- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) - Jefferson County’s prosecuting attorney admonished the county election commission chairman over a closed-door session held in August to talk about complaints against primary workers.

Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter issued the letter of admonishment and caution to Jefferson County Election Commission Chairman Ted Davis, ruling that Davis violated the state Freedom of Information Act by holding an illegal executive session, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1tHYkbk )

Commission member Stu Soffer, who asked for the investigation, walked out of the Aug. 25 meeting after Davis called for the session.

Soffer says Davis didn’t announce the reason for the session beforehand, making it illegal, though Davis insists he did. Davis says everything discussed was related to personnel issues and he did not violate the law. The session was related to complaints against four election workers for the May primary.

“Everything we discussed in that executive session was absolutely related to personnel issues,” Davis said. “There was nothing outside of that.”

Under Arkansas law, executive sessions are allowed only for considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of any public officer or employee.

Hunter said his review showed the issues discussed did not fall under those categories.

“Mr. Davis should now understand the very limited purpose of an executive session and if not, should read the law,” Hunter wrote.

Before Soffer left the meeting, he secretly activated a device to record the session. Hunter said nothing on the tape indicated the meeting included information that needed to be kept from the public, though Davis disagreed.

“Everything we talked about in that executive session was absolutely related to personnel issues,” he said. “And it came as a shock to me that the prosecutor ruled otherwise.”

Davis said he thought recording the session was illegal, but the Freedom of Information Act does not address that and Hunter has not been asked to investigate it.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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