Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Director Troy Hebert, one of those former legislators to whom Piyush Jindal appointed to a six-figure state job, made a big production this week of his so-called “audit” of personal use of state cell phones by agents working under him.
Hebert, of Jeanerette, resigned from the State Senate in November of 2010 to accept the appointment as ATC director at $107,000 per year and has conducted a reign of terror in the ensuing two years.
While Hebert claims that only a half-dozen or so employees have left his agency, a survey by LouisianaVoice learned that the number was closer to 50. Some of those were fired only days after being hired by Hebert while others quit out of disgust.
Hebert obviously considers his status in more grandiose terms than most elected officials, much less appointed department heads, though there are rumors floating around that he considers himself as a potential candidate for governor.
Though he is merely a mid-level department head, he nevertheless requires his employees to stand when he enters a room and to address him with a cheery, “Good morning, Commissioner.”
Such courtesy is normally extended only to heads of state, not obscure state bureaucratic appointees.
This is the same guy who expresses such indignation at his employees’ use of state cell phones for personal calls who thought nothing of blowing a couple of thousand on low-profile, 22-inch rims for his state vehicle.
This is the same guy who, though he has zero training as a law enforcement official, demanded—and got—emergency lights installed on his state vehicle so he could play cop.
This is the guy who suspended an employee after her physician refused to provide weekly status reports despite the physician’s prior written certification that she was physically unable to work.
This is the same administrator who more than once transferred an employee from one end of the state to the other with as little as two days’ notice.
This is the same agency head who directed an agent to return to uniform status and to re-enter a New Orleans bar for inspections—after that same agent had purchased drugs during an undercover investigation in that same establishment—a directive that might well have served as the agent’s death sentence had things gone badly.
And this is the same guy who made a big production a few months back over a $10,000 expenditure to purchase and train a “synthetic drug-sniffing canine.”
“ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert says (the) new canine will be a great asset when it comes to detecting synthetic marijuana,” the news release said. ‘“It’s a very, very dangerous substance,’ said Hebert. ‘We think this new addition’s going to help us with some of that.’”
The only problem is, the “certificate of certification” from the National Police Canine Association in Waddell, Arizona, dated Nov. 2, certifies the new dog only for marijuana and cocaine, not synthetic drugs.
There’s a reason for that: synthetic marijuana is virtually impossible to detect reliably because the chemical ingredients of synthetic drugs is constantly changing, meaning there is no reliably consistent pattern for animals to learn.
LouisianaVoice earlier reported his propensity to fire employees with little or no reason and that he has settled a couple of discrimination lawsuits brought by former employees.
Hebert fits right into the Piyush Jindal mold of arrogance that permeates this entire administration, from cabinet members who refuse to divulge the identities of contract winners to administrators who refuse to provide reports to legislative committees to the governor himself, who ignores requests for information.
But back to those state cell phones.
ATC agents are often away from home for stretches of 12 hours or longer and upon their hiring, Hebert informs agents that as long as they handle ATC business, they may use their state phones for personal calls.
There you have it. It’s policy.
And now Hebert is trying to come off as a diligent agency head hell bent on keeping recalcitrant employees in line. This from a guy who consistently disregards civil service rules and regulations and gets himself backed into EEO corners that cost the state thousands upon thousands of dollars in payments to former employees and legal fees.
You do not tell your employees it’s permissible to use state cell phones for personal calls and then throw them under the bus for purposes of painting yourself as the noble guardian of the public trust—especially when your own motives are called into question.
The bottom line appears to be that he is setting up a few agents to persecute through a complicit news media at Press Release Central who simply takes press handouts and runs them with no questions asked.
There can be only one explanation for such action: he hopes to deflect criticism of his own administrative actions and misdeeds by tagging his subordinates with perceived wrongdoing.
To that end, he fits right in with this administration.