The Current has filed a public records lawsuit against the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and its president and CEO, Gregg Gothreaux, to compel the agency to turn over the more than 30 applications/résumés of candidates seeking to replace Gothreaux.
The suit was filed by Current Media LLC in state district court Monday and assigned to 15th Judicial District Court Judge Michele Billeaud. In addition to the documents, The Current is seeking court costs, legal fees and penalties.
In mid-July, The Acadiana Advocate reported that approximately 35 people had applied for the job ahead of a July 14 deadline. Gothreaux, who has held the job for 26 years, announced in June that he would retire later this year. LEDA is funded by a parish property tax and has a $4 million annual budget and 20 employees. The CEO position pays a base salary of $250,000 plus benefits.
In phone and email conversations over the past week, Gothreaux declined to produce the records, saying LEDA does not possess the applications and referring The Current’s inquiries to the consultant hired to manage the candidate search.
LEDA also did not address questions about its relationship with Next Move Group, the search consultant, including what the firm is being paid, its scope of work and the timeline for completion of that work.
“We do not have a contract with Next Move Group,” LEDA’s chief administrative officer, Pamela LaFleur, wrote in an emailed response.
LaFleur confirmed that the CEO selection committee includes LEDA board members Mike Guidroz, Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, Chris Arsement, Frank Neuner, Jerry Luke LeBlanc and Willie Leday, with Mike Michot and EJ Krampe serving in advisory roles.
On July 22, this reporter followed up with a request for the applications from both Gothreaux and Next Move Group’s Chad Chancellor, an email that included the Louisiana law specific to the responsibilities of the head of public body to turn over applications for public positions. Later that evening, Chancellor responded (message below is verbatim):
Leslie- I am in receipt of your message. As you will see from the attached photo i have a weekly youtube news show in which I routinely receive more than 5,000 views. I encourage you to sue me. I believe it will drive my ratings through the roof. I cannot wait to show how members of the media are more interested in stories than helping blue collar folks in Acadiana find work via hiring the best economic developer possible. the public wont be shocked, they quit trusting the media ages ago. but i cannot wait to read your message on my show. its killing me to read it!
Please sue me. I will literally quadruple my traffic and make a killing. Please please please. Both my office and residence are in Orleans Parish. I look forward to both your subpeona and reading this email on air along with my timestamp phone of where I attempted to reach you yet you didnt answer. You know the saying. All publicity is good publicity. Please sue me just as fast as you possibly can. Here is my address so you can expedite the process: 909 gravier street. suite 2710. new orleans. la 70112. please do it tomorrow as my next show is sunday.
Chancellor included a screenshot of his company’s YouTube channel to support his claims. The Current is suing LEDA, not Chancellor or his company.
Asked on Friday if Chancellor’s reply constituted LEDA’s formal response to The Current’s records request, Gothreaux replied: “LEDA’s response is we don’t have the resumes and applications.”
“Despite his best effort to get himself sued, Mr. Chancellor is not the custodian of these applications,” says attorney Gary McGoffin, who represents The Current. “So what he was actually doing was begging The Current to sue his client, LEDA. LEDA didn’t do anything to help itself. Saying we don’t have the documents does not fulfill its obligation as a public body. And Mr. Gothreaux cannot avoid his obligations as custodian by simply transferring possession to a third party.”
“The public has a right to know who has applied for one of the most powerful and lucrative public offices in the parish. There’s no question about it,” says Christiaan Mader, The Current’s founder and executive editor. “Consequential decisions like this must be open and transparent. Ample opportunity to fulfill its obligations has been given to LEDA. We’re taking this action in the public’s interest.”
Read the lawsuit here.