Shreveport public records battle continues in appeal court

Shreveport public records battle continues in appeal court

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The lawsuit pitting Shreveport Police Officer's Association President Michael Carter against Former Police Chief Willie Shaw, current City Attorney William Bradford and the city itself breathed new life in the second circuit court of appeal on Tuesday morning.

The lawsuit stems from four public records requests Carter and his attorney, Pamela Breedlove, submitted on September 14, 2015.

Breedlove said the request asked for documents showing how many authorized officers could be in each division of the department and how many there actually were.

They also asked for every officer's time sheet from 2014 and 2015.

The city informed her they had the request the next day but didn't give the first document back until more than a month later on October 27, 2015, according to Breedlove.

Breedlove and Carter filed suit against the city, Shaw and Bradford on October 19, 2015.

Yesterday, inside the courtroom of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal as Breedlove argued her client's case again.

"The law states you have to give an estimate of when you're going to get it and there's a reason for it because of what happens in this situation," she said. "They couldn't give us an estimate. They didn't want to give us an estimate."

According to the appeal brief, the last responsive documents weren't produced until February 26, 2016.

"To say that we ignored it is not correct," refuted Edwin Byrd, an attorney for the city.

Byrd argued the city was no silent in that time span of more than a month. Rather, Byrd pointed to how the city asked for extensions on both October 6th and October 8th of 2015.

According to Byrd, these extension requests were due to the size of the request which totaled nearly 4,000 pages.

"This thing was a pretty massive effort and to say it was a simple request is an understatement," Byrd said.

Byrd also stated during court that it took the police sergeant tasked with procuring the documents 45 hours total to put them all together in addition to his other duties.

"How many either formal through the court or informal, delays were agreed upon or discussed between the city and the counsel for the plaintiff?" Judge Pro Tempore Joseph Bleich asked Byrd.

"There were probably four or five," Byrd replied.

But when it comes to the city needing more time, Breedlove pointed to Louisiana Public Records Law, specifically Revised Statute 44:33, which states in part:

....if the record is not immediately available, i.e., is in active use at the time of the application requesting it, the custodian shall promptly certify the unavailability of the record to the requester in writing, and in this certificate fix a day and hour within three (3) days....

"The custodian's supposed to tell me that, or Sgt. Carter that, within three days," said Breedlove.

Carter's attorney also said the city improperly attempted to charge her client nearly $3,400 for "labor" in providing the documents when Shreveport public records ordinances only require charging 15 cents per page.

"3,924 pages, at 15 cents a page, $588.60. That's what the check should have been," Breedlove said.

Byrd said during court that it was an error on the city's part to not communicate the need for an extension sooner.

Back on a September 12, 2016 hearing, Caddo District Judge Craig Marcotte did award Carter and Breedlove $2,000 in attorney's fees. However, Breedlove said that's less than half of the $7,000 she said her client is owed and Judge Marcotte also denied her motion that the city should be forced to pay more than $10,000 in penalties for violating public records law.

Now, the future of Breedlove and Carter's case in the hands of the appeal judges.

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