The city will pay local lawyer and blogger Matt Campbell an estimated $8,500 to reimburse him for the time he spent researching a public records claim.
Little Rock has agreed to pay a local attorney and blogger an estimated $8,557 to settle a public records lawsuit that could have seen the Arkansas city’s mayor sent to the witness stand.
According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, plaintiff Matt Campbell, known for running the Blog Hog Report, demanded that the city should pay him approximately $300 per hour for the 27.9 hours he spent litigating his Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Campbell’s damages also include the $185 he paid to file the lawsuit, as well as the $2 he spent on parking to attend an October hearing.
During the same hearing, Little Rock’s legal counsel effectively admitted that the records—most of which pertained to Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s failed LITFest project—had been wrongfully withheld.
The Gazette reports that the city’s Board of Directors approved the resolution to compensate Campbell on Tuesday.
The resolution authorizes the city to pay Campbell about $8,600, subject to four conditions, including the immediate dismissal of the lawsuit.
Campbell, writes the Gazette, had purportedly been investigating the mayor for weeks, regularly posting documents and findings to the Blog Hog Report.
The lawyer had previously derided Scott as “a dishonest person” who has regularly lied to his constituents and sought to reroute municipal funds and properties to his political allies.
However, the city’s settlement offer is still tentative and subject to final approval by Judge Chip Welch.
While Little Rock effectively admitting to wrongfully withholding records, Campbell has said that the case is still not wholly resolved, since Scott has failed to release cell phone records that the plaintiff claims should be publicly accessible.
Scott, adds the Democrat, has been ordered to appear before the court on Wednesday to answer questions about the records.
Nevertheless, the city’s legal counsel has pushed back against Campbell’s demands, saying that they have provided all relevant documents, insisting that the mayor’s personal cell phone records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as Campbell believes that they are.
“Compliance with such a standard would be near, if not completely, impossible and would take the [Freedom of Information Act] away from a law intended to keep the citizenry ‘advised of the performance of public officials and the of the decisions that are reached in public activity and in making public policy’ by transforming it into an administrative weapon to be used against any public employee a citizen wants to target,” Little Rock attorneys said in a court filing. “Granted, the [Freedom of Information Act] is to be construed liberally, but to be construed liberally does not mean it is limitless.