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Archive for the ‘ATC’ Category

Troy Hebert is nothing if not:

  1. inconsistent
  2. obfuscating
  3. controversial
  4. all the above

Hebert, Bobby Jindal’s brilliant (sarcasm, folks, sarcasm!) choice to succeed former Director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Murphy Painter after Team Jindal set Painter up on bogus criminal charges, has stumbled into one administrative fiasco after another.

In fact, the manner in which Hebert has run his office might even be considered a microcosm of the Jindal administration, so frighteningly reminiscent is it to the way he seems to emulate his boss.

Just as Jindal attempted (unsuccessfully) to flex his muscles (figuratively, of course; it be absurd to suggest otherwise) after Painter refused to knuckle under to demands from former Chief of Staff Steve Waguespack that a permit be issued to Budweiser to erect a tent at major Jindal campaign donor Tom Benson’s Champion’s even though Budweiser had not met the legal permit requirements, so has Hebert attempted to destroy the careers of agents serving under him for reasons that consistently failed to rise above the level of political pettiness.

Jindal, who accused Painter of abusing his office, apparently overlooked the fact that Hebert, while serving in the Louisiana Legislature, nevertheless saw nothing wrong with working under a state contract for debris cleanup after Hurricane Katrina.

Not only was Painter acquitted in his federal criminal trial, but he then sued his accuser in civil court—and won.

Likewise, Hebert has been sued by former agents for racial discrimination and has been forced to settle at least one such claim. Other complaints are pending as this is being written. Part of the basis for those complaints was Hebert’s confiding in Tingle that he was “going to f**k with” two black agents and that he intended to break up the “black trio” in north Louisiana—in reference to agents Charles Gilmore, Daimian McDowell and Bennie Walters.

And in the case of Brette Tingle, Hebert went to the extreme of attempting to get three different agencies to say there was a criminal payroll fraud case against Tingle—and in each case he failed to get his needed approval. Tingle’s sin? He was listed as a witness for the three black agents who have lodged EEOC complaints against Hebert. That left Hebert with only one logical course of action (logical in Hebert’s mind, that is). He fired Tingle while Tingle was recuperating from a heart attack.

ATC employees Terri Cook and Sean Magee tracked GPS locations of agents and emailed agents and their supervisors on a daily basis so that any issues, discrepancies or inconsistencies raised by the GPS reports could be addressed in a timely manner.

Yet, despite Hebert’s claims that Tingle was not working when he said he was or that he made an unauthorized trip into Mississippi, the issues were never raised by Cook or Magee, according to Tingle’s attorney J. Arthur Smith.

In fact, Smith pointed out that Tingle traveled to Kiln, MS. On May 2, 2012—at Hebert’s express approval—“to obtain surplus gun cleaning kits from his (Tingle’s) Coast Guard unit which were then issued to agents in your (Hebert’s) presence at a meeting at the Baton Rouge ATC headquarters with all enforcement agents as well as business division employees present.”

Smith also said that Tingle “was assigned FDA compliance checks (for tobacco sales to minors) while out on sick leave.” Upon his return to work, Mr. Tingle informed (Hebert) that he could not complete the assigned compliance checks because of other collateral duties which Hebert had assigned him. “These collateral duties included meeting with Trendsic Corp. and newly hired IT employee Keith McCoy to discuss several ideas that Mr. Tingle brought to you and that you wanted implemented before Mr. Tingle left on military leave.

“In this conversation,” Smith continued in his March 10 letter to Hebert, “you instructed Mr. Tingle to ‘get someone else to do those checks.’ Mr. Tingle also served a hearing officer and Internal Affairs Investigator for the ATC. These collateral duties, as well as your special assignments to him, were not part of Mr. Tingle’s regular job duties. You never at any time excused Mr. Tingle from performing these additional responsibilities,” he said.

Moreover, Smith noted, Tingle, Hebert initiated reprisals against Tingle because of statements provided by Tingle in a federal EEOC racial discrimination action filed against the ATC and Hebert even though Tingle “received the highest marks on his annual performance evaluation of all ATC enforcement agents. You signed this evaluation in July 2012,” Smith said.

That same month Hebert contacted Tingle, who was on vacation, by telephone in July of 2012, Smith said, to inquire into specifics concerning programs and initiatives that were part of an ATC pilot program for the New Orleans area initiated by Tingle. Upon learning of Tingle’s participation as a witness in the discrimination matter, however, Hebert claimed on Oct. 4, 2012, that Tingle had committed payroll fraud and further told OIG investigators that no such pilot program existed, according to Smith’s letter to Hebert.

The pilot program, Tingle said, involved programs not being done in other parts of the state. For example, a plan promoted by the AARP to improve blighted areas. ATC, he said, worked with AARP to provide alternative business plans to bar owners who have had their licenses suspended or revoked.

Hebert and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a joint press conference in July of 2012 to announce the program that Tingle initiated. http://www.nola.gov/mayor/press-releases/2012/20120717-mayor-landrieu-and-atc-commissioner-troy/

It was during this press conference that Hebert called a vacationing Tingle for information on the pilot program.

Tingle said Hebert has never followed through on any of the facets of the program.

In mid-January of 2013, Hebert launched an investigation into Tingle’s wife, Traci Tingle, who had recently retired from ATC, claiming that she had falsified state documents and that she had released personnel records to someone outside ATC.

The nature of the personnel records Hebert accused Traci Tingle of releasing was not made clear because Hebert never explained what they were. The state documents referred to, however, were inventory reports in which Traci Tingle had affirmed that the ATC had office equipment in an office in Vidalia, across the Mississippi River from Natchez. Hebert claimed “there was no Vidalia office,” Smith said, but when an ATC employee contacted the Vidalia Police Department about the matter, the Vidalia Police Department confirmed there was an ATC office in that town and that the office still contained ATC equipment.

It was unclear why Hebert would assert that ATC had no office in Vidalia unless the claim was made as a means of attempting to incriminate Traci Tingle.

What is clear, however, that Hebert is molding the agency into his personal fiefdom. He claims he has never fired a black agent but the evidence says otherwise. He also doesn’t say much about intimidating blacks—or transferring one from Shreveport to New Orleans without so much as day’s notice—to the point that they leave of their own accord.

The thing to keep uppermost in mind is that he is Jindal’s hand-picket director, specifically plucked from the legislature to succeed the man whom Jindal railroaded out of office with bogus criminal charges that were subsequently laughed out of court—all because that man, Murphy Painter, insisted that applicants (even those connected to big campaign donors like Tom Benson) conform to the rules when submitting applications for permits.

LouisianaVoice saw a railroad job then and we called it just that—when no other members of the media would come to the defense of Painter. We’re again seeing a railroad job and again, we’re calling it just that.

Jindal, of course, does not preside over the ATC Office but his policies, like a certain substance, flow downhill.

And right now, they’re stinking up the ATC Office.

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Troy Hebert strikes again. http://www.atc.rev.state.la.us/commissioner.php

The controversial head of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), who already has racial discrimination lawsuits pending against him after settling similar claims, has fired a veteran ATC agent while the agent was recovering from a heart attack after first having failed to do so while he was on active duty in the Coast Guard Reserve.

Hebert fired agent Brette Tingle of Prairieville by letter dated Feb. 9 which was hand delivered to Tingle’s home where he was convalescing from a heart attack.

Hebert took the action based on accusations of payroll fraud and misuse of federal grant funds after three investigations by two separate state investigative agencies cleared Tingle of any wrongdoing—and after Tingle, who is white, testified on behalf of three black ATC agents who filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Hebert. Tingle said Hebert told him, “I’m going to f**k with Charles (Gilmore) first, then with Larry Hingle” in an effort to force them to leave the agency. Gilmore and Hingle are two of the three black agents who have filed suit against Hebert and ATC.

Tingle’s attorney, J. Arthur Smith of Baton Rouge, in an 11-page letter, has appealed the firing, accusing Hebert of “agency shopping” in his attempt to build evidence against Tingle in retaliation for his testimony in support of his fired colleagues.

Hebert’s tenure since being appointed by Bobby Jindal in November of 2010 has been tumultuous at best and disruptive to the entire agency, according to several agents who have talked privately—and publicly—with LouisianaVoice.

One of the most absurd rules put in place by Hebert was one which requires agents to spring to their feet and offer a verbal “good morning, Commissioner” whenever Hebert entered a room where agents were gathered.

Another order which conceivably could have placed an agent’s life in danger was his instruction to an agent who had been working undercover in bars in New Orleans in efforts to buy illegal drugs from dealers to cease undercover activities and to return to patrolling those same bars in full uniform.

Hebert’s accusations of payroll fraud stem from a GPS tracking system installed on ATC vehicles which Hebert said showed Tingle’s vehicle was at his home during hours he said he was working.

In leveling that accusation against his former agent, Hebert ignored that fact that Tingle often worked undercover in tandem with other law enforcement agencies, including the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and the New Orleans office of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Together, they would conduct regular alcohol and tobacco compliance checks and it was commonplace for one of the agents to leave his state vehicle behind while conducting checks since using the state vehicle would defeat the purpose of undercover work.

When Hebert’s office was found out of compliance and ineligible for more than $100,000 in grant money from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Hebert laid the blame at Tingle’s feet even though the ATC compliance officer was Louis Thompson and not Tingle, attorney Smith said, adding that Thompson had been in charge of compliance for ATC for the entire 10 years that Tingle served as part of the DEA task force.

“These allegations are your third attempt to defame, intimidate and retaliate against Mr. Tingle,” Smith said, “because he has assisted and participated in the investigation and proceedings in connection with the EEOC charge and subsequent litigation in the case of Charles Gilmore.”

Gilmore is one of the black agents who has filed a federal lawsuit against Hebert and ATC.

Coincidentally, when the Jindal administration decided to go after former ATC Director Murphy Painter, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR), which is over ATC, immediately launched its own investigation of Painter and federal charges of malfeasance were brought against him. He was subsequently acquitted and then won his own civil defamation suit against his accusers.

It was first shown by LouisianaVoice and later in his trial that the charges against Painter were retaliatory in nature and initiated by the Jindal administration after a dispute over his refusal to issue a permit to Budweiser to erect a tent at Champions Square across from the Louisiana Superdome. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/06/emerging-claims-lawsuits-could-transform-murphy-painter-from-predator-to-all-too-familiar-victim-of-jindal-reprisals/

Oddly, LDR, which has known of the Gilmore allegations since October of 2012, has yet to interview anyone about Gilmore’s claims or to initiate an investigation into the charges.

In his letter, Smith said the first attempt to bring charges against Tingle “was initiated when you (Hebert) employed (Baton Rouge law firm) Shows, Cali & Walsh to draft documentation based on one-sided and uncorroborated information. This purported ‘legal opinion’ was found to be unreliable by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).”

No surprise there. Shows, Cali & Walsh, which held 16 contracts worth a combined $3 million, skated perilously close to sanctions last year over evidence manipulation in the case of overheating on death row cells at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/01/03/baton-rouge-law-firm-with-3-million-in-state-contracts-faces-legal-sanctions-over-evidence-manipulation-in-angola-lawsuit/

“Your second attempt,” Smith continued, “was initiated in 2013-2014 when you sent a complaint to the OIG alleging that (Tingle’s actions) constituted a criminal mater.

“…OIG conducted an extensive investigation …and determined that your allegations were not accurate enough to be utilized in making a case of payroll fraud.”

Bear in mind here that Hebert is head of a law enforcement agency for the State of Louisiana and apparently does not have the capability of building a criminal case or even knowing what constitutes criminal activity.

Not that he hasn’t tried.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence supplied to you by the OIG, …you continued your campaign to defame, intimidate, and retaliate against Mr. Tingle by appealing to … the Louisiana Department of Public Safety (State Police),” Smith wrote.

“You again asserted your professed belief that your alleged facts rise to the level of a crime and you were again informed that your purported facts did not rise to the level of being sufficient to be utilized in a court of law.

“The practice of appealing to multiple investigatory agencies in search of an investigation that supported your ulterior purpose is known in law enforcement as ‘agency shopping’ and is improper,” he wrote.

Smith said that Hebert launched his first investigation into Tingle during the time when Tingle was on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard and that following a year-long OIG investigation, Tingle and Hebert were informed by letter that indicated no charges would be brought against Tingle.

Even as Hebert was telling Tingle that he intended to get rid of two black supervisors, including Larry Hingle, he was also instructing Hingle to investigate Tingle and Hebert later told Hingle to also investigate Tingle’s wife, also an ATC employee who had recently retired.

Hingle joined Gilmore and a third black ATC agent, Daimian McDowell in filing a federal lawsuit against Hebert, ATC and LDR on Oct. 2, 2012, and Tingle was listed as a friendly witness for the plaintiffs.

More details of the events in Hebert’s office will be forthcoming in a subsequent installment this weekend. Space simply does not allow this full story to be told in a single post.

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In our lowlights review for the first six months of 2014, we were reminded by State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux) that we had omitted a major low point in Louisiana politics.

Accordingly, we will preface our second half with the June veto by Gov. Bobby Jindal of HB 142 by Richard and Sens. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) and Mack “Bodi” White (R-Central) which was pass unanimously by both the House (84-0) and Senate (37-0).

Called by Richard as the only “piece of legislation that would’ve done anything in the form of reform,” HB142 called for a reduction in consulting contracts. Richard said the bill also “would’ve provided transparency in the way the state hands out contracts” and would have provided savings that would have been dedicated to higher education.

“It just made too much sense to Bobby,” Richard said.

Jindal, on the other hand, said the bill would “hinder the state’s efforts to continue to provide its citizens with timely, high-quality services.”

Such high-quality services as paying $94,000 to a firm to assistant students to learn to play during recess; paying consulting fees to Hop 2 It Music Co. or to the Smile and Happiness Foundation.

Jindal also said the bill would “cause significant delays and introduce uncertainty to executing a contract” and would “discourage businesses from seeking opportunities to provide services to the people of Louisiana.”

Which now brings us to the second half of political news that could only occur in Louisiana.

JULY

Troy Hebert back in the news:

Three former ATC supervisors, all black, have filed a federal lawsuit in the Baton Rouge’s Middle District claiming a multitude of actions they say Hebert took in a deliberate attempt to force the three to resign or take early retirement and in fact, conducted a purge of virtually all black employees of ATC.

Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith, III filed the lawsuit on behalf of Charles Gilmore of Baton Rouge, Daimian T. McDowell of Bossier Parish, and Larry J. Hingle of Jefferson Parish.

The lawsuit said that all three plaintiffs have received the requisite “right to sue” notice from the U.S. Department of Justice pursuant to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints.

So, where are all those savings we were promised?

To probably no one’s surprise except a clueless Gov. Bobby Jindal, the takeover of the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits (OGB) by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana a scant 18 months ago has failed to produce the $20 million per year in savings to the state.

Quite the contrary, in fact. The OGB fund balance, which was a robust $500 million when BCBS took over as administrators of the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) in January of 2013, now stands at slightly less than half that amount and could plummet as low as an anemic $5 million a year from now, according to figures provided by the Legislative Fiscal Office.

There is no tactful way to say it. This Jindal’s baby; he’s married to it. He was hell bent on privatizing OGB and putting 144 employees on the street for the sake of some hair-brained scheme that managed to go south before he could leave town for whatever future he has planned for himself that almost surely does not, thank goodness, include Louisiana.

So ill-advised and so uninformed was Jindal that he rushed into his privatization plan and now has found it necessary to have the consulting firm Alvarez and Marcel, as part of their $5 million contract to find state savings, to poke around OGB to try and pull the governor’s hand out of the fiscal fire. We can only speculate as to why that was necessary; Jindal, after all, had assured us up front that the privatization would save $20 million a year but now cannot make good on that promise.

We can save, but we have to let you go…

The Jindal administration announced plans to jettison 24 more positions at the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) as a cost cutting measure for the cash-strapped agency but is retaining the top two positions and an administrator hired only a month ago.

Affected by layoffs are eight Benefits Analyst positions, three Group Benefits Supervisory spots, one Group Benefits Administrator, seven Administrative Coordinators, an Administrative Assist, two Administrative Supervisors, one IT Application Programmer/Analyst and one Training Development Specialist.

All this takes place at a time whe OGB’s reserve fund has dwindled from $500 million at the time of the agency’s privatization in January 2013 to about half that amount today. Even more significant, the reserve fund is expected to dip as low as $5 million by 2016, just about the time Jindal leaves town for good.

Completing the trifecta of good news, we also have learned that health benefits for some 200,000 state employees, retirees and dependents will be slashed this year even as premiums increase.

Neil Riser helps Edmonson revoke the irrevocable:

One of the single biggest state political stories of the year was the surreptitious attempt of State Sen. Neil Riser to slip an amendment into an otherwise nondescript bill ostensibly addressing procedures in handling claims against police officers that would have given State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an illegal $55,000 per year retirement boost.

Events quickly began to spin out of control after Riser first denied, then admitted his part in the ruse and as retired state police opposed the move and public opinion mounted against the move, Edmonson, after first claiming he was entitled to the raise, finally relented and said he would not accept the increase.

Meanwhile, Jindal, who signed the bill, was eerily quiet on the issue despite speculation he was behind the attempt to slip the increase into the bill.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, just to make sure Edmonson didn’t go back on his word, filed suit to block the raise and a Baton Rouge judge agreed that the bill was unconstitutional.

The bill, which quickly became known as the Edmonson Amendment, along with the Office of Group Benefits fiasco, constituted the most embarrassing moments for a governor who wants desperately to run for president.

AUGUST

Selective—and hypocritical—moral judgments

Gov. Bobby Jindal weighed in early on the kissing congressman scandal up in Monroe. When rookie U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister was revealed on video exchanging amorous smooches with a female aide, Jindal was all over him like white on rice, calling for his immediate resignation.

Jindal’s judgmental tone was dictated more by the philosophical differences between the two (McAllister wanted the state to expand Medicaid, Jindal most assuredly did not) than any real issues based on morals as Jindal’s silence on the philandering of U.S. Sen. David Vitter who did a tad more than exchange affectionate kisses.

Edmonson Amendment spawns other state police stories:

LouisianaVoice, in its continuing investigation of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), learned that a number of DPS employees enjoy convenient political connections.

  • Dionne Alario, Senate President John Alario’s daughter-in-law, is a DPS Administrative Program Manager;
  • Alario’s son, John W. Alario, serves as a $95,000 per year director of the DPS Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission.
  • DPS Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux retired on April 28 from her $92,000 per year salary but the day before, she double encumbered herself into the position and reported to work on April 30 in the higher position of Undersecretary. Commissioner of Administration Angéle Davis ordered her to repay the 300 hours of annual leave (about $46,000) for which she had been paid on her “retirement,” but Davis resigned shortly afterward and the matter was never pursued.
  • DPS issued a pair of contracts, hired the contractor as a state employee, paid her $437,000 to improve the Division of Motor Vehicles and ponied up $13,000 in airfare for trips to and from her home in South Carolina. The contractor, Kathleen Sill, heads up a company called CTQ but the company’s web page lists Sill as its only employee.
  • Boudreaux’s son-in-law Matthew Guthrie was simultaneously employed in an offshore job and was on the payroll for seven months of the State Police Oil Spill Commission.
  • Danielle Rainwater, daughter of former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater was employed as a “specialist” for State Police.
  • Tammy Starnes was hired from another agency at a salary of $92,900 as an Audit Manager. Not only was her salary $11,700 more than state trooper Jason Starnes, but she is in charge of monitoring the agency’s financial transactions, including those of her husband.

Thanks, retirees; here’s your bill for medical coverage:

LouisianaVoice was first to break the news that the Jindal administration was planning to force retirees out of the Office of Group Benefits by raising premiums astronomically and slashing benefits.

The news sparked waves of protests from employees and retirees alike, prompted legislative hearings at which Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols looked more than foolish in their attempts to defend the ill-conceived plan.

The entire fiasco was the result of the Jindal administrations foolish decision to cut premiums, which allowed the state to be on the hook for lower contributions as well. The money the state saved on matching premiums went to help patch those recurring holes in the state budget. Meanwhile, because of the lower premiums, the $500 million OGB reserve fund shrank to about half that amount as OGB spent $15 million per month more than it received in premiums.

All this occurred just three years after then-Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, in a letter on the eve of the privatization of OGB, promised the continuation of quality service, rates that would be “unaffected” with any increases to be “reflective of medical market rates.” More importantly, he emphatically promised that benefits “will NOT change.”

HHS_2013_SNPS_35_Day

OCTOBER

What premium decrease?

Contrary to the testimony of Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols that Buck Consultants recommended that the Office of Group Benefits reduce premiums for members, emails from Buck Consults said exactly the opposite. State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) had asked Nichols during legislative committee hearings who recommended the decrease and she replied that the recommendation came from Buck. All witnesses before legislative committees are under oath when they testify.

Surplus, deficit, tomato, to-mah-to:

Nichols “discovered” a previously unknown “surplus” of $320 million in mystery money that set off a running dispute between her office and State Treasurer John Kennedy—an argument that eventually made its way before the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

With a tip of our hat to cartoonist Bud Grace, we are able to show you how that surplus was discovered:

JINDAL SURPLUS SECRET

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Murphy Painter vindicated, Jindal humiliated:

Jindal’s attempted prosecution persecution of fired Director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Murphy Painter blew up in the governor’s face when Painter was first acquitted of criminal charges, costing the state nearly half a million dollars in reimbursement of Painter’s legal fees, but Painter subsequently won a defamation suit against his accuser.

Secret survey no longer a secret but “no one” more popular than Jindal:

A survey to measure state employee satisfaction in the Division of Administration (DOA) should be an eye opener for Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols and agency heads within DOA.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Anywhere but Louisiana) received some exciting news this week when a new poll revealed that no one was more popular among Republican contenders for the GOP presidential nomination.

The excitement was short-lived, however, when the actual meaning of the numbers was revealed.

It turns out that in a CNN poll of New Hampshire voters, Jindal tied with Rick Santorum with 3 percent, while “No one” polled 4 percent, prompting Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert to joke that Jindal should adopt the slogan “Jindal 2016: No one is more popular.”

To shred or not to shred:

The controversy surrounding the sweeping changes being proposed for the Office of Group Benefits just got a little dicier with new information obtained by LouisianaVoice about the departure of Division of Administration executive counsel Liz Murrill and the possibly illegal destruction of public records from the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and the involvement of at least two other state agencies.

While it was not immediately clear which OGB records were involved, information obtained by LouisianaVoice indicate that Murrill refused to sign off on written authorization to destroy documents from OGB.

We first reported her departure on Oct. 14 and then on Oct. 22, we followed up with a report that Murrill had confided to associates that she could no longer legally carry out some of the duties assigned to her as the DOA attorney.

But now we learn that the issue has spilled over into two other agencies besides OGB and DOA because of a state statute dealing with the retention of public documents for eventual delivery to State Archives, a division of Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office.

Reports indicate that Schedler became furious when he learned of the destruction or planned destruction of the records because records should, according to R.S. 44:36, be retained for three years and then delivered to the state archivist and director of the division of Archives, records management and history.

NOVEMBER

Secret grand jury testimony of Greenstein made public:

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office, in an unprecedented move, released the 100-plus pages of testimony of Bruce Greenstein, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals but the testimony did little in revealing any smoking gun related to the state’s $180 million contract with CNSI. About the only thing to come out of his testimony was the indication of an incredible bad memory in matters related to his dealings with his former bosses at CNSI and a razor-sharp recall of other, more insignificant events.

Approval? We don’t need no stinkin’ approval:

The very first state agency privatized by Gov. Bobby Jindal was the Office of Risk Management (ORM) and after the state paid F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) $68 million to take over ORM operations and then amended the contract to $75 million after only a few months, the agency was subsequently transferred three times to other firms. The only hitch was a specific clause in the original contract with FARA that no such transference was allowable without “prior written approval” from the Division of Administration. The problem? When LouisianaVoice made an FOIA request for that written approval, we were told no such document existed.

Edwards’ Last Hurrah:

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, one of the most successful, colorful and charismatic politicians in Louisiana history, lost—decisively. Republican Graves Garrett rode the Republican tide to easily hand Edwards his first political defeat, dating back to his days on the Crowley City Council. Some may remember when Buddy Roemer led the field in 1987, forcing Edwards into a runoff. Technically, though, Edwards did not lose that election because he chose not to participate in the runoff, thus allowing Roemer to become governor. But he would return in 1991 to win his unprecedented fourth term.

DECEMBER

Friends of Bobby Jindal seeking donations:

A new web page popped up seeking donations for the Friends of Bobby Jindal, raising speculations of an attempt at a higher office (president?) since Jindal can’t run for governor again.

The new web page cited a speech by Jindal at a foreign policy forum at which he called for increased military spending.

Gimme the keys to the cars:

The Public Service Commission (PSC) became the second state agency (the State Treasurer’s office was the first) to openly defy Jindal when the administration demanded that the PSC relinquish possession of 13 vehicles as part of the administration’s cost-cutting measures.

We have already examined State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard’s attempt to cut consulting contracts which was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate but vetoed by Jindal.

But there was another veto that should be mentioned in context with Jindal’s penny wise but pound (dollar) foolish fire sale approach to state finances.

Earlier this year, State Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville) managed to get overwhelming passage of a bill that called for more oversight of the tax break programs by the state’s income-forecasting panel.

But Jindal, who never met a tax break he didn’t like, promptly vetoed the bill, saying it could effectively force a tax increase on businesses by limiting spending for the incentive programs.

Only he could twist the definition of removal of a tax break for business into a tax increase even while ignoring the fact that removal of those tax breaks could—and would—mean long-term relief for Louisiana citizens who are the ones shouldering the load. And for him to willingly ignore that fact borders on malfeasance.

Another (yawn) poor survey showing:

24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and opinion company, released a report which ranked Louisiana as the 11th worst-run state in America.

Louisiana, in ranking 40th in the nation, managed to fare better than New Jersey, which ranked 43rd, or eighth worst, something Jindal might use against Gov. Christ Christie if it comes down to a race between those two for the GOP nomination.

Louisiana had “one of the lowest median household incomes in the nation,” at just $44,164, the report said “and 10.7 percent of all households reported an income of less than $10,000, a higher rate than in any state except for Mississippi. Largely due to these low incomes, the poverty rate in Louisiana was nearly 20 percent (19.8 percent) and 17.2 percent of households used food stamps last year, both among the highest rates in the nation. The state’s GDP grew by 1.3 percent last year, less than the U.S. overall.

May we pray?

Meanwhile, Jindal prompted more controversy by having his favorite publisher and LSU Board of Supervisors member Rolfe McCollister run interference in securing the LSU Maravich Center for a political prayer event in January of 2015. The event will be sponsored by the controversial American Family Association and will not (wink, wink) be a political event, Jindal said.

And that, readers, is where we will leave you in 2014.

For 2015, we have an election campaign for governor to look forward to.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.

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Our October fund raiser enters its final five days and we still need assistance to help us offset the cost of pursuing legal action against an administration that prefers to conduct its business behind closed doors and out of sight of the people to whom they are supposed to answer.

We also are launching an ambitious project that will involve considerable time and expense. If Gov. Bobby Jindal does seek higher office as it becomes more and more apparent that he will, the people of America need to know the real story of what he has done to our state and its people. Voters in the other 49 states need to know not Jindal’s version of his accomplishments as governor, but the truth about:

  • What has occurred with CNSI and Bruce Greenstein;
  • How Jindal squandered the Office of Group Benefits $500 million reserve fund;
  • The lies the administration told us two years ago about how state employee benefits would not be affected by privatization;
  • The lies about how Buck Consultants advised the administration to cut health care premiums when the company’s July report said just the opposite;
  • How Jindal attempted unsuccessfully to gut state employee retirement benefits;
  • How Jindal attempted to sneak a significant retirement benefit into law for the Superintendent of State Police;
  • How Jindal appointees throughout state government have abused the power entrusted to them;
  • How Jindal has attempted a giveaway plan for state hospitals that has yet to be approved by the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS);
  • How regulations have been skirted so that Jindal could reward supporters with favorable purchases and contracts;
  • How Jindal fired employees and demoted legislators for the simple transgression of disagreeing with him;
  • How Jindal has refused Medicaid expansion that has cost hundreds of thousands of Louisiana’s poor the opportunity to obtain medical care;
  • How Jindal has gutted appropriations to higher education in Louisiana, forcing tuition increases detrimental to students;
  • How Jindal has attempted to systematically destroy public education in Louisiana;
  • How Jindal has refused federal grants that could have gone far in developing internet services for rural areas and high speed rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans;
  • How Jindal has rewarded major contributors with appointments to key boards and commissions;
  • How Jindal attempted to use the court system to persecute an agency head who refused to knuckle under to illegal demands from the governor’s office;
  • How Jindal has manipulated the state budget each year he has been in office in a desperate effort to smooth over deficit after deficit;
  • And most of all, how Jindal literally abandoned the state while still governor so that he could pursue his quixotic dream of becoming president.

To this end, LouisianaVoice Editor Tom Aswell will be spending the next several months researching and writing a book chronicling the Jindal administration. Should Jindal become a presidential contender or even if he is selected as another candidate’s vice presidential running mate, such a book could have a national impact and even affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

This project is going to take time and involve considerable expense as we compile our research and prepare the book for publication in time for the 2016 election.

To accomplish this, we need your help.

If you are not seeing the “Donate” button, it may be because you are receiving our posts via email subscription. To contribute by credit card, please click on this link to go to our actual web page and look for the yellow Donate button: http://louisianavoice.com/

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As if the administration’s handling of bogus criminal accusations against former Commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Murphy Painter wasn’t already embarrassing enough after Painter’s acquittal ended up costing the state $474,000 in reimbursement of his legal fees and expenses, a recent civil court decision has added insult to injury.

Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa/New Hampshire/Florida/Anywhere but Louisiana) thought he could make an example of Painter over the then-ATC commissioner’s refusal to bend the rules for New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, whose family and businesses have poured some $40,000 into various Jindal political campaigns.

Painter twice rejected applications by SMG (formerly Spectacor Management Group), the Mercedes-Benz Superdome management firm, for a permit to erect a large tent at Benson’s Champions Square adjacent to Benson Towers across from the Superdome. The tent was to house beer sales by Anheuser-Busch distributor Southern Eagle and approval of the permit was sought by Southern Eagle, SMG, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED) board and a law firm representing SMG. Altogether, the Benson family, LSED board members, SMG, its law firm and Southern Eagle had combined to pour more than $203,000 into Jindal campaigns between 2003 and 2012.

When Jindal executive counsel Stephen Waguespack insisted that the permit be expedited, Painter asked that he put his concerns in writing but Waguespack refused.

Not only did Jindal fire Painter when his commissioner insisted that the permit application for the Champions Square tent be complete and proper, he even had Painter indicted on criminal charges of stalking a female employee. Present at the firing ceremony were Waguespack, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, and another member of the governor’s legal staff.

The subsequent criminal prosecution of Painter fell apart and his acquittal carried a stipulation that the state pick up the tab for Painter’s legal fees and affiliated costs.

Now, a civil trial jury has determined unanimously that the female former employee, Kelli Suire, defamed Painter even though the Louisiana Office of Risk Management, most likely at the insistence of Jindal’s Division of Administration, settled Suire’s claims against the state in 2011 without Suire’s ever having been required to sit for a sworn deposition in the apparent hope the settlement would bolster the state’s case against Painter.

Oops.

Painter’s defamation suit against Suire was bifurcated, meaning it was to be tried in two parts. The first part, the part just completed, was to settle the question of actual liability. Had Suire been found not guilty of defamation, the second part to determine actual monetary damages would have been unnecessary.

Unfortunately for Jindal’s chances to avoid further embarrassment over the sloppy manner in which the Painter matter was handled, such was not the case and the damages part will be tried next.

Throughout the entire matter, Painter has made clear that he wanted his day in court.

The liability trial was heard in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana before Judge Shelly Dick and a seven-person jury. Following a three-day trial, the jury took about three hours.

Painter was represented at trial by attorney Al Robert, Jr., and Suire by Jill Craft.

The issues in the case first arose on Aug. 16, 2010, soon after Suire filed a complaint with the Louisiana Office of Inspector General (OID) alleging a myriad of allegations against Painter. The lead OIG investigator at the time, Shane Evans, now employed by the East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office, testified that he met with Suire and that he personally chose to use the words “stalking” and “harassing” to describe the nature of Suire’s complaints in his application for a search warrant.

Painter also has a civil lawsuit pending against OIG which alleges the agency’s investigation, which began in August of 2010, was improperly conducted.

Robert said the jury’s verdict confirmed the finding of an outside investigator hired by the Louisiana Department of Revenue (DOR) under which ATC operates. The investigator determined that Painter’s actions did not violate DOR anti-harassment policy. Moreover, when questioned by the DOR investigator, Robert said, Suire “admitted that Painter did not make unwelcome sexual advances toward her and that he did not request sexual favors or engage in verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature toward her. Inexplicably, the Office of Inspector General ignored this investigation when it chose to move forward with its investigation of Mr. Painter,” he added.

“This has been a long, four-year ordeal to clear my name of the lies and untruths that Ms. Suire—and those working with her—used to damage my character and reputation,” Painter said.

In her instructions to the jury, Judge Dick said defamation requires proof of a false or defamatory statement made to a third person or persons. “A person who utters a defamatory statement is responsible for all republication that is the natural and probable consequence of the person’s statement,” she said.

Suire, in her defense, did not deny making the statements but said rather that her statements were subject to “privilege,” or inadmissible, Judge Dick said, acknowledging that Suire’s communications did in fact “occasion a conditional or qualified privilege.”

Therefore, in order for Painter to prevail, she said, he “must prove that (the) defendant abused this privilege by acting with actual malice.” Such a finding, the judge said, would require that Suire either knew the matter to be false or acted in reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.

Suire currently resides in Florida.

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