA.
- A public record is defined as any writing, sound recording, video or electronic or computer-based information that reflects the performance or lack of performance of official functions.
- 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 (or certain information in 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 two-hour notice of special or emergency meetings must be provided to members of the news media who have requested notice of such meetings.
- Governing bodies may only enter into closed meetings, also known as “executive sessions,” for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of an individual officer or employee. But following the executive session, the governing body must reconvene in public and formally vote on the matter discussed in the executive session.
The Attorney General’s office partners with the Arkansas Press Association and other organizations to produce and distribute the “Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook.” The Handbook’s 17th edition was published in December 2015. Free copies of the handbook are available by completing the short online form, or contacting the Attorney General’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 501-682-2007.
The Attorney General’s office recently presented an online webcast about the Arkansas FOIA.