Some time back, we sent a public record request to Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority (LPTFA). That’s where Kevin Blanchard ended up after Carlee fell short in the Mayor’s race. Based on the response to a public records request, we know from text messages that Kevin and Carlee have themselves been pushing behind the scenes to create and direct the “protect the city” committee; which I lovingly refer to as the “save the city from Josh Guillory committee.”
Team Carlee – again
Carlee’s first mayoral run was “fix the charter.” The idea was to arrange the charter in such a way that Carlee would walk into the Mayor’s office with almost unlimited power. For example, instead of a relatively low bar of six votes to override a Mayor’s veto, the new charter requires eight! And not just any eight, but it has to be four on the city side and four on the parish side. That’s so tough it may as well be impossible.
However, something unexpected happened. Carlee’s phase 2 plan fell short, as Josh Guillory was elected Mayor-President instead of her. We believe that the “protect the city committee” is actually just a continuation of the Carlee for Mayor campaign. It’s entire purpose appears to have been using debunked urban legends (like the parish doesn’t pay its fair share) to make Josh Guillory look bad. What we do know is those text messages say that before the first “protect the city” committee meeting, Kevin Blanchard and Carlee Alm-LaBar had delivered “the plan” to councilman Pat Lewis. Go ahead and click that “text messages” link and read it for yourself.
Add to this, the current City Parish Alignment (CPA) committee contains none other than William Thiele, who also happened to be a named member of Carlee’s political campaign for Mayor! Also on the committee is former Mayor of Scott, Louisiana, Purvis Morrison. During the mayor’s campaign, he worked very hard for team Carlee. There were even rumors from multiple sources that Carlee had promised Morrison the CAO position if she had won.
We requested “the plan” as a public record.
What did LPTFA say when I asked for a copy of “the plan” written by their Executive Director, Kevin Blanchard? Both Kevin and LPTFA’s attorney said that it’s none of our business. He insisted that any involvement with the protect the city committee was merely a hobby, so he wasn’t required to furnish any related documents. However, those text messages have timestamps showing they were sent in the middle of a workday.
We also know that Kevin Blanchard has been in communication with Pat Lewis on other LPTFA related matters. For example, on July 8th, 2021, Pat Lewis was involved in a vote to give Kevin Blanchard’s LPTFA $30,500 per year to “manage” money for three taxing districts. Any and all communication with Pat Lewis (or any other City Council / Taxing District board member) that voted to dispense money out of the public treasury to Mr. Blanchard’s organization should absolutely be a matter of public record, regardless of the subject matter.
Petition for a writ of mandamus
The Louisiana Supreme Court has held that Public Records laws should be “construed liberally in favor of free and unrestricted access to the records, and that access can be denied only when a law, specifically and unequivocally, provides otherwise…. Whenever there is doubt as to whether the public has the right of access to certain records, the doubt must be resolved in favor of the public’s right to see.” Title Research Corp. v. Rausch, 450 So. 2d 933, 936 (La.1984).
That lead us to petition the court to compel Mr. Blanchard to produce the records we’ve asked for. We believe the documents are clear, the law is clear, and Mr. Blanchard’s responsibility is clear. However, he is directing LPTFA to reject our request as a “personal matter” without citing any specific laws. He’s also not responded to the suit, other than coordinating November 30th as a potential date for a hearing. Considering everything we’ve put forth to show that there is a reasonable expectation for the public to see these records, this should be a really short hearing.
Suing for public records is expensive
So far, court costs alone are $500, with legal bills running to about $2,500-$3,000. That adds up quickly. So, if you like the idea of a local government transparency organization working hard to ensure the public can know what’s really going on in local government, please do help us continue the fight. We have two other mandamus lawsuits in a file drawer waiting for the resources to pursue them.
Don’t just sit there, do something!
Citizens for a New Louisiana is the only organization in Louisiana dedicated to reforming local government. With the help of numerous volunteers we are making some progress. However, there’s much more work we could be doing. Making a difference will take a little more than reading an article every now and then. Your community doesn’t need another spectator. They need someone willing to step onto the field and become a real part of the solution.
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