I have an inbox have full of emails and we’ve had more than a few comments here on the recent attempt of the political class in Jefferson Parish to substantially weaken the Louisiana Public Records law. This is typical behavior for the cockroaches in government over at the Yenni Building and State Senator Martiny has plenty of bona fides in with the political machine that runs Parish Government.
Before I highlight the media coverage I’d like to address Senator Martiny directly and say that I’m certain that once upon a time, before the thirst for power and money corrupted your soul, you were most likely a decent guy. To the general public watching this saga unfold including your own constituents, you now come across as a complete stooge reflective of the dishonest self entitled piece of crap you’ve become sir. Sorry to be so blunt but this isn’t one of Tim Whitmer’s love letters to Dawn, this is a legal affairs blog.
With that said let’s highlight the coverage in order beginning with a Bill Barrow report for the Times Picayune:
As the Legislature prepares to convene Monday, Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, is pushing two measures that would add new exemptions to Louisiana public records law.
Sen. Danny Martiny Senate Bill 279 deals with records related to potential law enforcement investigations and prosecutions. Generally, investigatory records already are exempted from disclosure. Under Martiny’s bill, a public office that received a request of records that have been or are being sought by a federal or state grand jury or other law enforcement agency would take two actions: 1) tell the requestor the records are related to a pending inquiry and 2) refer the request to the investigating body, which would then determine whether the requested records can be disclosed.
Martiny said he does not intend for the bill to shield documents that would clearly be deemed public records independent of any investigation. He said he merely wants to clarify for public agencies what they have to disclose.
Martiny has been drinking to many Martini’s over at the Big Rock Candy Mountain lemonade spring too as we continue:
Senate Bill 280, meanwhile, would put an absolute seal on the personnel records of any public employee — state, parish and municipal — including the records of any internal investigation or disciplinary proceedings. The bill would include all law enforcement officers. Martiny is the primary outside attorney for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office
Naturally nothing gets the attention of good journalists quicker than access to public records and indeed a version of this fight for open access and transparency in government was being waged by the Sun Herald on their editorial page as recently as Thursday. Louisiana is a public records paradise compared to Mississippi but that is another post. James Gill examines Martiny’s bill in the context of the another big story in NOLA metro, The Danziger Bridge shooting of unarmed Hurricane victims by NOPD and it is there we stop next:
Imagine — it is easy enough — that NOPD is in the middle of some gigantic frame-up when the press shows up at some government agency looking for records that are part of the case.
Under legislation to be considered at the upcoming session, the cops could remove such records from the public domain if they were the subject of a search warrant or grand jury subpoena.
The lead sponsor of the bill, Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, says the issue is whether “the ends of criminal justice outweigh the right of the people to see public records.”
Martiny’s timing is exquisite. The proposition that justice would be served by greater government secrecy is a tough sell in the metro area right now.
His bill requires us to place our trust in the cops just as we await further charges in the bogus investigation of the Danzinger Bridge shootings that left two unarmed civilians dead and four wounded.
If public confidence in the cops is at a low ebb, politicians are not held in much esteem these days either, especially in Martiny’s own parish. When Parish President Aaron Broussard up and quit a couple of months ago, his interim successor, Steve Theriot, found himself responsible for the biggest clean-up since the Augean stables.
This is turn ignited outrage in good government groups including Greater New Orleans TEA Party and good government activist Margie Seemans who said this in an email blast:
Now that the Louisiana legislature has convened, Citizens for Good Government is racheting up our fight against legislative bills which would weaken Louisiana’s public records law. Any changes which would lessen its effectiveness cannot be justified. The right of citizens to have access to public records during a criminal investigation should not be abridged—we should not be kept in the dark.
Last night we sent emails to all state senators and representatives urging them to oppose any bills which would weaken our public records law, including Senator Danny Martiny’s bills SB 279 and SB 280. We want our legislators to know that there is strong opposition to these bills among the citizens of Louisiana, and we will be watching how they vote.
I also spoke to Senator Martiny this morning on Jeff Crouere’s radio show (WGSO, 990 am). Senator Martiny indicated that he offered SB 279 at the request of Deputy Jefferson Parish Attorney Louis Gruntz. I pointed out that Mr. Gruntz has not been anxious to honor public records requests in the past, since he sued the Times-Picayune and some TV reporters this past November to prevent them from obtaining public documents relative to the Whitmer investigation. Mr. Gruntz would obviously be very happy to have a legal excuse to not release public documents needed by the investigative media.
I also made the point that our current public records law has served Louisiana well for many years, and I asked Sen. Martiny if he could point to a single instance in which a government prosecution was adversely affected by the current law. He didn’t answer the question.
I’ll be straight forward and say it is evident we are not sold on the TEA Party movement here at Slabbed but we are 100% in lockstep with Margie Seemans and the Jefferson Parish citizens group on this issue involving transparency in the conduct of the people’s business.
Once again we hear the name Deputy Jefferson Parish Attorney Louis Gruntz mentioned in connection with problems in Parish government. Given the massive corruption in Parish Government that has come to light precisely because of public access to records it is easy to see why the crooks that populate the Yenni Building would want to shut down information flow and indeed Val Bracy has previously reported that since Lil Pup Steve Theriot removed Ann Marie Vandenweghe from the public records position in the Parish Attorneys Office Parish PRR responses have been very slow and some unresponsive. Given the timing of Martiny’s bill introductions it is almost as if public records such as those featured on Slabbed such as found here and here and countless media outlets across NOLA metro were hitting a bit too close to home.
And this brings us back to the stooge, career politician Danny Martiny, whom, along with John Alario illustrate the useless of term limits in machine politics. Val Bracy scored an interview with Martiny and her report was simply fantastic. Martiny beclowns himself on camera revealing himself as a stooge for Louis Gruntz. I’ll take a stab at Martiny’s Tim Whitmer love letter email to his wife scenario as it is a topic we covered on Slabbed. Employees of a business have no expectation privacy in communications using official channels such as the Parish email system. Simply put, if Tim Whitmer wants to talk dirty to his wife (not that there is anything wrong with that) while on Parish time using the Parish email system he has no right to privacy period. As a lawyer you’d think Martiny would know that. Now for a few snippets from Val’s report:
Proposed changes to the state’s public records law would limit access to information related to criminal investigations, employee personnel records and the emails of public employees.
All of which helped uncover potential corruption in the Jefferson Parish scandal.
At the last council meeting two resolutions quietly passed unanimously without any discussion.
“Well I don’t think we’re trying to hide anything from the public. There was never any intent to hide anything from the public,” said council member Elton Lagasse.
Sad thing is this Lagasse fool no doubt believed what he was saying but I don’ think anyone else outisde the Yenni building does including US Attorney Jim Letten as we continue:
Jefferson Parish senator Danny Martiny says the Parish Attorney’s Office asked him to sponsor the bill.
“Only in very limited circumstances where the US Attorney or the Attorney General or the District Attorney specifically says these particular documents are very sensitive documents in a serious criminal investigation and the release of the information would possibly, could possibly, jeopardize or in some way weaken our investigation, we are asking you not to release those documents for the next 14 days,” said Martiny.
US Attorney Jim Letten says his office doesn’t get involved in any form of law making, but he doesn’t have a problem with the public records law as it reads now. That law gives a public agency three days to respond to a records request.
“If records are public from a public source they still remain public even though they may be under subpoena by us,” said Letten.
Martiny, no doubt was clueless Val chopped off his d*ck, continues the interview undaunted, waxing nonsensical as the video report contains Martiny’s idiotic Whitmer love letter scenario as he has no good answers to Val’s excellent questions. These bills and others like it sponsored at the behest of Louis Gruntz should die a quick and merciless death in the legislature but a reader emailed me saying Senate legislative staffers were instead putting heat on Ms Seemans to withdraw her group’s strenuous objections to these measures. The Jefferson parish machine is as shameless as it is corrupt.
I’m certain we’ll have more on this topic before Lil’ Pups tenure as John Alario’s lap dog running the Parish is done.