One of the biggest developments from Attorney General Eric Holder’s grilling yesterday is that he apparently only orally recused himself from the controversial case involving the AP phone records. While Holder claims he believes he recused himself around June, during examination he admitted he never did so in writing with an explanation for his action. He doesn’t even remember the exact day.

I will leave it to others with more expertise to determine if he may have technically broken any laws or allowed his subordinates to break the las by assuming the powers of the AG without documentation officially giving that authority. What I do know is that this is a shocking violation of the principles of both good governance and basic management.

The point of a bureaucratic hierarchy is to have clear lines of responsibility. It is to know where the buck stops. It is to know who should and should not be held accountable if something goes wrong.

If the head of a government agency is going to remove themselves from this chain of responsibility on what is supposedly a “very serious” matter; it should in writing, dated, with a clear explanation of why, and explicit instruction about who responsibility has been handed off to. Otherwise proper accountability becomes impossible.

For the sake of argument, what if the DOJ violated the law in late June. There is no way to prove if it was before or after Holder recused himself. Memories are hazy and it would just be Holder’s word against someone else.

Without recusals being in writing there is nothing to stop someone from claiming, after the fact, that they had earlier “orally” recused themselves to avoid responsibility. Similarly, what is stopping subordinates who are caught assuming the powers of a superior from claiming they had the authority thanks to an undocumented “oral” recusal.

Holder is the head of America’s law enforcement,  not the assistant manager at a ice cream shop. Transfers of important responsibility need to be in writing, you don’t just shout “I’m recused” three times as the waning moon sets over the horizon.

It is absurd that I apparently did more paperwork to transfer legal authority over my broken 1997 Nissan than Holder did to transfer control of what he called one of the most important leak investigations of his tenure.