Bobby Jindal’s Administration Conducts Public’s Business In Private

Four days ago, Gov. Bobby Jindal publicly excoriated Hillary Clinton on Twitter, accusing her of concealing her e-mails from the American public and implying that she had compromised national security by utilizing an e-mail server maintained from her home. “While the American people will never see all of Hillary’s e-mails,” he tweeted, “it is likely the Russians and the Chinese already have them.” Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 8.58.41 AM

Although Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private e-mail server is regrettable and, to some, even inexcusable, she has already turned over thousands and thousands of e-mails and has committed to releasing a total of least 55,000 in the weeks and months to come.

But Jindal wasn’t finished: The next day, he claimed that Secretary Clinton had “created a major breach of national security” by electing to use a private account and not her government-issued address. “She has already edited the e-mails,” he said, “and has already destroyed the ones she did not want us to see, which makes the whole thing a meaningless charade.”

Notably, this is not the first time Gov. Jindal criticized Secretary Clinton for failing to maintain her e-mails on a government server. When the story first broke in March, Gov. Jindal was ready to pounce.

There’s just one enormous problem: Not only did Gov. Jindal refuse to release his own e-mails after requests made by both Elizabeth Crisp of The Advocate and by yours truly, reports have circulated, since at least 2012, that Jindal’s top aides use their own private accounts to discuss the public’s business. Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 9.20.26 AM

Jindal’s phony outrage over Secretary Clinton and his absurd hyperbole about a “major breach of national security” aren’t only incredibly cynical, they’re also stupidly hypocritical. In Jindal’s seven and a half years in office, he has yet to disclose a single e-mail.

According to three different sources, Gov. Jindal communicates almost exclusively via e-mail through his private account, which is apparently hosted by Gmail. In fact, the use of private e-mail accounts among his executive staff is not only pervasive, it’s encouraged. “When they first came into office, they really did believe that if they kept everything on their private accounts, it’d never be public record,” a former staffer from Jindal’s first term told me, on the condition of anonymity. This account was corroborated by others with intimate knowledge of the Jindal administration.

According to Louisiana law, if a public official or employee uses a private e-mail account to conduct public business, those records are still considered public record. The problem, of course, is knowing where to look. Thus far, numerous public records requests have turned up empty, and the Jindal administration continually has made liberal and seemingly improper use of the “deliberative process exemption,” which shields from disclosure records considered prior to a decision and which, therefore, should likely not apply to the overwhelming majority of records maintained, created, or considered by Gov. Jindal and his administration.

In order to ensure the preservation of the public record, this morning, after uncovering the private e-mail accounts of all of Gov. Jindal’s executive staff members, I filed an extensive public records request with Gov. Jindal’s executive counsel, Thomas Enright, which I have copied below.

This is not punitive; it’s not a witch hunt; it’s not motivated by any sense of retribution or malice, and, frankly, the issue is much bigger than Gov. Jindal’s hypocrisy about Secretary Clinton.

For me and for countless others in Louisiana, these records are necessary and vital in understanding history, and they belong in the public domain, not under the control of a team of loyal staffers and their ambitious leader. Louisianians deserve and should demand to know the full story of how our government responded to the worst environmental disaster in American history; we deserve and should demand to know about the ways in which critically important policy was formulated and justified.

And it is extremely unfortunate, if not reckless, for Gov. Jindal and key members of his administration to, allegedly, purposely evade the public and attempt to conceal records through the use of private accounts.

Importantly, the use of private e-mail accounts will almost certainly guarantee an enormously expensive retrieval process, requiring the oversight of legal counsel to individually comb through what is assuredly tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of e-mails in order to differentiate between private and public records.

The purposeful and willful destruction of a public record may be considered a crime, and hopefully, if the Governor and his staff are wise, they will preserve each and every record they’ve ever received, even the spam. Let’s make sure this isn’t a meaningless charade.

****

Lamar White, Jr.

lamarw at gmail dot com

July 2, 2015

TRANSMITTED ELECTRONICALLY

Dear Mr. Enright,

Pursuant to La. Rev. Stat. Ann. 44:31, I am writing to request copies of all  public records in the possession and the maintenance by Governor Bobby Jindal, specifically all e-mails sent from and received by his personal e-mail account, which, based on information and belief, is hosted by a third-party service provider (i.e. Google, iCloud, Yahoo, me.com, or other similar e-mail providers).

Furthermore, I request all public records sent from and received by:

  1. Kyle Plotkin, in his capacity as a public employee, on his private e-mail address, kjp1982@gmail.com;
  2. All public records sent from and received by Mike Reed, in his capacity as a public employee, on his private e-mail address, reed1311@gmail.com;
  3. All public records sent from and received by Shannon Bates, in her capacity as a public employee, on her private e-mail addresses, shannon.bates1@me.com or shannon.bates1@icloud.com;
  4. All public records sent from and received by Taylor Teepell in his capacity as a public employee, using his private e-mail addresses, taylor.teepell@icloud.com and/or taylorteepell@icloud.com;
  5. All public records sent from and received by Matt Parker, in his capacity as a public employee, on his private e-mail address mattmparker@me.com;
  6. All public records sent from and received by Mary Parker, in her capacity as a public employee, using her e-mail address, maryjparkerla@icloud.com, and
  7. All public records sent from and received by Allie Schroeder in her capacity as a public employee, on her private e-mail address aschro32@gmail.com.

As you know, the right to access public records is fundamental. See: La. Const. art. XII, § 3.

As you also know, the use of a private e-mail accounts to conduct public business cannot obviate the disclosure requirements under the law.

Louisiana law does not require the requestor to disclose the nature or the intention of the request. If this request is denied, the state has the burden of proving the justification for denial.

This request is not vague, overly broad, or unreasonably burdensome. It merely requires public employees disclose any and all public records currently maintained in their private accounts, and based on information and belief, those records exist and are easily located.

The cost of reproduction should be minimal. I do not require physical copies of these records; electronic copies are sufficient to meet this request. If the cost of production exceeds $100, please advise and provide an estimate of the costs required.

Per Louisiana law, if this request is denied for any reason, I must be notified no later than Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

All the best,

Lamar White, Jr

Alexandria, Louisiana / Dallas, Texas / Baton Rouge, Louisiana