A Fort Smith resident is suing three city directors in a second Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed surrounding emails sent by city officials, according to a news release.
Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen filed the second lawsuit on behalf of resident Bruce Wade against city directors Mike Lorenz, Keith Lau and Andre Good. The lawsuit accuses the three of violating FOIA when they sent emails regarding a settlement offer from McCutchen about the first FOIA lawsuit.
City Administrator Carl Geffken emailed the settlement offer to the Board of Directors and the mayor on Aug. 9 and recommended that the board not accept the offer.
Ward 1 Director Keith Lau responded with, “So according to the premise of guilt proposed in this settlement my response to all in this email is an admitted violation of AFOIA. So to all other than Carl close your eyes and to Carl I do not want to settle or admit guilt in any way on this matter. I’m tired of being Joey McCutcheons advertising firm and want to take a stand against his BS.”
Ward 2 Director Andre Good replied, “Well said Director Lau. I whole-heartedly agree.”
Ward 3 Director Mike Lorenz later sent, “I am stating my opinion only and suggest that each of us carefully considers this case/offer and be prepared to fully discuss and support such opinion at the September 5th board meeting. I am simply providing my opinion in this matter so feel free to stop reading at this point and delete this email if you do not want to see my opinion. I will be brief and explain in detail at the meeting during our discussion on September 5th.
“Opinion: This lawsuit is a frivolous waste of resources and mocks the FOIA law and our legal system. I am hopeful that the judge will not only find in the city’s favor in this case but also fine McCutcheon for such frivolous abuse of the law and using these cases for what is clearly a marketing/advertising plan for his law firm. I will not admit guilt to a violation that I know does not exist.”
Lorenz sees the purpose of FOIA as a way to ensure decisions are not made out of public view. No decision was made and the emails can be seen by anyone who wants to see them via a FOIA request, he told the Times Record.
“I wanted to make my personal thoughts clear so that everyone understood my position,” Lorenz said as to why he did not wait until the public meeting to express his opinion.
Lorenz said the law should better define what constitutes sharing information versus what constitutes having a meeting. He has never received any training on FOIA.
At this point, Lorenz’s focus is on moving forward, he said.
“If the city wants to stop being my advertising firm, stop violating FOIA,” McCutchen said.
Times Record reporter John Lovett contributed to this story.