Legislature Was Big on Keeping Secrets

Secrecy was an open-and-shut case during most of the legislative session, observes Jack McElroy.
It began with redistricting, a process that the State Integrity Project rated “F” for lack of transparency.
Four months later, it drew to a close with a secret Sunday confab in a Nashville restaurant to carve up the pork in the budget bill. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick defended the rendezvous, saying, “There’s been a lot of secrecy for 200 years. I don’t think it’s any worse than it’s always been.”
Sadly, that may be true. As they often have done in the past, lawmakers again added exemptions to the Public Records Act, meaning that more public business can be kept private.
For instance, the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Board of Regents no longer have to make public all the candidates in a presidential search. Instead, the names of just three finalists must be revealed.
This is supposed to address a long-standing complaint that the best candidates don’t apply for Tennessee jobs because they can’t risk being outed as job-hunters unless they have a really good chance of landing the new gig.
Now Tennessee will be able to steal top administrators away from other states, as we did 10 years ago when UT’s last secret search snagged John Shumaker from the University of Louisville.
Of course, Shumaker resigned a year later in a scandal involving misuse of funds. But I guess even secret searches can’t get it right all the time.

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