This letter is in response to a June 16 editorial (Our Views: “Gov. Edwards flouts transparency by keeping Avoyelles credit card records in the dark”). The Edwards administration has taken unprecedented steps to ensure transparency with the public and the press by ending the previous administration’s practice of routinely fighting — or simply ignoring — requests for public records.
Since taking office, this administration has worked with The Advocate to produce thousands of pages of public records, including records of the previous administration. This resulted in numerous stories regarding the Department of Corrections, including one a day prior to the editorial titled “Warden Nate Cain ordered cover-up of prison rape investigation, corrections officials say.” This article cites a thorough DOC investigation and 31-page report of Nate Cain and others at Avoyelles Correctional Facility.
Despite the fact that The Advocate published this article about the thorough investigative report, which was publicly disclosed, The Advocate chose to run this editorial the very next day criticizing the governor’s stance on public records.
Prior to this editorial and subsequent news story, we were working in good faith with The Advocate to determine when, not if, these documents would be produced.
There is a clear exception to the public records law that allows for records to be held during an active investigation to ensure the investigation is completed without interference or influence. The DOC is currently conducting an active investigation that involves the requested records.
Edwards has made it abundantly clear he will not tolerate corruption in his administration. Even though all of the actions in question took place before Edwards took office, this investigation will be fully consistent with the governor’s charge.
When The Advocate’s lawyer wrote to the administration last Wednesday requesting a response to the public records request, we responded immediately.
While we discussed the importance of the investigation and the clear exception in the public records law, we also made it clear we would work with The Advocate to ensure there was a proper response to the request. Instead of working with the administration, The Advocate chose, the very next day, to run this editorial.
While it is disappointing that The Advocate would run a splashy and misleading editorial that is clearly inconsistent with the facts and the law, we will continue to work to ensure the investigation is completed and any records are fully disclosed.
Transparency and accountability are at the heart of this administration. Despite the suggestions in this editorial from The Advocate, the administration will continue to quickly respond to public records requests. We conveyed this information in writing to The Advocate’s counsel.
Gov. John Bel Edwards