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The Town Talk: The Trees Versus the Forest Throughout the past two weeks, the Town Talk has been in a fit over the Alexandria City Government's refusal to release the details of a report analyzing leaks at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center. Today, they published an editorial instructing Mayor-elect Jacques Roy to release the report once he assumes office on December 4th, claiming that in doing so, Roy will be keeping his promise of government transparency. According to City Attorney Kelvin Sanders and Mayor-elect Roy (both of whom have read the report), the report contains sensitive information that may need to be used in potential future litigation. Releasing the information to the public, before the City has had an opportunity to build and present its case, may put the City at a strategic disadvantage. And considering it is the obligation of the City to collect any potential damages owed to taxpayers, it follows that prematurely sharing critical information and the "mental impressions" of an expert, would put taxpayers at a disadvantage as well. But the Town Talk is not having any of it. The fact that Roy has read parts of this report, they argue, means that the public also has the right to read it-- because Roy hasn't yet taken office, they claim, he's still a private citizen. I'm not sure who the Town Talk relied on for legal advice, but it seems they're a little confused. (And I have on good word that this misconception will be cleared up in the very near future). Let's think about this on a very basic level: Next November, Americans will be electing a new President. Between November 2007 and January 2008, our next President-elect will be thoroughly briefed on a host of confidential and proprietary issues, including, among other things, security and emergency management procedures. Would the Town Talk argue that our next President-elect should not be able to review confidential information unless said information was declassified and made public beforehand? Certainly not. The President-elect, like our Mayor-elect, is, in fact, a public official, and even though the hyphenated "elect" follows his title, it's still an official title. To further exercise their bully pulpit, the Town Talk claims that by not releasing the report, Mayor-elect Roy would be breaking his promise of "transparency," and they direct readers to his website, where they may find information on Roy's positions concerning government accountability and transparency. The notion of transparency, as was mentioned numerous times by numerous people throughout the campaign, means that government should be held accountable for their decisions. It means that back room consulting contracts must be brought into the public light. It means that the public has a right to know how the government is spending their tax dollars. It means the government has an obligation to operate ethically. It does not mean, however, that the Town Talk has the right to print sensitive information that may be used in litigation. That is precisely why Louisiana has an exception to public records requests. Perhaps this exception has been used loosely in the past, but in this case, it seems that the City Attorney, the Mayor, and the Mayor-elect (all of whom have degrees in law) are acting judiciously, believing that, based on the information they have read and analyzed, it would compromise the City's ability to pursue litigation if the full report was leaked (pardon the pun). It is healthy and necessary to continually question whether or not the government is acting in the best interest of the public, but in this instance, the Town Talk has attempted to pursue a story without considering the consequences.