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City of Fort Smith again faces FOIA lawsuit

Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen filed suit on behalf of Kristin Kitchens alleging that the city violated the FOIA open-meetings provision.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Another lawsuit alleging violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was filed against the city of Fort Smith Tuesday (Dec. 7) in Sebastian County Circuit Court. Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen filed suit on behalf of Kristin Kitchens alleging that the city violated the FOIA open-meetings provision.

The complaint and amended complaint allege 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 complaint states 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, noted a news release from McCutchen.

According to the complaint, the vote constituted an informal meeting and illegal vote which was not public and for which no notice was given.

“The City has stated that they have already paid $300 million toward the Consent Decree and apparently still owe north of $600 million. It is their intent to generate 150 million dollars through a new sales tax, which will be on the ballot on Feb. 8, 2021. Any discussions or votes regarding a special election that will affect the pocket books of the citizens of Fort Smith should be held in the light of day and not in private/secret meetings,” McCutchen said in the statement.

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