Monday, December 18, 2017
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas' House speaker declined Monday to release more details about a harassment complaint involving a lawmaker that was investigated within the past nine years after the state's top attorney said a document related to the allegation doesn't have to be released to the public.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in an advisory opinion issued Friday night that the document was considered an employee evaluation record exempted from release since it didn't result in anyone's suspension or termination. House Speaker Jeremy Gillam sought the AG's opinion in response to a state Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press for any records related to sexual harassment or misconduct complaints made against lawmakers since 2008.
In his letter requesting Rutledge's opinion, Gillam wrote that the document "was drafted by a House employee and relates to an allegation of harassment by a member of the Legislature." In his letter, Gillam also described the document as a witness statement.
"You have stated that there were no suspensions or terminations in connection with the investigation," Rutledge wrote in her opinion, issued Friday night. "Thus, the level-of-discipline element has not been met."
Rutledge did not address the House's opinion that any documents responsive to AP's request would be exempted by a portion of the state's FOI law regarding "working papers" of the Legislature.
Gillam on Monday declined to offer more details about the allegation, including the nature of the complaint, the date it occurred and whether it involved a current member of the Legislature. Gillam also declined to say whether the complaint occurred since he became the chamber's leader in 2015.
"That's just not the policy of the House of Representatives to discuss personnel issues and I'm not going to change course now at this point," Gillam said.
In response to a similar FOI request, the state Senate said there had not been any sexual harassment or misconduct complaints filed in the same time period in that chamber against lawmakers.
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