Lawyer offers to settle suit over email exchange
FORT SMITH — An attorney has offered to settle a lawsuit he filed against the city accusing officials of violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act in an exchange of email involving the city’s Civil Service Commission.
Joey McCutchen, representing Bruce Wade of Fort Smith, sent a proposed court order Thursday to City Attorney Jerry Canfield in which the city would admit email exchanged from May 21 to May 31 constituted informal meetings of the city directors requiring public notice to be given.
The two-page proposed order also said city directors wouldn’t engage in informal meetings without giving public notice “whether by email or otherwise.”
“If the proposal is accepted, it will save the taxpayers thousands of dollars while ensuring transparency in government as intended by the Freedom of Information Act,” McCutchen wrote in a news release.
McCutchen said Friday he hadn’t received a response from the city. He said he hoped city directors would discuss the proposal at their next meeting.
City Administrator Carl Geffken declined to comment on McCutchen’s proposal Friday until he discussed it with the city’s attorney and notified city directors.
The Freedom of Information Act violation accusation grew out of email exchanged over the Civil Service Commission’s inaction in a May 22 meeting on a request by Police Chief Nathaniel Clark to change commission rules
to allow nonmembers of the force to apply for supervisory positions.
Now, positions of sergeant, lieutenant, captain and major are filled by promoting officers from within the department.
In Wade’s lawsuit, McCutchen included email he says were circulated among the city directors and Geffken.
In email from City Director Andre Good to Geffken, Good called for dissolution of the commission.
“Please share with the entire board of directors,” Good wrote in the May 23 email to Geffken. “I believe it is in our best interest to dissolve our Civil Service Commission as quickly as possible.”
Geffken forwarded Good’s email to the other city directors and to Mayor Sandy Sanders.
City Director Mike Lorenz sent a response May 31 to an email from Geffken suggesting options for dealing with the Civil Service Commission’s lack of action on Clark’s rule change request.
In it, Lorenz said he preferred the option to pass a nonbinding resolution from city directors showing their support for Clark’s rule change request. The city directors passed such a resolution at their June 6 meeting.