Showing posts with label Baton Rouge Advocate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baton Rouge Advocate. Show all posts

Sunday, December 23, 2018

LSU Football Player Kills a Man in Scotlandville: Will He Still Play in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl?

An LSU football player killed Kobe Johnson, an 18-year-old man, yesterday evening in Scotlandville.

This is what we know. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, an LSU running back, and Jared Small, a linebacker, were trying to sell an "electronic item" when Johnson allegedly tried to rob them. One of the players--police haven't said which one--shot Johnson multiple times and he died in the backseat of a late-model Chevrolet Silverado truck.

The LSU athletes called 911 and stayed at the scene until the police arrived. Joe Alleva, LSU's Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, called the incident "traumatic." Three lawyers showed up to represent Edwards-Helaire and Small, who claim self-defense.

As the Baton Rouge Advocate succinctly put it, there are "several unknowns about the incident."

First, the newspaper asked, which footballer player killed Johnson?

Second, what types of weapons were recovered and who owns them?

And finally--and most importantly--will Edwards-Helaire and Small suit up for the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day?

And I have a few questions of my own:

Who is paying the three lawyers who miraculously showed up to represent the football players? Perhaps LSU's Mr. Alleva knows the answer to that question.

Who owns the stylish pickup truck where Johnson bled to death?

And finally, was it necessary for the football player (Small or Edwards-Helaire) to shoot Johnson multiple times?

Of course all these questions are trivial when compared to what's at stake: The 2019 Playstation Fiesta Bowl, which is only a week away.  After all, how can we compare the life of an obscure kid from North Baton Rouge to the upcoming epic battle between the LSU Tigers and the University of Central Florida?

Surely football fans all over Louisiana are down on their knees in prayer. Please God, if an LSU football player killed someone on Saturday night, let it be Mr. Small, who is only a walk-on linebacker, and not Edwards-Helaire, who is a star running back who probably has a great career ahead of him if he goes pro.

Death scene (photo credit: Travis Spradling, Baton Rouge Advocate)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Secret Searches for College Presidents: Are They Good for Higher Education? A Call for a Federal Open Records Law That Applies to All Colleges That Receive Federal Funds

Inside Higher Education published an article earlier this week on the controversial career of Evan Dobelle, currently president of Westfield State University in Massachusetts.  According to Inside Higher Education, Dobelle's presidency "is now becoming tainted by a series of revelations about spending habits [at Westfield] and demands for accountability from a growing chorus of public officials, including [Massachusetts's] higher education commissioner."


Evan Dobelle, president at five colleges or universities, has a record of extravagant spending.
Photo credit: Honolulu Star Bulletin


Westfield is Dobelle's fifth college presidency.  Inside Higher Education reported that Dobelle was fired "for cause" at the University of Hawaii amid questions about alleged financial improprieties, although the Hawaii board quickly reversed its decision and reached a settlement with Dobelle that led to his departure.

Apparently, the allegations at both Hawaii and Westfield are similar--involving charges of extravagant and inappropriate spending.  Given the negative publicity around Dobelle's presidency at  the University of Hawaii, how did Dobelle manage to get two more college president's positions?

Maybe executive search firms have something to do with Dobelle's ability to get a succession of good gigs as a college president. Westfield used EFL Associates, an executive search firm, in its presidential search process that ended in the hiring of Dobelle.

Let me ask some pertinent questions. Given what was publicly known about Dobelle from his time at the University of Hawaii, how did he wind up being the top choice at Westfield? Did EFL Associates do a "due diligence" background check on Dobelle?  If so, did it report on Dobelle's time at Hawaii? 

Second, was the Westfield State University search one of those typical secret searches that executive search firms orchestrate for universities in which the candidates for an executive position are allowed to keep their applications secret?

I don't know the answers to these questions.  But if Westfield had publicly announced the names of the applicants for the president's position prior to selecting Dobelle, then anyone interested in the quality of Westfield's next chief executive could have done a Google search and found out what everyone now knows about Dobelle's time in Hawaii.

So let me make a modest suggestion for legislation that would let the sun shine on secret search processes that too many American universities employ when hiring their senior executive officers.  How about a federal law that requires every college or university that participates in the federal student loan program to comply with a Federal open records  law that will require them to publicly release the names of all applicants for any higher education executive position and to do so at least 21 days before the final hiring decision is made. .  Any college or university that refuses to comply with this open record requirement would be kicked out of the Federal student loan program.

The Westfield scandal comes on the heels of a scandal at Louisiana State University in which LSU refuses to release the names of the people who applied for the LSU's president's position.  LSU has been engaged in litigation with The Baton Rouge Advocate since last spring after it refused to comply with the newspaper's open records request.  Apparently, LSU is willing to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees to keep its presidential search process secret. LSU selected its president, F. King Alexander, through a secret search process orchestrated by William Funk & Associates, an executive search firm located in Dallas.

It is time to clip the wings of executive search firms and force all public universities to hire their presidents and senior executives through a process that is open to public inspection.  Let's face it. The record of America's university leaders is not that good.  Too many college and university presidents make obscene salaries and spend extravagantly on travel and entertainment.  Meanwhile the cost of attending college creeps ever upward.

A secret process of hiring college presidents is not in the public interest.  Openness when hiring college presidents would serve the public much better.


References

Associated Press. State says Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle violated policy. The (Massachusetts) Republican, September 20, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/09/state_says_mass_college_presid.html

Bruce Dunford. Spending habits, poor relations soured Dobelle's tenure at UH. Honolulu Star Bulletin, June 20, 2004. Accessible at: http://archives.starbulletin.com/2004/06/20/news/story3.html

Ry Rivard. In fifth presidency, Evan Dobelle faces many allegations that ended his fourth. Inside Higher Education, September 24, 2013.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Memo to LSU: Fire Your Lawyers, Fire Your Executive Search Firm, and Apologize to Judge Clark

When I practiced law years ago, my senior partner gave me three good pieces of advice.

1. Always comply with a court order.
2. Never hide relevant documents that are the subject of a legitimate request in civil litigation.
3. Admit your mistakes and do everything you can to repair the damage.

LSU has acted contrary to all this good advice, and it will pay the price.

Bill Funk
LSU should fire him
This morning, Judge Clark ordered the Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish to go to LSU and retrieve documents pertaining to LSU's search for a new president.  Judge Clark ordered LSU to make the documents available to the Baton Rouge Advocate last April. According to Judge Clark, those documents are subject to Louisiana's open records law and LSU cannot lawfully conceal them.  LSU refused to comply and has been in contempt of Judge Clark's order for about four months.

This afternoon, two sheriff's deputies went on campus to get the documents and came away empty handed. LSU claims it has no documents to turn over and that all relevant documents pertaining to its presidential search are in the hands of William Funk and Associates, an executive search firm located in Dallas.

In short, LSU has contemptuously defied Judge Clark's order, acting no doubt on the advice of its
Say you''re sorry, Bobby
attorney, Jimmy Faircloth.  And who is LSU protecting by hiding its presidential search documents?  Bill Funk and his executive search firm, whose business runs more smoothly if candidates for executive jobs can keep their identities confidential.  And you can bet your last dollar that Mr. Funk was paid handsomely to produce LSU's new president, King Alexander.

This is going to end badly for LSU. It made a huge mistake toying with Judge Clark.  What can it do to begin repairing the damage?

First, it should fire Jimmy Faircloth, who gave LSU such bad advice.

Second, it should fire Bill Funk and never again use an executive search firm that insists on secrecy in an LSU executive search.

Third, Bobby Yarborough, the chairman of the LSU Board of Supervisors, should go to Judge Clark's court without an attorney and turn over the documents Judge Clark demanded.  Then Mr. Yarborough
Oh yeah. Fire this guy too.
should personally apologize to Judge Clark, to the students of LSU and to the people of Louisiana.



Imperious, Arrogant and Defiant: LSU Plays the Scofflaw and Refuses to Compy with a Court Order

I sat in Judge Janice Clark's courtroom this morning, curious to see how she would deal with Louisiana State University's continued defiance of her court order. 

The Baton Rouge Advocate and the Times-Picayune sued LSU several months ago under Louisiana's open records law, seeking to obtain the records of LSU's search for a new president. The search ended last March when the LSU Board of Supervisors selected F. King Alexander as LSU's new chief executive.  At least 35 other people applied for the job, but LSU refuses to release these applicants' names.

Last April, Judge Janice Clark issued an order directing LSU to turn over the records of its search, including the names of the other applicants, but LSU refused to comply.



Judge Janice Clark
Instead it tried to get the Louisiana Supreme Court to issue a stay of Judge Clark's order while LSU pursues a leisurely appeal.  The Supreme Court declined to issue a stay, but LSU still won't turn over the records.  LSU accrues a fine of $500 per day for each day it refuses to comply with Judge Clark's order and currently owes about $60,000.

This morning, Judge Clark increased the pressure on LSU to turn over the records. In an order issued from the bench, she directed the Sheriff  of East Baton Rouge Parish to seize the presidential search records and indicated she would issue the appropriate writs and warrants necessary for the sheriff to carry out her order. 

LSU would like Judge Clark to issue a final judgement in the case so it can start the long process of appealing it, a process that could take years.  It wants to continue withholding the records while the appeal is pending.  By the time the appeal process is over, President King Alexander will probably be gone--having left LSU for an even more lucrative job.  LSU could then argue that the whole dispute over its presidential search is moot.

But Judge Clark said today that there will be no further proceedings in the case until the disputed records are turned over.  Meanwhile, LSU continues in contempt of Judge Clark's April order and risks even heavier sanctions being imposed on it--including jail time for recalcitrant members of the LSU Board of Supervisors.

So what's LSU's next move? With the sheriff poised to search LSU's administrative offices (and perhaps even the offices of LSU's attorneys), I think LSU has run out of options. Surely it will turn over the records sometime this week.

LSU Prez King Alexander
Hey, I'm just a bystander
Or maybe not.  But if LSU continues to defy Judge Clark's order, it will only enhance its image as an imperious, arrogant scofflaw.  What a message to send to LSU's students and the people of Louisiana.

As for LSU President King Alexander, he is sitting on the sidelines. He did not appear in court this morning with LSU's attorney. President Alexander could show real leadership if he would tell the LSU Board of Supervisors to obey the law like everyone else in Louisiana is required to do and comply with Judge Clark's order.



References

 Joe Gyan, Jr. Judge: LSU board could face jail time in records case. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, September 10, 2013, p. 1.