The pattern of behavior used by the LSU Board of Supervisors can be seen as nothing short of a determined policy of meeting ends contrary to the intellectual institution that is known as LSU. Legislators, taxpayers, citizens and alumni must demand transparency that the board and Governor Jindal’s staff are determined to hide. The following article reinforces these assertions. From the Times Picayune
The process for selecting a new LSU president was designed with secrecy in mind, with the idea that keeping the roughly 100 candidates’ names from public view would produce a better field, the head of the search committee charged with winnowing the list of candidates acknowledged in a deposition Monday.
Members of the search committee used their personal email accounts to communicate
with one another, and the board’s lawyer advised them that their personal emails were not subject to public-records requests, search committee chairman Blake Chatelain testified. According to minutes of the search committee’s meetings, the Board’s lawyer also told the committee that they should “avoid any written communication that could identify an individual candidate because it would be subject to public records laws.”
In addition, Chatelain said a consultant hired to help with the screening provided the committee with a binder containing resumes and other information for roughly 10 of the leading candidates during a Feb. 1 closed-door executive session. But the consultant took the binder with him at the end of the session.
The university’s Board of Supervisors on March 27 named F. King Alexander to the presidency. None of the other candidates or finalists for the presidency, a new position that combines the former positions of president and chancellor, has been named publicly.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and the Advocate sued LSU earlier this month after LSU refused to release the names. Andrea Gallo, editor of the Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, has filed a similar suit. In their suit, the news organizations claim that resumes and other materials reviewed by the committee in connection with the search are public records, and further that under a law passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2006, the names and qualifications of applicants for public positions of authority must be made public.
LSU’s effort to keep the candidates’ names secret violates an agreement the university signed 12 years ago amid a similar controversy, according to lawyer Lori Mince, who represents both NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and the Advocate.
The 2001 agreement was confected to settle a nearly identical lawsuit in which the Advocate sued LSU after the university refused to divulge the names of the candidates for the position of athletic director. In that case, LSU eventually turned over the candidates’ names and also signed an agreement that reads as follows: “In the future, LSU agrees that resumes or other written materials containing biographical information that are provided to LSU in written form by anyone, including a consultant, in connection with an ongoing search to fill an employment position at LSU will be retained by LSU for three years and will be produced pursuant to a public records request made in conformity with the Louisiana Public Records Act.”
Mince reminded the university’s lawyers of the 2001 agreement in a letter this week. Jimmy Faircloth, who represents the university, responded Friday that the agreement doesn’t apply to the current case, and says the 2006 legislation supersedes the agreement.
In its recently concluded search for a new president, LSU promised at least some candidates their names wouldn’t be revealed, apparently based on the belief that the secrecy would broaden the pool of applicants.
The search committee led by Chatelain was formed in April 2012. In September, the committee hired consultant R. William Funk & Associates to assist in the search. Eventually, a pool of about 100 candidates was put together, using a combination of ads, personal contacts and nominations by members of the Board of Supervisors and others, according to Chatelain.
Board members and members of the search committee were able to view the names, resumes and other information about those candidates through a web portal created by the consultant.
Eventually, the consultant and the search committee winnowed the 100 candidates down to 35 “active candidates,” Chatelain said in his deposition.
Members of the search committee were then directed to rank their favorites from among that group, which resulted in a list of finalists. Three of the finalists were interviewed by members of the committee; a fourth took a job at another university; and the fifth withdrew his or her name from consideration, Chatelain said.
LSU has responded to public records requests from NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and the Advocate by saying that LSU doesn’t have any of the requested records since those records are all in the hands of the consultant. As for the 2006 law requiring that all applicants for public positions be made public, the university says Alexander “is the only person to have reached the status of applicant” for the presidency. Alexander was directed to “apply” only after the board selected him, the university maintains.
In their lawsuit, the news organizations disagree and ask a judge to order the university to turn over the list of names of others considered for the presidency as well as the resumes the committee reviewed on the web portal and in the binder. The case is currently set for a hearing before Judge Janice Clark on April 25. Gallo’s suit will be heard by Judge Timothy Kelley on April 30.