Press Release

In Mississippi, a First Amendment Win for Government Accountability

August 19, 2021
After nearly two years of work by a team of Ballard Spahr First Amendment litigators, the Mississippi Ethics Commission recently levied a $170,000 penalty—the largest in state history against a public body—against the City of Jackson for failure to comply with open records laws.

Gray Media Group’s Jackson, Mississippi-licensed station WLBT(TV) filed an ethics complaint against the city, alleging repeated failures to produce timely and complete responses to public records requests filed under the Mississippi Public Records Act. WLBT Investigative Reporter C.J. LeMaster had sought information about the Jackson Police Department. In its final order, the Ethics Commission noted the city’s “responses were woefully and appallingly late,” and the city “offered no reasonable explanation for the delays.” The Commission found that “[i]ndifference and inaction on the part of the city are the sole causes for the expenses incurred” by WLBT and that “fairness demands” the city reimburse WLBT for “the funds it never should have needed to expend.”

The Ballard Spahr Media and Entertainment team that represented Gray Television consisted of Emmy Parsons, Jacquelyn N. Schell, and Practice Leader Chuck Tobin. Alysson Mills of New Orleans/Jackson, Mississippi firm Mills & Amond served as local counsel.

For more information, please see the print and broadcast reports produced by WLBT regarding this historic win, including the article, “City of Jackson slapped with largest fine in state history following WLBT ethics complaint.”

For media inquiries, please contact Will Ashenmacher at 612.371.5792.

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