Judge orders Kenner to provide Hurricane Ida timesheet records to FOX 8

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 4:29 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2021 at 5:37 PM CST
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JEFFERSON PARISH, La. (WVUE) - After a FOX 8 lawsuit filed last week, a Jefferson Parish judge Monday ordered the city of Kenner to begin producing public records concerning FEMA timesheets after Hurricane Ida.

FOX 8 has been attempting to get those records for more than two months.

Attorneys for FOX 8 went to the Gretna courthouse to try to get the city of Kenner to release some long sought-after public documents and Judge Raymond Steib set a deadline.

“Today the judge ordered the records be produced and they start being produced on a rolling basis I think that was the right result,” said FOX 8 attorney Scott Sternberg.

Since October 12, FOX 8′s Lee Zurik and investigative producer Cody Lillich have been attempting to get Kenner to produce FEMA timesheet records involving 21 employees, including mayor Ben Zahn, former Jefferson Parish Councilman Paul Johnston and former Covington Mayor Candace Watkins.

Zurik: FOX 8 sues Kenner mayor over public records delays

“The law says you’re supposed to produce those records in three days and sometimes we get a letter saying the report will take 30 to 45 days but it’s been a lot longer than three days and a lot longer than 45 days... we need to have this information right away because it’s newsworthy,” said Sternberg.

Last week, an attorney for Kenner criticized the suit, in which FOX 8 accused Kenner of “stonewalling.”

“Our firm is handling the lawsuit. We believe it’s frivolous but there should be a resolution shortly,” said Attorney Roy Bellina.

So far, there’s been no resolution.

In court Monday, Kenner attorney Matthew Sherman told the judge that the department that handles public records is also handling insurance claims and remediation and he promised that the documents would be provided.

Sternberg said the requested records should be easy to produce. FOX 8 made six public records requests before the suit was filed. In court Monday, Judge Steib sided with FOX 8, setting a January 6 deadline for the records to be turned over.

“I’m glad he ordered the city to produce these on a rolling basis so we don’t have to wait until January 6 but as long as we have the record by January 6 I think all will be well,” said Sternberg.

Sternberg says sometimes there are exceptions to public records requests but he says according to current laws there is no exception for FEMA timesheet records.

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