Arkansas GOP Official Sues Mike Beebe Over Public Records

by Jeannie Nuss, The Associated Press  on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 2:50 pm  

LITTLE ROCK — The head of the Arkansas Republican Party filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to force Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe to comply with her public records request for documents his office received from those seeking appointments to state boards or commissions.

Attorneys for Megan Tollett, the state GOP's executive director, filed the lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court. She contends that she submitted her request for the documents under the state's Freedom of Information Act on Oct. 31 and was told the following day by Beebe's office that her request had been denied.

"The records you seek are '(u)npublished memoranda, working papers, and correspondence of the Governor' which 'shall not be deemed to be made open to the public,'" the governor's chief legal counsel wrote to Tollett, according to her lawsuit.

Tollett's lawyers disagree, and they want a judge to order Beebe to turn over the documents.

"It's our position that they're public documents, not part of the working papers," one of Tollett's attorneys, Bilenda Harris-Ritter, said Monday.

Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said the governor's office plans to fight the lawsuit and has been in contact with the attorney general's office. DeCample declined to discuss details of the case.

Tollett's lawsuit comes after Little Rock lawyer and blogger Matt Campbell filed a lawsuit in October accusing Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr of violating the state's Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release his personal cell phone number in response to an open records request.

Campbell, who runs the Democrat-leaning Blue Hog Report website, has asked a judge to order Darr to disclose the phone number.

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.

The attorney general, who is also representing Darr, has filed paperwork asking a judge to dismiss the case.

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