The Independent's attorney is asking a judge to revoke Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope's probation, alleging he's again running afoul of public records law by declining to release an Attorney General's opinion on the legality of his pay.
Gary McGoffin, who's represented The Independent throughout its civil lawsuit against Pope for withholding public records, alleges in a Tuesday court filing that the marshal has "again attempted to destroy public records" by declining to release an Attorney General opinion on whether it's legal for him to personally take home certain court fees that his office collects.
The allegation came to light on Monday, when the group leading the effort to recall Pope released documents showing the opinion had been canceled because the marshal halted communication with the AG's Office.
Along with that allegation, The Independent is also alleging Pope has failed to begin his court-ordered community service or register with the probation office that will oversee its completion, and that he misappropriated public money by paying out a more than $184,000 settlement with the Independent using Marshal's Office funds.
Another allegation is that Pope overpaid himself with the money central to the canceled AG's opinion. The recall committee released documents on Monday showing the AG's Office tried unsuccessfully to contact the marshal over several weeks and never received a response.
On Monday night, Pope attorney Joy Rabalais told KATC TV3 via email that the marshal plans to resubmit the opinion request, saying that her own efforts to contact the AG's Office were unsuccessful:
I personally tried to call and never would get a voice mail or anyone to answer the phone. The phone would just ring and ring. The cancellation was not requested by the marshal, and the fact that the request would be canceled was not relayed until receipt of the letter. Yes - the request will be resubmitted with additional inquiries based on an amended request seeking guidance on the entirety of the laws as a whole. That request has not yet been sent.
After state auditors last year recommended Pope request AG clarification on whether the pay is legal, he asked for the opinion in March — but it was never released. Documents released by the recall committee showed the AG's Office was unsuccessful in reaching him for several weeks to discuss the opinion.
An AG's Office spokesperson on Monday said the office cancels opinions "if we are unable to reach the requester or if the requester chooses to withdraw the opinion."
KATC TV3 has requested all documents related to the opinion request from both the AG's Office and Pope's.
State law prohibits the Lafayette and Shreveport City Marshals from collecting certain fees. Based on that law, the AG's Office in 2011 found the Shreveport marshal could not collect them. Audits show that after the opinion was released to the Shreveport marshal, he quit collecting the money.
Former Lafayette City Marshal Nicky Picard also collected the money in question.
KATC TV3 reached out to Pope and Rabalais for comment on the new court filing but did not immediately receive a response.