Arkansas Public Records Laws Face Pressure from Lawmakers and Courts

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Efforts to strip Arkansas' law protecting the public's access to meetings and documents have been fought back over the past year.  But advocates and experts say agencies are finding new ways to withhold public information.

The fight for open government celebrated a brief victory last year when the state's highest court ordered Pulaski County to release most of the e-mails sent between a former Pulaski County employee and his lover.  But experts say the winding path to their release may provide a roadmap for agencies to resist disclosure.

Richard Peltz, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock law professor and expert on the state's FOI law, says government agencies are learning more about how to resist disclosure.  He says the lack of an enforcement mechanism is one reason agencies can move slowly.

Peltz says another troublespot in the state's FOI , the "working papers" exemption, doesn't appear to be changed anytime soon.  The state's FOI law exempts the governor's "unpublished memoranda, working papers and correspondence" from release.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)