Legislative redistricting begins | Arkansas Blog

Legislative redistricting begins

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MARK MARTIN: Did oath include secrecy?
  • MARK MARTIN: Did oath include secrecy?
The Board of Apportionment is meeting this morning. Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel voted to hire Joe Woodson as staff coordinator. Secretary of State Mark Martin objected, naturally. Expect shortly a Republican news release claiming Beebe and McDaniel are partisan, while Martin is an honest broker, laboring to do the Lord's and people's work against unfair opponents. The Board hopes to finish its work by July.

I'll have a more to say in time about the honesty and transparency of the Mark Martin secretary of state's office. For now, I can say that it hasn't been distinguished by openness. It has delayed and not fully complied with my FOI requests about staffing and consulting contracts. And, based on documents released so far, it seems reasonable to believe that officials in the office, including Martin himself, are using private e-mail accounts in a bid to prevent public access to official work in the office. I made a request for a month's worth of e-mails by the secretary of state and got not a single one generated by Martin. Do you believe that someone known for his prolific use of electronic communication as a legislator writes no office e-mails? I don't.

I do believe that e-mails written on work hours about work topics are subject to the FOI whether they are funneled through a private account or the state's e-mail system. I'm hoping, still, that Martin's office will decide to be more forthcoming. FOI requests wouldn't be necessary at all if officials in the office would answer simple questions, such as about a private contract Martin has entered with a Republican-oriented consulting organization for a "strategic plan." After all, if the public interest is your only concern — and you are spending public money — why should there be any secrets about it? (Well, I guess there WAS that improper expenditure of money on a new car and other items.)

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