Illustration of black bars and the text "For the Record" underlined

For the Record: FOIA suit, tribal sovereignty and more

Written by
Edited by Derek Kravitz

When it comes to public transparency and obtaining public records at the state-level, the results may vary. While local governments in Virginia are adjusting to a new public meetings ruling by the state Supreme Court, transparency advocates in Arkansas are fighting to make government transparency a constitutional right in the state.

This is because, as mentioned in our state open-records fees explainer, states are left to create and oversee their own public-record laws, including how much to charge. Some groups, like the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, are being asked to give up rights, like sovereign immunity, just to access public records.

Have a tip or submission to include in For the Record? Email MuckRock’s engagement journalist, Kelly Kauffman, at

The Update

  • New FOIA constitutional amendment proposed in Arkansas: The proposed Arkansas Government Transparency Amendment would make government transparency a constitutional right in Arkansas and prohibit the state legislature from making laws curtailing government transparency without a statewide vote. Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin has until Jan. 23 to approve or reject the new proposal, reports Tess Vrbin in the Arkansas Advocate.

  • South Dakota city asks tribe to waive its sovereign immunity to fulfill public records request: The city of Martin in South Dakota wants the Oglala Sioux Tribe to either waive its sovereign immunity or pay an unknown amount of attorney and administrative fees upfront to receive public records related to the city’s new redistricting map, reports Elyse Wild in Native News online.

  • New ruling on Virginia public meetings: In response to a Virginia Supreme Court ruling on what constitutes a public meeting, Hampton Deputy City Attorney Meredith Jacobi informed city council members that public bodies will now be required to provide more public notices, reports Josh Janney in the Virginian Pilot.

FOIA Finds

  • Virginia to lose community health workers: Public records reveal that Virginia could lose 50% of its community health workers by July, reports Henry Brannan at WMRA. These on-the-ground public health workers have worked on COVID-19 vaccination efforts, opioid-overdose reversal training, sexually-transmitted disease prevention and other initiatives in the state.

  • New FBI files available on DocumentCloud: Investigative reporter Jimmy Tobias received the FBI’s files on Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman, who died in 2022, through an Freedom of Information Act request. These files are now available on DocumentCloud.

  • FOIA request reveals more about U.S. defense secretary’s secret hospital visit: A 911 call, obtained by the Daily Beast through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that an aide to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asked dispatchers to be “subtle” when they arrived at his residence, reports Shannon Vavra at The Daily Beast. The secrecy surrounding Austin’s admittance to the hospital earlier this year has raised questions about transparency for Cabinet members.