Notice of Appeal filed in the Kitchens v. City of Fort Smith case over FOIA violations
On December 6 , 2021 Attorneys Joey McCutchen, Stephen Napurano and Robert Steinbuch filed suit on behalf of his client Kristin Kitchens against the City of Fort Smith alleging that the City violated the open-meetings provision of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Complaint and Amended Complaint alleged that the Fort Smith Board of Directors engaged in secret meetings by way of one-on-one conversations between City Clerk Sherri Gard, and voted against two proposals related to a 0.75% Sales and Use Tax.
The Board of Directors privately rejected a proposal which would have given a percentage of the money collected by the tax to the parks department. The lawsuit alleged that that vote constituted an informal meeting and illegal vote which was not public and for which no notice was given.
On December 16, 2020, Sebastian County Circuit Court Judge ruled in favor of the City of Fort Smith.
Today, Kristen Kitchens, through her attorneys, Joey McCutchen, Stephen Napurano, and Robert Steinbuch, filed a Notice of Appeal in the Kitchens v. City of Fort Smith case.
McCutchen said, “If the Arkansas legislature had intended to grant cities an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for agenda formation, it would have done so in the last half century. The City of Fort Smith has used this agenda formation procedure to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act, making the public meeting nothing more than a charade.
Robert Steinbuch, who is one of the authors of the “FOIA bible,” The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act 6th Edition, added, “this agenda formation procedure in this instance violates Harris v. City of Fort Smith, in which the Supreme Court held that a series of one-on-one meetings between a city administrator and members of a city board of directors was a meeting of the board for purposes of the FOIA. Steinbuch further noted, “ The Arkansas legislature needs to define what constitutes a meeting in Arkansas or further lawsuits will most certainly result.”