NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · ARKANSAS · Freedom of Information · Jan. 16, 2007
New governor drops records appeal
Jan. 16, 2007 · In his first week in office, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) has released information related to the firing of a state parole board official, dropping the state’s court appeal in the matter and reversing the position of his predecessor.
Lary Zeno resigned his position on the state Parole Board in May following an investigation into what was then described as his professional conduct. Information released by Beebe’s office last week reveals that Zeno stored sexually explicit material on his state-owned computer, and made lewd comments to and inappropriately touched state employees, according to the news organizations that obtained the records from the governor’s office.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had been trying for months to obtain the records and took the administration to court over the matter. The paper won a favorable court ruling in June, resulting in a judge ordering then-Gov. Mike Huckabee’s office to turn over documents it was holding related to the investigation into Zeno’s conduct.
Huckabee, a Republican, had appealed that ruling, arguing that the investigation materials fell within the working papers and personnel file exceptions to the state open records law.
Beebe decided to drop that appeal, which was still pending when he took office last week, and release the records.
“I believe in the transparency of government and I support the strength and integrity of the Freedom of Information Act,” Beebe said in a press release. “If this document is a working paper, the public’s right to know outweighs any exemption from the reach of the FOIA.”
Despite that pro-FOIA stance, it was Beebe who, as then-Arkansas attorney general, argued the Huckabee administration’s position in court.
(Huckabee v. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) — NW