Robert Newcomb, an attorney for police officers locked in conflict with Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey, has had to go to court to get information he can’t dislodge from city officials.
He’s had some success.
Newcomb’s biggest suit is his effort to dislodge a review of police personnel practices conducted under contract for the city by an Arkansas Tech professor, Loretta Cochran. I was told the work hadn’t been completed more than a week after an official opinion from the attorney general said July 14 opinion it WAS completed and that at least portions of it should be public. I have asked for whatever is public and have received no response, beyond the acknowledgment of my FOI request. Newcomb responded to my questions about this matter and also referenced a new attorney general’s opinion I was interested in.
Here’s the Rothwell-Witherell correspondence.
Now about that more recent attorney general’s opinion. It referred to a request to Little Rock for all open or closed human resource complaints against an unnamed employee. The opinion said that the record should be released.
Suspecting this was more police-related information, I asked the city for all material provided under that FOI request. I was told I would have to wait. The city’s FOI liaison, who seems mostly serves to delay information requests, said my request required notice to all affected employees. I say this is baloney. If material has been judged public and approved for release for one request, a request for that information by someone else need not be run through the notice/attorney general routine again.
Newcomb confirms the opinion pertained to requests he made. He has received that public information and shared it with me, even though the taxpayer-financed city hall will not give it to me. UPDATE: A day after Newcomb got the information, I finally got it at 3:42 p.m. Wednesday, after repeated complaints to the FOI liaison and Stephanie Jackson, who handles PR for the mayor.
This is a continuation of complaints that Humphrey has played favorites in promotions and discipline, allegations already made in pending lawsuits. The situation is festering, with officers talking of leaving and complaining about disparate treatment.
The mayor is not talking about it. The chief doesn’t talk to reporters. City directors have heard the complaints. Some are concerned. Perhaps more information will be revealed when Newcomb gets into court before Judge Alice Gray.
Turmoil in the most expensive city department amid concern about violent crime is not an ideal backdrop for the city’s half-a-billion-dollar sales tax campaign. Nor is resistance to transparency about city government details, something of a theme of city director questions at last night’s board meeting about the mayor’s idea for spending federal COVID relief money.