Hearing scheduled April 21 in FOI lawsuit

An April 21 hearing has been scheduled in Jefferson County Circuit Court in a lawsuit filed against Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and the city over an alleged violation of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Judge Jodi Raines Dennis will hear the case beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Fifth Division Circuit Court.

Little Rock attorney Lawrence A. Walker, who is one of the attorneys representing the family of the late Monroe Isadore, said Hubanks violated the law when he did not provide information that Walker requested “in a timely manner.”

Isadore, who was 107 years old, died on Sept. 7, 2013, after exchanging gunfire with police at the end of a standoff at a Pine Bluff home.

Specifically, Walker asked for all documents that mention or discuss police officers shooting people in the last five years, documents mentioning or discussing officers discharging firearms in the last five years, and all documents mentioning or discussing friendly-fire incidents in the last five years.

Walker also asked for any documents or memorandums that mention Isadore.

City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott has filed a motion asking Dennis to dismiss the lawsuit, and in a response filed Wednesday, she said the city received Walker’s request on March 13 and immediately began gathering the requested information. Two days later, Hubanks sent an email to Hadden-Scott saying that Walker’s request was very broad and asking if it could be narrowed down.

Hadden-Scott said she called Walker that day but he was scheduled to be in mediation that day. He called back March 18 while Hadden-Scott was out of the office and when she returned the call, Walker said his request could not be narrowed down. Hadden-Scott said she told Walker that some of the information he requested could be picked up by noon on March 19.

At about 10:30 a.m., Walker filed his complaint after receiving an email from Hubanks that may have offended Walker, Hadden-Scott said in her response to the lawsuit. Hadden-Scott said that “nothing in the email indicated that the PBPD was not going to comply with Mr. Walker’s request. Moreover, Mr. Walker did not communicate with the City Attorney to advise that he no longer intended to honor their agreement.”

Hadden-Scott also said the police department delivered or made available the requested documents by March 20, prior to the amended complaint that added Hollingsworth as a defendant on March 31.

Hollingsworth was not initially named in the lawsuit but was added after Hadden-Scott said Hubanks was not served properly. State law requires that complaints or summons be delivered to the “Chief Executive Officer” of the municipal corporation, which is the mayor.