If one thinks we’re feeling a little smug right now or that we take any measure of self-satisfaction over the federal investigation at the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), or the no-show status of DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein before the House Appropriations Committee only days after the federal probe became public knowledge, or of Greenstein’s subsequent announcement that he will resign, effective May 1, then one would be wrong.
We take no pleasure in our native state’s once again having the harsh spotlight of official corruption shone upon it for the entire nation to see. We fail to share the self-righteous satisfaction of those who would smile condescendingly and nod and agree that despite the mantle of morality and ethics with which our governor has cloaked himself, nothing has really changed in Louisiana.
As soon as word of the U.S. Attorney’s investigation became public, we knew someone would be thrown under the bus by Jindal. That’s the way he operates. Jindal’s Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols sniffed indignantly that wrongdoing would not be tolerated by this administration as she quickly cancelled the $185 million contract with CNSI, Greenstein’s former employer.
In making that statement, did Nichols intend to admit that the administration may well be aware of legal wrongdoing? If so, why did it take so long? The federal subpoena for all records pertaining to the CNSI contract was served on the administration way back on Jan. 7 but the contract was not cancelled until March 21 and then only after the Baton Rouge Advocate broke the story of the investigation through public records requests for the subpoena.
That’s two and one-half months that the governor knew of the investigation and chose to do nothing until he was outed by the media. So much for the sanctimonious non-toleration of wrongdoing.
And now the governor’s office tries rather unconvincingly to tell us Greenstein was not asked to resign. Sorry, but we’re not buying it. Someone had to fall on his/her sword and the first domino to topple was Greenstein. There may well be others before this little matter is concluded.
Surely Jindal must realize that cancelling a suspect contract and forcing out the man who first made it possible for his old employer to even qualify to bid on it and then remained in constant contact with CNSI management during the selection process isn’t going to convince the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office to fold up their tents and go home.
The Louisiana Attorney General, whose office is conducting its own investigation, maybe, but not the feds. They just don’t quit that easily.
There are, of course, several questions that will have to be addressed by the U.S. Attorney and, depending on whether or not they are satisfied with what they find, indictments may or may not be forthcoming. If there are no indictments, the matter will die a quiet death. If there are criminal indictments, however, the cheese will get binding.
Probably the most important question will be whether or not Greenstein profited monetarily from his participation in the process of first clearing the way for CNSI to submit a bid and then his potential influence in the actual selection of his old company.
On that question, we offer no opinion because matters now are in the legal system and no longer subject to public records requests. We, like everyone else, can only wait and see as the case is slowly unraveled by investigators.
A second question—only if it is determined that Greenstein did indeed profit in some way from the selection of CNSI—would be what did then-Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater and Gov. Jindal know and when did they know it? Again, this is not to imply that either man was complicit in any effort to steer the contract to CNSI; it’s simply one of several questions that should be explored.
If felonious wrongdoing is found and if it is expanded to include the governor’s office, then the investigation should—and most probably would—widen to include scrutiny of other state contracts issued since January of 2008.
But there is one question that will not be asked by federal investigators or the attorney general’s office but which should be asked by every voter in Louisiana.
Why was Greenstein confirmed in the first place, given his recalcitrant attitude in refusing a directive to tell a Senate committee the name of the winner of a $185 million state contract?
On June 22, 2011, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 5-2 to confirm the appointment of Greenstein as DHH secretary despite the confrontation between Greenstein and committee members over committee demands for Greenstein to name the winner of the $185 million contract to replace the state’s 23-year-old computer system that adjudicated health care claims and case providers. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/03/21/fbi-investigation-prompts-jindal-to-cancel-controversial-cnsi-contract-but-now-who-will-be-thrown-under-the-bus/
Only Sens. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, and Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, were sufficiently offended and/or concerned about Greenstein’s staunch refusal to divulge to the committee that CNSI had won the contract during his confirmation hearing.
Five other senators, Ed Murray, D-New Orleans; Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe; Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport; Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge; and Greenstein apologist Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, all voted to confirm Greenstein. Some, like Donahue, heaped lavish praise on Greenstein.
Sen. Robert “Bob” Kostelka chairs the committee and does not vote unless there is a tie. He offered no comments during the proceedings other than to recognize fellow senators who wished to speak and to preside over the vote.
Jackson, who no longer serves in the Senate, having been defeated for re-election in 2011 by former Sen. Gregory Tarver in 2011, said she supported Greenstein even though “this incident (the standoff between Greenstein and the committee over identifying CNSI) calls into question the issue of transparency. I don’t believe the secretary participated in actions that influenced the outcome (of the awarding of the contract).”
Murray, who voted in favor of confirmation, had peppered Greenstein with questions during his initial appearance before the committee. “The secretary was not completely accurate in his responses,” he said. “But I received numerous calls from all over the country attesting to his ability and professionalism. I hope he can live up to those recommendations.”
Donahue, in supporting Greenstein, simply said, “He will do a great job.”
Peterson, who also serves as Chairperson of the Louisiana Democratic Party, said the number one priority for any appointee should be integrity. She said Greenstein was “not worthy of serving the people of this state.”
Marionneaux, who was term limited and could not run for re-election in 2011, said the confirmation procedure of the committee had been “anything but pristine. Mr. Greenstein was very involved in the process (of selecting CNSI).”
Claitor, who supported Greenstein, said, “This is not a ceremonial committee. We will be watching very closely. If things go awry, we will be the first to speak up.”
Well, Sen. Claitor, things have certainly gone awry. But so far, not a single member of the committee has uttered a peep.
Why is that?