FOIA Leads to Attempted Censorship
How South Arkansas Reckoning got started
Arkansas Freedom of Information has long been a shining star for transparency.
Leaders like the late Republican Governor Winthrop Rockefeller realized the best oversight is from the citizens of Arkansas. Like the founders of South Arkansas Reckoning.
In March 2023 the two founders crossed paths because of a superintendent hired in the Cleveland County School District in Rison who had left a neighboring district.
Questions from Rison residents about potential changes to the Cleveland County School District led Suzi Parker, a Pine Bluff native and investigative reporter for more than 30 years, to turn her attention to the Sheridan School District. In 2022 the Sheridan school board decided to mutually terminate their superintendent, who is now in Cleveland County.
South Arkansas Reckoning may not have existed had a fake Facebook profile not messaged Suzi the names of parents in the Sheridan School District. She started making contact.
Suzi, who has six-generation roots in Cleveland County, was freelancing for numerous national and local news outlets at the time including investigating Hunter Biden. After sending a Freedom of Information request to the Sheridan School District, she received text messages from an editor.
Suzi smelled blood in the water and soon severed ties with the editor.
That wasn't the first time she had been warned about Sheridan. In fact, in 2022, Suzi had discussed working in Sheridan. No way, she was told.
Now what was hiding in Sheridan?
Suzi reached out to Richard Owens, a parent who had been investigating the Sheridan School District for more than a year, and they began exchanging documents that both had obtained under FOIA.
One page led to another that led to one courthouse to another and soon they had enough information to write a book. So it would seem. Yet, critical documents were missing. With each FOIA request, those same critical documents were missing.
That's illegal by the way.
A FOIA request must be acknowledged by the custodian of the records, and that custodian must respond to each item requested by releasing the document or listing the specific reason for exemption.
This months-long FOIA battle to obtain records from the Sheridan School District continues to this day.
Like-minded with killer instincts and take-no-prisoners fire, we decided to create a media organization that would expose corruption, hold accountable those who violate FOIA and expose what local governments do not want you to see.
That was where the idea of South Arkansas Reckoning began.
Suzi has written thousands of articles and covered the Clinton Administration extensively. She has tackled Democrats and Republicans and written for national and international publications. But returning to South Arkansas, she has realized that the best stories aren't in Washington or even Little Rock. They are in small towns and on the backroads of Arkansas where our families have been for generations.
South Arkansas Reckoning is committed to truth. Less bullshit. More transparency.
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