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Louisiana parish sues media outlets to block public records request

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  1. Freedom of Information
A Louisiana parish sued two news media outlets last week, asking the court for a protective order to keep public…

A Louisiana parish sued two news media outlets last week, asking the court for a protective order to keep public records that are also being reviewed in a state ethics inquiry confidential.

Louis Gruntz, deputy parish attorney of Jefferson Parish, which includes most of the suburbs of New Orleans, filed suit against the Times-Picayune newspaper, WVUE television, reporters of each, and "all other media entities and/or individuals" seeking the records under state freedom of information laws.

At issue in the case are records related to the business relationships between the chief administrator of Jefferson Parish, who also co-owns an insurance agency, and local public agencies and government contractors.

Gruntz claims the records sought by the two news outlets are exempt from disclosure because federal prosecutors, the FBI and the Jefferson Parish district attorney’s office have also requested the information, which includes documents related to a state ethics board investigation.

But those seeking release of the documents say no state or federal law exempts state public records from disclosure merely because the records are under a federal grand jury subpoena, the Times-Picayune reported.

The Louisiana statute Gruntz cites allows a handful of government agencies, such as local police departments, to withhold records that are the subject of criminal litigation, but parish governments are not included in the enumerated list.