CCN v. CH2MHill Greater Access Public Records

CCN v. CH2MHill Greater Access Public Records

The settlement reached in the case of Community Press, LLC, v. CH2MHill could have far reaching impact on how Louisiana’s Public Records Law is applied to private companies and other legal entities that perform the functions of local or state government.

Under the judgment signed by District Judge Kay Bates, a private company, CH2MHill, will turn over to the Central City News the company’s internal documents which the newspaper said were public records under Louisiana law.

Central City News editor Woody Jenkins distinguished two situations that can occur.  “No one is saying that if Barber Brothers Construction contracts to repair Hooper Road that its records fall under the public records law.  That is a private company contracting to provide a specific, targeted service for government.  But if a company is hired to actually administer the government or a major part of it and run it on a day-to-day basis, then its records that relate to providing those services are public records.  Government officials are not allowed to circumvent the public records law by contracting with a private company.  Quite simply, if a document would be a public record in

Baton Rouge, it should be public record in Central.  The fact that Central has privatized city services shoud not diminish the right of the people to access those records.”

Jenkins said there is much more to a “democratic” government than elections. “Elections have to be free and fair.  Freedom of speech and of the press have to be respected.  Likewise, the public must have the right to attend open public meetings of governmental bodies, have due notice when public bodies are meeting, and have access to public records.”

Jenkins said, “The handwriting was on the wall a long time ago in this case.  Louisiana’s Public Records Law is a very strong law and very clear.  I don’t believe there was ever any doubt that the law was on the side of public access.  After the decision of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal and the Louisiana Supreme Court on this case, no one could ignore the reality that our highest courts favor public access to public documents.  The only real question from the beginning was whether our small community newspaper could stick it out and fight to the end against a major international corporation with unlimited financial resources.”

Because the judgment in this case is based on an agreement between the parties, it will not be a “reported” case.  Nevertheless, because of the widespread publicity the case has received, it will undoubtedly be cited by attorneys for years to come in cases involving public records law as it applies to private entities and privatization of governmental functions.




Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

Comments are closed.