Official secrets -- UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Official secrets -- UPDATE

Posted By on Sat, May 20, 2006 at 9:15 AM

We heard a sound bite from the governor today on KUAR (no link). He said the matter of the resigned parole board member, Larry Zeno after a parole board investigation was "closed" and he had no intention of releasing the report on the matter.

A most interesting correction appeared in the Democrat-Gazette today on the same topic. Previously, articles had said the governor's office was resisting releasing its copy of a report on the investigation (we also have FOIed that report without response), but that Parole Board Chairman Leroy Brownlee had a copy, which was unavailable because he was hospitalized.

According to the correction, there is only one report. Huckabee has it. He's not releasing it.

Two points: 1) We don't think an investigative report on the conduct of a gubernatorial appointee is a "working paper" under the terms of the FOI law in any case. Working papers refer to the correspondence and memoranda "of the governor." 2) We also think the case law is clear that you can't use a subterfuge to create privilege for an otherwise  public document. For example, the courts have said public documents are public documents, even if they are in the files of a private attorney or a private personnel search firm. The Huckster is attempting to establish a rule that he may bring any document into the confiines of his office as a means of shieldiing it from view. As with his policy banning us from publicly financed press services, it's egregious abuse of office. It's almost beside the point that it is clearly contrary to law.

Why is he so touchy about this investigation? Simple.  This same board member, Larry Zeno, was investigated more than a year ago, as we reported yesterday, for a compromising situation in which he left the clear impression with several people he was willing to trade an inmate a clemency recommendation for a bargain price on a diamond ring. That investigation was swept under the rug. A new allegation concerning him apparently arose, an investigation was made and the parole board member resigned. Why? Huckabee doesn't want to say. At a minimum it would reflect on his earlier judgment. In the earlier case, the file reflects an  embarrassing reference  to the notion that Huckabee can be reached for clemency decisions through church pals, not a new revelation.

Will someone in the press forge ahead on this vital public accountability issues and call the governor's hand? We hope so.

UPDATE: A courthouse source quotes a Democrat-Gazette reporter as saying a lawsuit is being prepared. Good.

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