Swaney v. Tilford was a case before the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1995 concerning the application of open records laws to the records of privately conducted state audits.
This case established a number of important precedents:
1.) It established that the use of outside organizations to perform functions that are typically performed by public agencies subjects all records relating to the public function held by those outside organizations to the public records act.
2.) It extended the obligation of the public agency contracting with an outside organization to perform a public function to obtain and provide access to all of the outside organizations records relating to the public function.
- On April 27, 1994, Mark Swaney submitted an open records request to Vincent Tilford, in his capacity as president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA) in order to obtain audit records from 1985-1993.
- The ADFA released the audits but failed to release the auditors working papers and records, claiming that they did not have possession of the auditor's personal working papers. The ADFA contacted the private auditing firm, Deloitte Touche, and requested the records. Deloitte Touche denied the request, claiming that the papers were not public records and refusing to release the records until subpoenaed.
- Swaney filed suit in Washington County Circuit Court in order to obtain the working papers.
- The circuit court ruled in favor of the ADFA and Swaney appealed the decision, arguing that the ADFA was obligated by the act to obtain the records in question.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the ADFA, claiming that, while the working papers are public records, the act does not require the ADFA to obtain those records.
The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the trial court and ordered the documents released. First, citing City of Fayetteville v. Edmark, the court determined that the auditors records were in fact public records because the private auditors were hired to perform a function normally performed by state employees. The court went on to hold that the law obligates the ADFA to provide reasonable access to all records associated with its daily business. The court stated in its opinion, "We hold that where the records in question are established as "public records" pursuant to Ark.Code Ann. § 25-19-103(1) and not otherwise exempted from disclosure, the appropriate governmental agency, in this case the ADFA, shall have the responsibility to provide reasonable access for examination and copying of such public records which are in existence at the time of the request." Based on this decision, the court overruled the decision of the trial court and ordered that the ADFA obtain the records in question from Deloitte Touche and provide Swaney with access to them.