A bill filed this week by state Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, Independent of Thibodaux, and Sen. Rick Gallot, Democrat of Ruston, would repeal an exemption to the state Public Records Act called the "deliberative process privilege." The privilege protects deliberative (or pre-decisional) communications within the governor's office — though it's unclear just what is meant by "deliberative" and "governor's office."
The privilege has recently been applied to requests for (1A) records that were submitted after a state policy decision was made, (1B) records of communications that (arguably) themselves took place after a policy decision was made and (2) records from any executive agency, not just the Office of the Governor.
From our earlier coverage:
The News-Star attempted to confirm [Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John] White's remarks by filing a public records request for internal DOE emails, specifically those "regarding phases included in the process for school approval for the Louisiana Scholarship program." A copy of the request was provided to Gambit by News-Star attorney William McNew.
The department did not hand over the requested emails.
After the paper published an editorial excoriating the state for its lack of transparency, White responded, claiming DOE was not obligated to produce the records because of something called the "deliberative process privilege," an exemption to the Louisiana Public Records Law that Jindal rammed through the Legislature in 2009 over the objections of the state's largest newspapers. White claimed in his letter that the privilege, which critics say applies only to the governor's office, "protects documents reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated."
(More after the jump)
The Super Bowl Committee estimates more than 5,000 reporters arrived in New Orleans to cover Super Bowl XLVII. Today, buses unloaded them all, seemingly, into the Superdome for Media Day. Fans filled the lower bowl sideline to watch the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens host Q&A sessions with reporters, and reporters from all over the world get one-on-one with the players — attendees could tune in to free personal ear-clip radios to tune into each network or interview stage. Media Day opened to the public for the first time last year in Indianapolis.
Players sat back for an hour to wax philosophic on football, reflect on the season, answer boring questions or repeat answers to repeated questions, and get a little loose in a pre-game stress-free interview setting — or walk around among reporters and goof around on- and off-camera with the media.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis drew the wildebeest reporters to his crocodile trap of seemingly endless Ray Lewisms — "I have dreams. The outside world don't see those dreams. ... People ask why I'm so emotional" — while center Matt Birk confirmed his much-publicized stand against gay marriage: "I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman," and attributed his views to his Catholic background.
Government transparency watchdog organization Sunshine Review has released its first ever assessment of "proactive disclosure" on state, county, city and school district websites. Based on the group's 10-point transparency checklist — including current and archived budget information, contracts, lobbying activity and contact info for elected representatives — the state of Louisiana scores an overall C-plus, 33 out of 50 states for website transparency, just behind Montana. The top-ranked state was California. Nebraska scored the lowest.
Important to keep in mind: This study only scores government websites, which might not represent be Louisiana's most significant transparency problem. Also see this. And this. And this. There are more.
Of the three subcategories, Louisiana's state website scored the best, with a B-minus. Websites for the state's five largest parishes scored a C-plus, as did the five largest cities. The five largest school districts' websites scored lowest, with a D-plus.
Note: Sunshine Review's report does not say whether it counted Orleans Parish as a single district, as the state does in op-eds, or whether it only examined the Recovery School District, the larger of the two. If the former, it does not say if the website in question is the RSD website, which is hopefully a work in progress, the serviceable Orleans Parish School Board website or the ever-changing state Department of Education website.
Read the report: 2013_Transparency_Report_Card_1_.pdf
The recent shakeups and breakups under U.S. Attorney Jim Letten amid an online comment controversy caught the eyes at The New Yorker, where Jack Hitt gives the blow-by-blow in "How Forensic Linguistics Identified Online Trolls in New Orleans." Just how exactly did investigators nail down NOLA.com commenters Henry L. Mencken1951 and eweman as Sal Perricone and Jan Mann?
Here's the (brief) saga of James Fitzgerald, "forensic linguistics" specialist and the FBI agent who helped link the Unabomber to Ted Kaczynski.
And a tip from Hitt: "Heloise-like tip to newbie trolls: don’t create an anonymous handle that includes the year of your own birth (Henry L. Mencken1951) or one that contains a homonym of your own name (eweman)."
A few interesting news items:
Last week I wrote a little bit about the Vera Pretrial Services budget controversy, specifically critics' comparison of the program to the Philadelphia Pretrial Services Division. Independent journalist Zoe Sullivan has since done an interview with Orleans Parish First Assistant District Attorney Graymond Martin, who speaks at length about pretrial services. Martin, who used to represent the commercial bail industry, responds to that industry's criticism of the program.
Also, The Lens' Tyler Bridges has a story on the Jindal administration's use of the "deliberative process privilege" to shield public records. Bridges interviews a few state legislators who suggest the privilege may face a challenge during next year's legislative session.
Finally, the Times-Picayune has been doing fantastic work following up on allegations that Grand Isle Shipyard, which employed some of the people aboard the Black Elk energy platform that caught fire last week, has been mistreating workers brought here from the Philippines.
Yesterday, the T-P posted a story in which Grand Isle president Mark Pregeant gives Richard Thompson a tour of the company's Galliano bunkhouse.
Pregeant's court statement on the bunkhouse, filed in federal court last July.
Statements from the plaintiff workers, filed in response to Pregeant's statement
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