Our Views: LSU probe is needed

At its meeting today, the LSU’s Board of Supervisors is expected to go behind closed doors to discuss its response to requests by The Advocate and Andrea Gallo, editor of The Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, for documents related to LSU’s search for a new president. That search, conducted largely in secret, yielded F. King Alexander, president of Cal State University in Long Beach, Calif., as the sole finalist for LSU’s top post. The public deserves to know what other candidates were considered to lead LSU. But the search committee charged with finding a new LSU president essentially outsourced its responsibilities to a private search firm funded by the LSU Foundation, using legal sleight of hand to shield from public view those besides Alexander who were being considered for the top LSU job.

That’s a grave disservice to the taxpayers who support LSU. LSU’s refusal to identify other candidates for the LSU presidency is part of a larger pattern of secrecy in the search process that is not only bad public policy, but of questionable legality.

We call upon Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who has jurisdiction in such matters, to launch an investigation of these issues.

Of specific concern is a provision of the Louisiana Open Meetings Law that requires public bodies to conduct business at officially announced meetings. A public body may not use proxy voting, secret balloting or any other means to circumvent the law.

In recently announcing F. King Alexander as the sole finalist for LSU’s presidency, search committee chairman Blake Chatelain said that LSU officials identified 100 people they were interested in, narrowed that list to 35 active candidates, then cut that list to six or seven people, some of whom were interviewed face to face.

It appears that the field of candidates was narrowed outside of a meeting of the search committee, which could be a violation of the Open Meetings Law.

State law stipulates that the Louisiana attorney general is responsible for enforcing provisions of the Louisiana Open Meetings Law throughout the state. He can institute enforcement proceedings on his own, and he’s required to institute such proceedings when a complaint about a possible violation is made by any person, unless written reasons are given why such enforcement actions aren’t necessary.

We urge Caldwell to investigate this matter promptly and thoroughly.

At its meeting today, the LSU Board of Supervisors is also expected to name Alexander as LSU’s next president. Regardless of his qualifications, the secretive — and possibly illegal — search process that yielded Alexander has compromised his ability to lead LSU.