Arkansas Transparency in Government Group (AR TIGG) Coalition

The annual spring Freedom Of Information Act Symposium, sponsored by the Arkansas Transparency in Government Group (AR TIGG), has been scheduled for Monday, March 16, 2020, in the Silver City Room of the Riverfront Wyndham Hotel located at #2 Riverfront Place in North Little Rock.  Beginning at 9:00 a.m., the Symposium will focus upon key issues related to the State’s Freedom of Information Act, a far-reaching statute which was adopted by the Arkansas Legislature in 1967 under the leadership of former Arkansas Governor, Winthrop Rockefeller.  Designed as a law for the people and better known as “the people’s law”, the vital FOIA legislation seeks to make more transparent the operation of many of the aspects of all local and State governmental entities throughout Arkansas.

The Arkansas Transparency In Government Group (AR TIGG) is currently comprised of five local, self-directing Transparency In Government Group chapters located in Bella Vista, Conway, Fort Smith, Harrison and Hot Springs.  Each of the five respective chapters has dedicated its membership activities to the better understanding of the purposes of the FOIA statute and to the encouragement of citizen interest and positive utilization of that valuable piece of legislation.

According to Arkansas Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge, she has an immense appreciation for former Government Rockefeller’s foresight and leadership, for fifty years ago, endorsing the original idea leading to the adoption of the Arkansas Freedom of Information legislation.  Providing clarity to this essential piece of legislative work continues to be the goal of the Attorney General in order that governmental officials, journalists and all Arkansas citizens become fully informed about this important statute.  Attorney General Rutledge further believes that the intent of this vital ACT is for the State’s FOIA undertakings to remain a model for open government which promotes transparency for citizens as they seek to rightly have access to public information.

Serving as guest speakers during this first annual Symposium of the Arkansas Transparency In Government Group (AR TIGG) will be several key individuals whose interests and expertise correlate closely with the intent and purpose of the FOIA legislation.

Representing the office of the Arkansas Attorney General during the morning session of the Symposium will be Beth Walker, director of the Opinions Section of the AG’s office.  Ms. Walker is known statewide as an effective presenter of practical FOIA information and she has served as a keynote speaker throughout the State during many FOIA focused workshops and study sessions sponsored by the AG’s office as well as other active, local groups interested in government transparency.  Ms. Walker’s presentations are always “spot on”, to the point and are delivered in a manner as to emphasize that the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act has been truly designed for Arkansas citizens desiring an open and transparent government–both local and statewide.

Dr. Robert Steinbuch, a well-known professor of law at the William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, and a co-author of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act treatise–a publication acknowledged by many as the “bible” concerning Arkansas FOIA issues–will host a one-hour afternoon session entitled “FOIA Today”.  Dr. Steinbuch’s presentation has been sanctioned by the Arkansas Continuing Legal Education Board and will enable attorneys who attend the informative session to be eligible to receive one hour of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit.

Dr. Steinbuch’s remarks will focus on recent research concerning the general purposes of FOIAs and other transparency principles, and his discussion will provide a springboard for a thorough review of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.  His presentation will also touch upon a submission of citizen FOIA requests and will include a synopsis of case studies of several litigations concerning the redaction of personal information from certain governmental records.  Dr. Steinbuch will also speak about the responsibility of the “custodian of records”, the charging of fees for the reproduction of specific documents and the retention of governmental records.  He will conclude his remarks with a question and answer session.

Throughout the Symposium, attendees will have several opportunities to hear presentations from members of the Arkansas FOIA Coalition, a volunteer group comprised of journalists and other citizens interested in all legislative issues affecting governmental openness and transparency.  Symposium attendees will be able to hear comments from members of the State’s FOIA Task Force.  As stated in ACT 923 of 2017, the Task Force consists of nine individuals representing government, academia and the media.  The Task Force is charged with the responsibility of reporting its recommendations to the State legislature concerning any proposed legislation which affects any aspect of the Arkansas Freedom of Information statute.  According to State Representative Laurie Rushing from Hot Springs, she sponsored the enactment of ACT 923 in order to protect the Arkansas FOIA and its mandates.

Providing their expertise during the Symposium will also be State Representative Dan Sullivan, District 53, from Jonesboro; Daniel Shue, Prosecuting Attorney from the 12th Judicial District in Fort Smith; State Representative Vivian Flowers, District 17, from Pine Bluff; Senate President Pro Tempore, Jim Hendren, representing District 2 from Gravette and Senator Kim Hammer, District 33 from Benton.

Coinciding with the date of the Symposium is the fact that Monday, March 16, is also being celebrated across America as Freedom of Information Day.  Various groups across the Nation will be, on that day, recognizing both federal and state transparency and open records laws as they impact upon, and apply to, the lives of all American citizens.  Organizers of the Symposium in North Little Rock emphasize that individuals throughout the State of Arkansas are invited to attend this free Symposium–on a first come, first served basis–and to hear a wide variety of discussions related to a more open government in local, county, and State entities.  Lunch will be available “Dutch Treat” at either one of the two, full-service Hotel Restaurants–the Riverfront Steakhouse and the adjoining and award winning Benihana Restaurant.  The Symposium will adjourn at approximately 4 p.m.