Arkansas Judge Orders Public Official Arrested

6 November 2014

A judge in Arkansas on Nov. 5  issued an arrest warrant for a government agency official over claims he didn’t provide documents requested by an Arkansas newspaper.

A prosecutor earlier this week had issued an arrest affidavit for the official, accused of a misdemeanor charge of violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said Rodney Forte, the executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Alliance in Little Rock, wasn’t taken into custody but will have to appear later in court.

“The action comes after the Metropolitan Housing Alliance sent an invoice to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette late Tuesday, charging more than $16,000 to hire outside workers to help the agency comply with a records-release request — a practice the Little Rock city attorney and other Arkansas Freedom of Information Act experts say is illegal,” the paper reported.

The paper was seeking copies of the agency’s work orders and tenant complaints dating back to 2012.

Forte reportedly said the requested documents are kept in a proprietary software and that each document would have to be printed off, then scanned in order to email them.

Robert Steinbuch, a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was quoted as saying, “That’s a brazen violation of the FOIA. … Legislators were quite clear in not permitting the charging of labor fees except in one very unique instance. The attempt to do so, I would characterize as egregious.”

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