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Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, public meeting


The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) of 1967 provides open public access to “all meetings, formal and informal, special or regular, of the governing bodies of all municipalities, counties, townships, and school districts and all boards, bureaus, commissions, or organizations of the State of Arkansas.” Through the years, FOIA’s open meetings provision has been amended as to executive sessions, to provide for recording of meetings, and to provide for meetings via electronic means in the event of a declared disaster emergency. However, the basic requirement that meetings of governing bodies be open to the public has remained unchanged since adoption in 1967. Although expressly including informal as well as formal meetings and special as well as regular meetings, FOIA’s “public meeting” requirement—unlike nearly all other states’ sunshine laws—provides no definition for what constitutes a “meeting.” This article chronicles the Arkansas Supreme Court’s treatment of FOIA’s public meeting requirement and proposes a statutory definition of “meeting” that is consistent with the court’s precedent.