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FOI information on Consulate news article

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This entry was posted on 5/1/2007 2:27 PM and is filed under Huckabee illegal Consulate.

FOI Information Provided In Consulate Case
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 8:50 AM CDT
By Wanda Freeman



A local illegal immigration opponent’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit appears to be resolved now that the defendant state agency has complied, an attorney said Monday.

Joe McCutchen, who has in the past participated in the Minuteman Project at the U.S.-Mexico border, last week filed suit in circuit court against Arkansas Rehabilitation Services and Robert P. Trevino in his official capacity as commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Education.

McCutchen alleged his rights were denied after Trevino and the agency failed to comply with his March 14 FOIA request for an unredacted copy of a July 21, 2006, e-mail concerning plans to open a Mexican consulate in Arkansas. The consulate opened Wednesday in Little Rock.

Assistant Attorney General Bishop Woosley sent a letter Friday to McCutchen’s attorney, Sam “Chip” Sexton III, giving the redacted information and explaining the delays that led to the lawsuit.

Under the header “Consulate Contract,” the e-mail stated that a person whose name is blacked out had entered into an agreement with Mexico’s government, and someone whose name is blacked out had “arranged to purchase the site of the consulate on a 20-year note.” The estimated monthly payment is also blacked out.

In his letter, Woosley wrote that the first redaction was the full name of commercial real estate developer Bruce Burrow, the second redaction was another reference to Burrow as “Bruce,” and the third redaction was the mortgage payment of $7,500 per month.

When Trevino first supplied the redacted hard copy to McCutchen in August 2006, Woosley wrote, he believed the redactions “appeared necessary to comply with the FOIA, which exempts from disclosure information that might tend to give advantage to competitors.”

Woosley explained that Trevino believed Burrow’s name and the proposed mortgage qualified for that exemption because the real estate transaction had not been completed.

After McCutchen filed a more specific request for the e-mail on March 27, Trevino wrote him April 6 stating he would be out of the office because his father died and would look for the e-mail upon his return around April 13. McCutchen filed suit April 23, nearly six weeks after his initial request, alleging “willful” noncompliance with the FOIA.

Woosley states in his letter that when Trevino returned to the office he discovered he no longer had the unredacted e-mail. No unredacted hard copy had been made, and the computer version was deleted with the change of administration in January.

“Mr. Trevino responded by letter that he no longer had a copy of that particular e-mail, but his response letter apparently was received after the lawsuit had been filed,” Woosley writes.

Woosley states that with the completion of the real estate transaction, competitive concerns are no longer an issue, and Trevino “is happy to provide Mr. McCutchen with the information that was redacted.”

Sexton, who said Monday afternoon that he had not yet withdrawn the lawsuit, confirmed that the information Woolsey provided satisfied the FOIA request.



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