Hearing set for Pope public records suit

We've gone back and forth on the date due to Pope's holiday schedule, but we've got our day in court coming.

Brian Pope

As of now, a hearing in The Independent's public records suit of City Marshal Brian Pope is set for Dec. 14. We say “as of now” because our previously scheduled date of Jan. 4 was moved to accommodate Pope’s holiday schedule. Once again, the justice of public information was thwarted by the city marshal’s frequent vacationing.

The IND has requested to depose Pope before of the hearing, which has been arranged as a late addition to the docket of 15th Judicial District Court Judge Jules Edwards at the Vermilion Parish courthouse. In return, Pope has requested to depose IND Staff Writer Christiaan Mader and any other witnesses who might be called by the paper to testify at the hearing.

By Dec. 14, it will have been more than three months since we submitted a formal public records request to Pope for emails we suspected he exchanged with the campaign of then-candidate for sheriff Chad Leger to orchestrate this bizarre Oct. 7 press conference attacking now Sheriff-elect Mark Garber.

It's our suspicion that Pope collaborated with the Leger campaign to distribute the video, and thus unlawfully used public funds and his office to aid a political ally.

Pope formally endorsed Leger later in October, though he expressly denied having done so in an answer to an injunction filed against him and Leger by attorney C. Ray Murray, an associate of Garber’s.

After repeated requests for emails associated with his official city marshal email account, containing the keywords Garber, Neustrom, Chad, Leger, immigration, Honduras, worker, compensation, illegal, alien, haven, Castille, Team Leger, personal injury, campaign, campaigner, mailing list in the sender, recipient, cc, bcc, subject and body fields of those messages, Pope deflected all communication to his attorney.

At one point, Pope indicated through his attorney that emails responsive to our request might exist based on replies to his third party press advisory distributed by the Campaigner email service. The Leger campaign also used the Campaigner service to send press advisories. In his answer to our petition for the upcoming hearing, Pope claimed that his search turned up no such emails.

As part of our suit, we’ve filed 14 parallel public records requests with Pope’s office as well as with LCG. You can see their contents below: