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Fighting For Information (Editorial)

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Over a year ago in this space, we criticized Fort Smith lawyer Joey McCutchen for agitating to keep the Confederate symbols used by Fort Smith Southside High School despite the Fort Smith School Board’s unanimous — and cheered — resolution to end their use.

The controversy became so fierce that the Fort Smith School District’s longtime athletic director, Jim Rowland, announced his resignation after 53 years with the district. Rowland referred to a “poisonous atmosphere.”

Our year-earlier criticism of McCutchen stands, but when people do right, we need to acknowledge that as well.

McCutchen is representing Jim Parsons of Bella Vista in Parsons’ effort to shed light on Ecclesia College’s financial dealings with state lawmakers who gave nearly $700,000 in taxpayer money to the private Christian college in Springdale, now ensnared in a public corruption scandal. (See Ecclesia College Woes Multiply Under Federal Investigation.) Parsons filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force the college to release documents related to those taxpayer-funded grants.

McCutchen also recently represented Fort Smith residents who filed a lawsuit against the Fort Smith School Board for proposing a new slate of officers in an email exchange, instead of a public meeting, charging that that was a violation of the FOI Act. A judge found in favor of McCutchen and his clients. “As a strong believer in transparency in government, we are vindicated by this decision which upholds the public’s right to open government,” McCutchen said.

In addition, McCutchen has sued Fort Smith city directors, accusing them of violating the FOI by conducting an email exchange in which the dissolution of the Civil Service Commission was proposed.

Over the years, we have come to the conclusion that the fight for open government is never-ending. We welcome all who seek to join the press in that fight, including those we don’t always agree with.

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