Agency must turn over records immediately, state attorney general advises
ARKANSAS — An agency must turn over public records “immediately” if the documents are available, the state attorney general said in an opinion in late July.
The state Freedom of Information Act gives records custodians a three-day grace period “only if the records are in active use or storage,” the opinion said.
An agency may not establish a standard three-day policy to handle all records requests. Such a policy would violate the state FOI Act.
The opinion was issued as a result of a criminal complaint that the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette filed against the director and chief counsel of the state Department of Human Services, the Associated Press reported. The complaint was filed earlier this month after the DHS director delayed releasing an agency report for more than 24 hours.
The report demanded repayment of more than $20,000 that DHS alleged the Community Organization for Poverty Elimination Inc. improperly billed to a government-supported program, the AP reported. COPE’s board members were permitted to study the report before it was released.
The opinion said reasonable delay may be justified in special circumstances such as a voluminous request or the need to consult with an attorney to see if information is exempt.
(Ark. Att’y Gen. Op. 94-225)