According to Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell, the Blue Hog Report blogger, the court ordered the city of Little Rock to pay him $8,557 to cover his expenses in suing for the public records consent. the city officials were illegally detained.
The fee comes down to $300 an hour for the 27.9 hours Campbell spent researching and litigating his Freedom of Information lawsuit against the city, plus a $185 filing fee and $2 he spent on parking to attend the October meeting where the city’s legal counsel agreed. Records, many of which were part of Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s LITFest program. failed and wrongfully withheld.
The Little Rock Board of Supervisors at a meeting Tuesday approved a resolution approving the settlement with Campbell in a voice vote as part of the board’s consent process. The settlement authorizes the city attorney to pay Campbell $8,600, subject to four conditions, one of which is that the decision to dismiss the complaint with prejudice be included in court records.
Campbell has been investigating the mayor for weeks, posting articles and findings on his blog. He has said that Scott was “at his core, a fraud,” who regularly lied and manipulated city finances and assets to some of his supporters.
The decision on how much the city should pay rests with presiding judge Chip Welch, who will give the city a chance to challenge Campbell’s request before the judge makes a decision.
Despite the city’s admission of wrongdoing, the case remains unresolved because Campbell has accused Scott of failing to turn over cellphone records that Campbell says he is legally required to turn over. open record.
Scott has been ordered to appear before Welch today to answer questions about the phone records. City attorneys say they have turned over everything the court has required so far, arguing that Scott’s phone records are subject to the open records law as Campbell claims.
If the judge is not satisfied with the answers he receives today, he can hold the mayor in contempt and send him to prison, a fine, or both.
Campbell says in court documents that he learned Scott would keep phone records at a November city council meeting. Scott said he then tried to call City Manager Capi Peck on his cell phone.
Peck later told Campbell that Scott had used his personal phone when he called to discuss city business.
Those claims contradict Scott’s previous statements that he denied using his personal phone for any city business, Campbell said in court documents. Scott’s use of his personal phone would be subject to the Communications Decency Act, a statement that city attorneys agree is a matter of course.
That is a matter for the judge to decide. Campbell argues that the mayor’s personal cell phone is not entitled to special consideration under the open records law, as is the city’s phone.
In response, City Attorney Tom Carpenter and Deputy Alan Jones denied wrongdoing, saying the city acted quickly to comply with the court and the law.
But they argue that the specific phone records Campbell wants fall under the open records law because Campbell is seeking material beyond those used for the mayor’s duties.
In addition, city attorneys say Campbell’s view of the Freedom of Information Act is much broader than the statute has been interpreted.
“Meeting such standards would be nearly, if not impossible, removed [open-records law away from a law intended to keep the citizenry ‘advised of the performance of public officials and the of the decisions that are reached in public activity and in making public policy’ by transforming it into an administrative weapon to be used against any public employee a citizen wants to target,” the lawyers stated in a pleading. “Granted, the [Freedom of Information Act] it is meant to be thought through, but in interpretation, it is not infinite.
In other dealings in the case, city attorneys say they can’t comply with all of Campbell’s records requests because some of the items Campbell wants are held by Think Rubix LLC , the company hired to introduce the LITfest program. Those prizes include a contract with singer Ashanti to perform at LITFest. At the city’s request, and with Campbell’s consent, a judge added Think Rubix as a defendant in the case last week, though it’s unclear whether the company has been served notice of the case.
Information for this report was provided by Joe Flaherty of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.