Baton Rouge, LA – Today, Truth in Politics (TIP) filed a lawsuit against Governor John Bel Edwards’ administration over its months of failure to respond to Louisiana Public Records Act (LPRA) requests regarding former Deputy Chief of Staff Johnny Anderson. Anderson resigned in 2017 following accusations of sexual harassment and abuse claims from former Office of the Governor employee, Juanita Washington.
To gain more insight into the circumstances surrounding the handling of Washington’s reporting of the abuse and Anderson’s subsequent resignation, TIP requested documents, texts and emails from key members of the governor’s staff. This also includes texts by Gov. Edwards regarding Anderson and the situation, as well as Anderson’s emails to female staffers.
For more than two months, Gov. Edwards’ office has failed to produce any public records and has provided no explanation for the delay related to the LPRA request, which was initially sent on August 8. The public records request was acknowledged by the Office of the Governor on August 12, and the office originally promised to produce the documents on September 27. The date has since been pushed back twice more, prompting the lawsuit.
TIP spokesperson Emily Turner said the Louisiana State Constitution provides for a constitutional right to public records, and the state legislature has passed statutes requiring the production of public records.
“In formal public records requests, we asked for copies of documents and communications that we believe will shed light on important aspects of this situation. Every document we requested is defined as public records under Louisiana state statutes,” said Emily Turner. “To be clear, not even a partial production of information has been made. Not one single document has been turned over. There is only one word for this – stonewalling. The public has a right to public records.”
Louisiana State Senator Sharon Hewitt (District 1) spoke at a press conference announcing the lawsuit Tuesday morning, saying that from the beginning, the handling of Washington’s complaints raised her suspicions.
“While the rest of the nation was embracing ‘me too,’ the governor was thinking ‘me first,’” Hewitt said. “Public document laws are easy to understand, easy to follow and easy to respond to. Governor, what are you hiding? What are you covering up?”
Washington was also in attendance at the press conference, saying, “Governor, stop the lies, stop the cover-up, stop attacking me. I have a question for John Bel – Why won’t you apologize? Why won’t you admit it all, release the evidence and just say ‘I’m sorry.’”
Washington is speaking out now to put public pressure on the administration to do more to address sexual misconduct at the highest levels of state government.