Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry sued a reporter for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune on Friday over a public record application she filed. He asked a judge to issue a declaratory judgment denying the application and sealing the process.
The unusual action came days after the newspaper warned Landry that it would sue him if he did not provide the requested documents.
“In my 40 years as an editor, I’ve never seen a journalist sued for requesting a public recording,” said Peter Kovacs, the newspaper’s editor. “We won’t be intimidated. In fact, we are more determined. “
Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry filed a lawsuit against a reporter for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune on February 5 for public records.
The matter dates back to December 14th when reporter Andrea Gallo first filed a public filing request with Landry’s office for copies of sexual harassment complaints against Pat Magee, the head of the Office’s Criminal Division, and records of how the complaints were dealt with. Magee was on administrative leave pending an investigation that day.
“The only complaints against Mr. Magee are part of the ongoing investigation,” Landry’s office replied at the time. “While the investigation is still open, the records are considered confidential and cannot be disclosed at this time. Once the investigation is officially closed, the records will be available for review.”
On January 4, the attorneys at Landry’s office reiterated that their reasons for withholding the documents were “temporary and not permanent and that we will provide the relevant documents once the investigation is completed”.
A senior MP for Attorney General Jeff Landry returned to work Tuesday after an investigation found that he had “inappropriate verbal …
Landry’s office hired attorney Vicki Crochet of Taylor Porter Company to conduct the investigation.
Magee returned to work on January 19 after an investigation found he “had inappropriate verbal conversation,” used sexual slang, and made unprofessional comments about employee demeanor. Landry’s office ordered Magee to take a one-time wage cut of $ 20,559 and directed him to take courses on workplace professionalism and conflict management.
On January 22nd, Landry’s office announced that the newspaper would receive the requested documents within the next week. But soon afterwards the attorney general gave a different message.
A senior official in Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office is on leave while the agency is investigating an “office policy” violation following a complaint.
His lawyers said they found the complaint filed against Magee but would not make it public. Rather than relying on an exception in the state’s Public Records Act, Landry’s attorneys said they would withhold the complaint because of a constitutional right to privacy and guidelines within the attorney general’s office and the state civil service demanding confidentiality in such investigations.
The newspaper offered to make concessions for data protection interests.
“We would invite the editors of the original complaint to protect the victim’s identity, but this is the only privacy interest that may possibly apply,” Scott Sternberg, attorney who represents The Advocate and The Times-Picayune, told February Landry’s office. 2 letter.
Sternberg also argued that the Louisiana Public Service Guidelines are no exception to the Public Records Act.
Landry’s office didn’t reply to Sternberg’s letter until Friday, threatening legal action.
“You have requested information that threatens the rights of our employees and could lead to legal disputes over the violation of these rights,” wrote Landry’s lawyers in a letter to Gallo on Friday. “Allegations of sexual harassment that turn out to be unsupported, inaccurate, and unfounded can destroy marriages, harm children of employees, ruin families, and ruin reputations.”
Sternberg expressed surprise at the attorney general’s actions, but said he was confident the newspaper would prevail.
“Mr. Landry uses taxpayers money and the power of office to punish a citizen for demanding public records of public employees,” Sternberg said. “The actions of his office are a perversion of the law and the system. We stand behind the demand and believe that the judge Ms. Gallo will agree that Mr. Landry’s actions are arbitrary and capricious.”