We’ve come across a few odds and ends lying around that we feel might warrant a second look.
Another take on blood tests and one-vehicle accidents
First we would like to acknowledge that we initially wrote a piece based on erroneous information from certain people whose judgment we trusted but who were wrong. Because of their advice, we also were wrong in saying that blood alcohol tests are “routine procedure” in one vehicle accidents. It turns out that is not the case and we respectfully defer to the state trooper who investigated Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s accident last week. The trooper said in his report that Caldwell did not appear to be impaired and accordingly, he did not take a blood sample for testing. We have been informed by State Police and others that it is not “routine procedure” to take blood tests in single-vehicle accidents.
ATC moves in with State Police, not so the ATC director
The Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control has been moved from its former headquarters at United Plaza on Essen Lane in Baton Rouge to the Louisiana State Police compound on Independence Boulevard, ostensibly to save money.
ATC Director Troy Hebert and his administrative assistant Jessica Starns, however, were allowed to remain at the United Plaza offices and to even rent additional space for Hebert’s office.
What’s with that? Shouldn’t an agency director be physically located at the same address as his employees and not several miles across town? That would be like having a governor who spends all his time in other states. Oh, wait. We already have that, don’t we?
Baton Rouge publisher opposes freedom of expression
Normally, a member of the Fourth Estate would be up in arms at any suggestion at muzzling a critic of government, a suggestion any publisher, editor of reporter would quickly point to as a threat to the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.
Such is not the case of one Baton Rouge publisher, we’re told. Reports have it that this publisher, a staunch supporter of Gov. Bobby Jindal, has gone on rampages in his office, ranting to his subordinates and anyone else who will listen that he wants Robert Mann stripped of his tenure at LSU—and fired.
Mann, who has worked with three U.S. senators (Russell Long, Bennett Johnston and John Breaux) and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, currently holds the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU.
A journalist and political historian, Mann also just happens to author a controversial political blog called Something Like the Truth http://bobmannblog.com/ in which he generally takes the Jindal administration to task for its roughshod trampling of all who dare disagree with him, be they state civil service employees, doctors, college presidents or legislators.
Mann is careful to feature a prominent disclaimer which says, “Opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of the author, not LSU, the Manship School nor the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs.”
But that apparently is not enough for this publisher, who dutifully prints every inane press release by the governor that purports to make the state look good despite reams of negative national surveys on poverty, obesity and health care.
So much for a fair and independent press serving as a watchdog on behalf of the citizenry. We’re just sayin’…
Cerise Memo: LSU Board quorum?
Remember our story last week about that July 2012 meeting in the LSU President’s conference room where former Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine pitched the privatization plan for LSU’s 10-hospital system?
There was a key sentence then-head of the LSU Health Care System Dr. Fred Cerise included in his memorialization of that meeting regarding Levine’s presentation:
“The LSU board members present indicated they want LSU’s management to pursue this strategy,” the Cerise Memo said.
But wait. The LSU Board of Supervisors consists of 15 voting members, all appointed by the governor, and one student member who has no vote.
The Louisiana Open Meetings Law, R.S. 42: 4.2, headed “Public policy for open meetings; liberal construction,” reads thusly:
- “Meeting” means the convening of a quorum of a public body to deliberate or act on a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power. It shall also mean the convening of a quorum of a public body by the public body or by another public official to receive information regarding a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.
- “Public body” means village, town, and city governing authorities; parish governing authorities; school boards and boards of levee and port commissioners; boards of publicly operated utilities; planning, zoning, and airport commissions; and any other state, parish, municipal, or special district boards, commissions, or authorities, and those of any political subdivision thereof, where such body possesses policy making, advisory, or administrative functions, including any committee or subcommittee of any of these bodies enumerated in this paragraph.
- “Quorum” means a simple majority of the total membership of a public body.
The statute further stipulates that “every meeting of any public body shall be open to the public unless closed pursuant to R.S. 42.6, R.S. 42:6.1 or R.S. 42:6.2.”
First of all, R.S. 42:6 clearly states that a public body “may hold executive session upon an affirmative vote …of two-thirds of its constituent members present.”
R.S. 42:6.1 simply lists the reasons an executive session may be held which you may explore in greater detail here: http://www.lawserver.com/law/state/louisiana/la-laws/louisiana_revised_statutes_42-6-1
R.S. 42:6.2, re-designated as R.S. 42:18 in 2010, applies only to the Legislature. http://www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?doc=99494
But let’s return to R.S. 42:4.2, that pesky little law about quorums.
Remember, the Cerise Memo said that the “LSU board members present” indicated their desire for the LSU administration to move forward with the Levine proposal.
Remember also, the LSU Board of Supervisors is comprised of 15 voting members.
But there were only four members of the LSU board present at that meeting, according to Cerise’s notes. They included Rolfe McCollister, Bobby Yarborough, Dr. John George and Scott Ballard.
Hardly a quorum.
But then, it was the likely intent of those present to avoid having a quorum because a quorum (eight voting members, in this case) would necessitate public notices of such a meeting and making said meeting open to the public.
Obviously, that was not the wish of the board members who did attend. They wanted, above all else, to avoid a full quorum so that the meeting could be conducted in secret.
If you check out our masthead, we recently added an anonymous quote:
- It is understandable when a child is afraid of the dark but unforgivable when a man fears the light.
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (Nov. 13, 1856-Oct. 5, 1941) is credited with coining the phrase, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
But in avoiding the necessity of opening up that July 17, 2012, meeting to the public by purposely skirting the requirement of a quorum so as not to qualify as an official meeting, those four board members were legally barred from taking any official action.
Yet, that minor point of law did little to deter them from directing the LSU administration to pursue Levine’s plan.
Yes, we are fully aware that the four board members not only spoke for the entire board but for Gov. Bobby Jindal as well. As Elliott Stonecipher recently noted in his blog Forward Now, state ethic laws prohibited Levine from conducting business with the State for two years after his departure as DHH Secretary. http://forward-now.com/?p=8403
Levine’s last day at DHH was July 16, 2010. The meeting at which he presented his plan to LSU administrators and board members was on July 17, 2012.
And we don’t believe in coincidences. And anyone who doesn’t believe Levine was in constant contact with the administration in the days, weeks and months leading up to that July 17 meeting is…well, a fool.
Such is the Gold Standard of Ethics that Jindal has bestowed upon the people of Louisiana.