New Orleans newspaper will get names of Cantrell recall petition signees, but not immediately

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 5:23 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A New Orleans newspaper and its reporter left court victorious Wednesday (Feb. 8) in their pursuit of the names of those who signed a petition to recall Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

The newspaper and recall leaders settled the lawsuit with an agreement that the names, addresses, and birth years of those who signed will be turned over.

Copies of the signee’s names will be turned over on Feb. 22, the deadline for recall organizers to gather a total of 49,975 signatures to trigger a recall election.

The lawsuit was filed last Thursday (Feb. 2) on behalf of Matt Sledge, a reporter with Capital City Press LLC, parent company of the New Orleans Advocate, Times-Picayune and website.

The lawsuit claimed that Sledge made four public records requests to Carter between September 2022-January 2023 seeking copies of the signed petitions, but no response was received.

Sledge answered questions from his attorney and the attorney for Eileen Carter, a former Cantrell administration communications aide who is the listed chairperson and custodian of records for the LaToya Cantrell Recall Petition Political Action Committee. During his testimony, Sledge said the paper had no intentions of publishing the full list of names. In a statement to Fox 8, Rene Sanchez, an editor of the newspaper, echoed that statement.

“We have no intention of mass-publishing names on recall petitions. We have stressed that point to recall leaders. The law is very clear that these are public records. We believe it’s in the public interest to know whether public officials are part of the recall movement or not.

“It’s also in the public interest to know where, generally, in the city the recall is strong or not. That’s important now and for the historical record.”


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An attorney for Sledge and the paper, Scott Sternberg, was prepared to call Carter to the witness stand, but the settlement was reached before that could happen.

Carter says it’s a win of sorts because the names will become public at the same time they are handed over to the registrar of voters.

“The law is crystal clear (that) the names on the recall petition are absolutely public record,“ Fox 8 Political Analyst Mike Sherman said. “Many people who signed the petition want secrecy. The law doesn’t afford them that right.”

The Louisiana Secretary of State website confirms that once the first signature is obtained on a recall petition against a local elected official, the petition becomes a public record.

“Once the first signature is obtained, the recall petition becomes a public record with the chairman or vice chairman, when acting as the chairman, as custodian,” it says. “After the petition is submitted to the registrar of voters for certification, the chairman or vice chairman, when acting as the chairman, shall no longer be the custodian.”

“The recall organizers are certainly trying to protect the identity of folks, so there wouldn’t be a chilling effect,” Sherman said. “But the truth is the law is crystal clear here: When you sign that recall petition, your name can become public.”

At last check, on Feb. 3, recall petitioners needed about 11,600 more signatures to trigger a recall election.

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