Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The fecal matter is poised to strike the Westinghouse oscillating air manipulation device (the crap is about to hit the fan) and the citizens of Louisiana have no one to blame but Bobby Jindal (sorry, but I still can’t bring myself to call him governor) and the brain-dead legislators who, like so many sheep, for eight years obediently allowed him to lead the state off the fiscal cliff into the abyss.

LouisianaVoice has received a copy of a two-page letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) which, by comparison, is to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ warning Thursday as Black Sabbath is to Pat Boone. SACSCOC LETTER

The letter, dated Feb. 11 (Thursday) was addressed to Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne with copies to Edwards, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Eric LaFleur, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Cameron Henry, Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph C. Rallo, Ph.D., the Louisiana institutional members of SACSCOC, and SACSCOC Board of Trustees Chairman Mark E. Keenum, Ph.D.

At least one source told LouisianaVoice that Edwards possessed the letter at the time of his televised statewide address on Thursday but chose to attempt to soften the impact of the letter’s contents as much as possible while still sending a clear message to the legislature and the citizens of Louisiana.

SACSCOC is the regional accrediting body for 800 public, private and for-profit institutions of higher education in 11 southern states, including Louisiana. It is one of seven regional accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to assure quality in higher education and to serve as the gatekeeper to federal financial aid (Title IV) for students in the region (emphasis ours). http://www.sacscoc.org/

The letter was signed by SACSCOC President Belle S. Wheelan, Ph.D.

“SACSCOC has become aware of the fact that because of the lack of financial resources from the state, the institutions the commission accredits may have to cease operation prior to the end of the current semester,” she wrote. “This would mean (1) students would not be able to complete classes and, subsequently, earn no credit for courses taken this semester, potentially impacting their financial and eligibility, and (2) payroll will not be met and bills would not be paid placing employees in an untenable financial situation as well as negatively impacting the credit ratings of the institutions.”

She said federal regulations dictate that any institution suspending operations or closure in the next several months must provide SACSCOC with a plan for how students can continue at another college or university. The commission, she said, would have to approve such a plan and could send students to another state. “This would create a tremendous hardship on students who might be unable to get a job because the completion of their degree is needed or, worst case scenario, they might drop out of college all together (sic).”

She said if the schools are unable to demonstrate continued financial stability or continue to enroll students, “the board of SACSCOC would have to consider a public sanction of the institutions or a withdrawal of their accreditation. Public sanctions have a chilling effect on the enrollment of potential students and withdrawal of accreditation results in the loss of federal financial aid.”

Wheelan served as president of two institutions and as Secretary of Education for the State of Virginia. As such, she said, “I am painfully aware of the difficulty state leadership has in making budgetary decisions but the lack of state funding is putting Louisiana colleges and universities in serious risk and placing students’ academic careers in jeopardy. I know the challenges are many but I believe it is important for you to know the impact your decisions will have before you finalize your plans.”

Here is the response to the letter which Gov. Edwards gave LouisianaVoice on Friday:

“The previous administration’s choice to make the largest disinvestment in higher education in the nation over the past seven years was a choice that would inevitably lead to devastating results. It is time to turn that around. If the legislature chooses to raise no new revenue in the special session starting Sunday, universities and colleges across our state together will face more than $200 million in cuts this fiscal year—and will have to implement those cuts over the next four months. Even if the legislature chooses to raise the revenue I am proposing, higher education still faces $42 million in cuts and a $28 million TOPS funding shortage this year. This is unsustainable. I am working with our legislature to develop solutions to stabilize Louisiana’s budget this year and going forward. These responsible steps can only help us maintain accreditation for our higher education institutions, as our students deserve.”

Edwards, in his address Thursday, said that the TOPS scholarship program had suspended payments because of the state’s pending $870 million budget deficit and the looming $2 billion budget hole facing legislators for the next fiscal year which begins on July 1.

In order to awaken anyone who might have been dozing off or who were ticked off for missing Family Feud or Wheel of Fortune (one Baton Rouge TV station opted for Wheel instead of carrying the governor’s speech, choosing instead to stream the speech on its Web site), Edwards also threw in the biggest threat of all: the possible necessity of (gasp!) cancelling collegiate football in 2016.

Well, if losing TOPS didn’t do the trick, you can bet your school jersey that got the attention of Louisiana’s masses. I mean, how could we possibly survive without watching a bunch of oversized, tutored adolescents strut around on the field after pile-driving an opposing quarterback head first into the turf at Tiger Stadium to the delight of 100,000 screaming maniacs?

Why, it would be downright unamurican!

Sure enough, MSN.com covered Louisiana’s fiscal implosion with the headline “LSU Football in Danger?” http://www.msn.com/en-au/sport/golf/lsu-football-in-danger/vp-BBpqNEV

At least we know what’s really important in this state. Certainly it’s not the deplorable condition of the academic buildings falling down around LSU students that Bob Mann has been documenting in recent weeks. http://bobmannblog.com/2016/01/24/sinking-flagship-a-new-look-at-lsus-middleton-library/

The disgraceful windows of LSU’s Hatcher and Johnston halls

LSU library’s decay is symbolic of Louisiana’s misplaced priorities

Mired in mediocrity, has Louisiana higher education lost the battle?

But hey, who ever paid admission to watch a physics professor teach—other than students faced with ever-rising tuition costs?

And just how is all this legislators’ and Bobby Jindal’s fault?

The explosion of corporate tax breaks that were handed out during his administration, for openers.

Generous corporate tax incentives bleed revenue from state treasury, provide little other than political bragging rights

And there is the excellent series on corporate tax breaks published by the Baton Rouge Advocate: http://blogs.theadvocate.com/specialreports/

Along with the handouts to his corporate friends and supporters, Jindal also cut higher education more than any other state. State support to colleges and universities was cut by 55 percent during Jindal’s eight years with cuts having to be made up by painful tuition increases.

http://blueprintlouisiana.org/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/618

LSU President F. King (I would absolutely change my name) Alexander fired the first real warning shot across the legislature’s bow last April with he revealed he had already drawn up plans for financial exigency (bankruptcy) as yet another higher education budget cut loomed.

It worked, in a fashion. The legislature responded by passing a phantom tuition increase offset by a phantom tax credit, but only after consulting with the god of No New Taxes, Grover Norquist, who has never held public office but yet controls the puppet strings of legislators and congressmen as if holding the sword of Damocles over their collective heads.

And therein lies the real problem. Why in hell did our legislators, led by the man who would be president, answer to someone like Norquist and not the citizens of this state? That question needs to be addressed repeatedly to every legislator who went along with that shell game last year.

“For years, Louisiana’s colleges have stabilized funding with tuition and fee increases to offset declining direct support from the state,” said Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) President Robert Travis Scott when shown the letter by LouisianaVoice. “But we’ve reached the limits of those tactical maneuvers. Now we need a strategy to provide long-term financial stability for higher education while also getting a streamlined and accountable educational product in return,” he said.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope (R-Denham Springs), a member of the House Education Committee, said the letter is “devastating to all parents and students as well as our colleges. I don’t see that the legislative body will permit that to happen.”

Pope, a former school principal and retired Superintendent of Livingston Parish Schools, said he hoped that the legislature and Edwards can “forget partisan politics and work together to get us out of this deep hole dug by the previous administration. Losing accreditation is a major blow to the state’s financial and workforce capabilities.”

Another source said the situation “is dire” and that was why football was mentioned by Edwards in Thursday’s address. “If we lose accreditation, it’s all over regardless of how much money TAF (the Tiger Athletic Foundation, which helps support LSU athletics) has.”

The source, who asked not to be identified said, “This is the beginning of the multi-institutional collapse of historic proportions I’ve been predicting for years.”

As I have said here before, if you, the citizens of this state, choose to sit idly by and not question the actions, motives and obligations of legislators to lobbyists and contributors, then you have become as much of the problem as Jindal and the legislators.

It’s up to you to hold your elected official accountable.

Thursday’s regular meeting of the State Police Commission was brief but there could be decidedly bad news for members of the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) who approved all those political contributions and the endorsement of John Bel Edwards for governor last year.

Meanwhile, the commission approved a settlement of Troop D commander Capt. Chris Guillory’s appeal of his letter of reprimand that gives him carte blanche to do just about anything he likes with impunity.

But even that didn’t stop his nemesis Dwight Gerst from filing a brand new complaint against Guillory with Louisiana State Police (LSP) internal affairs.

Commission attorney Lenore Feeney told the commission that it had no authority to investigate the association or its executive director David Young because LSTA is a private organization and Young is not a LSP employee.

But state troopers do come under the commission’s authority, she said. Any state trooper who was a part of the decisions to endorse a candidate or to funnel campaign contribution funds through the LSTA’s director “could face disciplinary action.” In fact, she said, the commission has a duty to determine who was responsible for the decision.

Well, it’s for certain that Young didn’t make an arbitrary decision to contribute more than $45,000 to various political candidates. And he certainly didn’t make the decision on his own to have the LSTA reimburse him. Those decisions had to be made by the LSTA board and the board consists of LSP officers.

It remains to be seen what, if any, action will be taken in regards to conducting an investigation of the circumstances of the endorsement and the contributions.

But the commission, without comment, approved a settlement agreement between Guillory and LSP that will replace a November letter of reprimand with a letter of counseling which will cleanse his record.

The reprimand was issued over Guillory’s allowing Trooper Jimmy Rogers to continue working special details for Local Area Compensated Enforcement Program for the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s office and to perform off-duty escorts while serving a discipline-related suspension. Here is the original letter of reprimand and Thursday’s settlement document:

IMAG1647IMAG1648IMAG1649IMAG1650

 

Guillory, while still a lieutenant, had previously been given a letter of reprimand after an investigation into his prescription narcotic use while on the job but was promoted to captain shortly afterward and named commander of Troop D.

A letter of reprimand remains on one’s record and is taken into account in promotion considerations. A letter of counseling, however, does not go into the individual’s personnel file and cannot be a factor when promotions are considered. Here is the original letter of reprimand and the subsequent settlement agreement.

This comes on the heels of LSP internal affairs decision denial of a complaint by Lake Charles resident Dwight Gerst, against Guillory. Gerst had complained that Guillory refused to accept his complaint against Rogers.

Subsequent to that IA denial, LouisianaVoice released an audio recording which clearly shows that Guillory did indeed refuse to accept Gerst’s complaint.

Following Thursday’s commission meeting, Gerst paid a visit to Internal Affairs and submitted a new complaint against Guillory on the basis of the contents of the recording.

Gerst said he was asked by IA why he had not provided the recording originally and his response was that he did not trust the investigators. It seems his fears were well-grounded, considering the manner in which Guillory was exonerated out of hand by investigators. The added exclamation point of reducing Guillory’s letter of reprimand to one of counseling only served to further validate those concerns and clearly illustrated the double standard employed by LSP in meting out discipline.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how LSP will maneuver to deny Gerst once again and continue to enable Guillory.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 22, 2012, Joseph Branch, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .307 percent (2½ higher than the .08 percent, the legal definition of intoxication in Louisiana) and driving at a high rate of speed, struck two bicyclists, killing Nathan Crowson and severely injuring his riding companion, Daniel Morris.

Branch, who had a previous DWI conviction in 2006 and was given a six-month suspended sentence, was convicted of vehicular homicide and first degree vehicular negligent injuring and sentenced to 7½ years in prison. http://theadvocate.com/news/11878236-123/baton-rouge-man-joseph-branch

That should be that, right?

Well, no. There remained the issue of whether or not The Bulldog, a bar where Branch had been drinking with two friends just before the accident, might be legally liable for continuing to serve Branch after it was evident that he was intoxicated.

Anytime there is an alcohol-related auto accident involving a fatality, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) investigates whether or not the driver had been served alcohol after it was obvious he was intoxicated. Such customers are supposed to be eighty-sixed, or cut off from being served more alcohol.

So, how are investigations carried out?

Meticulously. Carefully. Thoroughly.

Think again.

The investigation, which would routinely require weeks upon weeks of interviews, document and video review and which normally produce written reports 30 to 40 pages in length, was unusually short in duration and produced a report of a single page.

One page that completely exonerated the bar of any violation. http://www.wbrc.com/story/16903763/bar-cleared-in-fatal-crash

Initially, two ATC agents, neither of whom now work for the agency, began the investigation by requesting a video of the night in question to determine if Branch displayed any obvious signs of intoxication. They also asked owners of The Bulldog, located on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge, for certain other documents and information, including copies of any and all receipts of alcoholic beverages purchased by Branch.

When the bar initially refused to cooperate, the agents who customarily investigate such cases, obtained a subpoena and served it on the bar.

Enter ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert.

This is the same Troy Hebert who allegedly once admonished an agent for not shooting an unarmed man. When an ATC agent attempted to question a man who appeared to be intoxicated in the Tigerland area near the LSU campus where a number of bars and clubs are located, the man dove at the agent’s feet in an attempt to take him down. He was quickly overpowered and handcuffed by agents who reported the incident to Hebert. They said Hebert asked, “Why didn’t you shoot him?”

It is also the same Troy Hebert who another Baton Rouge bar owner says set his establishment up for selling to underage customers.

In December, his bartender refused to sell alcohol to an underage patron working undercover in tandem with an ATC agent. When the bartender refused to sell alcohol to the underage customer, the female ATC agent purchased the drink and gave to the younger girl and then cited the bar for selling alcohol to underage patron.

“That server is taught that they are to remove the drink from the individual who is underage,” Hebert said.

“She slides the beer to the underage girl,” bar owner Andrew Bayard said. “She assumed possession and gives it to the underage girl. I don’t feel that is a fault of my employee.” http://www1.wbrz.com/news/bar-owner-at-odds-with-state-alcohol-agents-claims-his-employee-was-set-up

Hebert officially resigned as commissioner, effective Jan. 10, the day before the new governor, John Bel Edwards, took office. He since has announced he will seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. David Vitter who is not seeking re-election.

But we digress.

In an unprecedented move, Hebert, who had zero experience as an investigator, decided he would be the lead investigator of the Bulldog.

What possible motive would Hebert have in rushing through an investigation and issuing a press release on Feb. 9 absolving the bar of any responsibility? Why would he instruct the lead agent on the case to limit his report to one page?

Why would Hebert watch the video footage for only a few seconds before proclaiming he “saw nothing” there? Why not watch the entire video to see if Branch did, in fact, appear intoxicated?

Even more curious, why would Hebert instruct that same agent to return to The Bulldog and retrieve the subpoena the agent had served on the establishment for video and records, thus freeing the bar of any responsibility to turn over key records?

Is it possible that the answer to each of these questions can consist of two words?

Might those two words be Chris Young?

The New Orleans attorney represents scores of clubs and bars (and convenience stores) before the ATC and his sister, Judy Pontin, is the executive management officer for ATC’s New Orleans office, earning $71,000 per year.

John Young, the brother of Chris Young and Pontin, is the former president of Jefferson Parish and was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in last fall’s statewide elections.

ATC insiders told LouisianaVoice that when an establishment wants to apply for an alcohol permit or whenever the business experiences problems with ATC, Pontin refers them to Chris Young for legal representation.

Chris Young was the legal counsel for The Bulldog prior to and throughout the ATC investigation.

Daniel Morris, who was severely injured in the accident, retained the representation of Lafayette attorney Patrick Daniel who issued his own subpoena to ATC for certain records to bolster his litigation against The Bulldog.

In February 2013, more than a year after the accident which left Morris disabled, Daniel sent a letter to ATC general Counsel Jessica Starns noting that ATC FAILED TO PROVIDE RECORDS TO MORRIS

“Your response is considered incomplete as it does not contain certain items referenced in the produced documents,” he said.

It was not immediately determined if the records were finally produced but it does raise the obvious question of why did ATC not comply with that subpoena in the first place, thus necessitating a follow up letter from the attorney?

Could those records have contained information that conflicted with ATC’s one-page report of Feb. 9, 2012, the report that supposedly cleared The Bulldog?

A lot of questions were left hanging out there and someone deserves some answers.

We’re guessing that would be the families of the two cyclists.

But we may never know those answers.

In June 2014, the First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a Baton Rouge state district court in tossing Morris’s lawsuit on the basis that the responsibility for intoxication lies with the individual, not the establishment.

Thus was added insult to Morris’s considerable injuries.

LouisianaVoice has received unconfirmed word that State Trooper Ronald Picou has been placed on leave pending termination following a months-long investigation of Louisiana State Police (LSP) Troop D in Lake Charles. The investigation was prompted by LouisianaVoice revelations that Picou would often leave work after only a couple of hours on shift to go home and sleep so that he would be able to work at the construction company he owned.

Our sources from within Troop D have reported that Picou’s patrol unit is parked at the troop and all of his equipment has been turned in. Those same sources say he is on leave. It is common practice to place a terminated trooper on leave until his or her effective termination date.

Those sources also say he will appeal his termination.

Left undetermined is whether or not he will face prosecution for knowingly accepting payment for time not worked.

LouisianaVoice first broke the story on September 11 in which we reported the awarding of gift cards to troopers for making ticket quotas and an unwritten policy of giving time off for DWI arrests. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/11/gift-cards-for-tickets-payroll-chicanery-quotas-short-shifts-the-norm-in-troop-d-troopers-express-dismay-at-problems/

In that story, we wrote that Picou “habitually works the first two or three hours of his 12-hour night shift (or four-to-six hours of his 12-hour day shift) and then go on radio silence for the remainder of his shift.

Radio records obtained by LouisianaVoice from independent sources after LSP denied our request for the logs, saying they, along with other requested records had become the subject of an ongoing investigation and therefore “are not subject to release at this time.” The records given LouisianaVoice indicated frequent extended periods of time during which there was no radio traffic at all from Picou.

Of course, LSP brass launched its initial investigation into discovering the identity of the whistleblower(s) before finally turning attention to the allegations themselves.

Louisiana Secretary of State corporate records show that Picou, of Beauregard Parish, operates TRP Construction in Deridder. When his fellow troopers took it upon themselves to determine where Picou was spending his shift, they invariably found his patrol vehicle parked at his home while taxpayers’ investment in protection was being ignored. Some even said Picou bragged about sleeping at home.

Picou was placed on Lt. Jim Jacobsen’s shift every year. It is rare, if ever, for a trooper to remain with the same lieutenant. Following Jacobsen’s retirement, Picou was placed on Lt. Paul Brady’s shift. Both Jacobsen and Brady, along with Troop D Commander Capt. Chris Guillory, are said to be close friends.

Jacobsen even sent a letter to LouisianaVoice in November that he said cleared Picou of any wrongdoing. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/11/12/explanation-of-retired-state-trooper-beauregard-parish-sheriff-candidate-jim-jacobson-is-less-than-illuminating/

There were several problems with that letter, however.

First, the letter was dated August 1, 2013, long before our story was published.

Second, the letter itself said that the investigation was carried out by Troop D rather than LSP internal affairs investigators.

In that letter, the allegations of Neglect of Duty, Unsatisfactory Performance, Secondary Employment Obligations and Performance of Duty were all determined to be “unfounded.”

The letter was signed by “Captain Chris Guillory, Troop D, Louisiana State Police.”

Guillory has experienced his own problems. Besides being given a letter of reprimand on November 13 for allowing a State Trooper to continue work after being placed on suspension, he was given an earlier reprimand for abusing prescription narcotics while on duty—and was subsequently promoted from lieutenant to captain and was named commander of Troop D.

So the observation must be made that the poop doesn’t always flow downhill. Those charged with supervisory duties are accountable for the transgressions of those who answer to them. When behavior that casts a dark shadow across the entire organization and which puts everyone in an unfavorable light  is allowed to continue unabated, perhaps even encouraged, that’s when the sewer begins to back up.

So Bobby Jindal has endorsed the presidential campaign of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Of course, he waited until the results of the Iowa caucus reflected a surge by Rubio. Like any typical politician, he tried to see which way the parade was going before jumping out in front and yelling, “Follow me!”

Only problem is Rubio, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry four years ago, stumbled badly after picking up the all-important Jindal endorsement.

Actually, if anyone outside Louisiana (or Iowa) actually knew who Jindal is, his endorsement might be considered the kiss of death. Fortunately for Rubio, Jindal is virtually unknown outside those two states—and the studios of Fox News. But Rubio is appropriately appreciative for Jindal’s and former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum for their support.

Is this the 1 percent (the polling numbers of both Jindal and Santorum in Iowa) the Occupy Wall Street protests were about? Who knew?

After hearing Jindal go virtually unchallenged in his robotic blathering (and Chris Christie says Rubio repeats himself) about balancing the budget, cutting taxes and fiscal responsibility, one has to wonder about similar claims by Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Of course, here in Louisiana we know Jindal’s record all too well.

There are those who say we should quit trashing the man and move on.

We can’t.

First of all, that endorsement of Rubio is nothing but a shameless attempt to grab a cabinet appointment should Rubio ascend to the White House. He missed out on the brass ring but his mega-ego simply will not allow him to be content to remain out of the public arena—and therein lies the danger. Turning Jindal loose at any post in the federal government (other than third deputy assistant in charge of stocking vending machines in the break room) would be a grave mistake. He already wrecked a state. Think what he could do as a policy maker for the departments of Health and Human Services or Education.

Put him at the head of the Department of Interior, and he’d privatize the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Everglades.

Put him as Secretary of Defense and he’d nuke those “no-go” zones in Western Europe.

As Secretary of State, can’t you just visualize him negotiating with Vladimir Putin?

As Secretary of the Treasury or head of the White House Budget Office….well, we can’t even allow ourselves to think about that.

No, I cannot let it go. I can’t simply move on. The man wrecked this state and we should never forget that.

To that end, Bobby Jindal: His Destiny and Obsession, a book that chronicles the eight years Jindal served as governor, is due out later this month. Published by Pelican Publishing, it is expected to run about 500 pages in length.

I wrote this book because it is crucial that we never forget how we were lulled into thinking that this wunderkind was the answer to Louisiana’s political, financial, education, and unemployment problems. In the end, sadly, he was not.

You may pre-order the book by clicking on the image of the book cover to the right of this paragraph. Cavalier House Books of Denham Springs will summon me (I live two blocks from the book store) to sign all books that have been pre-ordered. Should you wish to pre-order your book and you want it signed to someone other than yourself, please contact me at:

louisianavoice@yahoo.com

Please advise as to your instructions on signing.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,060 other followers