A court hearing Friday where Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope was scheduled to testify was delayed after a judge ruled that the latest public records sought by a local news outlet were not specified in any of the case’s early requests.
Gary McGoffin, attorney for Lafayette news outlet The Independent, said he will now file a more specific request through an amended petition within the next two weeks.
“It’s so painful to move forward,” lamented Judge Jules Edwards, who sat back, rubbed his face with both hands and granted another continuance in a case that has dragged on for months.
The hearing Friday was the latest in The Independent’s attempt to retrieve financial and other records from Pope and the City Marshal’s Office. The Independent filed a lawsuit last year seeking records affiliated with an Oct. 7 news conference Pope held before the November election for Lafayette Parish sheriff.
Pope’s political ally, Scott Police Chief Chad Leger, was a candidate for sheriff, and Leger’s campaign manager, Joe Castille, reportedly orchestrated the news conference to make Leger’s opponent — Mark Garber — look like he was soft on illegal immigration.
Garber won the election going away, but the fallout from the news conference and lack of responses on the records requests have dogged Pope, who was in court Friday dressed in civilian clothes. Pope didn’t talk to media following the hearing.
McGoffin and The Independent are seeking invoices submitted to Pope’s office by four attorneys representing the marshal as he fights opening up the records. One of the attorneys, Charles Middleton, submitted to The Independent a copy of an invoice that was heavily blacked out. Middleton too was scheduled to testify Friday, though he didn’t appear in court.
Kevin Stockstill, who is Pope’s principal attorney now, argued that McGoffin and The Independent didn’t specify the invoices or other records in the case’s first petition in November or in an amended petition in March that expanded the scope of the records sought.
Edwards agreed with Stockstill and ruled that McGoffin would have to file an amended petition that expanded The Independent’s public records request.
Edwards already has taken action in the case, finding in late March that Pope failed to heed the judge’s order to release emails to The Independent that were stored in Pope’s taxpayer-owned computer server.
Edwards sentenced Pope to 30 days in jail, then suspended all but seven days that Pope was to spend at his River Ranch home.
Pope also was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in fines and penalties and perform 173 hours of public service.
Stockstill has asked for a review of the case by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, which has not issued a ruling. Pope remains free while the appeal sits in the appellate court.
Follow Billy Gunn on Twitter, @BillyGunnAcad.