Zurik: FOX 8 sues Kenner mayor over public records delays

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 4:55 PM CST
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JEFFERSON PARISH, La. (WVUE) - FOX 8 News has filed suit against Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn over the city’s delays in several public records requests submitted to the city dating back to October.

Since Mid-October, FOX 8 News has sent six different public records requests to the City of Kenner asking for records related to payments to employees and contracts. Those requests have gone unanswered.

Thursday morning, FOX 8 filed suit in relation to two of those requests, although the station is still seeking information on all of the outstanding requests.

In the filing, FOX 8 Attorney Scott Sternberg called Zahn’s failure to produce the documents “stonewalling tactics” and noted Kenner refused to “provide even a slight excuse for its refusal to produce” the records requested.

“We totally respect that this is a public body that’s had to deal with a lot with the hurricane and including the pandemic on top of that, but the reality is that these records are very easy to produce,” Sternberg said. “We’ve had responses to other public records requests in the interim. And we’re a little concerned that they’re not producing these records because they don’t want us to see what’s in them. And so that’s why we filed this lawsuit.”

On December 9, Sternberg sent a letter to the law firm handling Kenner’s records requests, Chehardy Sherman. In the letter, Sternberg called the items FOX 8 asked for “fairly run of the mill public records” and asked Kenner to produce the documents.

Earlier this week, we decided to start drafting the lawsuit. Late Wednesday afternoon, a week after Sternberg’s letter, the attorney for the city finally responded saying Kenner is gathering the documents but did not provide a date when those documents would be produced.

“I think that the message here is, if you’re paid by the government, the public gets to know how much you’ve been paid, and that is the emphasis of our lawsuit. We’re not asking for anything extraordinary,” Sternberg said.

“Even though they say they’re getting us the records, we just haven’t gotten them yet -- and it’s been too long.”

Scott Sternberg, FOX 8 Attorney

Thursday afternoon, the City of Kenner responded with the following statement regarding the FOX 8 lawsuit:

“We were surprised that a lawsuit was filed today when we notified legal counsel for WVUE just yesterday that we were in the process of gathering the information in order to respond to the public records request.”

“Obviously, we have been greatly affected by Hurricane Ida and a cyber-attack. We recognize that it’s taking a little longer than we expected, and we are doing our best considering the staff that we have and the amount of recovery-related work that must be handled on a daily basis.”

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