30 August 2007

pinevillians out $17k+ so far in public records email scandal

van halen 'right now'

in todays town talk, (see link) karina donica, tells us that the citizens read: taxpayers of the city of pineville, la. "has incurred $17,470.65 in costs related to the litigation." according to the timeline the litigation the story is about, stems from the public records request that local attorney and blogger gregory aymond sent to the city of pineville on 02 october 2006 'exhibit "c"' page 1 | 2. updated timeline here.

as you can see from the letter, the requester, mr. aymond, in addition to asking for emails requested a lot of other public records documents that are never mentioned. mr. aymond asked for copies of city council minutes, certain check stubs and documents and cell phone records and logs. the point is that all these other documents could not, nor were, requested to be downloaded to a cd or dvd. mr. aymond must have known that in his request he would have to pay for some paper copies. pineville and a few other talking heads never mention this and have always tried to convince the taxpayers the exact opposite - that mr. aymond by his request of having the emails downloaded to digital media that he was somehow trying to get them for free or something.

apparently, the way this scam works is that the court has allowed pineville to
require only expensive paper copies which allows pineville to keep the costs of a lengthy public records request out of reach of interested citizens. its false that mr. aymond is trying to get his public records request and have the taxpayers pay for it all. mr. aymond merely wants what is self-evident everywhere else. have the emails downloaded onto a cd or dvd.

this isnt unreasonable because emails are already "computer ready." -- its far easier to drag and drop computer files than make a paper copy. probably at sometime in the future, if not already, most online and computer files public documents will be secure enough to be readily acceptable as a bona fide copy of a public record. in the meantime, despite the fact that mr. aymond pointed out the laws against counterfeiting, forgery, etc...pineville objects because its far cheaper and they cant control the costs because its paperless.

we guess that pineville could argue the right to charge a dollar per file that is downloaded to cd or dvd as if it was paper...if the courts go along with that then the records law will require legislative action to correct. its probably fair to charge the hourly wage or a portion thereof, for how many emails the custodian could download per hour. we dont know whether or not mr. aymond has received the other information in his public records request of 02 october 2006.

on 09 october2006 pineville public records custodian ellen melancon responded: exhibit "d" [page 1 | 2] wanting mr. aymond to "narrow the scope" of his request.

more haggling ensued see city of pineville v gregory aymond exhibits "a" - "h".

finally, on 14 december 2006 the city of pineville sued mr. aymond. pineville prayed to the ninth judicial district court for "judgement in favor of the city of pineville and against gregory aymond setting parameters for the content and/or subject matter that can be disclosed in response to aymond's public records request." and for judge f. rae swent to "estimate the costs that will be incurred by the city of pineville in satisfying aymond's request..."

one small problem...no where in the louisiana public records law which includes emails does it grant authority to those subject to the law, the power to refuse a public records request, ask that its scope be narrowed, those subject to the law are prohibited from even asking the requester "why" s/he wants the records much less authority to turn around and sue its requester.

pineville's entire lawsuit is bogus and no law exists to bring it on from. in fact, louisiana case law including a louisiana supreme court ruling from 1984 Title Research Corp. v. Rausch, 450 So.2d 933 (La., 1984) [six page .pdf] ruled against the st. tammany parish clerk of court, lucy reid rausch, that a public records requester, karl heeter, who it looks like, makes the substantial part of his living from collecting public records could bring his microfilm machine into the courthouse to copy the records and couldnt be charged a fee to see the pages either.

the second circuit court of appeal in another case from 2004 First Commerce Title Co., Inc. v. Martin, 887 So.2d 716 (LA, 2004) [six page .pdf] reversed the trial court and "the clerk of court of bienville parish is hereby ordered to permit the use of a hand-held scanner in the clerk of court's office to copy public records during normal business hours at no charge."

the city of pineville and aymond have been to court a couple of times over it and so far the ninth judicial district court has refused to make pineville fully comply with the law. nor has the judge as of this writing submitted the requested written reasons as to how she arrived at her judgment decisions.

the irony is that pineville, in their prayer, placed the onus on the judge to keep the legal costs in mind while at the same time, as these court proceedings transcripts show, the judge has allowed the legal fees to skyrocket by not ordering pineville to fully comply with the law and drag out whats essentially an open and shut case. the emails have all been sorted. pineville through its attorney said so in its 10 july 2007 letter to aymond which he posted to his personal blog here.

stay tuned...
**update** 4:58 pm cdt thursday 30 august 2007

judge swent's written reasons for judgement

click picture to enlarge
page 1
page 2
page 3

edited at 3:23 pm cdt thursday 30 august 2007
see also
central la politics blog
pineville squanders its citizens funds to stop access to public records
related posts
  • city of pineville public records and emails scandal series links page
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