Louisiana Record

Monday, October 14, 2019

Indiana woman sues Louisiana AG for failing to fulfill open records requests

By Melissa Busch | Apr 7, 2017

BATON ROUGE – An Indiana woman has been waiting more than six months for Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to fulfill her public records requests for information, including his contracts with law firms and his correspondence with gas and oil companies.

Indianapolis resident Scarlett A. Martin filed a suit in the 19th Judicial District Court Parish of East Baton Rouge on March 24, seeking the requested records, attorney fees, costs, damages and civil penalties.

"Ms. Martin issued her public records request to Mr. Landry's Office 187 days ago on September 30, 2016,” her attorney, Chris Whittington, told the Louisiana Record. “Mr. Landry's office asked her to pay $250 for copying costs,  and she did so immediately.”

Despite paying the fees, for unknown reasons, the office has yet to produce the records.

“Mr. Landry provides no excuse as to why he has not produced these public documents,” Whittington said.

Martin filed two public records requests on Sept. 30 of last year. She requested all correspondence between Landry, any member of his office, including Elizabeth Murrill, solicitor general and director of the administrative division at the state’s department of justice; Chief Deputy Attorney General Bill Stiles; and other representatives “involved in the exploration for the production of hydrocarbons,” according to the lawsuit.

Also, the request also specifically asks for any correspondence with Shane Guidry, CEO of Harvey Gulf International Marine LLC; any representatives from Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, including Don Briggs; any representatives from Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, including Chris John; and any representatives from the Louisiana Business Association, including Brian Landry.

Additionally, her request mentions correspondence the attorney general had with Chester Cedars, an attorney for Landry, and Kyle Ruckert, a former top aide to a former U.S. senator,David Vitter.

Martin also asked for documents related to Landry’s speaking engagements and public appearances as the state’s chief prosecutor, including records for travel, meals and lodging, according to the suit. She asked for records that showed contracts awarded to attorneys and law firms that were retained to represent the state and state entities in litigation.

She expanded her request on Oct 17 to include contracts and correspondence for legal representation that Landry had reviewed since Jan. 11, 2016, according to the suit.

Whittington did not respond as to why Martin wanted the records.

According to the suit, an attorney on behalf of Martin sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General Shannon Dirmann reiterating her requests for record, and noting that the office was violating the state open records law by not fulfilling her request in a timely fashion.

“You acknowledged each request, going so far as to ask yourself for 30 days over and beyond the law’s allowance,” according to a letter that was submitted along with the suit. “Ms. Martin kindly agreed to your request because of the expanse of her Open Records Request. At the end of that 30-day period, she contacted you and was told by you that she would have this information within 14 days. That was in mid-November, some 60 days ago.”

Landry's decision has left Martin with no options other than to seek legal action, her attorneys said. 

“In a nutshell, Louisiana 's chief law enforcer has chosen to violate public records law,” Whittington said.

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