Back in April, Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope asked the Attorney General for an opinion about part of the money he takes home as pay.
The opinion was requested after questions were raised about that money. So far, no opinion has been released.
We've been asking Attorney General Jeff Landry's office about the opinion. First, we were told the opinion hadn't been issued, and so we asked why.
Here's what a spokesperson for his office said today:
"It is standard protocol for this office to give the author of an opinion the courtesy of knowing an opinion is completed before it is issued. If we are unable to reach the requester or if the requester chooses to withdraw the opinion, it is canceled and may be re-requested at any time."
The committee to recall Pope held a press conference this afternoon, saying they have a letter the AG's Office sent to Pope in September, telling him the opinion was being canceled — because he did not respond to them.
The Sept. 21 letter noting the cancellation indicates that AG officials tried to get in touch with Pope five times for his response to the opinion — on Aug. 17, 18, 21, 28 and Sept. 13.
KATC tried to speak with Pope after the press conference. His secretary referred us to Pope's attorney. We reached out to Joy Rabalais, who's represented the marshal in the civil case that led to the uncovering of the pay that's in question. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pope has so far pocketed more than $200,000 from the fees, and "is using those fees to pay his criminal defense attorneys," said Aimee Robinson, who's leading the recall effort.
Pope is facing unrelated felony malfeasance and perjury charges in state court right now. He was indicted and accused of using public money to help a friend get elected, and of lying under oath about public records.
"Marshal Pope has ignored the Attorney General's attempts to contact him with its opinion about the legality of these fees he continues to deposit into his personal bank account," Robinson said.
The indictment arose from a lawsuit filed against Pope by The Independent, a local newspaper. The newspaper alleged that Pope refused to comply with the state public records law after the newspaper made requests related to Pope's involvement in the race for Lafayette Sheriff. The newspaper won that case, and Pope has lost all appeals. An audit of the City Marshal's Office shows that, last year, taxpayers paid lawyers more than $150,000 to defend Pope in the civil lawsuit. Taxpayers also paid more than $180,000 in claims that the court awarded to the newspaper which sued Pope for failing to comply with state public records laws. This year's City Marshal budget sets aside more than $150,000 for Pope's legal fees. That's compared to a $15,000 line item for the 2015 fiscal year. It is unclear if those fees are budgeted for the civil suit or Pope's criminal indictment.
Robinson said she has more than 21,000 signatures but needs several thousand more before the deadline in December.
For more information about the recall, click here.
Here's Pope's original letter, requesting the opinion.