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City Delays Public Records Trial

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Attorneys for Mayor Shelton and IBTS, Central’s private city services contractor, have filed a second Motion for Summary Judgment, delaying an ongoing public records trial for another three to six months. The first Motion for Summary Judgment was denied by the court.  
In 2015 public records requests were made seeking documents relating to the approval of the 250 apartments in the Shoe Creek development across from Walmart on Sullivan Road. After the court ruled in the city’s favor, allowing 250 apartments to be constructed when Central’s zoning code called for a limit of 42 apartments, the city disclosed that it had withheld documents from those public records requests without disclosing that fact, but the Louisiana’s Public Records Law requires disclosure of public records that are withheld.
The resulting public records lawsuit has now been underway for almost three years. Mayor Shelton claims that he is not the custodian of Central’s public records, stating that he delegated that responsibility and authority to IBTS, the city’s private city services contractor. In a preliminary hearing, the attorney for IBTS stated that IBTS is the only party answerable in court for any failure to follow the public records law, and that Mayor Shelton should be dismissed from the suit. However, the court has rejected attempts by Mayor Shelton’s attorneys to remove him as a defendant. 
Louisiana’s Public Records Law states “the word ‘custodian’ means the public official or head of any public body having custody or control of a public record, or a representative specifically authorized by him to respond to requests to inspect any such public records” and that “Providing access to public records is a responsibility and duty of the appointive or elective office of a custodian and his employees.”
If the court were to rule in favor of Mayor Shelton, citizens of Central would have no elected or appointed city official to hold responsible for any violation of the Public Records Law, and would be forced to take the private city services contractor, IBTS, to court to obtain any public records unlawfully withheld. The Motion for Summary Judgment hearing is scheduled for October 22, 2018.
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