A U.S. Department of Justice attorney attempted to kick out a reporter from a public hearing held in City Hall on Tuesday. Rachel Hranitzky abruptly entered the council chambers at 11 a.m. accompanying New Iberia Fire Chief Ronald Bourque and another man and asked a question.
“Is there anyone here with the media,” she said.
When a reporter from The Daily Iberian asserted he was, she said, “OK, well you can stay, but you can’t quote me or record the meeting. You can quote those who speak, but you can’t quote me.”
She said the Department of Justice has very special rules about how their attorneys can be quoted. The reporter said it was a public meeting and asked how she could force him not to quote her or anyone else.
“I’ve been all over the state holding these meetings and haven’t had a problem with any other reporters,” Hranitzky said.
The reporter asked under what law she could demand not to be quoted and not allow the meeting to be recorded and Hranitzky could not, and did not, cite one. She said only that it was the Department of Justice’s rule.
New Iberia Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Simon spoke up and reiterated it was a public meeting and asked why it couldn’t be recorded. Also, the advertisement in The Daily Iberian was referenced, which stated it was a public meeting “to address concerns with the hiring and promotion process of the New Iberia Fire Department.” The city of New Iberia put in, and paid for, the June 6 public notice.
Further, several others in attendance said they had seen fliers, which advertised it as a public meeting.
Hranitzky grew belligerent and threatening and said if the reporter didn’t follow her directive he would be asked to leave.
“Then (the Department of Justice) can call your editors and publisher at the paper, and trust you don’t want to get on the Department of Justice’s bad side,” Hranitzky said.
At that point she demanded the reporter leave. Even when he said he would not quote her she still demanded he leave, but eventually she relented and conducted the meeting.
After the meeting, her demeanor softened and she told the reporter she didn’t want to be rude it was only that her bosses demand she not be quoted in the paper. She said other reporters had quoted her and she had gotten into big trouble. She said if she was quoted she could lose her job and that was the reason for her demands.
Calls to the DOJ to speak with someone on the record were not returned by today’s press time.