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County judge cited in records-law case

Court order faults him over his emails by Debra Hale-Shelton | November 4, 2018 at 2:17 a.m.

CONWAY -- A circuit judge on Friday signed an order saying Jim Baker, the Faulkner County county judge, had violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Baker, a Democrat seeking re-election, and Bob Gregory, a Republican who supports Baker's opponent, had agreed on the order beforehand.

Faulkner County Tax Assessor Damon Edwards, a Republican, is challenging Baker's re-election bid.

Baker had refused to provide Gregory with two months of emails that Baker had sent and received on his government-funded email account. Gregory sued Wednesday, and Baker released the emails Thursday.

Baker already had released the emails to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which filed a separate public-records request.

Circuit Judge Chris Carnahan ordered Baker to pay $187 in court costs. "Attorney's fees are waived," the order added.

Faulkner County's attorney, David Hogue, said Baker, not the county, would pay the costs.

"Defendant [Baker] violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide the identified public records within three business days," the order said in part.

Gregory's attorney, Joey McCutchen of Fort Smith, said Thursday that he would also seek a criminal investigation, but he said Friday that Gregory must decide first if he wants the sheriff's office to investigate the matter.

Gregory sought the emails after he learned of one that Baker sent on Oct. 24 to numerous people in response to an email advising him that a water infrastructure measure had been signed into federal law. The measure included an initiative that addresses modernizing such infrastructure, especially in rural areas.

In his reply from his government-owned email account, Baker wrote, "This is great, right now I am trying to get votes for re elect to help on these issues. Please contact all you can to go vote,......I need it."

State law prohibits public officials from using their government-owned email accounts for their campaigns.

State Desk on 11/04/2018

Print Headline: County judge cited in records-law case


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