Indexing Corruption

August 24, 2002

Mark Miester
Phone: 865-5714

New Orleans City Park pays its golf pro more than $200,000 through an invalidand likely illegalcontract. Vendors overcharge the state $180,000 on computer sales by failing to pass along price reductions. The executive director of the state Massage Therapy Board (did you know there even was a Massage Therapy Board?) earns $28,000 for performing field inspections with no documentation of ever having performed the inspections.

The muckrakings of an intrepid journalist? No. It's the work of Inspector General Bill Lynch, who since 1988 has weeded out waste, corruption and mismanagement throughout the state by executive order of the governor. In a state with a notorious history of patronage and political back-scratching, the reports of the Inspector General's Office provide a public record of the myriad manifestations of mismanagement and malfeasance, ranging from simple administrative lapses to brazen criminal activity.

The significance of the reports has been limited, how-ever, by the lack of a searchable index, making the 315 reports issued in the 14 years since the office's founding almost useless to researchers. Library technician Kenneth Owen recently finished a project compiling an index to the state inspector general's reports. The index, which is also available online through the Tulane Special Collections Web site, enables researchers to easily locate reports across each and every area investigated by Lynch, from the Acadian Railroad Development District to the Wildlife & Fisheries Department.

"This is of use to anybody who is interested in the workings of contemporary state government," says Owen. "The important thing about this is that even though the various departments, such as the Board of Ethics, would in their wisdom create guidelines and rules, if you could get around those rules and not get caught, then so much the better for you. With this new department that was created, that began to end."

While Owen says the index is too new to have attracted much attention by university researchers, he says the library has gotten calls from state officials curious to see the full record of investigations into their respective departments.

Owen, who retired as librarian emeritus at the University of New Orleans before coming out of retirement to work at Tulane, has long focused his library efforts on Louisiana. He created the Louisiana collection at UNO, known for housing one of the finest collections of post-WWII books on Louisiana in the country. In addition to indexing the inspector general's reports for Tulane, Owen also indexed the library's collection of political ephemera, comprising campaign flyers, bumper stickers and other materials that have accompanied elections throughout the state.

Researchers can even search for election years by entering a month and day, an essential feature given that most election materials give little clue as to their year of origin other than "Vote Oct. 15."

"You've got to have finding aids, and that's what I think a good librarian provides," Owen says. The index to the reports of the Louisiana State Office of Inspector General is available in the Special Collections division of Howard-Tilton library or online at http://specialcollections.tulane. edu/IGR/IGR.html.

The full-text reports are available at the library. Mark Miester may be reached at

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000