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Blakely v. Arkansas Children’s Hospital

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

December 4, 2019

Dee BLAKELY, Appellant
v.
ARKANSAS CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL; Pulaski County, Arkansas; and Jane Duke, Appellees

Page 200

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 201

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION [NO. 60CV-15-3840], HONORABLE TIMOTHY DAVIS FOX, JUDGE

         Sutter & Gillham, P.L.L.C., by: Luther Oneal Sutter and Lucien Gillham, Little Rock, for appellant.

         Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C., Little Rock, by: Megan D. Hargraves and David F. Koehler, for separate appellee Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

          Pulaski County Attorney’s Office, by: Adam B. Fogleman and William A. Gruber, for separate appellee Pulaski County, Arkansas.

         Barber Law Firm, PLLC, Little Rock, by: Robert L. Henry III, for separate appellee Jane Duke.

         OPINION

         N. MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge

          This case is factually related to Arkansas Children’s Hospital v. Blakely, 2019 Ark.App. 565, 2019 WL 6521335 (Blakely II ), also handed down today. In this appeal, Dee Blakely appeals from orders of the Pulaski County Circuit Court dismissing her claims under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) against appellees Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) and Jane Duke, one of ACH’s outside attorneys. Blakely also appeals the dismissal of her illegal-exaction claim against separate appellee Pulaski County.[1] We affirm.

          I. Background and Procedural History

          Amendment 32 to the Arkansas Constitution authorizes an annual tax on real and personal property in a county "for the purpose of maintaining, operating and supporting" a "public hospital owned by such county ..., whether such hospital be operated by such county ... or by a benevolent association as the agent or lessee of such county...." According to Pulaski County Ordinance No. 198 (Nov. 14, 1978), a one-mill "Hospital Maintenance Tax" was approved by the voters "to be used for the maintenance, operation and support of Arkansas Children’s Hospital as a public hospital of the County...." Ordinance No. 198 specifically designated ACH as "a public hospital of the County." Since 2001, Pulaski County has, at ACH’s request, directed the tax funds to the State of Arkansas for the State to use to obtain matching Medicaid funds from the federal government.

          On August 11, 2015, Blakely submitted a written request to ACH for records under FOIA (First Request). Specifically, Blakely requested copies of

(1) Records providing the amount of funding received from the County by the Hospital, ...

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