Email messages readers are sending to SLABBED indicate Louisiana citizens want more transparency not less. The most recent message contained a link to the blog forgotston and news that reports Rep. Steve Pugh, R-Ponchatoula, has joined Jefferson Parish’s Senator Martiny on the dark side with an amendment to Louisiana open records law:
Rep. Steve Pugh, R-Ponchatoula, has filed some bills in the current lege session to hide more public documents from the public. That’s rather odd considering how the LA public (his constituents) thinks there isn’t enough transparency in government. Most politicians when seeking office (At least the first time.) have a plank in their platforms about more transparency.
One of Pugh’s bills really hits home with me.
Pugh wants to give himself and other public servants the right to determine which electronic mailing (”email”) they receive are considered “junk” and therefore not subject to the Public Records Law. They could simply delete e-mails transferred by their junk filters (for which they control the criteria) into their “junk box”. ( See HB 1074.)
As the “Church Lady” on Saturday Night Live used to say: “How con-VEEN-ient!
forgotston is the incredibly interesting blog of C.B. Forgotston, a former New Orleans attorney, now in Hammond where he is “engaged in the private practice of law as a sole-practitioner limited to legislative and governmental matters. Given his background, it’s not surprising that Mr. Forgotston really nails Pugh:
It’s the 21st Century
Whenever communicating with our public officials on public business, I prefer to put my questions in writing and get written responses. It’s an old habit that I picked up while in law school and I’ve found it particularly helpful in communicating with public officials who, in disproportionate numbers, suffer from “selective amnesia.”
Today’s personal email is the modern day equivalent of yesteryear’s hand-written or typed letter. It should be recognized as such by a government which prefers the delays of the old-fashioned methods of communication.
Despite my advanced years, I have found e-mail very efficient and inexpensive. Most public servants have an email address provided at taxpayer expense, I assume to benefit the taxpayers. I certainly get a lot of chuckles from some the jokes I am sent via those addresses. We certainly need as much humor as possible in LA, so it is a benefit.
But, I digress.
Rep. Pugh, who is my current representative (He and I both hope to change that in the future.) and certain other public servants seem to have problems getting e-mails sent from me.
One of the best computer techs in the state is a friend of mine and provides me with top quality Internet service. He reports that there is absolutely nothing wrong on my end of the email transmission.
Apparently, for reasons best known to these public servants their “spam filters” keep sending my mail to their “junk boxes” or block my emails altogether. When they are blocked, my emails are returned to me with strong comments such as “blacklisted,” “blocked” or “does not accept emails from this sender.”
That sounds a bit personal.
I have no problem with public servants or anyone blocking my emails as long as they are paying for the service. However, I have a major problem with them using my tax dollars to block my emails.
Allowing politicians to judge what communications are “junk” is like allowing a pupil to determine for himself (without consulting the teacher) which courses of study are relevant and which ones can be skipped.
forgotston is such a must-read that it’s the newest addition to the SLABBED blogroll. Meanwhile, here’s more on one “reason for the season” on open records – Jefferson Parish Council to consider restricting discretionary raises for top administrators:
The $30,000-plus raises that former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard doled out to two of his top aides would be prohibited under a proposed ordinance to be introduced at today’s Parish Council meeting.
Broussard, who resigned Jan. 8 amid a federal criminal investigation of his administration, came under fire for giving outsized raises to Tim Whitmer and Tom Wilkinson, both of whom have also resigned.
Whitmer’s salary as chief administrative officer skyrocketed 76 percent to $190,000 over a 15-month period, culminating with a $30,000 discretionary raise in January 2008 that put him at the top of the parish’s pay scale.
As parish attorney, Wilkinson received an even larger $39,000 raise in January 2009, capping a 14-month period during which his salary ballooned more than 50 percent to $184,000.
An ordinance proposed by council Chairman John Young would limit such discretionary raises for parish executives to 5 percent a year and require council approval. Any discretionary raises come on top of annual merit-based raises, typically
3 percent to 5 percent, that the vast majority of parish employees receive.
“The ordinance basically says that we should treat executive employees like the rest of our employees,” Young said. “It would limit the size of executive raises and require the council’s approval to ensure everything is done out in the open.”
Young said he didn’t learn about the Whitmer and Wilkinson raises until The Times-Picayune posted a searchable data base of all parish employees’ salaries on the newspaper’s affiliated Web site nola.com last summer.
“Unbeknownst to us, these guys were getting exorbitant salary increases that didn’t have to be approved by the council,” Young said.
Amazing! It appears it took the Open Records law “as is” the for Jefferson Parish Council to know who the Parish employs and what they’re paid – making the Council’s support of the proposed amendment to limit access all the more puzzling.