Lafayette Consolidated Government is suing Lafayette City Court attorney Gary McGoffin over a records request for the court’s bank statements from November.
LCG filed suit Monday asking 15th Judicial District Court Judge Thomas Frederick to order McGoffin, as the City Court’s representative, to produce records that an auditor requested as part of an LCG probe of court spending.
LCG is seeking fines of $100 per day back to November in the suit.
LCG, the 15th Judicial District Court and the Lafayette City Court share facilities and expenses on certain public goods, but they are separate political entities under state law. Both courts are run by elected judges, and judges cannot serve on both courts.
Emails attached to LCG’s lawsuit show that City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan requested seven years’ worth of monthly bank statements for 14 accounts used by the City Court on Nov. 2, 2021, as part of a process analysis by consulting firm KPMG and a separate audit of the court’s finances.
The request was initially delayed by issues with access to the financial records and staff availability, but emails provided by McGoffin show that he and court staff had responded to the request with multiple documents by Nov. 16.
Emails included in the lawsuit are available at the end of this report.
Logan contacted McGoffin on Nov. 16 about issues with a password on some electronic records. McGoffin responded that day by providing the password and asked Logan if he needed other records to be scanned since that would take court staff several days to do.
LCG’s suit included a subsequent email from Logan to McGoffin on April 12, 2022, in which Logan said the records still hadn’t been received.
CONSIDER SUBSCRIBING TODAY: Help support local journalists like Andrew Capps
McGoffin replied that day saying he would look into the issue. He then emailed a City Court employee who told him she was waiting on Logan to decide whether he wanted to view paper copies of the records that were already available at the city courthouse.
"The items in question have already been pulled and boxed and have been sitting for months. We were waiting to see how they wanted these documents provided to them since the cost to scan was quite high," the employee wrote in an email to McGoffin.
"Logan was supposed to get back with us to view the documents."
Logan pointed out that the City Court employee's response to McGoffin's email
State law does not require public bodies to digitize records that do not already exist in electronic format to fulfill public records requests.
In a statement Tuesday, City Court Judge Doug Saloom called the lawsuit "puzzling" because many of the records in the request were provided to LCG in August 2021 before the request was even issued that November.
"This action is puzzling because the original, hard copies of the requested records were made available on November 16, 2021. The cost of reproducing those records as requested by LCG would have exceeded$1,500.00oftaxpayer funds. The documents remain available for review by LCG at the City Court or copies could be made at LCG’s expense," he wrote.
"Since then, three attempts were made to deliver the QuickBooks accounts in digital format in addition to the hard copy documentation that was already produced and remains available."
McGoffin was named the defendant in LCG’s lawsuit even though he is a contracted attorney for the City Court and not an actual court employee.
He said LCG’s decision to sue him, rather than the court, despite his lack of custodial control over the records, should be viewed in the context of his representation of clients in ongoing suits against LCG challenging its own responses to public records requests and its recent "quick-take" land seizure.
McGoffin represents the Daily Advertiser in various public records processes and litigation, including against LCG. He also represents the heirs of Lucille B. Randol in a lawsuit against LCG over its expropriation of 14.5 acres of the family’s land.
His representation of the defunct Independent Weekly in a 2015 public records lawsuit against former Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope ultimately led to Pope’s criminal conviction.
A date has not yet been set for a hearing in the case over the City Court's records.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Lafayette government sues City Court attorney for bank statements