Friday, June 15, 2012

TOP STORY >> Woman wins FOI case but found guilty

Even though Partne Daugherty of Jacksonville is a convicted felon and had to serve time over a speeding ticket, she did beat the Jacksonville Police Department this week over a Freedom of Information Act violation.

Representing herself, she appealed two key parts of a lower court ruling that rejected her complaint that Jacksonville officials had violated the FOIA in response to her request for records related to her being stopped for speeding.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday in her favor on one issue, but not the other one.

The Supreme Court ruled that governments can’t refuse to comply because a valid request is deemed unreasonable or overbroad. And it gave a public-friendly interpretation for the first time to rules on the cost of reproducing electronic records.

Daugherty had been stopped for speeding in 2010 and asked, in a series of FOI requests, for three weeks of police audio and video recordings. The police department said that request was too burdensome and costly. The department also tried to charge her $2,475 for the copies she wanted.

The court ruled that “nothing in the FOIA allows a public agency to decline to reply to a request on the basis of being overbroad or burdensome.” The Supreme Court said it was not a decision for the police department to make.

The court also turned down the department’s explanation for the outrageous fees.

But the court rejected Daugherty’s claim that the police department had violated the law when it purged the records. The justices said they had concerns about the department’s practice of purging records after 45 days, but it was not a violation of the law.

The records she wanted are long gone, but the next time she makes an FOIA request, the department will not be able to charge her except for the cost of copies or discs, according to recent attorney generals’ opinions and reinforced by Thursday’s decision.

Daugherty served 10 years for solicitation to commit murder and theft by deception.