Several readers want us to link to the Ark. Supreme Court decision today that said a man who successfully sued the Fort Smith board for holding a series of secret meetings to work on a real estate deal violated the Freedom of Information Act. The vote was 5-2. Dissenters note that it will be hard as hell to sue people when, even if you win, you pay the bill.
Fort Smith got off because city board members were found to have acted in good faith in believing their one-on-one meetings with the city administrator were legal.
Trust us. We know. A decision to pursue an FOI claim has to be done with deep pockets and a belief that the public good outweighs your cost. It is a rare day when a public official carries the freight for keeping you in the dark. You don’t think the Huckster knows that?
The dissent from Justices Glaze and Imber in this case say it all:
Although the public has greatly benefitted by Harris’s actions, Harris has incurred a substantial monetary loss as a result of this court’s decision. Given these circumstances, Harris has won nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory. Hereafter, only the wealthy or the news media can afford to bring lawsuits against public officials who choose, like the City of Fort Smith, to refuse to follow the dictates of the FOIA.