City of Central involved in another public records lawsuit - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

City of Central involved in another public records lawsuit

(Source: WAFB) (Source: WAFB)
CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) -

"It's personal." That is how the mayor of Central describes a lawsuit against the city.

Dave Freneaux, the editor of Central Speaks, filed a public records request lawsuit against the city. Freneaux said the city ignored several of his attempts at access to public documents. 

"It's a fundamental right of a citizen to see operations of government," said Freneaux. 

This is the second time the City of Central has faced such a lawsuit. Last time it was another paper editor, Woody Jenkins, in a lawsuit over records involving Mac Watts, the former Central mayor. 

"All Mr. Freneaux is asking is that the City of Central follow the law," said Freneaux's attorney, Seth Dornier. 

The issue deals with an earlier lawsuit Freneaux was involved in over Central's zoning ordinances and a planned development. The judge in that case dismissed the lawsuit, but a new trial has been requested. 

Freneaux said he made several public records requests to the city for that suit, but was later made aware things were withheld. 

"We made another set of public records requests and for over 30 days, they've not responded," said Freneaux. 

Louisiana law allows three working days for a response. 

Freneaux said this lawsuit now is to find out what he was not given and whether it could have helped in the first case. 

Mayor Jr. Shelton said he is a believer in transparency and welcomes any requests for public documents. He said part of the issue with these particular documents that have been requested by Freneaux is that they are time consuming. Shelton said since July 31, 2015, the editor has made a total of 28 public records requests, including some which contain thousands of documents. 

"This is simply because he lost to me in the mayoral race," Shelton said by phone on Monday. 

There's also another issue in this case: who is the custodian of the requested records. Attorneys for the city say, for years, they've contracted with a private company to handle that. 

"The mayor's attorney tried to fill an exception to say it isn't him and the judge basically sat back and said how does the mayor of a city delegate all responsibility for public records to a private third party?" 

Attorneys for the company the city uses say they plan to have several things sent to the editor within the week. 

They'll be back in court January 11, 2016.

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