City Marshal Brian Pope has formally denied The IND's public records request seeking release of emails we believe were exchanged between himself and Chad Leger's campaign using Pope's official @lafayettela.gov email address.
Pope held an Oct. 7 press conference at the marshal's office to notify the public of this video of candidate Mark Garber talking to a Honduran television reporter about immigration policy and worker's rights. Pope claimed in the presser that the video depicted Garber soliciting business from potential undocumented migrants, and went on to describe a condition of amnesty for criminal immigrants in Lafayette, seemingly unlinked (by way of causation, anyhow) to his claims about Garber. The initial notice was sent using a Campaigner email service often used in political email blasts.
In an email to the Independent, Pope claimed the emails requested were private in nature and thus not public record, despite transmitting them from a public email address that includes the following post-scripted disclaimer. Emphasis added:
Confidentiality Notice: This e-mail message, including any attachments is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any receipt and/or response to this email may be considered a PUBLIC RECORD.
Now, we're just simple country journalists, but we're fairly certain Pope doesn't have much of leg to stand on here. Let's not forget that the emails we're seeking concern the planning and orchestration of a press conference which invoked the authority and public duty of Pope's office as city marshal. We, the doting press, were called to his presence via the following advisory. Once again, emphasis added:
LAFAYETTE CITY-MARSHAL BRIAN POPE TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE REGARDING ELECTION FOR SHERIFF OF LAFAYETTE PARISH, AND IMMIGRATION POLICY.
Lafayette City-Marshal Brian Pope will hold a press conference to make a major statement regarding the election for Sheriff of Lafayette Parish, and immigration policy, on Wednesday, October 7th, at 10:30 AM.
The Marshal will issue a statement and provide supporting materials to attendees.
The press conference will be held at the City Marshal’s Office at 811 Lee Street, Lafayette, Louisiana.
TL;DR/In short/Let me Google that for you: Public official has official announcement to make from his public office to the public.
Pope's legal claim rests on a 2013 opinion by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell which held that private emails exchanged on public servers are not necessarily subject to public record requests. That legal claim does not excuse Pope, who appears to have formally endorsed Leger, of the burden of explaining why he used his office account to make private communications. Nor does it readily substantiate that those communications did not concern public or official business, especially considering the advisory and press release pictured below referenced his official contact info. In other words, we don't buy it.
We intend to continue pursuit of these communiques and will keep you updated.