By JOHN E. SETTLE JR. (Part of story in Aug 12 Inquisitor)
After Danny Lawler’s successful public records lawsuit against the Town of Blanchard (filed by Lawler himself), seemingly, elected officials would get the drift that the Louisiana Public Records Act is enforceable. Somehow this message has not sunk in at the Shreveport City Marshal’s Office despite the fact that the Town of Blanchard paid $1,000 in statutory penalties to Lawler (which were donated to the Northwood High School Danceline) and court costs.
My column in the July 29 issue of The Inquisitor outlining the extraordinary expenses on travel by Marshal Charlie Caldwell was written after information was finally delivered by the Marshal’s Office — some three weeks after the initial public records request by this columnist. Louisiana law provides that public records requests are to be answered no later than five business days.
A second public records request was faxed on July 10 requesting a list of all credit/debit charges on credit cards of the City Marshal’s Office since Caldwell was sworn into office in May 2008. This request was ignored, despite follow-up faxes on July 26 and 28.
I filed a public records lawsuit in Caddo District Court on Aug. 2, requesting the information originally requested on July 10. This case will be heard by Judge Jeanette Garrett on Sept. 12, more than nine weeks after the subject public records request was made.
As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, Caldwell’s office had only provided credit card records for 11 months in 2009. The December statement, reflecting charges through Nov. 23, had six charges at Shreveport/Bossier restaurants and a late payment fee with the amounts blacked out. Caldwell’s attorney later provided this information — $39 for a late payment fee and a total of $225.23 for local dining. In addition to credit/debit charges, gasoline credit card information has also been requested.
The Marshal’s Office utilizes Fuelman, and reportedly, every deputy marshal driving a marshal’s vehicle has a fuel card. Through Aug. 8 the only Fuelman records that had been provided were for one month.
At this juncture, it is unknown if Marshal Caldwell intends to fully comply with this public records request, which is becoming a topic of conversation in many circles. Subpoenas have been issued for Caldwell and many of his top troops (Carl Richard, John Johns, Connie Coleman, Bill Whiteside, Robert Wright and George McCain) to appear before Judge Garrett on Sept. 12, along with Caldwell’s political spinmaster Bill Peck.
Like many citizens, I am disappointed that Caldwell’s office has been non-responsive. I donated to his election campaign in 2008 and endorsed him in my column. Like the general public, I await the rest of the story, which is a sad commentary, to say the least.