By: Allen Johnson
Gov. Bobby Jindals first veto came just under 90 minutes after Gambit Weekly asked his administration to respond to criticism that House Bill No. 90 would have a chilling effect on state ethics investigations. Co-authored by Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria, and House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown (a Jindal floor leader), the legislation would have required the state Board of Ethics to give a person accused of misconduct both the name of the complainant and anyone providing information to the investigation. We were alerted (anonymously) by a concerned state employee who told us that lawmakers had sent the bill to Jindal on Feb. 26. ?C.B. Forgotston, a former general counsel of the House Appropriations Committee, panned the bill. This is another step backward on ethics. By adding the requirement that the complainants name be revealed to the accused, it will, of course, have a chilling effect on citizens coming forward. Shortly after 12:30 p.m. last Wednesday, we emailed a request to Jindals press secretary for an administration response. Meanwhile, Jim Brandt, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, supported HB90. We at PAR are kind of torn, Brandt said. Some staffers feel it would have a chilling effect on people coming forward. On the other hand, I think there is tremendous value in making the entire process more transparent. Jindal apparently sided with the critics. In a letter to House Clerk Butch Speer, the governor wrote: While I understand and support the right of an accused public servant to defend him/herself from formal charges, I am concerned that portions of the bill would have the unintended consequence of potentially impeding legitimate complaints. Speer told us his office received the governors letter, which was time-stamped at exactly 3 p.m.