Blogger Matt Campbell Sues Mark Darr Over Personal Cell Phone Number

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 2:08 pm  

LITTLE ROCK - A Little Rock lawyer and blogger filed a lawsuit Monday accusing Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr of violating the state Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release his personal cell phone number in response to an open records request.

Matt Campbell, who runs the Democrat-leaning Blue Hog Report website, filed the complaint in Pulaski County Circuit Court and asked a judge to order the state's No. 2 elected official to hand over the number. Darr is a Republican who was elected in 2010.

Darr's personal cell phone number when redacted when his office responded to a FOIA request by Campbell earlier this month seeking all billing and usage records for all phones assigned to his office since May 1. It had also redacted the personal cell phone numbers of Darr's employees.

Although state law allows the personal cell numbers for nonelected state employees to be withheld, it doesn't have the same exemption for elected officials, Campbell argued in his suit. Darr's office has cited privacy concerns as the reason for withholding his number.

"It makes no sense to suggest, as defendant now does, that he has an expectation of privacy in not disclosing his personal cell phone number in the billing and usage logs for the state-provided phones in defendant's office," Campbell's lawsuit said. "These records are clearly public records, and defendant, who chose to use his personal cell phone to receive calls from his office, can have no expectation of privacy in the telephone records of communications related to state business."

Darr said in a statement released by his office that he believed he had complied with Campbell's FOI request to the fullest extent of the law.

Darr told Campbell in an Oct. 25 letter that he didn't believe the public's interest would be serving by releasing the number.

"It is quite apparent that a statewide officeholder has a non-trivial privacy interest in not having everyone in the state have access to or knowledge of his personal cell phone number, especially because such information could be used for purposes of nuisance or harassment," Darr wrote in the letter.

The Arkansas Ethics Commission is investigating a complaint Campbell filed against Darr earlier this year questioning hundreds of dollars Darr's campaign spent at restaurants, stores and gas stations after he took office as fundraising expenses. Darr dropped his bid for a south Arkansas congressional seat in August after Campbell first raised questions about the expenses on his blog.

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