ANSWER MAN: A new City Hall media policy requires all queries to go through Mayor Frank Scott Jr. That has practical and political implications.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Rachel Herzog reports
this morning on a new policy instituted by Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
to require all media requests for information to be routed through the mayor's office and his senior adviser Kendra Pruitt and part-time city employee Stephanie Jackson, who handled PR for Scott in his mayoral campaign. This is problematic.
I encountered the leading edge of this new policy last week when I made a Freedom of Information Act request to City Attorney Tom Carpenter
for a draft of the ordinance requested by Scott to create a citizen police review board. None is available I was told in an e-mail on which Pruitt and Jackson were copied. Hmmmm
, I thought.
Here's the problem, apart from the aroma of autocracy. Of course
any city employee can be expected to let the boss know when the media is inquiring about a subject with any degree of controversy.
But Little Rock city government is a sprawling $300 million enterprise.
Must every call to a police information officer for a detail on a crime report be routed through the mayor?
When D-G columnist Frank Fellone asks the traffic department about a new stoplight, must it first go through the mayor?
My frequent calls to the Planning Department about this or that item on the Board of Adjust agenda? Must they, too, first be routed through Stephanie Jackson and Kendra Pruitt for "processing"?
Must my inquiries about Scott's outstanding bill in the campaign for Jackson's work and the still-pending question of who paid for his inaugural party go through them first?
It goes on and on — from my question to Public Works about my garbage pickup to Luke Skrable's many inquiries about code enforcement to election-year calls to the city clerk for election filings to the Zoo director about a new anteater.
As a practical matter, the mayor doesn't — or shouldn't — need to take this on. It's a delay in service to those seeking information and a time-waster for the mayor and staff. Politically, the action is more ominous. Ominous, too, is Herzog's indication that the office will be slow to respond to FOI requests, such as hers on the new media policy.
There is, by the way, no FOI exemption for "draft" versions of city paperwork such as documents that have undoubtedly been produced as Scott moves toward a proposal on a police review board. Scott's responses to questions about this and other matters, such as the media policy, will tell us a lot about his vow to be transparent. Note to the mayor: Your texts and e-mails to Jackson, Pruitt and other advisers ARE public information.