Guillory’s Comments, New Public Records Cost Spark Media Backlash
“Let me tell you, I wish it was $100 a page because some of these media -- I’m serious -- I wish every media outlet had to pay $100 a page. You put me on the record with that."
Those were the words of Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory on KPEL Thursday morning, during his weekly "Lafayette Live" segment. He was asked about a new LCG policy to charge $1 per page for any public records request.
“All these media outlets, they pry and they pry," he explained. "They take our directors -- I’m going to get bricks thrown at me -- not the public. I wish the public had it for free. But I wish these media outlets (were charged) $100 a page because they take our directors away from people to pry and pry and make up things."
The Current, which has written several pieces critical of Guillory, has been hit hardest.
Editor Christiaan Mader wrote about the cost increase's effect on The Current's reporting.
Inflation is rising, but not as fast as the price of transparency in Lafayette. In August, Lafayette Consolidated Government rolled out a new fee schedule for digital copies of public records. What had been free for years will now cost citizens $1 a page, a rate that can rack up thousands in fees for expansive requests.
The Current, a nonprofit news organization, was billed more than $900 for a pair of requests filed last month. According to LCG’s new policy, not yet published, the invoice must be paid before the documents are turned over. The bill will increase as invoices for other outstanding requests are calculated.
One of the concerns over the added cost for public records is whether or not it violates the Lafayette Home Rule Charter, Andrew Capps mentioned in a report at the Daily Advertiser.
"Guillory’s decision to implement the new charges, without publishing any rates or fee schedules," he wrote, "appears to run afoul of Lafayette’s Home Rule Charter, which requires council action to 'regulate the rate or other charges for service by (LCG).'”
Neither council has even considered any measures to implement Guillory's new fee for electronic records, and no such measure is set for consideration at the council meetings on Tuesday, Sep. 20. City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan said Thursday that he needed more information to comment on the Charter issue.
"Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, fond of saying his administration is transparent, recently enacted a $1 per page fee for the news media and public to obtain public records via email," Claire Taylor wrote at The Advocate.
LCG's public records can still be viewed for free, though supervised, but acquiring a digital copy of any of those records will cost you. In the case of The Current, Mader had to go "Assistant City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert’s office," where "The Current reviewed two PDFs on a wall-mounted computer monitor, documents that could be easily (and historically were) transmitted by email or file-sharing service."
"Hebert’s paralegal, who chaperoned the viewing session," Mader writes, "says the documents were delivered to the office in that format."
Capps, in his piece at The Advertiser, wrote that the supervised sessions are based on contractor agreements LCG has and that this particular session comes "at a max cost of $60 per hour to LCG’s taxpayers."