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Monday, January 08, 2007

Glover transition team anonymity untenable

When a public official creates an organization with the mission of assisting public work, gives them exceptional access to the inner workings of government and considers their work a significant part of the decision process, he has in essence created a public body or committee.

The contention by Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover's administration that it circumvented any public records responsibilities by setting up the transition team as a private entity with private donations is an affront to the citizens they serve. If they've found a loophole in the law, they've done so as an offense to the spirit of the law.

Serving the government in anonymity is something that should only be reserved for national security and serious police work requiring undercover identities. It is not to be served up as a veil for those who want to wield influence without criticism or review.

If we don't ask the questions, who will? If your local news organizations aren't concerned about the process and use of our tax dollars, who will seek to hold government accountable? Extending a honeymoon to new office holders has more to do with giving officials time for new strategies to yield results than calling foul on management styles that run contrary to the public’s right to know what the official is doing. It isn’t about who he appoints to particular offices -- it is how he does it – giving great responsibility to an anonymous committee funded by anonymous donors.

Individuals and politicians who offer a honeymoon to new officeholders offer government an untenable window for corruption against a Louisiana history of political hi-jinks. If you want to get involved in public service, there is an openness that comes along with it. "Private" is for private business, not for mayor's unofficial official cabinet.

At the end of the day, The Times’ requests are not much more than a view through a crack in the door: a list of donors and the names of all the volunteers. Voters can choose to give Glover kudos for soliciting citizen advice through a formal process, but they deserve to know whose advice he is taking and who is underwriting the Glover transition team.

Our request gives the community a simple review of basic political actions. The names will say something about who Glover trusts and the character of those he welcomes into his conversations. This is not unlike a view into his appointment book. The list of donations is a report that gives the community a way to "check" Glover's claim of never being bought. Knowing the donations to political "action" are commonplace. Missteps and oversteps have been documented again and again. We don't expect an Abramoff moment, but...

Our approach isn't about a "gotchya" moment. It is a "trust but verify" need determined by our history. Offer your thoughts on today's poll (168 votes at the time of this post). Read what readers have been saying about this story in the string of comments.

By Alan English, executive editor,


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