Attorney General says it’s unclear whether WAC is subject to FOIA

The office of Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says it is unclear whether or not the Walton Arts Center is subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

In an official opinion on the matter released Tuesday, McDaniel’s office responded to a Aug. 14 request from state Sen. Uvalde Lindsey (then a member of the State House of Representatives) on behalf of members of the WAC board who sought clarity on whether or not the organization is considered a public entity, and therefore subject to open records and meetings laws associated with the FOIA legislation.

“Only a finder of fact can ultimately determine whether the WAC is ‘supported wholly or in part by public funds or expending public funds’ as contemplated by the FOIA,” the opinion reads.

According to the document, the arts center would likely have been subject to FOIA under the original Interlocal Agreement it was formed under in 1986. The organization, however, has gone through several changes since then.

“Factors relating to the creation, funding, and purpose of the University of Arkansas/City of Fayetteville Arts Center Council weigh heavily in favor of it having been subject to the FOIA as an entity ‘supported wholly or in part by public funds or expending public funds,'” the opinion reads.

“I cannot reach the same conclusion, however, regarding the WAC. This uncertainty arises from several changes in administration and financing that may signal some lesser degree of alignment than first existed between the City and University and the Arts Center Council,” it reads.

The document cites changing the name of the organization to Walton Arts Center Council, Inc., expanding the board of directors from three each from the city and university to “at least 10 members and not more than 20,” and other changes to the entity’s Articles of Incorporation as items that may prevent the WAC from being subject to FOIA.

Another factor was the estimation that only about five percent of the organization’s annual operating budget reportedly comes from city funds.

The opinion concluded that only a judge or jury, equipped with “a full development of all relevant surrounding facts,” could determine whether the arts center would be subject to Arkasnas FOIA laws.