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The echoes of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s silly, incoherent defense of the Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson had not even died out before the ironic acquittal of former commissioner of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Murphy J. Painter stung him with perhaps the most humiliating of several recent courtroom defeats.
And before we delve any further into this sordid mess, let us point out that the media, for the most part, have missed the real story in this entire Robertson GQ interview. While everyone is fixated on his comments about gays, his even more moronic claim that African-Americans were happier before the civil rights movement should have been the lead in every story written about the interview. How a writer claiming to be a professional reporter could have missed that elephant in the room is beyond comprehension.
And though he could not find the time to visit that toxic sinkhole at Bayou Corne in Assumption Parish until many months into the crisis, Jindal was Johnny on the spot with his defense of Robertson and in his condemnation of A&E Network for daring to suspend Robertson for exercising his freedom of speech.
While Jindal may well have a valid point in invoking the First Amendment, it is interesting to reflect on how intolerant the governor is of dissenting opinions within his own administration. Early on, he jettisoned Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Tammy McDaniel, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Executive Director Jim Champagne (because Jindal apparently didn’t want to wear a motorcycle helmet on his Hell’s Angels weekend outings—now just try and get the visual of biker Bobby out of your head), Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Ann Williamson and virtually every member of the State Ethics Board (though most left in protest over his gutting of that agency).
In quick order followed Melody Teague for testifying against his government streamlining plans (she eventually was reinstated). Then her husband, Tommy Teague, was booted as head of the Office of Group Benefits for not toeing the company line on privatization (Scott Kipper, his successor, would also leave within weeks).
The firing of the Teagues quickly gave birth to the widespread use of the term “teaguing” as the euphemism for being terminated by Jindal.
Others shown the door included Department of Transportation and Development Secretary William Ankner, Office of Elderly Affairs Executive Director Mary Manuel, LSU System Office General Counsel Raymond Lamonica, LSU President John Lombardi, Secretary of Revenue Cynthia Bridges, LSU Health Care System head Dr. Fred Cerise, and Interim LSU Public Hospital CEO Dr. Roxanne Townsend.
And then there were the demotions from key legislative committee assignments. Removed from their positions for not voting with the administration or for simply asking the wrong questions in committee meetings were State Reps. Jim Morris (R-Oil City), Harold Richie (D-Bogalusa), Joe Harrison (R-Gray) and Cameron Henry (R-Metairie).
And of course, there was the showcase teaguing—the very public firing of Painter by Jindal and subsequent criminal charges after Painter refused to issue an alcohol permit for Champions Square across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
It just so happens that Champions Square is part of Benson Towers, owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson who, coincidentally, is a huge contributor to Jindal through himself, members of his family and his various business enterprises—in addition to being the landlord for several state offices in Benson Towers at an annual cost of $2.6 million a year more than the state had been paying before moving into Benson Towers. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/06/emerging-claims-lawsuits-could-transform-murphy-painter-from-predator-to-all-too-familiar-victim-of-jindal-reprisals/
When Painter rejected the application of Spectacor Management Group (SMG) because of errors in its application for the alcohol permit, SMG arranged a meeting between Painter and SMG attorney Robert Walmsley, Jr., member of a law firm that contributed $5,000 to Jindal.
Apparently, refusal to crater to Benson is a cardinal sin in Louisiana.
Painter was soon contacted by Jindal executive Counsel Stephen Waguespack, nephew of Wiley Waguespack, who had earlier defeated Painter in the Ascension Parish sheriff’s election. Painter said Stephen Waguespack leaned on him to cooperate with SMG and to cease using ATC’s legal counsel to address concerns with the Champions Square project being pushed by SMG.
Waguespack, Painter said, advised that he, as executive counsel for the governor’s office, “saw no problem with issuing the requested license to SMG,” whereupon Painter said he would defer to Waguespack—if Waguespack was willing to issue a legal opinion in writing to the ATC representing the governor’s position.
“The governor’s executive counsel refused and suggested that issuing such an opinion was not a good use of his time and/or position,” Painter says, adding that he understood from that conversation that he “was being ordered to issue the license requested by SMG in direct contravention of law.”
In more than 15 years as ATC commissioner, Painter said he had never received such a call from the governor’s office.
Painter and ATC again refused to issue the requested license and two days later Painter was summoned to the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol where he met with Waguespack, Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and Jindal’s then-assistant executive counsel Liz Murrill.
Painter was advised that an unidentified law enforcement agency (later identified as the Office of Inspector General) was investigating him for alleged criminal violations, specifically sexual harassment and that Jindal was asking for his resignation.
When Painter refused to resign he was fired and an official announcement was issued by the governor’s office that he had resigned.
In what Painter described as another means of garnering publicity, an investigator from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) obtained a warrant to search Painter’s office at ATC even though a previous investigation by the Department of Revenue had already cleared Painter of any wrongdoing.
So, after losing major court battles over the funding of school vouchers, pension reform, and the teacher tenure and evaluations section of his education reform, Jindal now has egg all over his face in the highest profile case of teaguing in his beleaguered administration. It was, after all, the only one of the many teagued employees Jindal has actually tried to prosecute in criminal court.
On Friday, December 20, 2013, it all blew up in his face. In baseball terminology, he’s oh-for in the courts.
And don’t think for a moment that because it was a federal trial, the Jindal administration was not behind the indictments and subsequent prosecution from the get-go. All of which makes his sanctimonious outrage over the A&E network’s actions more than just a little hypocritical.
The jury verdict: not guilty on all 29 counts of computer fraud and lying to the FBI.
Sadly, for a governor who entered office with such promise, Jindal’s jumping on the Phil Robertson bandwagon is about all that’s left of his fading political career.