In the place on the online Arkansas Attorney General Attorney Consumer Complaint Form that asks a complainant to “Please explain the circumstances surrounding your complaint”, the following was entered:
Arkansas FOIA Violations
INFORMATION vs REGULATION Presentation to QC Committee (YouTube video)
In this video segment it seems clearly evident that elected officials deliberated away from public meetings in violation of the open-meetings section of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. This evidence includes the Chairman announcing to complainant, without prior public discussion, that he would be getting a letter demanding that the www.garlandcounty.info website be taken down. (Letter from County Attorney was received and answered: http://garlandcounty.info/mohammad-and-the-county-judge/). Other JP’s shown in the video segment made comments indicating they had earlier conversation about the topic, including Justice McKee cuing Justice Griffin to rebuke the complainant about use of what they thought at the time was a county-owned “seal”. Further, those earlier conversations/meetings/communications were evidently made without FOIA required advance notice to the press.
Justice McKee moved to “table consideration” of the complainant’s proposed ordinance immediately before hearing the complainant’s presentation of it. The Chairman promptly called for the vote without any invitation for discussion of the motion by committee members … presumably because discussion was previously done in private.
4:59 – 7:35 (https://youtu.be/a-cLA7vT9Xs)
In this video segment Justice McKee explains that since the last committee meeting he has been “in consultation with the judge and other members of the quorum court” regarding proposed Subdivision and Development ordinances. This appears to be a frank admission of FOIA violation by himself, the county judge, and other quorum court members.
The effect of these violations of the open-meeting provisions of Arkansas Freedom of Information Act resulted in the following:
- The Garland County public was denied opportunity to witness deliberations by elected officials on important public matters that the law requires be conducted in the open.
- The unprecedented “reject consideration of the proposal before we hear it” tabling action barred committee consideration of the proposed “INFORMATION” version of a Subdivision and Development ordinance (http://garlandcounty.info/regulation-vs-information/).
- The complainant was denied opportunity to answer questions and discuss details of the ordinance proposal following his presentation to the JP’s who could have made a “Do Pass” recommendation to the full Quorum Court (http://garlandcounty.info/tabled-indefinitely/).
In the place on the complaint form that asks for “Your view as to a fair resolution of the matter”, the following was entered:
- Quorum Court members should be exhorted by the AG office that failure to comply with Arkansas FOIA is a crime subject to prosecution by local prosecutors or the AG.
- The tabling of the “Information Version” of the GC Subdivision & Development ordinance should be undone and the proposal brought up for public discussion and consideration by the Garland County Quorum Court, and the public.
- If not prosecuted, QC members who violated FOIA open-meeting provisions should at least publicly apologize to citizens who their violations of the law may have adversely affected.
Garland County Clerk Sarah Smith Processes First Filing for 2016 Candidate Filing Period.
Clay Herrmann files as Independent Candidate for Garland County Judge.
I just found this today (November 22, 2014) on the County Judges campaign website at http://hiredavisjudge.com/County_Updates_by_Rick.html. To my knowledge it was not posted in time for my response before the election. Nevertheless, I have written one comment regarding web-site hosting cost in red below, with an intent to address other issues in this post later. (The filing period opening for the 2016 General Election is only a little over a year away.)
County Updates by Rick
As requested by my opponent — Let me tell you my position on my opponent’s platform. While, they seem like easy things, let me clarify the situation. Ultimately, all the issues that Mr. Hermann is running on are basically Quorum Court decisions as they would have to find and allocate the money to pay for the things that he is advocating such as retrofitting the QC Chambers for televising capabilities. If Mr. Hermann or anyone else wants to attend, record and put QC meetings on Utube or whatever, they are welcome to do so. All QC committee and full QC meetings with dates, times, and agendas are posted on the county’s free website. All are open to the public. Just televising a full QC meeting would not be as productive as Mr. Hermann might think as the majority of the discussion, fact finding and analysis go on during committee meetings. There are opportunities to speak to issues at one time or another. Each full QC meeting that I preside over I ask if there’s anyone who wishes to speak to an issue. With very few exceptions, there are opportunities to speak at committee meetings. All citizens are represented by JPs who welcome interaction with their constituents.
The QC would have to find and allocate the money to pay approximately $40,000- $50,000 for a website that would have the capability to handle all the documents, court orders, reports, contracts, etc. that Mr. Hermann is requesting be put online. Currently the website is free and supplied through the state.
(Judge Davis doesn’t state where he got his website cost estimate from, but it is certainly possible to spend tens of thousand of dollars on a county information sharing website. After all, according to multiple news sources, implementation of the infamous www.healthcare.gov has so far cost taxpayers in excess of two billion ($2,000,000,000.00+) and that site reportedly still does not work reliably! In contrast to the federal government’s enormously wasteful spending without transparency and accountability, consider that there are many competing companies offering user-friendly web-hosting services at relatively low cost. Garland County currently uses Network Solution LLC for registration of the garlandcounty.org domain. That same company offers web hosting with unlimited bandwidth and 300 GB of storage for $7.99/mo or $95.88/yr (http://www.networksolutions.com/web-hosting/index.jsp). GoDaddy currently offers a “Deluxe” hosting plan with unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth for $4.49/mo or $53.88/yr (https://www.godaddy.com/hosting/web-hosting.aspx?ci=9009). I am pretty sure there is discretionary room in the Judge’s budget to spend $100 or so per year without need for a dedicated appropriation from the county legislature. If you take care of the site with existing staff, scan and post documents as part of normal process flow, and avoid hiring consultants or contractors, there would be no financial impediment to immediately proceed.)
But, because it is free, it does have limited capabilities. All the information that my opponent is requesting be put online for convenience of a “click on a computer” is already available to the public. All that is required is an old fashioned telephone call, personal visit, or email.
We have very limited funding to provide the critical services that the county provides to all citizens. We have county employees and especially county law enforcement officers who make wages that in some cases makes them eligible for food stamps. Many of them work 2 jobs to provide for their families. We have safety issues in all areas of our county including our cities. We need more law enforcement officers on our streets and roads. Let me make this clear, my priorities have to do with paying people a decent wage for a day’s work, public safety, county infrastructure, being ready for disasters, etc. For a few of you who go on and on about not raising any salaries, would you patrol our county and risk your lives for the wages that the county has been paying? I doubt it. Let me make this clear, as County Judge, I will not recommend spending thousands of dollars on new website, television capabilities, etc. given the critical needs that we have in this county. If you think Mr. Hermann’s platform issues are the priority then you need to vote for Mr. Hermann. Ultimately all the issues that my opponent is campaigning on are basically within the decisions of the QC. They fund all of the budgets within county government. Please feel free to share my response here as I’ve said my piece on this. Also, please know that I won’t be down waving signs as early voting areas. I have a job to do as your County Judge. Campaigning takes a back seat.
From time to time, Judge Davis will publish his updates on issues of concern to the residents of Garland County, Arkansas.