Arkansas Government Records: Where to Obtain Government Records for the State of Arkansas?
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act stipulates that all individuals who are a citizen of the state of Arkansas have a right to view and access public records. The citizenship clause was overturned in 2006 but was put back in place. The law gives all citizens access to public records, however with some exemptions.
The laws regard government records in Arkansas are quite vague. It gets difficult for even lawyers to distinguish what is exempt from viewing. Generally, the public is not allowed to access records of closed sessions or meetings regarding the appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, and the resignation of individual officers.
Open Public Meeting Act
Government records are any evidence of writing, sound, or video that reflects an official function. Documents of all government employees in Arkansas are presumed to be public records. According to the laws of the state, all meetings funded wholly or partly by public funds, whether they be private or governmental, are deemed as public meetings. This helps create a sense of transparency and honesty with the government and its people. Anyone can find out the time and place of these meetings through the Act.
The state of Arkansas does not have a singular address for records. You have to contact the agency whose records you require. Requests for records are made in the following ways:
- Through mail
- By email
- Through a verbal request
The agency through which you are requesting the record has to respond within three days with either of the following responses:
- A copy of the records
- Time and date within three days, when you can come and look at the records
- If the records are not available to the public at the time of your request, it is the agency's responsibility to send you a written confirmation with the time and date by which the records will be available. However, the time has to be within three days of sending the confirmation.
If you receive incomplete records, you have a right to ask them the reason for their redaction. The agency has to tell you why the records were not available for viewing. If you feel like the records were unjustly withheld from you, you have the option of appealing the decision in court, the proceedings of which have to take place within seven days.
You can appeal directly to the circuit or county court. If you are not satisfied with the result of the court proceeding, you can contact the AG's office. All appeals are legal processes, and the decision of the court is final. The courts will rule in your favor unless the records have been explicitly sealed away under judicial orders.
You do not have to pay a fee for requesting and viewing the original copies of the records. However, there will be "actual costs" if you choose to make copies of the documents for your personal use. "Actual costs" include only the price of printing, photocopying, or otherwise producing the documents in the format you want. If you choose to have the records mailed to you, you will have to pay mailing expenses.
You are not required to pay the agency a "finding fee" or a cost for retrieving the documents. Man-hours engaged in searching for the required documents will also not require payments. However, if your search request disrupts the working of the agency, you will be required to pay a compensation amount. This amount will vary, depending on the records you requested and the time taken to search for them.
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