Fate of fair still undecided Board apparently votes to cancel, then overturns decision; Advance files Freedom of Information request
Despite the Drew County Fair Board's split vote last week to cancel the 2009 Drew County Fair, the board is "90 percent sure" there will be a fair, including a carnival, according to board member Brenda Reed.
Reed said there likely will be a carnival, parade, pageants, talent show, gospel night and rodeo. There will not be a livestock show, no arts and crafts, and no commercial displays because the structures in which those activities were held were destroyed by a tornado in May.
"John Wayne Ross said he's 90 percent sure we will have the carnival," Reed said late Tuesday afternoon. "We're working as hard as we can."
Ross became acting president of the Drew County Fair Board after former board president Bobby Hood and his wife Sandy, the former fair board secretary, resigned during a special called meeting Thursday.
The Advance Monticellonian was not notified of the meeting.
In a brief telephone interview Friday, Ross said the board had voted 7 to 5 to cancel the fair but would not provide the names of the voting members and how they voted or other details about the cancellation, despite being advised it is public information.
The Advance made a formal, written request Friday afternoon for the names of the board members, how they voted, the reasons cited for the cancellation, a copy of the minutes of the August 20 meeting, the names of the resigning board members and their letters of resignation if such letters exist.
The request was made to County Attorney Cliff Gibson.
Gibson, on Monday, drafted a letter to Ross advising him that the activities of the Drew County Fair Board are subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act and urged him to comply with the newspaper's request.
"It is clear that the conduct of a county fair for Drew County and its citizens, coupled with your board's receipt of public funds from Drew County in support of its county fair activities, makes the Drew County Fair Board subject to the requirements of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act," Gibson wrote. "These requirements include providing the information requested by Ms. Wooten of The Advance Monticellonian, and I do, therefore, strongly urge you to immediately comply with Ms. Wooten's requests. Absent special circumstances, one receiving a Freedom of Information request has 24 hours within which to supply the requested information. You also need to know that 'any person who negligently violates any of the provisions of (the Freedom of Information Act) shall be guilty of a class C misdemeanor.' Further, the failure or refusal to comply with a Freedom of Information request can result in a lawsuit being filed against the Drew County Fair Board and the assessment of lawyer fees and court costs against the fair board and its members… Again, I strongly urge you to immediately comply with the subject Freedom of Information request."
Copies of Gibson's letter to Ross were provided to The Advance Monticellonian, 10th Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen and County Judge Damon Lampkin.
Just prior to deadline Wednesday morning, a letter from John Wayne Ross was hand-delivered to the paper by the fair board's attorney, Jim Ross. It states that there will be a parade, pageants and rodeo, and that the board will meet next week to discuss whether the parking area and grounds will be ready in time to have the carnival this year. Further, the letter says, "We will call you as soon as the date and time is set, so please join us then. You are always welcome at the fair board meetings."
The letter does list the current fair board members, as well as four prior board members - Bobby Hood, Sandy Hood, Hubert McKeown and Sheilla Lampkin - but does not include the other information cited in The Advance's request - how the members present voted, the reasons cited for the cancellation, a copy of the minutes and any letters of resignation.