A Lafayette news organization has gone to court seeking hundreds of emails from Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope that The Independent claims shows the marshal used his public position for a political stunt during the sheriff’s race.
Pope, meanwhile, has made his own request seeking records of all city-parish employees.
The Independent sued the marshal after he refused to release emails related to an October news conference he called in an effort to link sheriff candidate Mark Garber — who’s now sheriff-elect — to illegal immigration.
In response to The Independent’s request, Pope, who publicly supported Scott Police Chief Chad Leger during the sheriff’s election, denied that any such emails existed, but he later produced 588 pages of emails upon an order from 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards.
Additional emails released by Lafayette Consolidated Government — which owns and operates the lafayettela.gov email account Pope uses for official business — show that Pope and Leger’s campaign manager, Joe Castille, coordinated in planning the news conference, according to a Monday report from The Independent.
Pope’s attorney, Charles Middleton, on Monday sought to suppress those emails as evidence in the hearing, which is asking the judge to determine whether Pope satisfied The Independent’s request. Middleton referenced a 2012 Attorney General’s Office opinion that claims the Lafayette City Marshal’s Office is not a “department, office or agency” of the city-parish; therefore, he claims, the city-parish should not have released the emails.
“City-parish government did not have a legal right” to produce the emails, Middleton said in court.
City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert countered, from the witness stand, that all communications transmitted on LCG servers, including the marshal’s emails, “were public in nature and needed to be produced.”
“I don’t think there’s even the slightest legal question about that,” Hebert added.
Middleton also claimed Hebert and city-parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley — both of whose positions expired on Monday as a new administration was sworn in — engaged in “illegal covert invasions” of city-parish servers to obtain the emails.
Hebert and Stanley both denied the allegations.
Leger was also lined up to testify after The Advocate’s deadline Monday night, and Edwards was set to rule on whether Pope satisfied the order to produce the records in light of the additional emails unearthed by city-parish government.
The Independent sought emails containing the keywords Garber, Neustrom, Chad, Leger, immigration, Honduras, worker, compensation, illegal, alien, haven, Castille, Team Leger, personal injury, campaign, campaigner and mailing list — keywords Pope referenced, among others, in a 27-item records request that he had submitted to Stanley.
Pope’s request seeks all Lafayette Consolidated Government employee emails from Sept. 1 to present that include those keywords, along with keywords related to each employee of The Independent, the City-Parish Attorney’s Office and broad keywords such as gmail.com, yahoo.com and icloud.com.
Pope’s request also asks for a log of all public records requests made to LCG during former City-Parish President Joey Durel’s 12-year administration, along with information on how city-parish government stores its information and operates its information-technology department.
The marshal’s request also seeks cellphone bills for Durel and Stanley from Sept. 1 to present, along with video footage of access to restricted areas in City Hall and sign-in logs for the IT department.
Hebert, the city’s attorney, responded to Pope’s request with a two-page letter, estimating the request would take around 20 to 30 working days to fulfill. The legal department will have to review emails from the more than 2,200 employees with LCG email addresses, he said.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.