Part III: Fix Was In for Larkin at June Council Meeting

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by Elliott Stonecipher

[Part I of this article, on July 28, 2014, may be read here.  Part II in the series, on July 30, 2014, may be read here.]

What Public Records?
What Public Records?

The Finish 3132 Coalition has issued a new Public Records Request in its ongoing study of the June 10, 2014, meeting of the Shreveport City Council.  In that meeting, the City Council voted 5-2 to allow Bossier City Councilman and real estate developer Tim Larkin to build homes in the path of the proposed LA Hwy. 3132 Extension to the Port of Caddo-Bossier.

Larkin’s appeal to the City Council followed a May 7th rejection of his application by the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC).

A Title Card Screen for the movie: The Small Back Room (1949)Documents thus far produced by Shreveport City Hall, effectively – and infamously – partnered with Larkin in development of his Esplanade subdivision, reveal that the requisite “deliberative process” surrounding Larkin’s appeal by the City Council occurred outside the view of the public and news media.  Thus, the result was a political op masquerading as a City Council meeting which defeated protections of the public interest set out in the Louisiana Open Meetings law.

Additionally, and separate from this latest Request, the Coalition has learned more about the meeting of public officials hours before the City Council meeting began that day.

Public Records Request of Five City Council Members

Following the Louisiana Public Records Law – La. R. S. 44:1 et seq. – the Coalition earlier requested pertinent documents from City Hall, a Request only partially fulfilled.  That Request was given to City Attorney Terri Scott by Mayor Cedric Glover.  The (few) documents produced were the subject of the first two articles in this series.

Those documents underscore how Ms. Scott was a frontline, pro-Larkin participant in the actions and events at issue.  Accordingly, the Coalition’s current Request seeks public documents and other communications in the possession of the five Council members who cast pro-Larkin votes on June 10th:  Michael Corbin, Sam Jenkins, Rose McCulloch, Jeff Everson and Oliver Jenkins.

front_line_participationIncreasingly, some public officials act to circumvent Public Records laws by using physical addresses, email addresses, text message accounts, etc., set-up, used and maintained in their names even though they are used for the conduct of public business.

The Request explains its purpose and emphasis this way:

“You are required to provide us with copies of the documents and records in your (emphasis in original) possession, custody, or control, including, but not limited to, emails, text messages, twitter messages, and/or other computer, digital, electronic, telephonic, or social media postings or communications, which refer to, relate to, or concern any of the public subjects or matters described below.”

The list of “public subjects or matters described below” may be read on Pages 3-5 of the Request, linked above.

June 10, 2014, Memorialization by MPC’s Stephen Jean

The Coalition has also obtained a written memorialization by Stephen Jean, then Interim Director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), purporting to detail his involvement in certain official actions earlier in the day on June 10th.  The document, dated June 10, 2014, was submitted to the MPC Board on July 3, 2014.  It is yet unclear if Jean actually wrote the document on the day of the Council meeting or later, at the request of the MPC Board.

Jean writes that City Council Clerk Art Thompson first sought him out on these matters that morning, and that at “approximately 11:25 (AM),” he received a message to come to the office of City Attorney Terri Scott:

I immediately (after receiving the message to report to Terri Scott) went over to see Terri and as soon as I arrived she directed me to a conference room located near her office.  She indicated that (Assistant City Attorney) Julie (Glass) and Art Thompson had a question for me.  Mr. Thompson was already in the room and was immediately joined by Julie.

Jean reports that he, Glass and Thompson met, but makes no comment about any others who may have “attended” via telephone.  Also notably, Jean stresses that “Ms. Scott never joined the meeting,” as if trying to somehow cover Scott’s key role in this and other pro-Larkin ops from and by this City Hall since it took over in late 2006.

In explaining the purpose of the subject meeting, Jean seems to suggest that the substitute Motion used by Councilman Corbin to satisfy Larkin was only then being prepared:

“Julie stated that she had been requested to draft a potential motion that may be made during the City Council meeting that afternoon.”  

You can't make me!
Talk!

In fact, documents previously discussed in this series reveal that Ms. Glass did not author the Motion, and was in possession of it nearly a week earlier.  On June 4th, the Motion was included in a legal brief from Larkin attorney Tom Arceneaux.  That brief was emailed at 4:22 PM to City Council members, City Attorney Terri Scott, Council Clerk Art Thompson … and Ms. Glass.

Readers may note or remember that it was Jean who quickly reported the MPC’s rejection of Larkin’s appeal to City Attorney Scott just after that May 7th meeting.  Scott then emailed the somehow urgent news to all City Council members.  As many of us in Shreveport know only too well, such interest and responsiveness from and by this City Hall is truly extraordinary.

Finally, readers may also note or remember that shortly before the Council meeting began, Council Chairman Joe Shyne told me that upon directly asking Council Clerk Art Thompson about the existence of any such substitute Motion, Thompson directly denied that any work on any such Motion had ever occurred.

Elliott Stonecipher
Finish 3132 Coalition

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