The following editorial appeared at NWAOnline.com on May 13, 2011. To read the editorial from its original source, click here.
Lottery Panel Has No Excuse For Lapse
The lottery commission violated the state’s public meeting law in a disturbingly casual way.
The Arkansas Lottery Commission met twice this week without giving the public notice. Each meeting was a clear and admitted violation of the state Freedom of Information Act.
The commission’s chairwoman has apologized and said it won’t happen again. We hope not, but still question how it happened at all.
During the first meeting at a dinner, commission chairwoman Dianne Lamberth of Batesville informed the other eight members that she had met with two lottery managers and a representative of the Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs. The lottery and the horse track may work together in some manner in the future, Lamberthsaid.
This is serious business. We doubt either the commission or Oaklawn would be interested in these talks unless substantial amounts of money were a prospect. It was the type of revelation that should have come to light at a publicmeeting – not in a follow-up news story about an FOI violation.
Commission spokeswoman Julie Baldridge promptly fell on her sword, accepting the blame for not notifying the press. “I am sorry. I won’t do it again. It’s my fault,” she told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
We appreciate Baldridge’s loyalty, but that does not explain why Lamberth didn’t immediately realize the seriousness of bringing up such an important topic at a dinner meeting where no outsiders, public or press, was there.
We recognize that Lamberth said she was only giving her fellow commissioners the courtesy of a “heads up.” Well, the public would have appreciated a “heads up” too. There was no public announcement of this contact between the commission and the race track until the Democrat-Gazette asked what happened at those two commission meetings. The second meeting was a lunch.
Both meals were in Little Rock.
“We weren’t there to discuss business or to do anything but to say goodbye” to former commission member Derrick Smith of Little Rock, whose term ended last month, Lamberth said. “There is no intention to mislead or misdo” at the dinner meeting.
If there was no intention, a neutral observer is left to wonder why it happened anyway.
Commissioner Joe White of Conway said he asked Lamberth at the dinner and she told him that news media had been given notice. Before Wednesday’s meeting, she told him that notice wasn’t provided, after all, he said.
The lunch meeting was a welcoming of the commission’s two newest members, accountant Bruce Engstrom of North Little Rock and former state Sen. Steve Faris, D-Central.
So, these members’ first meeting was held in violation of the law that protects the public’s right to know.
Welcome to the commission, gentlemen. We remind you that it is not the duty of the commission staff or fellow commissioners to obey the law for you. We recommend you make sure that public notice has been given of any meetings you attend in the future. If the notice hasn’t been given, we recommend you either don’t go, or leave.
The longer-serving commissioners should take the same advice.
Casualty Of War To honor the men and women in our armed forces and remind our readers of their sacrifices, Benton County Daily Record is publishing Department of Defense announcements identifying Americans killed in active military operations.
Sgt. Ken K. Hermogino, 30, of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., died May 9 in Herat province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered in a noncombatrelated vehicle accident. He was assigned to the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st BrigadeCombat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
Opinion, Pages 5 on 05/13/2011