SHREVEPORT, La. -- A bold claim of evidence suppression against Shreveport's Mayor and a member of the Airport Authority is the latest in the city's ongoing battle with downtown airport hangar owners.
The claim is in a recent court filing that's part of a lawsuit that seeks to void the reappointment of airport board member Jonathan Reynolds. Plaintiffs now claim that Reynolds destroyed records requested in their suit, and that Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins failed to submit any records that were requested.
The case claims that the city violated Louisiana open meeting laws by rushing Reynolds' reappointment without giving public notice, depriving the airport tenants a chance to speak out against Reynolds. They claim he's been one of the most outspoken and controversial members of the Airport Authority. The city council suspended the rules at a meeting in January, and voted to keep Reynolds on board.
In his deposition in July, Reynolds said he had deleted requested documents from his email. He used his his email account at his employer, Carter Federal Credit Union, for his Airport Authority business. He said he deleted SAA documents beginning in February when activity relating to Paycheck Protection Program loans began to increase. But plaintiffs point out that the loan program did not begin until the end of March. February is when the suit was filed.
Reynolds was asked to get those documents off the company server, but so far has not produced them, according to the court filing that claims adverse inferences.
The plaintiffs also allege that Mayor Perkins "has produced no documents at all." At his deposition, also in July, the plaintiffs claim Perkins said he would provide all responsive documents the following week. But they say no documents have been provided.
The plaintiffs go on to say the city has refused to make council members available for deposition, claiming legislative privilege. The plaintiffs argue that does not extend to city council members, but instead, state lawmakers.
The plaintiffs' attorney, Jerry Harper, wrote in conclusion, "If ever there was a case that richly befits the imposition of adverse inferences, on multiple bases, this is such a case."
Harper says a judge will rule on whether plaintiffs are entitle to adverse inference before the trial. According to the legal blog Lawvibe, adverse inference means that a jury can infer that the evidence would have been adverse to the defendant, and adopt the plaintiff’s reasonable interpretation of what documents would have said.
An attorney representing the city in the case, Brian Smith, declined comment on the pending lawsuit and court filing. So did Reynolds, as well as Mayor Perkins through a spokeswoman.
Defendants face a deadline of Monday, October 19 to respond to the filing. A hearing on the case is set the following week on October 28.
There's been a lot of friction the last three years between the tenants and the Airport Authority board. A second lawsuit, pending in Bossier Parish District Court, seeks $10 million in damages for lost property value over lease conditions.