A Louisiana news reporter was led away from White Castle City Hall in handcuffs for reporting on the mayor’s salary.
Chris Nakamoto was arrested and handed a misdemeanor trespassing charge while he was following up on a public records request pertaining to the pay of Mayor Jermarr Williams, his employer, WBRZ reports. The station reports Nakamoto arrived with photojournalist Joe McCoy at about 11 a.m. looking for missing items they were seeking as part of their request, including an audio recording of a town council meeting and a copy of the mayor’s taxpayer-funded car mileage compensation.
They were also looking for evidence that the city had approved a large salary increase for the mayor.
“A public records request is a formal inquiry anyone can make to get access to public government documents,” WBRZ reports. “An elected official’s salary is public information. Nakamoto was at city hall checking on the records request.”
According to WBRZ, Williams’ pay saw a nearly 20 percent jump between April and November of 2015. An increase in pay for the mayor can only be approved by the City Council by way of a municipal ordinance.
Nakamoto and McCoy, an award-winning team from the station’s investigative unit, were looking into when — or whether — the ordinance for the mayor’s pay increase was approved.
The city has a history of failure to produce public records. Last year, residents sued over the issue and on Friday, a judge ordered the city to both hand over the documents and pay penalties associated with violating transparency laws.
“This is what the residents of White Castle deal with,” Nakamoto said into the camera while being led away in handcuffs.
Just prior to that, McCoy had his camera rolling when a White Castle police officer told the pair to step out of City Hall. Nakamoto can be heard saying they have the right to be there and asking on what grounds they were being told to leave.
“Okay this is a public building sir, we have a right to be here,” Nakamoto states. “We’re here to get our public records.”
The police officer then tells McCoy to stop recording. McCoy responds, “No. Public building, man.”
The arrest of Nakamoto was condemned by a press advocacy organization.
“The arrest of WBRZ investigative reporter Chris Nakamoto for “trespass” in a public building while attempting to access a public record is a blatant assault on First Amendment rights,“ Mike Cavender, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association, said. “ Especially in light of a judge’s order that these records be made public, this kind of action is wholly unacceptable on the part of the local police and city administration and cannot be justified or tolerated.”
Watch video of his arrest, as posted by WBRZ, here:
RAW: Chris Nakamoto arrested in White Castle after seeking pub…Police detained Chris Nakamoto WBRZ Wednesday while he was looking into questions about the White Castle mayor’s salary.STORY: //www.wbrz.com/news/leaders-avoid-questions-nakamoto-escorted-away-in-handcuffs-given-summons
Posted by WBRZ Channel 2 on Wednesday, March 23, 2016