We’ve been trying to spread the message for some time now about how the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal is cognizant only of the well-being of Bobby Jindal and his presidential aspirations which, by the way, are evaporating like so much acetone-based nail polish remover.
We’ve sounded the alarm on reforms to public education, budget cuts to higher education, attempted pension reforms, privatization, the firing of state appointed officials and the demotion of legislators, the refusal to accept federal funding for Medicaid, broadband internet, a rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, early childhood intervention and federal stimulus funds (though there seems to be no compunction about all that federal highway money that the state receives, nor hurricane relief when it’s needed).
We’ve written extensively about how the appointments to plum commissions and boards seem to gravitate toward big campaign contributors and how the appointees use their purchased positions to inflict the whims of the governor on state institutions and state employees.
And we were first to sound the alarm, thanks to a timely heads-up State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux), that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had not approved the Jindal administration’s half-baked state hospital privatization plan—a development which could cost the state another $800 million in Medicaid funds if the state does not submit its plan for approval in time for the adoption of next year’s state budget.
Now, though, it seems that others are beginning to catch on. There are rumblings of discontent in the Legislature, the Board of Regents backed the governor down in his attempt to fire the commissioner of higher education, the state school principals association simply walked away from a state-sponsored Principal of the Year contest over the criteria imposed on the selection process by Education Superintendent John White.
We broke the initial story about White’s decision to provide personal data on all Louisiana public school students to inBloom, a massive computer data bank controlled by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch. The backlash from that story has forced White to back down on the agreement with inBloom, though we’re still skeptical about the legitimacy of his announcement that he was calling the information back into the Department of Education. It seems to us that it might be a little difficult to take back what was already submitted to inBloom. Kind of like getting the genie back into the bottle.
We are told, by the way, that White and his minions have literally freaked out over our latest request for public records relative to the DOE Value Added Model (VAM) for teacher evaluations. Apparently, there is some information in the records we requested that he desperately does not want the public to know.
And of course, there is that federal investigation looming over the governor’s office regarding that $184 million contract awarded to CNSI by its former employee, Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein. Greenstein was the first domino to fall in that little scandal and there could be more.
But now, state employees, while still maintaining their anonymity for the sake of keeping their jobs, are starting to sound off and they’re doing so loudly and clearly.
The essay below was penned by a state employee. We know the employee’s name but we are sworn to secrecy to protect a state worker who has seen wanton disregard for propriety and ethics up close and personal.
To summarize, the essay is about the surreptitious retaining of Ruth Johnson, retired Department of Children and Family Services Director, to a $49,900 contract from Feb. 18 through June 14 at which time she is expected to be hired full time at a six-figure salary.
Contract Number 720077
Contract Title DOA/OIT & RUTH JOHNSON
Contract Description PROVIDE CONSULTING, RESEARCH, ANALYSIS, AND ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT TO THE OFFICE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR ALL MATTER S RELATED TO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES. 100% STATE GENERAL; $80/HOUR PLUS $4,377.60 TRAVEL
Agency DOA-OFFICE OF CIO
Begin Date 2/18/2013
End Date 6/14/2013
Approval Date 3/14/2013
Document Type CONSULTING CONTRACT-CFMS
Status ENCUMBRANCE SUCCESSFUL
Contractor RUTH JOHNSON
Contractor City and State BATON ROUGE, LA
So why put her on contract instead of hiring her outright?
For that answer, refer back to her contract, which runs through mid-June.
The Legislature, by law, is required to adjourn no later than June 6. When her contract expires, it will be too late for her appointment to full time status to be confirmed by the State Senate.
By going the route of a contract through June 14, DOA avoids the messy confirmation process and as we shall see in the essay below, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) has already seen through the ruse.
Here is the essay by Anonymous:
As I read recent headlines regarding the current administration, I find myself pausing to take a reflective look back. What I see saddens me.
There are so many who have chosen to defile the system with little regard or respect for their colleagues, Louisiana law, and even the Legislature for that matter. Some might even go as far as to say they’ve done so with an incredible degree of arrogance—assuming no one around them will notice. Maybe they assume no one will speak up. Maybe they have, like Jindal, become too callous to care. But I want to take a second to assure you—especially those “insiders” monitoring this blog—that your colleagues do notice.
Last Thursday, on the floor of the State Senate, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) called attention to a particular contract the administration planned to sneak by state employees and the legislature. You know the one that contracts out the Chief Information Officer position to former DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson?
Yep, that one. It’s the one that seems to us, to be an attempt to circumvent both the legislative process as well as Louisiana law. It’s the same contract that fills what statute says must be an appointed and unclassified position—with a contractor, or vendor, if you will. It is the contract that was written for $49,900 (just $100 below the $50,000 level that requires approval of Contractual Review). And it’s the same one that expires one week after the session ends which would allow Ms. Johnson to avoid a confirmation hearing.
And most importantly, it is the one that allows Ms. Johnson to return to State service as a rehired retiree without having to follow any of the guidelines outlined by LASERS. href=”http://www.lasersonline.org/uploads/21ProceduresWhenHiringReemployedRetirees.pdf).”>http://www.lasersonline.org/uploads/21ProceduresWhenHiringReemployedRetirees.pdf).
Yes, they have been watching.
Do you know what else they’ve seen? How about that new position created for a family member of a current Louisiana Congressman? The $150,000 position that did not exist before now? They noticed. And are you aware they also noticed that the holder of that position, Jan Cassidy, called a state employee prior to her arrival to ensure a state contract won by her employer at the time (ACS/Xerox) was pushed through before she arrived? You didn’t think they would see that either, did you?
I’m sure it seems unbelievable they might not be as naive to the wrong doing as you assumed. Employees aren’t supposed to question things. But they have been. And you should know they’ve been watching much further back than just the past year.
They all noticed that job you filled with a family member of a prominent public servant only a few months after laying off a number of employees from the same area. They all noticed how the spouse of the current Deputy Commissioner was able to gain rights to a classified position, available when and if her unclassified one comes to an end. They saw the ethical violations involved as she discussed matters directly with her spouse and HR Director at the time.
And if it isn’t enough that the Deputy Commissioner is indirectly supervising his spouse, he actually ensured she was placed in the best position she could qualify for at the time. Yes, the gullible, never-figures-out-your-secrets employees noticed. And not surprisingly, it would seem as if a close friend of said spouse noticed as well. How else could someone close to retirement, who supervises no one, snag a $15,000 raise while her colleagues continue to work alongside her with no merit increases or opportunities to move forward.
Yes they have seen the Tim Barfields and the Bruce Greensteins – same people only differing faces. They have passed all of you in the halls, the parking lots, and sometimes at various functions and ponder how you could smile at them and make light of current events. They wonder how you walk these halls and look them in the eyes as if you haven’t plundered them for your own advancements.
And while they may not show it outwardly, they know what you have done for yourselves at the expense of others. They know who signed the papers and who pushed through the favors and you can bet they only wish they could ask you if it’s worth it. Is being on the inside with an inflated sense of entitlement and self-worth so much that you’d sell your integrity to move yourself forward? Is it worth losing any remaining respect your colleagues might have had for you? Is it worth not only stealing from and lying to the public, but also to the people you interact with on a daily basis?
I hope it is. Because in the end, that money and “insider” status is all you’ll have. Someday you’ll realize those are just temporary tokens you can’t take with you when you leave this place or when you yourself become one of this administration’s sacrificial lambs. Surely you can ask Bruce Greenstein about that one. I imagine he’d tell you that politicians will wither and fade, as will your self-imposed status, and you’ll be left with the people you stepped on and stole from to get to where you are. Maybe then, when you don’t think you hold the cards, maybe that will be a better time to ask – was it worth it?
And don’t worry – as always, they will be watching.