Public record at center of Nakamoto arrest released
WHITE CASTLE - The third part of a public records request that was not filled and lead to the arrest of WBRZ Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto Wednesday was released to the station's news department Thursday morning.
WBRZ anchor and investigative reporter Michael Shingleton was given the file, which shows how much White Castle Mayor Jermarr Williams has been paid for mileage, when Shingleton went to the White Castle town hall for a follow up story about the arrest. The records obtained Thursday are the final ones in a three-part request that the WBRZ Investigative Unit filed this week. Public documents are available for anyone to access, as part of the state's "right to examine records" law.
The records show Mayor Jermarr Williams did a lot of traveling last year at the taxpayers' expense. According to public records of mileage reimbursements, Williams received $7,833.17 from March of 2015 until December of 2015 for traveling 14,274 miles. He claims it was all for city business.
"14,000 miles, I go everywhere," Williams said. "I travel everywhere for the town. I only calculate my miles going, not coming back."
The mileage reimbursements occurred as the town introduced measures on Monday night to clear up an ordinance currently on the books.
"There shall be no allowance for gas, vehicle use nor compensation for mileage," attorney Valencia Landry told people who attended the town council meeting Monday. She was referring to the ordiance currently on the books, and suggested that it be ammended to read the mayor "shall" be entitled to compensation for mileage.
While attempting to review the third part of the records request Wednesday, Nakamoto was detained, handcuffed, escorted to the police station and given a court summons after city officials said he did not listen to their orders that he leave town hall. Previously, WBRZ News 2 and WBRZ.com have reported on questions about the mayor's benefit package.
Raw video of the White Castle Police officer telling Nakamoto he had to leave a public building can be seen HERE and raw video of Nakamoto being walked with his hands behind his back from town hall to the police station can be viewed HERE.
After being given the summons for an alleged violation of statute 14:63, a criminal trespassing charge, Nakamoto was released and continued to work on his television report about the public records request. The ordeal was the focus of an extensive WBRZ Investigative Unit report on the Wednesday edition of WBRZ News 2 at 6:00.
"WBRZ stands by Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto," Director of News Lee Polowczuk, said in a statement. "That's first and foremost. The public expects this news organization to ask tough questions and hold the powerful accountable. Our reporters are not going to be intimidated by public officials when we are getting you answers."
Also Thursday, a journalism advocacy group issued a statement, showing concern a government was potentially limiting the public's access to information.
"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," said Radio Television Digital News Association Executive Director Mike Cavender. " ...this kind of action is wholly unacceptable on the part of the local police and city administration and cannot be justified or tolerated."
Watch Thursday editions of WBRZ News 2 and monitor WBRZ.com for further reports on this issue.
Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz
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