Two Arkansas Attorneys Sue West Memphis School District for FOIA Violations
Local school districts run amok of the law
[Editorial Note: South Arkansas Reckoning rarely publishes press releases. However, when it comes to Freedom of Information Act violations and our tax dollars, we pay attention.]
Fort Smith attorneys Joey McCutchen and Stephen Napurano announced that they filed a lawsuit against the West Memphis School District and Board of Education for violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The lawsuit arose following the termination of former West Memphis School District Superintendent Richard Atwill’s contract during a Board meeting in April 2023.
During the April meeting, the Board entered executive session to discuss a “personnel matter.”
After returning from executive session, the Board voted to terminate Superintendent Atwill’s contract and approved a $350,000 severance package. According to Board Member Dr. Kimberly Wolfe, no explanation was given for Atwill’s termination. The Board then named Willie Rhoades as interim superintendent nearly a day after terminating Atwill’s contract.
The Board announced in May 2023 that Dr. Terrence Brown was selected as the new superintendent after the Board conducted interviews. No notice of these interviews was given to the public or media in clear violation of FOIA. Emails obtained through a FOIA Request showed that the Board secretly interviewed four candidates for the superintendent position. The candidates were Terrence Brown, Wyonia Scott, Toriano Green, and Rodriguez Broadnax.
The suit alleges that the West Memphis School District and Board of Education violated FOIA by not providing notice of the interviews to the public and media.
McCutchen said, “There appears to be complete lack of transparency by several board members beginning with the termination of Dr. Richard Atwill, the payment of $350,000 of taxpayer money, and concluding with the secret hiring of the new replacement Superintendent Terrence Brown.”
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