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Councilman objects to fees for public records needed by the council from LCG

Posted at 4:21 PM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 17:21:41-05

Councilman Patrick Lewis is objecting to fees for public records needed by the council from Lafayette Consolidated Government.

Lewis provided a response to an email from City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan following Lewis' inquiry for invoices from the Legal Department with reference to the City’s Special Legal Counsel. In a response to Lewis' inquiry he was informed that the council would have to pay in advance before record would be handed over. Logan's firm says the advance payment would be for retrieving, segregating and redacting those records.

Below is the email response from Councilman Patrick Lewis:

I was surprised to see your email of October 28, 2020 requiring the council to pay a fee before you will turn over to us information we have requested about the Legal Department’s budget. I am afraid this is an unacceptable response.

You may recall that my request was made as a Public Records Request. This was done because in speaking with other City Council Members, responses for similar requests for legal invoices had not been received at the time of my request the information.

As the governing authority for the City of Lafayette, we have a fiduciary responsibility to city taxpayers. Like any legislative body, exercising oversight over the budget is our job.

I am frankly dismayed to have to explain this. I am also concerned. It raises red flags for me when your department demands payment before it will hand over information regarding its spending.

According to the LCG website, the Legal Department has paid out almost $2.6 million to attorneys in the first 11 months of the 2019-2020 fiscal year. But my review of the 2019-2020 City-Parish budget shows that we only appropriated roughly $2 million for legal fees across all departments - about 80 percent of those appropriations are city tax dollars. This fact, coupled with your resistance to a simple question from a council member about your budget makes me feel that I have a duty to get to the bottom of this situation.

To that end, please immediately provide the following information to both the City and Parish Councils:

A complete accounting of all legal fees starting with the 2018-2019 budget through today—that would be two years’ worth. This information needs to include, at a minimum, a record of every payment, the date of that payment, the amount of that payment, the recipient of those funds, and the purposes of the payment, including the case name, matter name, or any other label that allows the Councils to identify the particular legal matter that was the subject of that payment.

This information needs to be sent to us in an electronic spreadsheet format like Excel. I am sure if your department is not able to generate this report, the Finance Department will be able to assist. This information should already exist in a general ledger, so compiling this should not take more than a few days.

Over that same time period, I want an accounting of the number of times the Legal Department has charged a member of the public a fee associated with a public records request. Also include the amount of fee charged for each instance.

Thank you for your prompt attention.

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