It’s still too early to tell if the LSU Board of Supervisors will finally be forced to cough up the more than $140,000 in fines and fees assessed today in court by Judge Janice Clark.
But it’s not too early to demand answers about how those fines might be paid.
Clark set the fines and fees in response to LSU’s stubborn refusal to comply with the state’s Public Records Law in the case of the approximately 35 people who applied for the job that LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander won a few months ago.
Two Louisiana newspapers sued the LSU Board, demanding release of the records.
According to media reports on Thursday, the total of fines owed the Times-Picayune and the Baton Rouge Advocate, as well as attorneys’ fees and contempt of court fines against the LSU Board, does not include whatever legal costs the university has incurred in defending itself in court. That number is almost certainly in the tens of thousands of dollars.
While it’s too early to say for sure that the fines will survive the appeals process, shouldn’t the board members at least tell us where they might find the money for the fines?
State or foundation funds are the most likely sources, of course. But should such money be used for that purpose, it would spark a firestorm of criticism that might draw Gov. Bobby Jindal into the mess. There is no way Jindal can stand by and allow his board to spend public money on contempt of court fines.
The only other source for payment that immediately comes to mind is also the most appropriate: LSU Board members should each pay a proportional share of the fines and fees from their own bank accounts.
Were you to conduct a poll on this question, I have no doubt that more than 90 percent of the public would object to any taxpayer funds being used to pay fines assessed for the board’s illegal actions. Few people would condone spending taking money meant for students — especially at a time of budget cuts and austerity — and giving it to a state court, media organizations and lawyers.
You would expect that a public body that gave a flip about the public would have already assured us that no public funds will be tapped to pay the fines. These board members, however, won’t do that, because, short of being tossed into jail, they’ll never acknowledge their personal responsibility in this sordid and embarrassing mess.
The LSU Board’s arrogance has already inflicted irreparable damage to the university’s image and reputation. They should pay for that, too.
We’ve seen embarrassing images of sheriff’s deputies showing up at the LSU System office, demanding the presidential search records. We’ve seen Judge Clark threaten board members with jail time. We’ve seen Clark declare the LSU Board in contempt of court.
It seems clear that the members of the LSU Board no longer have the credibility to continue serving.
They are a disgrace to the university and the state. They should resign their offices. And if they won’t resign, Jindal should demand their resignations.
They won’t, of course, and neither will Jindal. They’ll all continue their misrule of the university long after this case is closed and any fines are paid from the public’s coffers.
Even after the contempt ruling is vacated, this LSU Board of Supervisors will remain in contempt of the public.