According to a front-page story in Sunday’s edition, LSU officials outsourced to Jindal’s aides the decision about whether to give the media public records about recent health care cuts. Jindal’s spokesman had previously denied that the Jindal administration had been involved in LSU’s decision to reject the public records request of journalist and blogger Tom Aswell of Louisiana Voice.
Emails obtained by the newspaper, however, reveal that the decision was, in fact, crafted in the governor’s office, not at the LSU System Office.
According to the emails, Jindal’s executive counsel Liz Murrill suggested that LSU officials exert a “deliberative process privilege” as the rationale for withholding the records. Louisiana law does not appear to allow LSU officials to claim such a privilege, which may mean that we’ll eventually see them.
In an editorial about the story in today’s paper, the Advocate says that Jindal’s people seem to regard LSU as “a private affair.”
You can bet that today’s Advocate story and the accompanying editorial will be read closely in higher education circles in the coming days. The growing realization that Jindal, not an independent board of supervisors, is calling the shots, could have very serious consequences for LSU’s upcoming national accreditation review.
Here’s an excerpt from the editorial:
Taxpayers footing the bill for public institutions should get a clear view of how decisions involving the use of pubic resources are being made. Instead, LSU has embraced a frequently used tactic of Jindal’s administration, using the dubious principle of deliberative process to keep the public in the dark. LSU is apparently doing so under pressure from the Governor’s Office. After a similar request for records regarding hospital business was made by another party earlier this year, Shelby McKenzie, who is acting as the LSU system’s general counsel, sent a letter to LSU system interim President William Jenkins advising that the documents would not be released. In his Aug. 16 letter to Jenkins, McKenzie mentions that Jindal’s executive counsel, Liz Murrill, had asked LSU to shield documents using the deliberative process argument “where appropriate, in response to public records requests.” Murrill’s directive seems to contradict claims by Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin that the Governor’s Office had nothing to do with LSU’s decision to deny The Advocate’s subsequent request for records.
Even if a deliberative process exemption makes the withholding of these records legal — which we don’t think is the case — nothing in state law requires LSU officials to keep these records secret. LSU’s secrecy is a choice, one which neglects the public interest for the sake of political expediency.
by Robert Mann Read his blog
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