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|Clausen should go away|
The brouhaha Sally Clausen created with her retirement-for-a-day folly told us the state Board of Regents doesn't have a very good handle on the comings and goings in the higher education community in Louisiana.
That wouldn't be such a bad deal except for the fact that the Board of Regents is the governing board that's basically responsible for serving as an overseer of all of higher education in the state. That includes the commissioner of higher education, Clausen, who is an employee of the board.
By now, anyone who remotely pays attention to state government and the political theater it generates from time to time is aware of the Clausen fiasco, or Clausengate. It could be described as the latest maneuver by a public official in our fair state to line his or her own pocket courtesy of the taxpayers in an underhanded, sleazy manner, though it was legal for some unknown reason. A change in the law, or policy, is warranted.
For those who haven't tuned in, let's revisit Clausen's shenanigans for a moment.
In August 2009, Clausen "retired" as commissioner of higher education. She spent one day as a "retiree" and collected some $90,000 in accumulated sick and leave time. The one-time payment was in addition to her $425,000 annual salary.
After spending one day in "retirement," Clausen was rehired to her $425,000 commissioner of higher education gig, though she remained a "retiree" as far as the state was concerned. As part of the "retirement" deal, Clausen is line to begin collecting a roughly $148,000 annual pension beginning Aug. 1 of this year.
All of the paperwork concerning Clausen's "retirement" and rehiring was handled by her staff. In other words, Clausen's subordinates papered it up for her.
Along the way, not one personóincluding Clausen and/or her subordinatesóbothered to inform the Board of Regents of Clausen's actions. Not one soul said a word.
At least that's what we've been told.
All of this mess came to light thanks to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the state's largest newspaper. The Picayune obtained the information that shed light on Clausen's handiwork via a public records request. Those public records revealed all, including emails among Clausen and her subordinates, which showed they knew exactly what they were doing when they were doing it.
To her credit, though, Clausen has apologized. Apparently she feels badly for not disclosing her plans to the Board of Regents. At least one member of the board accepted Clausen's apology and stated for the record that Clausen had his support.
Blinded by loyalty comes to mind. The word fool does, too.
One must wonder, though, whether Clausen would have come clean if she hadn't been caught by The Times-Picayune. I think the answer to that question is a resounding "no." No, she probably would have taken her dirty little secret to her grave.
Yet, one doesn't need to spend much time thinking of what should occur next, meaning what should come from this mess.
At the very least, Clausen should resign immediately. Members of her staff who aided and abetted her fleecing of the public should resign, too.
If they refuse to go, the Board of Regents should fire them. And if members of the board don't have the backbone to force Clausen and Co.'s hands, they should tender their resignations as well.
Enough is enough.