by Max Brantley
The Associated Press and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported yesterday and today on assertions by Secretary of State Mark Martin's executive assistant, Teresa Belew, that she quit because of the office's unwillingness to fully comply with the state Freedom of Information Act in responding to requests for information from the Arkansas Times. We first wrote about this Friday.
The AP account, widely circulated nationally, mentions multiple problems that have marred Martin's first three months on the job —- from the new car purchase, to unauthorized spending of Board of Apportionment money, to dubious spending on consulting contracts (this the real bone of contention in the Times' FOI requests), to staff problems.
As far as the FOI by the Times goes, I know what I know and I know what I think. I know it was an extended and unnecessarily complicated process to get information to which the Times was entitled. The office puts this down to miscommunication. Belew, who actually did the work and who carries no brief for this newspaper, alleges — quoting Martin staff in the process — malicious intent. You can guess what I think.
Going forward, I suspect we'll have more opportunities to measure the office's good faith.