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West Fork City Officials Charged

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March 30, 2012 by Jeff Winkler

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Kristie Drymon (Archive photo)

WEST FORK — The Washington County prosecutor’s office has filed charges against two West Fork city officials for violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Kristie Drymon, City Treasurer, Water Department office manager and acting City Clerk, and Virgil Blackmon, the Water and Wasterwater Utilities Commission chair, face respective misdemeanor charges, said Deputy Prosecutor Denis Dean.

The county investigation and charges stem from a complaint made by the Washington County Observer. The complaint claims that the media and the public were not informed of an official Water Commission meeting on Jan. 11, 2012. According to the Arkansas FOIA, “the time and place of each regular meeting shall be furnished to anyone who request the information.” Because the Water Commission meetings are not held on the same day of each month, the Observer has a standing request to be notified before each meeting, which it was not.

In the course of its investigation, Washington County prosecutors determined Drymon to be the city official in violation of the FOIA law, said Dean.

Virgil Blackmon (Archive photo)

The county also filed charges against Blackmon, who had refused to disclose specific details of what happened at that Jan. 11 Water Commission meeting. At the meeting, there was reportedly discussion of who might fill the commission’s nine-month-old vacancy. Blackmon told the Observer he wasn’t “comfortable” giving out the names discussed at the public meeting. According to the Arkansas FOIA, a citizen can request specific information generated at a public meeting — information that should be recorded in the official minutes.

Violating Arkansas FOIA is a class C misdemeanor. Drymon and Blackmon are scheduled for arraignment on April 17 at the Prairie Grove District Court.

“They can appear or wave their appearance,” Dean said. “Since it’s a misdemeanor they can elect to get an attorney or proceed on their own. And [they can] get in contact with our office to talk about possible resolutions for this matter.”

Dean said Drymon and Blackmon could face a $500 fine or up to 30 days in jail.

Jeff Winkler

Jeff Winkler is the managing editor of the Washington County Observer. Email him at jeff@wcobserver.com

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5 comments »

  1. eLwood says:

    GRAMMAR CORRECTION:

    ““They can appear or wave their appearance,” Dean said. ”
    .
    One waves at friends and Santa waves to you. A court appearance can be waived if the defendant chooses to waive it.

  2. Susan Cooney says:

    Dear Editor:

    It is odd to me that City Clerk Drymon is not notifying the public of City Council meetings, especially the Special Meetings.
    As you know,I was the elected City Clerk for West Fork from 2009 to 2011 and the Freedom of Information Act was clearly described to me on multiple occasions. As a Certified City Clerk, Mrs. Kristie Drymon must know about alerting the public of public meetings. Maybe she would be more at home in the private sector.

  3. Fred Robinson says:

    Please excuse the typing errors…my eyesigh is not so good in these golden years…smile

  4. Fred Robinson says:

    Thank you, Jeff.
    I was pleased to find your email in my inbox.
    The FOIA action was well done.
    The local sign near the city hall had a parks commissioner position posted recently. I stopped by this week to find out if it had been filled. I was told there had been a special called meeting this past Monday and the position had been filled.
    I noticed on the bulletin board there that the Parks Commission meetings are regularly scheduled for the first Monday at Noon.
    Well that would have conflicted with the Gol;den Age dinners at the church any way….smile.
    Were you notified about the called meeting of the parks commission?
    Who was chosen to fill the vacancy?
    My interest was sparked by a chance visit with the Mayor recently. I told her of my support for her service…she sugested I serve on a city commission.

    NEXT ISSUE: There is a fair amount of ink used on the Jones Center and its changes in policy.
    For a lomng time the 3rd Wednesday has been a time for Seniors to gather for a dance and lunch there in the Generations Room. A band provides the music and scores of folks attend.
    A rumor going around is that the Senior dance will be eliminated after the April meeting.
    Couples from West Fork are in attendance at these events and they will be sorely missed.
    I miss the weekly paper but am happy here online.
    Fred Robinson

  5. WESLEY W ECKLES JR says:

    HAVE YOU RECEIVED THE REQUESTED INFO YET?

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