The author of a bill that would bar public disclosure of “employment-related information” on law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors and their staffs said Monday that he is yanking the bill from a committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday, after New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux issued a public letter Monday lambasting it.
State Rep. Timothy Burns, R-Mandeville, said he hoped Quatrevaux and the Louisiana District Attorney Association, which drafted House Bill 430, could work out their differences and revise the proposal.
Burns said he wanted only to safeguard public-safety officials from targeted attacks, such as the killing last year of a Texas prosecutor and his wife.
Quatrevaux and other critics have noted that state law already protects the home addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and medical records of public employees. The problem, Quatrevaux said, is that the bill was written far too broadly.
“Do not be misled into believing that this bill is about protecting the safety of law enforcement personnel,” Quatrevaux wrote in a letter to the New Orleans delegation.
The bill would place “a de facto veil of secrecy over the entirety of law enforcement personnel files, including completed internal affairs investigations,” Quatrevaux wrote. “When an officer is investigated by his peers, that investigation (once closed) should be open to the public.”
Last month, Burns acknowledged the criticism and said he would redraft the bill. He said Monday that he saw it as a small effort to make it easier for public-safety personnel to protect their personal information. He declined to say whether the protected information under a revised bill would include their names.
“I’m pulling the bill for tomorrow and seeing if the DAs association can work out what they want to do with the inspector general,” said Burns, adding that he made the decision after Quatrevaux “came out as forcefully as he did.”
As currently drafted, HB430 would revise the law to say criminal justice agencies “may exclude from disclosure any employment-related information that will identify a particular employee.” They still may disclose “nonidentifying information of a general nature or aggregated data that does not identify a particular employee.”
Some district attorneys, including East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III and 21st Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, who oversees prosecutions in Livingston, St. Helena and Tangipahoa parishes, already refuse to release the names of specific employees, arguing that it could imperil them.
Last year, a Baker man pleaded guilty to making threats against Moore and others during the 2012 murder trial of rapper Torence “Lil’ Boosie” Hatch.
The Louisiana Press Association also opposes the bill.
Critics call the bill another gambit to immunize law enforcement officials from embarrassment for alleged mischief — the latest among several bills that have arisen since a 2008 appeals court ruling forced the release of internal-affairs files from the Baton Rouge Police Department to The Advocate.
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in that case found the police officers “do not enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to records concerning only how they discharge their official duties.”
C. Pete Adams, executive director of the district attorneys association, conceded last month that the bill “probably needs some work.” He said Monday that he hopes to work with Quatrevaux to salvage the bill.
“I don’t know that there’s any language that’s been agreed to,” Adams said. “I think we need to sit down and figure out what we’re trying to accomplish and what they object to, and see if there’s something in between.”