One of the more curious developments in The Independent's public records dispute with Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope is the lawman's apparent willful ignorance of what constitutes an appropriate use of his office and its resources.
Since the beginning, it's been our suspicion — one now sufficiently verified — that Marshal Pope's Oct. 7 press conference slamming then-candidate for sheriff Mark Garber was a political stunt coordinated with the campaign for sheriff of Scott Police Chief Chad Leger, Pope's longtime friend and colleague he endorsed for sheriff. We didn't guess, though perhaps we should have, that Pope's caprice with his authority extended well beyond what we already suspected.
During a video deposition conducted Dec. 28, IND attorney Gary McGoffin asked Pope to explain why he used two city marshal administrators to craft a fundraising letter. In the video — shown below — Pope seems baffled by the question, noting that as as "political figure" he has every right to use the resources of his office to run a campaign.
These fundraising letters were distributed via the marshal's official email address [email protected] and uncovered in Pope's Dec. 18 court-ordered response to The Ind's Oct. 8 public records request.
It's worth remembering that use of public resources or public office to coerce behavior for personal gain is a crime in Louisiana. The Louisiana Revised Statute calls it Abuse of Office. Pope's defense in the above clip boils down to, "Everybody does it."
Universal Citation: LA Rev Stat § 14:134.3
§134.3. Abuse of office
A. No public officer or public employee shall knowingly and intentionally use the authority of his office or position, directly or indirectly, to compel or coerce any person to provide the public officer, public employee or any other person with anything of apparent present or prospective value when the public officer or employee is not entitled by the nature of his office to the services sought or the object of his demand.
B.(1) Whoever violates the provisions of this Section shall be fined up to five thousand dollars, or be imprisoned with or without hard labor for not less than one year nor more than five years.
While this may not seem like that big of a deal — a run-of-the-mill political corruption so common that it bears no reproach — against a wider backdrop of ethically questionable behavior, this further fills in a portrait of an entitled public official far too comfortable abusing his office.
Read more about the ongoing public records battle between The IND and Pope here.