It's Not Just the Sarah Sanders Administration Lacking Transparency
AUDIO ALERT: Listen to Attorneys Educate Local Government about Evading FOIA and Deleting Messages
If you think the lack of transparency only exists in Governor Sarah Sanders’ administration, think again.
The dodging of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and lack of government transparency occurs every day at the local level.
Take the Sheridan School District.
South Arkansas Reckoning under FOIA obtained an April 2023 school board work session from Andy Mayberry, a former Arkansas state representative and now the school’s communications director. Jay Bequette and Cody Kees, the school’s attorneys, gave a presentation about how to avoid FOIA and circumvent overall transparency. While laughing and joking, the Sheridan School Board learned about the LEARNS Act and:
Deleting text messages between school board members
Shortening school board meetings
Avoiding the creation of public records
Discouraging public / parent input at meetings
Terminating a teacher under LEARNS
Giving performance-based raises
One hot topic in the audio was the retention of notes on the former superintendent.
In Dec. 2021, that superintendent was initially suspended with pay.
He ultimately left with a signed mutual termination agreement in March 2022 that prohibits either party from discussing the reasons why he left.
In that agreement, the school district bought out the superintendent’s contract with a lump sum payment exceeding $177,000.
The attorneys also discussed ethics and generally prohibited actions of board members including nepotism, contracting with or conducting business with the school – directly or indirectly – and the potential felony charges for failing to disclose to the Arkansas Department of Education under Arkansas Act 1599 or Act 1381.
The Sheridan School District with an average of 4,200 students every year. This board spends more than $48 million a year of your tax money.
Friendly Warning: This audio is long but well worth taking the time to listen. Don’t take our word for it. Listen for yourselves.