EDWIN A. LOMBARD, Judge.
The issue before the court in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in finding that (1) the defendant/appellee, the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“LSPCA”), was not a quasi-public entity such that it is subject to the Louisiana Public Records Law1 and (2) that, even assuming the LSPCA was a quasi-public entity, all reporting obligations under the Public Records Law had been met when it complied with reporting requirements of CEA. After review of the record in light of the applicable law and arguments of the parties, we find that the trial court erred in both parts and, accordingly, reverse the trial court judgment granting the LSPCA's motion to dismiss with prejudice the petition for a writ of mandamus filed by the plaintiff/appellant, the New Orleans Bulldog Society a/k/a New Orleans Bully Rescue (“the Bulldog Rescue”).
Relevant Facts and Procedural History
The Bulldog Rescue is a nonprofit corporation organized under Louisiana law to advocate for dog welfare in New Orleans and elsewhere. To determine the best use of its limited resources in limiting the number of dogs euthanized annually, the Bulldog Rescue sought information related to the dogs euthanized by the LSPCA, sending a public records request on May 29, 2015, to the City of New Orleans with a copy of the request sent directly to the LSPCA. The Bulldog Rescue itemized its request as follows: Requests 1–32 sought specific information as to the LSPCA definitions, policies, procedures, and outcomes related to the evaluation, adoption, and/or euthanasia of surrendered/stray animals in control of the LSPCA; Requests 33–34 related specifically to an Cane Corso named Leatrice euthanized by the LSPCA in December 2014; Request 35 requested documents related to the “staff hours spent by LSPCA Animal Control Officers travelling, waiting, and appearing in court in Orleans Parish; and Requests 36–37 sought documents and emails regarding the Bulldog Rescue's “Animal Court” proposal to streamline animal-related cases before the municipal court in New Orleans.
By letter from the City Attorney's office dated June 4, 2015, the City responded that the City was not custodian of these records and that the records request should be directed to the LSPCA. Accordingly, on June 5, 2015, the Bulldog Rescue sent the public records request directly to the LSPCA. On June 10, 2015, the LSPCA responded by letter (signed by LSPCA Chief Executive Officer Ana Zorilla), declaring that the LSPCA was not a “public body” and, thus, not subject to the Public Records Law. According to Ms. Zorilla, the only reporting required of the LSPCA was delineated in the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (“CEA”) between the LSPCA and City of New Orleans and that report (fulfilling the CEA reporting requirements) had been submitted to the City and was available through the City Attorney's office.
On July 22, 2015, the Bulldog Rescue filed the instant petition for writ of mandamus in the district court, seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief pursuant to the Public Records Law. In response, the LSPCA filed exceptions of unauthorized use of summary proceeding and no cause of action, requesting that the plaintiff's petition be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to La.Code Civ. Proc. art. 1672. In support of its exceptions, the LSPCA attached: (1) an affidavit by Ms. Zorilla; and (2) a copy of the CEA.
After a hearing on September 17, 2015, the trial court orally granted the defendants' oral motion to dismiss the plaintiff's petition for writ of mandamus, finding (1) that the LSPCA was not a quasi-public entity under the Public Records Law and (2) that, even assuming the LSPCA was a quasi-public entity, all reporting obligations under the Public Records Law had been met when the LSPCA complied with the CEA reporting requirements. The trial court issued its written judgment on September 28, 2015.
The Bulldog Rescue filed this timely devolutive appeal.
Assignment of Error 1
The Bulldog Rescue argues that the trial court erred in finding that the LSPCA is not a quasi-public nonprofit corporation under the Public Records Law and, therefore, not subject to the public right of access to its records. We agree.
Public access to public records is a fundamental right guaranteed by our state constitution. La. Const. art. 12 § 3. This constitutional right must be construed liberally in favor of free and unrestricted access to the records and access can be denied only when a law, specifically and unequivocally, provides otherwise. Id. Any doubt as to the public's right of access to certain records must be resolved in favor of the public's right to see as, to allow otherwise, would be an “improper and arbitrary restriction on the public's constitutional rights.” Title Research Corp. v. Rausch, 450 So.2d 933, 936 (La.1984); see also State ex rel Guste v. Nicholls College Foundation, 564 So.2d 682, 686 (La.1990)(in determining whether records are within scope of Public Records Act, “we must keep in mind ... that the law favors a liberal construction of the public records law so as to enlarge rather than restrict access to public records by the public”) (citations and internal punctuation omitted); Alliance for Affordable Energy v. Frick, (La.App. 4 Cir. 5/28/97), 96–1763, p. 17, 695 So.2d 1126, 1136 (Public Records Law is intended to enforce the public's right to public records “in the most expansive and unrestricted way possible.”) (quoting Title Research Corp., supra ); see also Bartels v. Roussel, 303 So.2d 833, 836 (La.App. 1 Cir.1974), writ denied 307 So.2d 372 (La.1/31/75) (Public Records Law was “obviously intended to implement inherent right of public to be reasonably informed as to manner, basis, and reasons upon which governmental affairs are conducted”).
For purposes of the Public Records Law, “the phrase ‘public body’ means any branch, department, office, agency, board, commission, district, governing authority, political subdivision, or any committee, subcommittee, advisory board, or task force thereof, any other instrumentality of state, parish, or municipal government, including a public or quasi-public nonprofit corporation designated as an entity to perform a governmental or proprietary function .... “ La.Rev.Stat. 44:1(A)(1) (emphasis added). Moreover, the definition of what constitutes a public record is all inclusive: “[a]ll books, records, writings, accounts, letters and letter books, maps, drawings, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, memoranda, and papers, and all copies, duplicates, photographs, including microfilm, or other reproductions thereof, or any other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, including information contained in electronic data processing equipment, having been used, being in use, or prepared, possessed, or retained for use in the conduct, transaction, or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty, or function which was conducted, transacted, or performed by or under the authority of the constitution or laws of this state, or by or under the authority of any ordinance, regulation, mandate, or order of any public body or concerning the receipt or payment of any money received or paid by or under the authority of the constitution or the laws of this state, are “public records,” except as otherwise provided in this Chapter or the Constitution of Louisiana. La.Rev.Stat. 44:1(A)(2)(a).
“Providing access to public records is a responsibility and duty of the appointive or elective office of a custodian and his employees,” La.Rev.Stat. 44:31(A), and the “burden of proving that a public record is not subject to inspection, copying, or reproduction shall rest with the custodian. La.Rev.Stat. 44:31(B)(3) (emphasis added).
The affidavit by Ms. Zorilla (submitted in support of the LSPCA exceptions to the petition for writ of mandamus) asserts in pertinent part that LSPCA is a private non-profit unaffiliated with any public entity, that “at no time” has the LSPCA “ever been responsible for or obligated to the performance of any governmental function or duty beyond those which it has voluntarily agreed to perform” pursuant to its “Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (“CEA”) with the City of New Orleans to provide professional animal control services ....“ wherein, in exchange for its professional animal control services, the City pays the LSPCA $153,870 per month.
The copy of the 2015 CEA, submitted by the LSPCA in support of its exceptions, clearly states that the LSPCA shall provide animal control services “pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 18 of Code of Municipal Ordinances for the City (“the Code”) relating to animal control and shelter services; ” and that, in addition to “continuous patrols through the City,” responding to emergency calls involving a complaint of an animal bite or attack or an animal in immediate danger, the LSPCA duties under the agreement include [i]nvestigating reports of violations of the provisions of Chapter 18, Section 18–1 through 18–341 inclusive, of the Code relating solely to cruelty, animal control and regulation and, when warranted by the facts and circumstances presented to the Society, issuing citations to any person who is or whose animal is in violation of any such provision.” Under the agreement, the LSPCA is required to provide “animal control facilities” a/k/a “the Shelter and provide “[s]helter services” including “receiving unwanted animals and impounding, housing, feeding, redemption, adoptions, humane euthanasia and disposal of animals.” The CEA also acknowledges that under prior agreements the City provided the LSPCA with animal control vehicles and that the City would continue to provide fuel and maintain these vehicles during the term of the CEA. In addition, the CEA provided that the City and the LSPCA would work together in “review [ing] and revis[ing] municipal ordinances involving domesticated animals.” Finally, in exchange for the LSPCA assuming the City's municipal animal control obligations, the City agreed to pay the LSPCA a monthly amount of $153,870, an annual payment of $1,846,440.
Ms. Zorilla testified at the hearing that, under the Municipal Code, the City is required to provide animal control services, including impounding animals. She conceded that, in accordance with the terms of the pertinent CEA, the LSPCA assumes these City responsibilities in exchange for financial compensation. Ms. Zorilla also conceded that uniformed LSPCA officer investigate and issue citations to people throughout the city, requiring them to appear in municipal court. Finally, Ms. Zorilla conceded that the LSPCA had the authority to impound animals and that a part of the duty of a LSPCA “humane officer” was to appear in court and testify in support of the citations and summons.
The constitutional right to public records is one that must be construed liberally in favor of free and unrestricted access to public records with any doubts being resolved in favor of public access. See La. Const. art. 12 § 3; Title Research Corp., supra; Alliance for Affordable Energy, supra., Bartels, supra. There is no statutory or precedential authority to support the claim that the LSPCA is exempt from the Public Records Law, nor is such an exemption stated in the CEA. Rather, as evidenced by the CEA and Ms. Zorilla's affidavit, by contract the LSPCA serves as the municipal instrumentality to provide mandated animal control services; in other words, the LSPCA is invested with the authority to investigate compliance with municipal code violations related to animals and take relevant action. Ms. Zorilla characterizes this service as “voluntary,” but the LSPCA receives an annual compensation of almost two million dollars for providing the services and, even accepting that this amount is only a percentage of the LSPCA budget, it is a substantial sum of money derived from public funds. According to the CEA, the City provided vehicles to the LSPCA and continues to fuel and maintain these City-provided vehicles. Finally, in wearing uniforms while investigating municipal violations, the appearance of the LSPCA officers is clearly designed to indicate a quasi-official status and, in serving municipal citations and appearing in municipal court regarding municipal code violations, the LSPCA officers clearly operate under the color of City authority. Thus, the old adage about walking and talking like a duck appears applicable here: the LSPCA performs municipal functions on behalf of the municipal government and, in so doing, is both compensated by the municipality and acts under the auspices of the municipality. Under these circumstances, the LSPCA is clearly a quasi-public entity subject to the Public Records Law.
Assignment of Error 2
The Bulldog Rescue also argues that it was error for the trial court to rule that, even assuming the LSPCA is subject to the public records law, its public records reporting obligations are met by compliance with the CEA reporting requirement. We agree.
The essence of this issue is whether the constitutional right to public records can be circumscribed by a contract entered into between a municipality and the entity contracted to perform mandated municipal services. There is no statutory or jurisprudential authority to support such a proposition and we decline to establish such a precedent in this case.
The Louisiana Municipal Association, appearing as amicus curiae, is concerned that a ruling in this case could be detrimental to municipalities if it is construed to mean that a private entity becomes subject to the Public Records Act solely by entering into a contract with a municipality. Thus, we emphasize that our holding in this case is specific to these circumstances wherein an entity (the LSPCA) acts as an instrumentality of the municipality (the City of New Orleans) in rendering mandated (by the Municipal Code ordinances) municipal services such as investigating municipal code violations, seizing animals and serving citations in the course of its investigations, euthanizing animals, using vehicles maintained and fueled (as well as initially purchased) by the municipality, and whose uniformed officers appear in court to testify regarding municipal violations. These circumstances are not present when an entity merely provides services to a municipality, rather than acting as an instrumentality of the municipality to provide mandated services to the public.
To reiterate, the Public Records Law cannot be circumscribed by a contract. The CEA is a contractual agreement concocted between the City, a public entity, and the LSPCA, a quasi-public entity, to provide mandated city services. The CEA requires the LSPCA to only provide animal control statistics, including the number of animals euthanized, by invoice presented to the City. In contrast to this very limited reporting requirement, what constitutes a public record under La.Rev.Stat. 44:1(A)(2)(a) is all inclusive: anything that has been used, prepared, or possessed for use in the conduct of any business, duty or function that is performed under the authority or in accordance with the mandate, ordinance of regulation of a public body (the City) or for business, duty, or function that was performed for money received under the authority of state laws or constitution. Clearly, the limited contractual reporting requirements of the CEA is not the equivalent of a “public record” as defined by La.Rev.Stat. 44:1(A)(2)(a) and, as such, the LSPCA's entity's compliance with its contractual reporting requirement to the City does not satisfy its obligations under the Public Records Law.
We have reviewed de novo the public records request submitted to the LSPCA by the Bulldog Rescue. The request focuses primarily on obtaining very specific information relating to the determination of which animals are euthanized under the authority of the City. The Bulldog Rescue, like the SPCA, is a nonprofit organized for the protection and welfare of animals and, thus, the information sought pertaining to all aspects of the LSPCA decision process and related polices leading to animal euthanasia under City authority is tailored to the Bulldog Rescue purpose. Likewise, the additional public record requests pertaining to the disposal of a specific dog (Leatrice the Cane Corse in December 2014), as well as documents related to the Bulldog Rescue proposal for streamlining court proceedings related to LSPCA-issued citations, are also related to the Bulldog Rescue mission.
Notably, the LSPCA does not deny the existence of guidelines or other criteria created to insure that animals are not arbitrarily euthanized, nor does it deny taking action with regard to Leatrice or reviewing the Bulldog Rescue's proposal to streamline court proceedings. Likewise, the LSPCA does not argue that the public records request is not narrowly tailored to elicit information relevant to the Bulldog Rescue mission, nor does it indicate why it is reluctant to release the requested information. It is undisputed that the animal control functions performed by the LSPCA are pursuant to its contract with the City and, therefore, under the authority and in accordance with the mandate of the City and municipal ordinances. Likewise, it is undisputed that the LSPCA is compensated by the City for performing these municipal services. Nonetheless, the LSPCA has offered no reason (beyond its failed argument that it is not subject to the Public Records Law) for refusing to provide public access to its records. As such, the LSPCA has failed to meet its burden (as custodian of the records sought) of proving that the documents sought by the Bulldog Rescue are not subject to inspection, copying, or reproduction under the Public Records Act. See La.Rev.Stat.44:31(B)(3). Therefore, the trial court clearly erred in dismissing the Bulldog Rescue petition for a writ of mandamus.
The judgment of the trial court is reversed.
LOBRANO, J., dissents and assigns reasons.
LOBRANO, J., dissents and assigns reasons.
I respectfully dissent and would affirm the district court's judgment dismissing the writ of mandamus filed by the New Orleans Bulldog Society's a/k/a New Orleans Bully Rescue (the Bulldog Rescue). Although I agree with the majority's pronouncement that any law affecting the public's right to access public records must be interpreted “in the most expansive and unrestricted way possible,” Alliance for Affordable Energy v. Frick, 96–1763, p. 17 (La.App. 4 Cir. 5/28/97), 695 So.2d 1126, 1136,1 I find that the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LSPCA) is not a proper party to respond to the Bulldog Rescue's public records request. Although the law is clear that a public body must produce, upon proper request, all public records that are not considered an invasion of the constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy2 or that fall under a specific exception, the LSPCA is not a public body, and thus, LSPCA's CEO, Ana Zorrilla, is not the proper custodian of the documents under the Louisiana Public Records Act. See La. R.S. 44:1 et seq.
The term “public body” means “any branch, department, office, agency, board, commission, district, governing authority, political subdivision, or any committee, subcommittee, advisory board, or task force thereof, any other instrumentality of state, parish, or municipal government, including a public or quasi-public nonprofit corporation designated as an entity to perform a governmental or proprietary function, or an affiliate of a housing authority.” La. R.S. 44:1(A)(1) (emphasis added). A “custodian” under the Louisiana Public Records Act is a “public official or head of any public body having custody or control of a public record, or a representative specifically authorized by him to respond to requests to inspect any such public records.” La. R.S. 44:1(A)(3)(emphasis added). The custodian “shall present any public record to any person of the age of majority who so requests.” La. R.S. 44:32(A). The majority asserts that the LSPCA is a public body and its head, Ana Zorilla, is the custodian of the documents sought by the Bulldog Rescue because the LSPCA is a quasi-public nonprofit corporation that serves as a “municipal instrumentality” to provide animal control services that are otherwise a “city responsibility.” In my opinion, this reasoning runs contrary to La. R.S. 44:1(A)(1).
Particularly, La. R.S. 44:1(A)(1) requires that for a private nonprofit corporation to be classified as a quasi-public nonprofit corporation subject to the Louisiana Public Records Act, it must be “designated” to perform a governmental or propriety function. While the City of New Orleans could have “designated,”3 by law,4 any entity to perform these functions, the City instead chose to engage in contractual negotiations, and allow LSPCA to voluntarily agree5 to perform these government functions
Although the LSPCA is not designated this responsibility by law, but rather voluntarily contracted to do so through a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA), the majority concludes that LSPCA is subject to public records requests because it is a private entity acting as an instrumentality of a municipality. Instrumentality status is reached, according to the majority, when the private entity is “rendering mandated (by the Municipal Code ordinances) municipal services” to the public. In support of this conclusion, the majority points out that the CEA provides LSPCA with financial compensation for their services that amounts to “a substantial sum of money derived from public funds,”6 and that LSPCA officers wear uniforms which supposedly are “clearly designed to indicate a quasi-official status,” while investigating possible municipal violations.
This logic fails when one considers what municipal cooperative endeavor agreements this overly broad definition could ever exclude. The municipality in question, the City of New Orleans, cannot enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement except to serve a public purpose. City of New Orleans, Home Rule Charter, Art. IX, § 9–314. How “public purposes” differ from “rendering mandated (by the Municipal Code of ordinances) municipal services” is unclear to the point of creating no distinction, especially when one considers the contents of the Municipal Code in question. The majority's opinion creates a good argument for anyone wishing to obtain the records of any entity that contracts with the City of New Orleans, provided that person can find some justification for the services provided for in that contract within the voluminous Municipal Code.
State ex rel. Guste v. Nicholls College Foundation supports the proposition that to be “designated” to perform a government function means more than to contract to do it. 564 So.2d 682, 686 (La.1990). In Nicholls, the Louisiana Supreme Court found that “because of its close relationship with Nicholls State” the Nicholls State Alumni Federation is a quasi-public nonprofit corporation “designated as an entity to perform a government or proprietary function.” Id. As examples of this close relationship resulting in designation, the Nicholls court cited the Federation's formation to serve a public purpose, residence in a Nicholls State University building, payment of nominal rent for such residence, and use of civilian employees to run its office. Id. Interestingly, the Nicholls court description of the relationship between the parties is in direct contradiction to this case. The testimony of the CEO of the LSPCA explained the contractual relationship between the LSPCA and the City of New Orleans. When Ms. Zorilla testified before the district court, she stated that the LSPCA was not formed to serve a public purpose, that only twelve percent of the LSPCA's budget came from its contract with the City of New Orleans, that the LSPCA provides all services using its own equipment, facilities, and vehicles, and that the LSPCA does not use city employees to run its operation. Given the difference in the relationship outlined in Nicholls and the relationship between these parties, the district court did not commit manifest error in determining the LSPCA is not a public body, and thus granting the involuntary dismissal.7
Although the majority ultimately found that the LSPCA is a public body, given my opinion that the LSPCA is not a public body, it is important to address one other point raised by the Nicholls case. The Bulldog Rescue argued that the Nicholls court did not require that the records sought be in the possession of a public body, but only that a public body, in the discharge of its duties, had transferred money to the organization. The Nicholls court did say:
If a private corporation accepts public money from a public body in the discharge of the latter's constitutional or legal duties, it must disclose records concerning those transactions, including the receipt and expenditure of those funds. If those corporations wish to avoid divulging nonpublic receipts and expenditures, they need only maintain separate and distinct books, accounts and records.
Nicholls, 564 So.2d at 689.
Notably, the Nicholls court only required private corporations to disclose records concerning “those transactions” for which public money has been accepted from a public body. Id. Further, the Nicholls court stated that when the recipient of public funds “has provided goods or services” it is not evident that the funds were accepted “in connection with a constitutional or legally endowed responsibility” that would lead to disclosure requirements. Id. at 688.
Here, the public body in question, the City of New Orleans, defined via contract exactly what “those transactions” were. Specifically, the LSPCA was required to disclose records concerning:
the monthly number of animals impounded including the description of each animal, date of receipt, date and manner of disposal, treatment received (including spaying and neutering), the name of person redeeming or adopting an animal, fees, charges and proceeds of adoption or redemption; the number of calls received from the public, the number of calls completed, response times, the number of enforcement actions and utilization of shelter capacity.
This does not constitute a limitation on Public Records Act by contract, which is improper, but rather a limitation on what transactions public money can be spent on as per the CEA.
Nowhere in the record does either side allege that these requirements were not met by the LSPCA. The Bulldog Rescue alleges that meeting these requirements is not sufficient and further, that a finding that meeting the CEA requirements is sufficient allows parties to contractually limit their obligations under the Public Records Act. This interpretation is patently false. It simply puts the onus on public bodies that choose to privatize certain government functions through third party contracts to provide the public access to those specific records—which is what was stated in Nicholls. 564 So.2d at 689. The City of New Orleans, as custodian, is mandated to provide access to public records,8 and should have responded to the Bulldog Rescue's request accordingly.
I respectfully dissent.
1 See La Rev. Stat. 44:1.1 (short title is “Public Records Law”)
2 See also La.Rev.Stat. 44:34 (When such public record is “not in the custody or control of the person to whom the application is made, such person shall promptly certify this in writing to the applicant, and shall in the certificate state in detail to the best of his knowledge and belief ... its location, what person then has custody of the record ... “and other information that may facilitate the public's right to access public documents).
3 CEA provision 2.1.
4 CEA provision 2.2.1.
5 CEA provision 2.2.2.
6 CEA provision 2.2.5.
7 CEA provision 2.3.
8 CEA provision 3.2.
9 CEA provision 3.2.2.
10 CEA provision 3.2.; CEA provision 3.3.
11 CEA provision 2.10.
1 See also Amoco Prod. Co. v. Landry, 426 So.2d 220, 222 (La.App. 4 Cir.1982), writ denied sub nom. Amoco Prod. Co. v. Landry, 433 So.2d 164 (La.1983).
2 Article I, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution expressly prohibits unreasonable invasions of privacy. Article I, Section 5 protects documents held by public entities from disclosure under certain circumstances. See Copeland v. Copeland, 2007–0177, p. 9 (La.10/16/07), 966 So.2d 1040, 1046 (finding that, on balance, a reasonable expectation of privacy could outweigh the disclosure interest in court records). This right is not absolute, but is limited by society's right to be informed about legitimate subjects of public interest. Angelo Iafrate Const., L.L.C. v. State ex rel. Dep't of Transp. & Dev., 2003–0892, p. 5 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/14/04), 879 So.2d 250, 255, writ denied sub nom. Angelo Iafrate Const., L.L.C. v. State ex rel. Dep't of Transp. & Dev., 2004–1442 (La.9/24/04), 882 So.2d 1131 (citing Capital City Press v. East Baton Rouge Parish Metro. Council, 96–1979 (La.7/1/97), 696 So.2d 562, 566). “When a request for public records is at issue, the custodian or the individual claiming the privacy right must prove that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy against disclosure of the information to a person entitled to access to the public information. If, and only if, a reasonable expectation of privacy is found, the court must weigh or balance the public records disclosure interest against the privacy interest.” Angelo, 2003–0892 at p. 6, 879 So.2d at 255, (citing Webb v. City of Shreveport, 371 So.2d 316, 319 (La.App. 2 Cir.1979), writ denied, 374 So.2d 657 (La.1979)). See also Local 100, Serv. Employees, Int'l Union v. Smith, 36,454, p. 6 (La.App. 2 Cir. 10/23/02), 830 So.2d 417, 421, writ not considered sub nom. Local 100 v. Smith, 2002–2858 (La.1/31/03), 836 So.2d 75 (acknowledging Webb as superseded by statute, but reaching the conclusion that if a reasonable expectation of privacy is found, the court must balance that privacy interest against the disclosure interest). In this case, the LSPCA argued that even if it were a public body, which it maintains that it is not, it has a privacy interest in the records sought beyond what has been provided to the City per the CEA that Article I, Section 5 would protect. The majority, after declaring the LSPCA a public body, failed to determine if that privacy interest was reasonable and, if so, apply the balancing test. See also Shane v. Par. of Jefferson, 2014–2225 (La.12/8/15), ––– So.3d ––––, 2015 WL 8225830 at *12 (finding that when a reasonable privacy interest exists in the records sought, it must be balanced against the disclosure interest of the person seeking the records).
3 See City of New Orleans, Code of Ordinances, Art. I, § 18–1, stating, in pertinent part, that agency “means the agency or entity ... designated by the City of New Orleans to maintain an animal control program for the city.” While this portion of the municipal code makes it clear that the City of New Orleans had the authority to designate an entity, the record in this case indicates that the City chose instead to contract out, rather than designate, the provision of animal control services. See infra, n. 5. Further, the City of New Orleans in its municipal code has created an entity and designated that entity to provide specific governmental services. See, e.g., City of New Orleans, Code of Ordinances, Art. XIII, § 2–1120(10) (designating the office of the inspector general with the authority to audit individuals with contracts with city government). See also La. R.S. 24:513 (wherein quasi-public agencies, for the purposes of the legislative auditor, are defined as organizations “created” by the State of Louisiana or its political subdivisions, organizations that are component units of governmental reporting agencies, or organizations created to serve a public purpose and subject to some specific governmental control, such as the ability to be unilaterally dissolved by a government agency, or having its governing body directly elected by the public).
4 See, e.g,, Lewis v. Spurney, 456 So.2d 206, 207 (La.App. 4 Cir.1984), writ denied, 457 So.2d 1183 (La.1984), and writ denied, 458 So.2d 488 (La.1984)(finding that a private corporation, which was created to organize the World's Fair in New Orleans, had to submit to public records requests when an act was passed designating public funds to cover any of the corporation's deficits); La. Att'y Gen. Op. No. 05–0254 (finding that a drug court, created by specific statutory authority provided by the State Legislature is a quasi-public corporation). See also La. Att'y Gen. Op. Nos. 93–595, 92–736, 90–271, 84–583, 78–1183, 77–1726, and 75–124 (finding that quasi-public corporations are organized to serve or provide a public service, and primarily funded by public monies).
5 See, e.g., Shelter Mut. Ins. Co. v. Rimkus Consulting Grp., Inc. of Louisiana, 2013–1977, p. 17 (La.7/1/14), 148 So.3d 871, 881 (stating “This court has long recognized that freedom to contract is an important public policy” and “ ‘Freedom of contract’ signifies that parties to an agreement have the right and power to construct their own bargains.”), La. C.C. art.1906 (stating that contracts are formed by “agreement”), La. C.C. art.1927 (stating that a contract “is formed by the consent of the parties”), 12 La. Civ. L. Treatise, Tort Law § 18:1 (2d ed.)(using obligations assumed by contract as an example of obligations voluntarily assumed).
6 It should be noted that according to the record in this case, only 12% of the LSPCA's funding is derived from public sources.
7 Importantly, the issue when reviewing decisions based on the manifest error standard is whether the district court's conclusion was a reasonable one, not whether the conclusion was right or wrong in the minds of the reviewing judges. Guste Homes Resident Mgmt. Corp. v. Thomas, 2012–1493, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 5/29/13), 116 So.3d 987, 989 (citations omitted). Even if the appellate court feels that its evaluation is more reasonable than the district court's, the decision of the district court should only be reversed if its finding was “clearly wrong.” Id.
8 See, e.g., La. R.S. 44:31(A), stating “Providing access to public records is a responsibility and duty of the appointive or elective office of a custodian and his employees.” See also Frick, 96–1763 at p. 8, 695 So.2d at 1132 (finding that the “rights and duties” of a city agency were established under the Public Records Act, and that the city agency, as custodian of records, would be subject to a writ of mandamus compelling production of records).