Monday, 15 October 2012 15:00

Jindal, LSU's document secrecy flap shows who's calling shots

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Jindal-LSUThe Baton Rouge Advocate has revealed just how much Gov. Bobby Jindals aides control LSU. 


According to a front-page story in Sundays edition, LSU officials outsourced to Jindals aides the decision about whether to give the media public records about recent health care cuts. Jindals spokesman had previously denied that the Jindal administration had been involved in LSUs 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 governors office, not at the LSU System Office. 

According to the emails, Jindals 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 well eventually see them. 

In an editorial about the story in todays paper, the Advocate says that Jindals people seem to regard LSU as a private affair. 

You can bet that todays 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 LSUs upcoming national accreditation review. 

Heres 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 Jindals administration, using the dubious principle of deliberative process to keep the public in the dark. LSU is apparently doing so under pressure from the Governors 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 systems 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 Jindals executive counsel, Liz Murrill, had asked LSU to shield documents using the deliberative process argument where appropriate, in response to public records requests. Murrills directive seems to contradict claims by Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin that the Governors Office had nothing to do with LSUs decision to deny The Advocates subsequent request for records. 

Even if a deliberative process exemption makes the withholding of these records legal which we dont think is the case nothing in state law requires LSU officials to keep these records secret. LSUs 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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