The vice chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee who once oversaw the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s (LWC) Office of Workers Compensation (OWC) went to work for a consulting firm within weeks of his office’s awarding a $4.2 million contract to the firm, LouisianaVoice has learned.
State Rep. Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond) served as OWC director and concurrently as interim executive council for the executive director of the LWC, previously known as the Department of Labor.
He announced his resignation as OWC Director in an email to a number of recipients on Oct. 28, 2010, with his resignation to become effective on Nov. 12, 2010.
A $4.28 million contract with SAS Institute to deploy a contractor-hosted fraud detection software platform was approved on Oct. 7, just three weeks before his resignation. The contract was made retroactive to Aug. 31, 2010 and expired on Aug. 30, 2013.
“Today I have tendered my resignation as the Director of the Office of Workers Compensation, effective Nov. 12, 2010,” his email said. “I will be returning to the private sector to work primarily in the area of governmental relations.”
A LouisianaVoice story last July said that Broadwater resigned in February of 2011 but the email, which surfaced just last week, indicates he left OCW three months prior to that. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/07/10/vice-chair-of-house-labor-committee-represents-insurance-clients-before-office-of-workers-comp-that-he-once-headed/
He went to work for the Baton Rouge law firm of Forrester and Dick and his curriculum vitae linking him to SAS later appeared as part of an SAS application for a contract with the state of Minnesota. WorkersCompSAS (PAGE 29)
That CV cited his work with Forrester & Dick since 2010 and touted his work with LWC from 2008 to 2010, his serving as Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation and as Chairman of the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Second Injury Board during that same time period.
Broadwater was first elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2011 and was immediately made vice chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. Last October, he appeared on a video in which he hyped the services of SAS Institute during its Business Leadership Series in Orlando. http://www.allanalytics.com/video.asp?section_id=3427&doc_id=269491#ms.
LouisianaVoice over the past week twice sent emails to Broadwater asking who paid his travel, lodging and meal expenses for attending that Orlando conference. Those emails read: “Rep. Broadwater, could you please tell me if you attended the SAS Business Leadership Series event in Orlando last October and if you did, who paid your travel, registration, lodging and meal expenses?”
Read receipts indicate he opened both emails, but he never responded.
In a four-minute video made during the leadership conference, Broadwater provided a background in problems OWC was having with fraudulent claims and the decision to contract with SAS. He said the firm “was able to take a state that was data rich and solutions poor and compile all of that data in a single location so that we could then have multiple applications.”
In the video, he said that while Louisiana has used SAS to address fraud, “we’re starting to move into an area in Louisiana where we evaluate our accounts receivable. “In Louisiana we had about $8 billion in outstanding accounts receivable that were less than five years old. When we’re running an annual deficit in our budget of about $1.5 billion, it makes sense instead of raising taxes or eliminating some tax credits or tax for businesses that drive the economy or cutting services to existing citizens, let’s go collect the money that’s owed to us anyway.”
Broadwater also represents three clients, Qmedtrix ($275 per hour), the Louisiana Home Builders Association, and LUBA Worker’s Compensation ($135 per hour each) in matters pending before his old agency, according to documents filed with the State Board of Ethics in December of 2012.
Moreover, Broadwater has attended meetings between Qmedtrix and Wes Hataway, his successor as director of OWC, to discuss the disposition of numerous cases involving Qmedtrix. Those discussions centered around efforts to get the cases stayed and transferred to another judge, according to supervisory writs filed with the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles last March in the case of Christus Health Southwest Louisiana, dba Christus St. Patrick Hospital v. Great American Insurance Co. of New York.
That writ application concerns procedures and conversations which took place involving numerous pending workers’ compensation cases. “In what may be the pinnacle of irony,” the writ application says, “Mr. Broadwater actually disclosed this ex parte meeting on his state ethics disclosure form.”
The writ application cited Broadwater’s own comment from the disclosure form: “Met with Director of OWC discussing process of resolving disputes over medical billing.”
Broadwater admitted to meeting with Hataway “three or four times in person” (always with a Qmedtrix attorney present) and speaking with him 10 or 15 times on the phone.
Broadwater, in an email letter to LouisianaVoice, said he has never received compensation from a private source for the performance of his legislative duties. He said he approaches his duties as an attorney and as a legislator “with humbleness and with the highest sense of honor and ethical behavior.”
He said state statute “prohibits me from receiving compensation from a source other than the legislature for performing my public duties, from receiving finder’s fees, from being paid by a private source for services related to the legislature or which draws substantially upon official data not a part of the public domain.
“My service as vice chair of the Labor & Industrial Relations Committee in no manner alters my duties or the constraints placed upon me under the Code of Governmental Ethics,” he said.
And while technically correct in his assertions, his employment with a state contractor only weeks after approval of that $4.2 million contract and his continued close association with the head of his old agency in discussions of the outcomes of pending cases do tend to bring into question the propriety of his involvement in those matters.
His negotiations with his old agency while simultaneously serving as vice chairman of the legislative committee that oversees that agency coupled with his representation of SAS in Minnesota and in Orlando do seem to suggest a relationship that is less than arms-length and one that at least skirts the edge of serious ethics questions.
And his refusal to reveal the identity of the person or entity that paid his expenses does nothing to alleviate growing concerns over the coziness between public officials and current or former employers. And it certainly does little to foster confidence in the Louisiana Board of Ethics that Gov. Bobby Jindal successfully gutted six years ago.