SORRENTO – Councilman John Braud resigned from his position at the council meeting on Tuesday night.
The abrupt resignation occurred after Braud became angry during a discussion over the council’s access to records.
Braud began discussing the issue by saying he requested the item be added to the agenda because of a series of events that happened last week.
Braud wanted clarification on what records council members have access to and how long they have access to them.
On Tuesday, May 11 at 3 p.m., Braud called Town Clerk Paige Robert and requested to see all the town’s phone bills for the year.
Braud wanted to review the bills and see if the town could cut back on some calls and save money during the current tough economic times.
Braud requested to see any phone bill, land line or cellular, paid with the town’s money, which includes the police department’s phone records, for the entire fiscal year.
As Braud recalled the series of events, he said that when Police Chief Earl Theriot heard of the request for the phone records he became “irate” and “threatening” of Braud and Mayor Blake LeBlanc.
According to Braud, Theriot refused to let him have access to the records.
When Braud got to the town hall Tuesday a little after 5 p.m. to view the phone records, the bills had already been locked away for the night.
Braud returned to the town hall Wednesday morning to get the records. He asked to take the phone bills home with him to review and LeBlanc gave him permission to do so.
Braud reviewed the records Wednesday and returned them to the town hall Thursday morning.
Theriot said was reluctant for the records to be released due to an on-going investigation. He did not want any accusations to be made in the case because of information leaked from the records. He said he thought the best way to avoid this situation would be to not allow the records to leave the Town Hall.
If there is something that jeopardizes his department, he needs to know what it’s for, Theriot told the council.
Once Theriot found out what Braud needed the records for, he allowed Braud to view the records but did not want leave them to leave the town hall.
Theriot said Braud did not ask for permission to take the phone records home with him.
In response to Theriot’s statement, Braud snapped back “I under no circumstances will ask anyone for permission to do my job I was elected to do.”
Braud also said the council is over the police department and has the final say on such issues.
Councilman Marvin Martin spoke up on behalf of Theriot, saying there was information in the phone records that was pertinent to some cases that were still open and under investigation, and if leaked could change the outcome of the cases.
Councilman Lionel Melancon suggested a way to solve the issue by saying if someone wants to access to public records they must request to see them from the town clerk and only look at them at the town hall during business how so the records never leave the building.
“I don’t want anybody to get in trouble for anything, everybody needs their job,” Melancon said. “I think this is a good way to cut down on any acquisitions that could be made.”
Braud then declared his resignation as he stormed out of the meeting room, leaving the door to slam loudly behind him.
Braud’s mother, Troy Braud who was in attendance, left with her son, but returned shortly to say that Melancon’s request violates the public records law.
Town Attorney Erin Lanoux explained that if there is confidential information in the records, or the records are part of a criminal investigation, then that information is not considered part of public records.
Troy Braud then left the meeting.
Lanoux then explained that statutes were already in place for Melancon’s suggestion and there was no need for a motion.
In unrelated business, council members voted to call a special meeting on May 25 to prepare the 2010-11 budget.
Also, Max Morris was hired as a reserve police officer and Kali Langley was hired to fill the vacant position of police clerk.