Did a Shreveport City Council member's Facebook post violate public records law? — OPINION

In a recent Facebook post, Shreveport city councilman John Nickelson explained his statement concerning his allegations of "fraud" by a city employee(s) in the filing of payroll tax returns.

He stated that "the fact that the external auditor did not use the word ‘fraud’ does not diminish the seriousness of the draft findings, which I quote here..." Nickelson apparently copied verbatim Finding #21 of the draft audit.

A public records request to the Shreveport city attorney for a copy of the external audit draft report, which was quoted by Nickelson, was denied.

The email opined that the Public Records law does not apply to "any records, writings, accounts, letter books, photographs, or copies of memoranda thereof in the custody or control of the legislative auditor, or to the actual working papers of the internal auditor of a municipality until the audit is complete...’

The audit is not complete.

So that raises several questions:

1. Is the city attorney correct on the interpretation of the Public Records Act?

2. If so, is there an exemption for a council member versus a member of the general public?

3. If there is an exemption, should a council member publish a portion of the draft audit?

Nickelson has previously pushed the envelope on Public Records when trying to monitor the negotiation process between the city and the new project manager for the EPA consent decree.

The concerns over the audit, and who did what is important. These can be addressed–with or without-publishing portions of the audit to justify public comments. And in the same vein, toning down strong word usage would probably better effectuate good government.

Editor's note: This article is an opinion piece about a public official and is the opinion of the author.