‘Create a culture that says public access is good, and we don’t want exceptions,’ retiring leader says

By Todd Fettig
NFOIC executive director

Be proactive. Think in terms of principles. Think long-term. Build a culture of transparency. And remind lawmakers of their commitments to open government. 

Those are the tenets of Robert Travis Scott, who in November 2021 retires as president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR), a member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. 

PAR focuses on a range of public issues and policies in Louisiana, from education to health care to taxes, and it positions itself as a catalyst for governmental reform. A central thread that runs throughout its research and recommendations: open government is good government.

“We’re coming from a place where it’s a very high bar to limit public access,” Scott said. “That’s more important than any particular set of laws or procedures. 

“In the long run, that’s what you want: To create a culture that says public access is good, and we don’t want exceptions. We understand the public good of public access, and the bar must be very high.” 

A former business editor and state Capital Bureau Chief with The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Scott became president of PAR in January 2011. He previously worked as a columnist for The Greenville News in South Carolina and as an associate director for a bipartisan, nonprofit national security policy organization in Washington, D.C. 

In June 2021, Scott announced his plans to retire. In October 2021, the PAR Board selected Steven Procopio, policy director at the organization, as its new president. 

In October 2021, while advising his successor and looking forward to retirement closer to family in Virginia, Scott spoke with optimism about PAR’s progress in matters of government transparency.   

“The principles are on our side,” he said. “The anecdotes rarely are. So it’s principles vs. anecdotes. And, over time, the principles will win out.”