With no emails from Secretary of State Martin, Democrats make another FOIA request

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 205 views 

The Democratic Party of Arkansas has sent a Freedom of Information Act request for all emails between Secretary of State Mark Martin and key staff members after documents related to a previous FOIA request didn’t include any emails between him and them.

The DPA is questioning if Martin is using a private account.

The DPA’s general counsel, Chris Burks, sent a FOIA request Tuesday (Sept. 6) asking for all emails sent Aug. 1 to Sept. 6 between Martin and Kelly Boyd, chief deputy secretary of state; A.J. Kelly, deputy secretary of state and general counsel; Joseph Wood, deputy secretary of state; Sid Rosenbaum, business office director; and Leslie Bellamy, Elections Division director. The request also covers emails sent from any private email accounts.

In June, the secretary of state sent county clerks a list of felons who were on an Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC) database and had supposedly lost their voting privileges. That list included people who were not convicted felons, and the ACIC did not specify felons who have had their voting rights restored. On Sunday, the Democrat-Gazette reported the number of incorrect records was 4,000-5,000, according to Brad Cazort, repository administrator for the Arkansas Crime Information Center.

The DPA requested documents related to the case Aug. 3, but the secretary of state’s office initially refused before sending a box of documents Aug. 10. The DPA said the documents were incomplete and delivered after the law’s required three-day window. According to the DPA, the attorney general’s office instructed the secretary of state to comply with the request. On Aug. 25, the secretary of state released about 2,600 digital records that the DPA said consisted mostly of internal emails and emails with county clerks.

David Mitchell, an attorney with the Rose Law Firm, which the DPA has retained in the case, reiterated the request Aug. 30. In a letter to Mitchell, Boyd wrote that Mitchell’s letter contained “inflammatory language and mischaracterizations.” Nevertheless, the office sent thousands of digital records Tuesday that included electronic copies of previously produced records as the DPA requested, with this batch not redacting email addresses and computer file names. It did not produce emails that the office said contained information that cannot be disclosed under Arkansas law.

Burks said the documents have included no emails from Martin.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if Mark Martin personally didn’t send emails to his staff on this topic or any topic, but what really surprises me is that people aren’t sending him emails,” he said.

Asked if it’s possible that all decisions about the felony records were made below Martin’s level, Burks said, “It is, and then that gives (rise to the issue) of whether he’s violating the Constitution and not doing his job, not doing his duty to administer the records.”

The lack of emails led the DPA to send the second FOIA request to determine if Martin is sending any emails to his chief deputies from a public or private account and if he’s doing his job. Burks said the DPA thinks it’s likely Martin has a private email address.

“We think we’ve really got him in a vice here, and he needs to just come out and answer your questions, answer the media’s questions about what’s really going on,” he said.

Chris Powell, the secretary of state’s spokesman, responded to the DPA’s press release about the subject by saying he was “not going to dignify such a ridiculous and baseless attack with a response.”

The DPA is considering a lawsuit over what it says is the secretary of state’s office’s initial failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. Burks said the DPA is waiting on the office’s response to this latest FOIA request before deciding what to do next.