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Jindal continues staff shake-up

Liz Murrill (Photo from Law.LSU.edu) Liz Murrill (Photo from Law.LSU.edu)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal is switching up his top legal adviser.

Jindal announced late Monday that Executive Counsel Liz Murrill is leaving the governor's office and going to the Division of Administration.

No word was given for why Murrill was leaving. When asked if Murrill requested the job switch, Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin didn't answer the question. Instead, in an email he said, "We appreciate Liz's service and are sure she will do well in her new role."

Murrill's move to the Division of Administration comes amid publicity over advice she allegedly gave LSU on shielding documents from the public.

The Advocate obtained an Aug. 16 letter from W. Shelby McKenzie, an outside attorney for the LSU Board of Supervisors, that contradicts a Jindal administration statement that it doesn't tell state agencies how to answer public-records requests.

The LSU system contends that internal decision-making is protected from public view to allow for the free flow of ideas.

That's the same legal privilege other agencies led by Jindal officials and allies have claimed to shield documents about controversial and politically sensitive topics, including the governor's new statewide voucher program and disagreements over the handling of a tax credit program.

Murrill reviewed a particular public-records request and suggested that LSU use the privilege to keep the records in question private, the Advocate reported, citing McKenzie's letter.

Asked earlier this month by The Associated Press if anyone working for the governor had advised any agency to invoke the privilege, known as "deliberative process," to keep documents hidden, Plotkin answered, "That's not true."

He also said LSU "will continue to work closely with stakeholders and make their own determinations about public records requests."

The AP's question to Plotkin was, "Has Liz or anyone else working for the governor advised LSU officials or other agencies in state government that they can use a deliberative process exemption to shield records?" Another staffer emailed Plotkin's response.

Sunday, Plotkin said he had thought the AP was asking only about The Advocate's query about its public-records request to LSU. In addition, the university and other state agencies have the final say on such matters, he said.

LSU leaders released internal communications about a previous round of cuts. Those officials are no longer in leadership roles at the university system office amid a continuing management shake-up since Jindal's appointees took control of the system's governing board.

Jindal's new executive counsel will be Gary Graphia, who starts the job Tuesday, according to the governor's office. Graphia most recently served as executive vice president for The Shaw Group Inc. where he oversaw corporate development, mergers and acquisitions and client relations

"We are excited to have Gary on board and look forward to working with him," Plotkin said Monday.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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