Sunday, August 25, 2013

JP Employee Files PRR To Get Public Records On Ordinary Citizens – Myself Included



It hasn’t been a good month for political consultant Greg Buisson, especially when it’s regarding Public Records Requests (PRR).

Buisson is the political consultant for several infamous politicians including former JP President Aaron Broussard, former New Orleans City Councilman and State Rep. Jon Johnson and current St. Tammany Coroner Peter Galvan, along with current politicos like Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, and members of the Jefferson Parish Council.

Last month, Buisson was quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune as complaining about “the relentless number of public records requests” made by myself and Citizens For a Better Kenner. Up to that point, I made a grand total of ZERO Public Records Requests in 2013 and only TWO in 2012. That is certainly not a “relentless number.”

Buisson even went so far as to say the State Legislature should ban citizens from filing public records requests.

“There ought to be a legislative act to make them stop happening,” Buisson said.

As ridiculous as it sounds to ban citizens from their legal rights to receive information about what their government is doing, given Buisson’s tentacles into politicians, he could get such a law passed.

Since the Jefferson Parish Council successfully asked the JP Legislative Delegation to change a 20-year-old state law requiring a public vote on the lease of our public hospitals, anything is possible.

Well this week, Buisson was back at it again – this time in court.

In the climax to a lawsuit that has been several years in the making, Buisson was called as an “Expert Witness” in a case involving a Public Records Request filed by a citizen who received information about the job history of current Kenner City Councilwoman Maria DeFranchesch and then published the information he received. DeFranchesch was formerly employed by the Jefferson Parish Public School System.

Now, ignoring for the moment the sheer ridiculousness of calling Greg Buisson an “Expert” on anything except fleecing candidates and elected officials and then bilking taxpayers, it is important to note that DeFranchesch is a client of Buisson and she was victorious in her Kenner City Council race. But, in typical Buisson client fashion, DeFranchesch couldn’t leave well enough alone and tried to use the courts as an avenue for her vindictiveness.

Fortunately for us, DeFranchesch and her “Expert” lost.

And just this week, ClickJefferson.com received information about a new Public Records Request that is the mother of all Public Records Requests and, if granted, should put a chill down the spines of every law abiding citizen everywhere.

At the last Kenner City Council meeting, Jeff Zapata took offense to comments made by District 2 Kenner City Councilman Joe Stagni at a prior meeting. 

Zapata, formerly a member of the Kenner Police Department and currently the Administrative Aide to Jefferson Parish District 4 Councilman Ben Zahn (another Buisson client), filed a Public Records Request with the City of Kenner seeking information and documents from and to Councilman Stagni, Stagni's Council Assistant, and 5 private citizens including myself, Officers of Citizens For a Better Kenner, and our attorney, employees of Veolia Water (the City of Kenner's utility company) along with two unaffiliated individuals.

The Public Records Request seeks “Any and all electronic communications between any two or more of the following parties during the period from January 1, 2013, to August 1, 2013” and “Any and all documents relating to communications between any two or more of the below named individuals for the period from January 1, 2013, to August 1, 2013”.

So, any communication between 2 of the 12 people listed? Even if the communication is between private citizens? How does that fall under the Public Records Law?

The request futher stipulates:

“For clarification, this request shall be construed to pertain to:

Digital, textual or numeric electronic messages; images; diagrams; audio files and recordings; and attachments in any form or manner sent/received via any device including computer, cellular phone, beeper, or personal communications device.  

This request shall include but not be limited to: electronic mail (e-mail); internet relay chat (IRC) or instant messages (IM); postings on Twitter; Face Book, MySpace, Youtube, or any other social network, blog, website, webpage or Internet site of any kind, as well as any and all attachments in any form or manner.

This request shall pertain to and include any such materials sent/received via any device owned, leased, rented, borrowed, utilized, operated by, or possessed by Mr, Stagni and registered to the City of Kenner, Kenner Council, or Kenner Council District 2 office, as well as any device owned, leased, rented, or utilized by Mr. Stagni and registered under any corporate, business or private name, including any assumed identity and used on a part time or full time basis to send or receive email or messages of any official nature.  

Devices specifically governed by this request include any device that is or has been during the specified time period used on any occasion, for any length of time, for any duration, in any capacity or manner, by Mr. Stagni or his staff or others to communicate or engage in discussion with any party regarding any aspect of: (1) Official duties of his elected office; (2) officialCity of Kenner communications; (3) City business; (4) office communications; (5) communications regarding City affairs in any context; (6) communications regarding City records, files, finances, employees, facilities, equipment, work assignments, work orders; and (7) City contracts, contractor(s) or work or services provided by same. (8) complaints; (9) inquiries and research; (10) comments, questions, requests, responses, opinions, findings, and determinations; (11) jokes.

Furthermore, this request pertains to any described electronic communications or components or portions thereof that were created, posted, sent, received, stored, maintained, or archived: (1) within any City of Kenner owned or leased or rented facility, office, vehicle used by Mr. Stagni for any duration or segment of time; (2) privately or publicly owned, leased, rented, or utilized computer or electronic communications device of any description utilized for official business by Mr. Stagni for any segment of time including any such device located within any facility or place used by Mr. Stagni to conduct City business including any residence, corporate, business, or private place or office for any segment of time; (3) City owned, leased, rented: plant, building, facility, office, or vehicle utilized by Mr. Peter Stump, Ms. JoAnn Massony or Veolia Water for any segment of time.

This request shall include computer (laptop, desktop, notebook, pad, pod, etc.), cellular phone, beeper, personal digital assistant, or personal communications devices of any description.
This request shall include any webpage(s) or social media sites or email addresses maintained by the City of Kenner and/or Mr. Joseph Stagni in any capacity at any location.   Specifically, email addresses include, but are not limited to: (NOTE: private email address redacted by ClickJefferson.com) and district2@kenner.la.us.

This request extends to products and work areas and devices utilized by any deputy, employee, agent, agency, appointee, contracted entity, associate,volunteer, cohort or constituent of Mr. Stagni acting on his behalf or direction as a City official.  Specifically, this request applies to devices, records and files of Ms. JoAnn Sigur (NOTE: JoAnn Sigur is Councilman Stagni's council assistant) as well as any other City of Kenner Council Office staff member or employee.

This request extends to any business or corporation, entity or person employed, contracted by, or associated in any manner with the City or Mr. Stagni and that may store on a permanent or temporary basis materials related to records generated in connection with his official duties as Councilman / employee of the City of Kenner.

This request extends to any records maintained by Mr. Stagni for his official duties at any location, including those located within or upon any corporate or privately-owned, leased, rented, operated, or utilized residence, business, office, facility, device (cellphone, beeper, computer), network, or storage device.

This includes any drafts or editions of any materials so described that exist as well as those currently being developed or prepared and in any format, condition or version (i.e., draft).  
This request extends to any and all on-site as well as off-site City of Kenner owned, leased or utilized network(s), servers, facilities, computer, data storage devices, as well as archived data in any format.  

This request extends to any network, server, cloud, facility, computer, data storage devices as well as archived data in any format that is under the direct or indirect control of Mr. Joseph Stagni or any subordinate, employee or appointee in any capacity.

This request pertains to and includes, but is not limited to, any and all materials such as: email, text message, blog entry, tweet, comment, or postings; sent or received two-way or one-way communications; multiple party communications; copied, forwarded, re-directed, or reply communications; unanswered, unacknowledged, unread, misdirected, or unsolicited communications; spam; erased, archived or deleted communications; encrypted or non-encrypted communications; anonymous communications (sender or recipient is unidentified or misidentified);communication that utilizes an assumed identity for sender / receiver; carbon copy communications; blind copy communications; any and all other types or manner of electronic communications.”

Talk about an all-encompassing PRR, right?

In essence, Zapata is saying “Let me look at every computer that Councilman Stagni ever owned, whether it is owned by the City of Kenner or privately-owned; let me see every email that Councilman Stagni has sent or received to any of the people listed whether it was sent or received by his official council email or his personal email address and is about City of Kenner business or anything else; let me review every Facebook post Councilman Stagni ever made and what Facebook posts made by others that he liked; and, if you ever sent Councilman Stagni a joke via email, text, Twitter or Facebook, I want to see that too.”

Aside from the fact that this PRR is too broad, the kicker is, how many man hours will be spent retrieving and sorting this information and how much would it cost the City of Kenner?

The City of Kenner charges $1 per page to copy the information in a Public Records Request.

But, here’s where it gets interesting: 

“Please advise me in writing at the listed address or via email address of the date/time and location where I or my agent may examine and/or review the documents in accordance with La.R.S. 44:31 and 44:32 (A), and within the time frame established in La.R.S. 44:33 (B). I or my agent will inform you or your agency of specific materials that I wish to have re-produced and purchase, if any fee, after I have examined and/or reviewed the materials.  

I assert that all fees should be waived or at reduced cost in compliance with Louisiana Revised Statutes [44:32 (C) (2)] as this information will be used for public purpose before a governmental body.  However, if you assert there is a fee associated with providing copies of the requested documents, please provide me in advance in writing with the official corresponding governmental fee schedule and identify with specificity the statutory / ordinance provision /authority governing same and its applicability to these specific documents.

Unless specified otherwise in writing herein or hereafter, I, or my agent, reserve the right to examine and/or review all documents in your possession and that you present pursuant to this request prior to ordering individual copies of said document(s) or reproducing same. Futhermore(sic), I reserve the right to reproduce documents utilizing my own device.”

So, in essence, if this ridiculous request is granted, the City of Kenner will spend hundreds of man hours compiling this information for Zapata for him to review and he’s asking to review EVERYTHING BEFORE the City copies the documents (which they would need to do to redact some information that may not be part of the public records law) and Zapata asserts that there should be no cost to him since the information could “be used for public purpose before a governmental body.”

Now, when I’ve filed Public Records Requests, I’ve asked to either review the information or for photocopies and I’ve willingly paid the $1 per page fee.  Paid the City of Kenner $6 last week for a Public Records Request. But, I’ve never had the audacity to say, “Spend hours working on my wild goose chase, let me review the documents and determine if I want any copied, don’t charge me the fees that you charge every other citizens because I may turn this information over to another unspecified government agency (The NSA? The DA? The Kenner PD?) and tell me what the fee would be BEFORE I decide if I want to pay you anything for your trouble.”

No private citizen has ever been given those options requested by Zapata.

In addition, Zapata also asks for the right to reproduce whatever he wants using his own device. This option has never been granted to average citizens who file PRRs in Kenner.

Aside from the audacity of Zapata to expect that the City will perform this mountain of work for him free of charge, it is also audacious to even request communications between citizens and their elected official.

Councilman Stagni is my duly-elected representative. Do I communicate with him? Of course. I communicate with elected officials everywhere, even those that are not my representatives. But that’s not illegal.

Hopefully, Kenner City Attorney Keith Conley laughed out loud at Zapata’s ridiculous request.

Perhaps Mr. Zapata should have sought the “Expert” information provided by his boss’s political consultant, Mr. Buisson.

Or, perhaps, I should pick out 12 citizens in Kenner and ask to see every email, text, Tweet or Facebook post made between them and Mayor Yenni.

I wonder if I could get away with saying that there shouldn’t be a fee because I might turn the information over to another governmental entity.

What is the governmental entity that regulates Hot Sausages and the sale of Ding Dongs?

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