News from around Louisiana
In a recent interview on NewsTalk 98.5, Lafayette’s Mayor President actually said “we’re following the science.” However, numerous district judges have ruled that he’s not following the law. These rulings could be a foreshadowing of things to come as the Army Corps of Engineers begins action to remove LCG’s Spoil Levee lawsuit to federal court.
When we talk about all the things tax dollars should be spent on, most would prefer our government prioritize road and bridge maintenance. But would you believe they’d actually spend over $4 million of your tax dollars to build a gas station for a private, for-profit company?
Soon Louisiana will elect a new governor. Citizens are asking which candidate will be most willing to work with legislators on balancing power.
Our request to this elected office was narrowly tailored to the calendar, salary, expenses and staff within the office. Much like the various Clerks of Courts throughout the state we received a virtually identical boiler plate response from the Assessors asserting ‘Responsive documents in our possession are available for inspection and copying during regular business hours at our offices located at [FILL IN THE BLANK].’ This is no more of a response to our request for public records than it is a tactic being employed to set-up a defense for failing to provide the requested records. The position illustrated here is that if you wanted to see the documents all you must do is show up at our office and the records will be readily available.
Our requests for public records were sent while many Coroners were gathered at the Louisiana State Coroners Association meeting. Many of those in attendance openly discussed our public records request. Some dismissed us as some “conspiracy” because it had been circulated to so many Coroners in a short period of time. Some fired back with a boiler plate letter rambling on about public records law, citing irrelevant Attorney General opinions and claiming that the requests were “broad” and “unreasonably burdensome.” Many demanded a deposit, one office upwards of $7,000, in order to fulfill our requests.
During the course of this project one person remarked ‘Clerks of Court are like the Mafia!’ That statement could easily be interpreted in several different ways. Initially, it was perceived to mean that Clerks can be intimidating, threatening, and willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power. For the purposes of this exercise that interpretation of the statement didn’t ring true. In fact, most Clerks and their employees are very polite and helpful.
“I don’t know what you sent to the Police Jury, but you lit’ a fire under their *sses! They are scrambling like cockroaches when you turn the lights on.” That shocking reaction to our public records requests to parish governing authorities did not come from the Parish President, his Secretary, or his staff, but from a regular citizen. That one reaction perfectly encapsulates the importance of sunshine week and the work of Citizens for a New Louisiana.
If Anita Begnaud has her preference, you’ll never find out that smack in the middle of Festival International she’ll be asking downtown for a fifteen-year, fifty-percent (for now) property tax hike. If approved, the new tax will collect $447,840. However, a whopping ninety-five percent (95%) of that money, will be going to pay “operational expenses,” such as salaries and operations; with the lion’s share (96%) of that going straight to employee compensation.
The response to our Sunshine Week requests from Sheriff Offices in particular was tepid. One Sheriff in response to our requests for records claimed it was deficient because they don’t accept “electronic” requests. Another Sheriff, through his lawyer, refused to process our request which he admitted was directed to and received by the Sheriff. His reason? We did not “initiate a public records request” in accordance with the Sheriff’s policies and procedures. Other Sheriffs demanded that payment be made whether we purchased the records or just conducted an in-person inspection. I guess when you are the Sheriff you can flat out ignore or refuse to answer requests. After all, if a Sheriff gets sued, it will be the taxpayers on the hook for his defense.
Public education has again become a topic of interest for many parents in the state. The indoctrination of children with revisionist history and Marxist ideations, such as Critical Race Theory is alarming to parents. Despite the Legislature, State Superintendent of Education and State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education being ultimately responsible for the operation of the public education system it is most likely that your greatest influence will occur at the local level.
While most District Attorneys were cooperative with our endeavor to seek out and evaluate public documents there is one worthy of mention. Upon receipt of our requests one District Attorney indicated: “Our office requires you personally appear to request records.” When questioned about the statutory authority and asked to provide the appropriate response he replied: “I’m not your law clerk. Look it up.”
With all the recent talk regarding “election integrity,” a need to investigate and prosecute election fraud, as well as pushes for election reform, the Registrar of Voters offices seemed like a good place to probe. However, almost universally our requests to each of the sixty-four parish Registrar of Voters offices were rebuffed by a standard form letter response.