Not the wisest approach

January 8, 2019

Gov. Pete Ricketts recently came in for some criticism over the fact that a taxpayer-funded consultant report on the 2015 Tecumseh prison riot never was shared with the public.

The report, it should be noted, was more critical of the Nebraska Department of Corrections and its leadership over the handling of the riot than was a different report done by a Critical Incident Review Team that was made public. The review team’s recommendations were subsequently implemented by the corrections department.

The governor said Scott Frakes, who was appointed by the governor to head up the corrections department, never shared or discussed the second report with him.

Gov. Ricketts defended Mr. Frakes at a news conference, saying all state directors get multiple reports and write many memorandums. The second Tecumseh report was just one of the sources of advice on how to take the Corrections agency forward, he said.

“When people ask for it, we release them,” he said of those consultant reports. “But we don’t publish everything that we do because ... the volume of work is so great.”

It appears the media or the Legislature would have had to ask for the specific report, which they did not know existed, in order to see it.

We understand where the governor is coming from. The volume of information that is generated can be overwhelming.

And micromanaging is not a governor’s typical role.

But the prison riot situation was prominent in the public spotlight. The governor and others had pledged to work diligently to come up with solutions to prevent similar violence in the future.

The political optics aren’t great when a report that is more critical is never even shared with the governor or made available to the public.

Given the circumstances, it would have been wiser for Mr. Frakes to share the second report with the governor so that they could have a candid discussion about the ideas it contained.

And it would have been smart, too, to share the report’s recommendations with the public.

Prison violence is costing the state — and taxpayers — considerably. Although state officials see some progress is being made, that jury is still out in the minds of many Nebraskans.

Being transparent about all recommendations and options would have been the best choice.

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