Last Modified: Thursday, May 03, 2012 7:23 PM
The rashness of some Louisiana lawmakers can be plain confounding.
The latest example is the decision by the state House Appropriations Committee to strip all funding from the state’s Inspector General’s Office, thus rendering it useless.
The savings? Right at $1.7 million, or .0068 percent of the state’s $25 billion budget.
Gov. Buddy Roemer established the IG’s office in 1988 to investigate fraud and corruption by government entities. To nearly everyone’s surprise, Gov. Edwin Edwards kept the office when he took over in his fourth term in the Governor’s Mansion. Even more shocking, he retained Roemer’s appointed Inspector General Bill Lynch, who had built a reputation as an Edwards adversary during his previous career as a investigative reporter for the now defunct States-Item newspaper in New Orleans.
Subsequent governors have treated the office differently.
Gov. Mike Foster downplayed the office and cut some of its resources. As a result, the number of investigations dropped.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco brought new emphasis to the office when she appointed Sharon Robinson to the Inspector General’s post in 2005.
Gov. Bobby Jindal gave the office more teeth when he took office in 2008. Through a series of bills, the office was given statutory authority to investigate all portions of state government, including the governor’s office.
Jindal also appointed Stephen Street as Louisiana’s third inspector general.
Last year, the IG’s office released a report alleging misconduct by former Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Director Murphy Painter. Another IG report alleged the mismanagement of more the $200,000 by the former executive director of the Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy.
And rumor has it that Street is investigating former State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, who abruptly resigned his post earlier this year.
State Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, told his fellow members of the House Appropriations Committee that the IG’s office is redundant and its duties could be handled by the State Police and Attorney General’s Office.
But State Police’s ranks have dwindled over the past three years, and its investigative division has enough on its plate with oversight of the state’s casinos and truck stops.
The Attorney General’s Office, meanwhile, is too much of a political animal to handle the responsibilities of the inspector general.
Can you imagine current Attorney General Buddy Caldwell investigating the governor’s office? Neither can we.
Here’s where Jindal has to show leadership. He’s routinely touted his administration for setting the gold standard for ethics reform during his first term.
But if state lawmakers have their way and close down the Inspector General’s Office during Jindal’s watch, the governor’s ethics reform claims will ring hollow.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.