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|Professor: Walsworth bill won't thwart public access|
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike Walsworth would help clarify who is considered part of the governor's executive staff, which would be useful when citizens and the media try to obtain public records.
That's the interpretation of University of Louisiana-Monroe political science professor Dr. Kevin Unter, who spoke with The Ouachita Citizen Wednesday.
Walsworth's bill lays out a clear definition of which employees in state government are considered part of the governor's executive office, Unter said.
State law currently exempts from the public record some communications kept in the custody of the governor's office. In some instances in the past, state employees denied access to public records, claiming the records were not available to the public because they worked for the governor.
Walsworth's proposal "provides that the public records exception for the office of the governor applies only to the executive office."
Walsworth's bill also says the executive office of the governor includes the "governor, chief of staff, executive counsel, director of policy, press secretary, legislative director, director of boards and commissions, director of inter-governmental affairs, director of constituent services, communications director, director of scheduling and each member of their respective staff."
"I don't really see this as limiting public records, but more of a clarity of definition of what the governor's office consists of," Unter said.
"I don't think it's putting anything off limits, and I think it would actually free up a bunch more state agencies," Unter said, referring to state agencies that may have claimed in the past to be part of the executive office.
"When you think about it, this is a very small group that works with the governor on a daily basis," Unter said. "There are types of conversations that take place, and we don't hear a lot about governor privilege, but there are instances where the governor would want to have one-on-one meetings.
"Those meetings could be nothing more than strategy sessions where the governor would want the ability to talk off the record.
"We'll hear more about this and get a better understanding, but I think one way to look at it is just clearing up old laws on the books," Unter said.