Feb. 24, 2016 12:08 AM

The city marshal, flanked by his deputies, delivers the original press conference that set off this ongoing records dispute last fall.
photo by Robin May

Attorneys for The IND and City Marshal Brian Pope have agreed to the terms of an IND-requested inspection of the marshal’s computer and email network. Governed by a protective order, The IND’s technical consultant Doug Menefee will be allowed to inspect the marshal’s computer and email services, as well as the network and servers employed by his office, pursuant to the search terms used in The IND’s three standing public records requests. Menefee will also further inspect the contents of email servers operated by Lafayette Consolidated Government, who provides email service to the marshal’s office.

Pope’s newest IT consultant, Brian Hanks of Global Data Systems, will accompany Menefee throughout the inspection for technical assistance and to ensure that private and confidential documents not meeting the standards of The IND’s requests are not inspected or reproduced. The protective order requires that any documents found to be of questionable relevance to the public records search would be evaluated by attorneys for both parties. Presiding judge Jules Edwards III of the 15th JDC would have the deciding say as to the admissibility of any controverted documents.

Following a bizarre press conference attacking then-sheriff’s candidate Mark Garber last fall, The IND submitted a public records request seeking emails that would potentially demonstrate that Pope had coordinated that press conference with the campaign of Garber’s opponent, Scott Police Chief Chad Leger. After initially claiming an exemption from the October request, Pope stated through his attorney that no responsive records existed.

At a hearing last December, Edwards ordered Pope to search his files again, suggesting he employ technical assistance, and issued an injunction preventing Pope from withholding any documents. Pope then produced 588 pages of documents.

Meanwhile, The IND filed a parallel public records request with LCG, stipulating the same terms for which Pope originally claimed no responsive documents. The LCG request produced 79 pages not included in Pope’s own certified production, many of which indicated that Pope had, in fact, coordinated and organized that October press conference with the aid of Leger’s campaign manager, Hilary “Joe” Castille. In a deposition, Pope admitted under oath that Castille had written materials for that press conference, conflicting with testimony from an earlier hearing.

This week’s inspection, requested by The IND on Feb. 11, will attempt to determine whether and when emails not contained in Pope’s document production were deleted, in clear violation of a court order. Pope’s current technical consultant has certified that they cannot fully comply with The IND’s standing requests without access to LCG’s own servers and information. Pope issued a massive public records request on LCG earlier this year, seeking to demonstrate collusion between The IND and city government.

Documents found in the inspection, and deemed responsive to The IND’s requests, will be reproduced in time for a contempt hearing set for Feb. 29. At a hearing earlier this year, the court ruled Pope’s responses to two IND requests from 2015 “woefully inadequate,” awarding attorney’s fees to The IND and enforcing statutory penalties that are currently accruing at a rate of $200 a day. Pope has filed an appeal of that ruling, with an appeal bond set at just north of $80,000.

Depending on how the inspection informs the court’s opinion of Pope’s compliance or lack thereof, Pope could face civil or criminal contempt penalties.