Judge: coastal adviser's emails are public records
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A state judge says thousands of emails from Gov. Bobby Jindal's chief coastal adviser are public record and the Division of Administration has until Jan. 15 to turn them over to a New Orleans environmental activist.
District Judge Todd Hernandez ruled Friday in Anne Rolfes' public records lawsuit against the Division of Administration.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/17IYeKZ ) Rolfes believes the correspondence to and from Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves from December to August could shed light on conversations Graves had with energy officials about a flood-protection board's decision to file a July lawsuit against dozens of oil and gas companies.
Rolfes, the founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, filed the public records request in August and the lawsuit in September on her own and not on behalf of her organization. The Division of Administration told Rolfes the request was overbroad and unduly burdensome, prompting her to file the lawsuit.
Graves was first told in December that the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East was considering a lawsuit against 97 oil and gas firms. The lawsuit alleged that their dredging and pipeline work in coastal marshes has been a major contributor to coastal erosion, which has increased the risk of catastrophic flooding in and around New Orleans.
Graves has led the Jindal administration's opposition to the suit, accusing the flood protection authority of exceeding its authority and interfering with other coastal restoration efforts.
Rolfes' attorney, Jane Booth, argued Friday that the division, which asked Rolfes to narrow her request, has not provided a single piece of paper to Rolfes.
"Basically the name of this game right now is delay," Booth said during a hearing.
Division attorney David Boggs countered that the division did not deny Rolfes' public records request and added that it will take the division at least two months to pour over more than 19,000 emails and determine which ones are public and which ones are not.
"If it takes that much time, then it takes that much time," the judge replied.
Hernandez said Rolfes' public records request was not unreasonable and he scolded the division for its inaction. He also ordered the division to pay Rolfes' attorney fees of $1,400.
"We're very pleased with the ruling," Booth said after the hearing. "I think the court rendered a fair ruling."