Parole board secrecy | Arkansas Blog

Parole board secrecy

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About the mysterious stories, another today in D-G, about the resignation of a gubernatorial appointee to the Parole Board, Larry Zeno.

1) The closed Department of Correction investigation into Zeno's professional conduct isn't the only occasion on which his work has been reviewed. A State Police investigation, closed without a finding of wrongdoing, looked into an inmate's suggestion of favor trading in parole board business.

2) Go get the governor, D-G, on his office's bogus citation of a "working papers" exemption to keep secret the Correction Department file, now in the governor's office. We've been down this road before and are weighing a challenge ourselves on this favorite gubernatorial secrecy ploy (dating back many administrations). There's no case law in Arkansas on the point. But case law elsewhere suggests "working papers" is not an all-purpose shield for any paperwork that happens to wend its way into an executive office. It has a very specific meaning in law -- the governor's own correspondence, privileged advice on which a governor made executive decisions and such as that. Here, a document that otherwise would be public is being shielded by the governor's staff simply because of its physical location. This is nonsense. The D-G can afford the legal fees to challenge this. We hope they spend it. It would be useful precedent for generations to come.

Meanwhile, even if the governor's office IS entitled to shield the documents, it does not mean he is REQUIRED to do so. Public accountability is so important that, when questions are raised about the public performance of a person who makes parole decisions, the person responsible for appointing that person should bend over backward to assure the public that the system is working properly. Sunshine is the means.

Governor, release those files. And, while you're at it, lift that ban on the Arkansas Times.

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