Attorney John E. Settle, Jr. has filed suit against the Bossier Parish School Board in an attempt to get the board to produce documents which he requested under the public records law.
On April 27th, Settle requested the following from the Board:
- Contact information for all bond attorneys who were consulted.
- Copies of all correspondence to and from the bond attorneys.
- All communications to Clarence Babineaux regarding the bond issue.
- All communications between School Board employees regarding the bond proposal and tax propositions.
On May 1st, Settle received a letter from Charles F. Hardie VI of the Baton Rouge firm of Hammonds & Sills. Mr. Hardie stated that his firm serves as general counsel for the School Board. In the letter he further stated “please note that certain documents requested, specifically electronic communications, are not readily available.”
The letter continues, “please also note that, while conducting the search of the School Board’s email servers for relevant communications responsive to your request, the School Board has discovered that its email archive failed on or about February 17, 2012. As a result of this failure, communications occuring on or after that date may have been deleted permanently from the School Board’s server if the original recipient removed that communication from his or her individual electronic mailbox.”
(If the IT people only discovered after 2½ months that the email archive wasn't functioning, who knows how long it would have gone on if Settle had not requested these records?)
It is important to note that the law requires all public bodies to save these records for a minimum of three years.
Public record requests are to be honored within 72 hours.
If the public record is not immediately available, the custodian must promptly notify you in writing of the reason why the record is not immediately available and fix a day and hour within three days (excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays) when the records will be made available.
There will be a hearing in District Court in Benton on Thursday. I’ll let you know the results of that.