I heard back today on a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request I sent to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office which I purposefully tailored as narrowly as possible.  McDaniel has admitted to an “inappropriate” relationship with Hot Springs attorney Andi Davis.  Since making this admission, he has since refused to say anything else.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, they are still many questions to answer swirling around this relationship. One is: what knowledge did the chief legal official of our state have regarding the homicide that took place at the home of his mistress?

So, I asked for two days worth of phone and email records for February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012.  This is the day of and the day following the shooting. I repeat – only these two days were requested.

Shocker! The request was denied by Chief Deputy Attorney General Bradford Phelps.

“The Arkansas FOIA provides that certain records are exempt from disclosure, stating that ‘it is the specific intent…[that the following exempt materials] shall not be deemed to be made open to the public’ under the FOIA. (Ark. Code Ann. Sec. 25-19-105(b)). Among the public records that are specifically exempted from disclosure by the FOIA are the unpublished memorandum, working papers and correspondence of the Attorney General. (Ark. Code Ann. Sec. 25-19-105 (b)(7)),” wrote Phelps. “Pursuant to the above stated exemption, this request is denied.”

So McDaniel is pointing to this “working paper” exemption to refuse to turn over phone records – again only two days worth – which may help shed light on how much he knew regarding a murder that took place at the home of his mistress.

If this is not a flagrant use of the exemption provided in the FOIA, then I don’t know what is.  Whether or not the law allows McDaniel a loophole to hide behind or not, he needs to turn over these records.  He put himself in this uncomfortable situation and he has so far acted as if he does not owe the people of Arkansas any explanation.  Hiding behind FOIA for a very narrowly-tailored request does not help him clear up any of these questions.

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Jason Tolbert
Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.