Copyright Tom Aswell 2013
It’s interesting to watch legislators beat their breasts over pay raises that some state agencies awarded to classified (civil service) employees in light of their past ambivalence when the Jindal administration pumped up the payroll with highly-paid unclassified political appointees.
Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon and Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain, for example, gave 4 percent raises to their rank and file classified employees—$540,000 in raises in the case of the Insurance Department that Donelon said came from self-generated funds from his office.
Strain and Donelon said they gave the raises because he had the money in his budget and that he was required to either give the raises or sign a civil service letter certifying that there were no funds available.
That didn’t stop Reps. Simone Champagne (R-Erath) and John Schroder (R-Covington) from criticizing the pay bumps because there have been no across the board merit increases in state government for more than four years now.
But where have they been the past couple of years as Jindal appointed one washed-up legislator after another to six-figure deadhead jobs in state agencies like Insurance, Revenue, Veterans Affairs, Home Security and others while rank and file employees—the ones who do the work— continue into their fifth year with no raise at an average salary of a little under $40,000?
For that matter, where have any of the legislators been as the Department of Education has continued unabated in its relentless drive to pad its payroll with six-figure sycophants?
Are Gov. Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White so arrogant or so out of touch that they feel they can continue to load the state payroll with top-heavy, largely out-of-state political appointees—many of whom, it turns out don’t even bother to register to vote in Louisiana or comply with state law that requires that they change their vehicle registrations within certain specified deadlines—without the public or media noticing?
A quick peek indicates that some of the unclassified salaries seem to proliferate in the Department of Education:
• John White, Superintendent: $275,000;
• Michael Rounds, Deputy Superintendent: $170,000;
• Howard Drake and Gayle Sloan, Liaison Officers: $160,000 each;
• Kerry Laster, Executive Officer: $155,000;
• David Lefkowith, precise title still a mystery: $146,000;
• Kunjan Narechania, Chief of Staff to John White: $145,000;
• Gary Jones, Executive Officer: $145,000;
• Deirdre Finn, part time PR Director (working from home in Tallahassee, FL.): $144,000;
• James P. Wilson, Director (of what?): $142,000;
• Melissa Stilley, Liaison Officer: $135,000;
• Elizabeth Scioneaux, Deputy Superintendent: $132,800;
• Debra Schum, Executive Officer: $132,000;
• Hannah Dietsch, Assistant Superintendent (someone please explain the difference between an assistant superintendent and a deputy superintendent.): $130,000;
• Nicholas Bolt, Deputy Chief of Staff (as opposed to assistant chief of staff): $105,000.
Perhaps you may have noticed in that lengthy laundry list of high-paying position, there was not a single name followed by the title “Instructor” or any other title that would indicate classroom experience.
But even with all the featherbedding at DOE, there’s one appointment in particular in the Division of Administration (DOA) that stands out as the poster child for Jindal cronyism.
Last Dec. 3, Jan Cassidy was hired by DOA as Assistant Commissioner in Procurement and Technology at an annual salary of $150,000.
It was not immediately clear what she is supposed to procure since a statewide expenditure freeze was in place at the time of her hiring. Moreover, technology, in theory at least, is handled by the Office of Computing Services.
The fact that Cassidy is the sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy is enough to raise eyebrows in some quarters. Bill Cassidy last year hired Jindal aide and former campaign manager Tim Teepell and his company, OnMessage, for his re-election campaign. Teepell was hired by the Washington-area political consulting firm to head up its Southern Office which Teepell appears to run out of the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. Cassidy later terminated his relationship with Teepell and OnMessage. No explanation was given.
Jan Cassidy worked for Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for 20 months, from June 2009 to January 2011 and for 23 months, from January 2011 to November 2012 for Xerox after Xerox purchased ACS.
As Xerox Vice President—State of Louisiana Client Executive, her tenure was during a time that the company held two large contracts with the state.
The first was a $20 million contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) that ran from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011. That contract called for Xerox to provide “assessment, reassessment and care planning to individuals seeking and receiving long term personal care services.” The contract, which paid Xerox $834,000 per month, also required the company to disseminate “appropriate notices to recipients relative to these aforementioned services.
The contract was funded 50 percent by the state and 50 percent from federal funds—despite Jindal’s professed disdain for federal funds.
The second contract of $74.5 million, 100 percent of which was funded by a federal community development block grant and which ran from March 27, 2009 to March 26, 2012,, required ACS/Xerox to administer a small rental property program to help hurricane damaged parishes recover rental units.
Cassidy’s responsibilities while at Xerox called for her to “facilitate development and progress of ‘Louisiana Model’ into other states,” according to information contained in her internet biography.
During her 20 months with ACS, from June 2009 to January 2011, she was Regional Vice President of Business Development. Her web page says that while at ACS, she “generated new business in state governments within the central region of the United States.”
A search of the state contract data base by LouisianaVoice turned up four contracts with ACS totaling $45.55 million and campaign finance reports revealed ACS political contributions of $17,500 to Louisiana candidates, including three contributions totaling $10,000 to Jindal.
One of those contracts, which expired on Dec. 31, 2012, called for ACS to provide actuary and consulting services to the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and Buck Consultants during the administration’s efforts to privatize OGB at a contract cost of $2 million. That is in addition to what the state paid Buck for its work which in the final analysis, did not support the administration’s efforts which were nevertheless successful.
Current state contracts with ACS/Xerox include:
$600,000 with between DOA and ACS Human Resources Solutions and Buck Consultants to assist in advising DOA with regard to public retirement systems and insurance benefits for public employees (June 1, 2011 to June 1, 2013);
$13.95 million with the Department of Social Services to provide electronic benefits transfer system (July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2009);
$28.9 million with DHH to provide information and referral services to people seeking long term care services (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014; 50 percent federal, 50% state funding).
But while Jan Cassidy’s work for a company with more than $120 million in state contracts and her relationship as Bill Cassidy’s sister-in-law might be enough to raise eyebrows among observers of Louisiana politics, the track record of ACS in other governmental contracts beyond the state’s borders should certainly prompt hard questions:
• Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a vocal critic of Obamacare as a “failed program,” had his Health and Human Services Commission contract with ACS for that state’s Medicaid dental program. That contract quadrupled to $1.4 billion as Texas Medicaid spent more on braces in 2010 ($184 million) than did the other 49 states combined. But an audit found that 90 percent of reimbursement requests involved procedures not covered by Medicaid, which does not fund cosmetic dentistry. The Wall Street Journal said statewide fraud reached hundreds of millions of dollars. ACS spent more than $6.9 million in lobbying Texas politicians from 2002 to 2012 and contributed $150,000 to Perry. Because ACS contracts to process Medicaid claims for several states, including Louisiana, one investigator indicated the problem may run much deeper than that found in Texas.
• In Alabama, Carol Steckel, then the director of the state Medicaid agency, awarded a $3.7 million contract to ACS in 2007 even though the ACS bid was $500,000 more than the next bid. ACS, however, had a decided edge: it hired Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s former chief of staff Toby Roth. And Carol Steckel? She now works as chief of Louisiana’s DHH Center for Health Care Innovation and Technology.
• In Washington, D.C., the Department of Motor Vehicles reimbursed $17.8 million to persons wrongly given parking tickets. The contractor that operated the District’s ticket processing? ACS.
• In June of 2007, ACS agreed to pay the federal government $2.6 million to settle allegations that it had submitted inflated charges for services provided through the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Labor, and Health and Human Services. ACS admitted that it had submitted inflated claims to a local agency that delivered services to workers using funds provided by the three federal agencies.
• In 2010, ACS settled charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had backdated stock option grants to its officers and employees.
Jan Cassidy also worked for 19 years, from 1986 to 2005, with Unisys Corp. where she led a team of sales professionals marketing hardware and systems applications, “as well as consulting services to Louisiana State Government,” according to her website.
Unisys had five separate state contracts from 2002 to 2009 totaling $53.9 million, the largest of which ($21 million) was with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and which was originally signed to run from April 1, 2008 through Nov. 30, 2009, but which the state cancelled in April of 2009.
The contract was for work to upgrade the state computer system that dealt with driver’s licenses, vehicle titles and other related issues within Louisiana’s Office of Motor Vehicles.
State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson cancelled the contract, telling legislators that he was dissatisfied with the work and that he believed his staff could complete the project.