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Archive for the ‘ATC’ Category

Not only does Troy Hebert berate, intimidate, harass and even fire personnel, he keeps the pressure on even after they’re gone.

Hebert, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, has already been shown to be an egotistical administrator who insists that his underlings rise and greet him with a cheery “Good morning, Commissioner,” whenever he enters a room.

He has contracted with 17-year-old girls in efforts to entrap bar owners into selling alcohol to underage patrons.

He has said he would rid his agency of all black employees and indeed, has already had to settle one lawsuit with an African-American former agent whom he fired and is currently facing litigation from three others.

He has ordered an investigation into the background of LouisianaVoice’s Editor and even boasted that he could have LouisianaVoice’s computer hacked if he so desired.

He even threatened criminal trespass charges against a woman who took his crippled Great Dane dog home in the belief it had been abandoned.

But most demeaning of all, he forced agents to write essays as punishment as if they were school children.

In short, he has run his agency with the impunity of an out of control despot, instilling fear in his staff…because he can. And he has done so without the slightest fear of restraint or discipline from his boss, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Anywhere but Louisiana).

Take the case of former agent Jeffery McDonald.

A veteran of 18 years in law enforcement, McDonald was summarily fired by Hebert for failure to answer charges against him that included a claim that his GPS indicated he was in one place for two hours when in fact he had been riding for five hours with another agent.

His fate was sealed, apparently, in a staff meeting in Baton Rouge when he disagreed with the ATC attorney who indicated she thought it unfair that ATC agents could have a take-home vehicle and she could not. Hebert at the time was attempting to institute a competition whereby top-rated agents would get a take-home vehicle. “They were pitting agents against each other in an unfriendly manner that was detrimental to morale,” McDonald said.

But prior to that, about two years ago, is when the real trouble started and typical Louisiana politics entered the picture.

McDonald and a Tensas Parish sheriff’s deputy raided a restaurant that was selling liquor without benefit of having obtained a permit to sell alcohol.

McDonald wisely turned the liquor over to the deputy for safekeeping at the sheriff’s office. Later, after a local mayor and a state legislator got involved, McDonald was contacted by his superiors and told “to return the evidence and to not file misdemeanor charges” against the owner of the establishment.

“I told them I didn’t have the liquor, that I had turned it over to the sheriff’s office,” he said.

State law says a law enforcement officer must be given 30 days in which to obtain legal counsel if he desires before his final termination. “But they didn’t do that,” he said. “They notified me on May 16 and ordered me to meet them on May 22 for an internal investigation,” he said. “I told them my attorney was out of town and I asked for a later meeting. I was on sick leave with a heart condition at the time. They never got back with me until they sent him his recommended termination notice on June 4. “It was hand delivered by state police on the 5th and they gave me until June 10 to respond but I was undergoing treatment was unable to respond by their deadline. They came to get my equipment on the 11th without providing the legally required seven days from receipt of notification,” he said.

“When they terminated me, they said I had not responded in a timely manner even though they did not give me the legally-required seven days.”

Frustrated with dealing with Hebert and his rules which seemed to change daily, McDonald put in for retirement. His retirement was approved on Aug. 22.

On Aug. 30, he wrote Hebert and the human resources departments of the Department of Revenue and ATC to request a retired ID commission card as allowed under state law.

A retiring agent is supposed to receive the commission upon retirement and McDonald did so eight days after his retirement went through.

Hebert, reportedly upset that McDonald was allowed to retire before he could fire him, has not responded to McDonald’s request.

Without his commission, McDonald cannot legally qualify to carry a firearm as a retired peace officer.

It’s not the first time a commission has been held up. Hebert’s policy regarding the commissions is all over the road; he issued one on the same day one agent retired while another who retired at the end of 2011 was forced to make several phone calls before getting his commission. A third waited eight months and before being given instructions to follow a vague, non-existent policy that including writing a letter to Hebert. Even after writing the letter and sending Hebert a copy of the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act which explains the right to the commission, it still took intervention on the part of a state senator to finally obtain the commission.

Such is the manner in which Troy Hebert runs his shop.

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  • The Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC).
  • The Louisiana Department of Public Safety (DPS).
  • The Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office.

From liquor permit rejections, wholesale firings of agents that may have been racially motivated and amateurish investigative tactics at ATC to a multitude of questionable activities at the State Fire Marshal’s Office to attempts to sneak a hefty retirement benefit through the legislature for the state’s top cop, Louisiana’s three major enforcement agencies appear to be riddled with procedural matters bordering on federal EEO violations, investigative cover-ups and back door politics which sometimes blur ethical and legal lines and which reach all the way into the governor’s office.

The latest incident involves an ATC agent who apparently sent a teenage undercover operative into Hook’d Up Bar and Grill in Hammond in an attempt to purchase alcohol. The girl, age 17, was accompanied by a 21-year-old female. The older woman purchased a drink but waitress Ashleigh Burdett refused to comply with the 17-year-old’s repeated requests for another cup so the drink could be divided.

Burdette said she refused the requests, telling the girl, “I can’t do that because you’re a minor.”

Fortunately for Burdette and the establishment’s owners, a video camera captured the entire sequence of events, including the older customer leaving the table to go the restroom just after 10 p.m., whereupon the 17-year-old picked up the older woman’s drink and walked outside with it.

ATC agent Jeff Barthelemy then entered the establishment and wrote a warning to the business and a $500 citation to Burdette, both for serving a minor.

“The fact of watching my staff carding her, telling her no, going as far as to give two checks to each individual showing that the underage person was not served, it’s kind of disheartening,” said Jennifer Mier who co-owns the business with husband Mark Mier.

Mark Mier, interviewed by LouisianaVoice, said he was scheduled to meet with ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert on Wednesday in an attempt to get the matter ironed out but Mier was still upset at the idea of sending a 17-year-old undercover operative in an attempt to purchase alcohol.

“The legal age for purchasing alcohol is 21 so why couldn’t they have sent a 19- or 20-year-old in instead of a 17-year-old. That was a very ill-advised thing to do with someone that young. I would never have done that.”

Hebert, who has been the subject of several stories by LouisianaVoice for the manner in which he arbitrarily fires employees, particularly African-American agents and for his insistence that all employees rise from their desk and offer a cheer “Good morning” when he enters a room, defended the practice of using operatives that young. “We use 16- and 17-year-old operatives to make sure that we’re only catching the worst violators out there.”

Huh? Did he really say that?

“I appreciate people that are there to keep us safe,” Jennifer Mier said, “but when the line gets crossed, when someone with authority chooses to use it just because they decide they’re going to, that’s not acceptable.

As strange as Hebert’s comment about “catching the worst offenders” was, the most curious comment by him was when he said, “ATC goes above and beyond to make sure we don’t use trickery. At ATC, we’d actually like to not write any violations across the state.”

That is odd indeed, given the fact that Hebert keeps a log of how many citations and how much in fines each agent issues and writes up agents who do not produce the number and amounts expected.

By established procedure, two agents are supposed to be involved in each case when underage operatives are used to attempt to purchase alcohol and at least one agent has to witness the sale.

But Hebert has fired so many agents that there are not enough to go around for each bust so ATC contracts with civilians such as the 21-year-old woman who accompanied the teenager into Hook’d Up. The contractors are paid an hourly rate but they are expected to produce an illegal sale or ATC will cease using them for undercover operations. Accordingly, the contractor is under pressure and has the incentive to ensure that an illegal sale will be made in order to continue collecting the hourly fee.

But what Hebert did to the owners and waitress at Hook’d Up pales in comparison to what he has done to a decorated retired Army Reserve major who has been attempting to open a restaurant and bar in the New Orleans French Quarter.

Tracy Riley, you see, is black and as LouisianaVoice has previously reported, Hebert has lost racial discrimination lawsuits and currently has others pending after vowing and then making good on that promise to rid his department of blacks.

So intent on carrying out his denial of her license was he that he even went so far as to file an official complaint with her commander when prior to her retirement that she had the audacity to show up at ATC headquarters to check on her permit—in uniform. In a Sept. 30, 2013, letter to Maj. Gen. Peter Lennon in Belle Chasse, Hebert cited what he called “unbecoming conduct” demonstrated by Riley for appearing at Hebert’s offices in full military uniform.

In a meeting at ATC headquarters, Barthelemy told Riley that being granted a permit was a privilege, not a right. He then admonished Riley and her son, saying that when they were in the ATC building, they were to conduct themselves “respectfully.”

As Riley and her son were leaving, Barthelemy asked Riley if she was on active duty and the name of her commanding officer.

This from an enforcement agent whose agency which works closely with State Fire Marshal Butch Browning who drew criticism and even resigned temporarily only to be cleared of wrongdoing over reports that he was wearing military ribbons and medals from World War II and the Korean Conflict on his dress uniform—and Browning never even served in the military.

Something’s a little out of kilter here, folks, and LouisianaVoice will be delving into the Browning Ribbongate issue in the coming days.

“I trust that the unbecoming conduct demonstrated by this military member will be handled accordingly and respectfully request to be notified of any corrective action taken,” Hebert wrote.

Riley was subsequently reprimanded for wearing her uniform while on personal business but the violation certainly didn’t equate to the war crimes offense Hebert made it out to be—especially given the timing of his Sept. 30 letter to Gen. Lennon.

Less than three weeks earlier, on Sept. 12, 2013, the French Quarter Business Association (FQBA) sent its own letter to Hebert complaining about Riley’s establishment, the Rouge House Supper Club, located at 300 Decatur Street.

Jeremy DeBlieux, president of FQBA, said in his letter to Hebert that he understood that a special event permit was granted to Riley to operate during the annual Essence Festival in July of 2013 but that the Rouge House “did not adhere” to provisos set forth in the temporary permit.

“We believe the owner’s blatant disregard to the city’s special event provisos and the unpermitted operations to date has indicated their intent,” DeBlieux said. “The business has clearly operated as a nightclub, rather than a supper club. Nightclub is not a permitted use at this specified location. We believe, with good reason, as a business association in the French Quarter, we should formally oppose the granting of alcoholic beverage permit to The Rouge House.”

So there you have it. Alcohol is strictly taboo in the New Orleans French Quarter.

On Dec. 5, Hebert denied Riley’s permit in a letter that gave as the reasons for denial as:

  • Operating without a valid state alcoholic beverage permit;
  • Misstatement or suppression of fact in application by failing to report managers and provide verification of suitability, failure to report owner Dale Riley (Riley’s husband) and provide affidavit showing that he meets the qualifications and conditions as set out in statute and failure to provide information on landlord as required.
  • Failure to submit fingerprints of members (of) the company.

“If the aforementioned reasons(s) for denial is corrected within 60 days, you may request rescission of this decision,” Hebert wrote.

Riley said she has repeatedly requested meetings with Hebert to discuss her plight and to request a probationary permit but he has refused to meet with her. Moreover, she says she overheard an employee tell an agent that Hebert did not want to talk to her.

She did meet with Barthelemy who told her his only reason for meeting with her was to inform her that when she was in the ATC building she was to be respectful, Riley said. “He would not even discuss my application.”

ATC did conduct surprise inspections of The Rouge House but found the establishment either closed with no activity. In one undated report, agents noted they had conducted “surveillance” for 36 minutes and found the business closed. It is somehow difficult to imagine it taking 36 minutes to determine an establishment is closed. The report said the ATC agent “spoke with owner of Star Steak and Lobster in reference to the target location. Pictures attached.” A sticky note was attached to the report which said, “Pictures show no activity.” The sticky note contained the initials “TAR.”

On another occasion, a “full walk-through” was conducted by the agent from 12:45 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Again, the report, like all the others, was not dated. “Upon arriving at the location I found it open for business,” the agent’s report said. “I completed a full walk-thru of the location and found no alcohol on the premises. There were no customers in the location either. The kitchen was open and food was available to be purchased.”

Despite receiving only two complaints (actually four separate statements from individuals relative to the two complaints) that The Rouge House was operating, ATC spent considerable man-hours and expense in conducting at least 21 separate surveillance and investigative assignments only to find the business closed on each occasion.

One of the complaints was from an individual claiming to be a graduate of Xavier University who also appeared to be not only an authority on permits and licenses but clairvoyant as well in saying the club “will be serving alcohol on Friday, Aug. 16 (2013) with NO alcohol permit or license.”

Riley, unaware of the close association between Gov. Jindal and Hebert (Hebert’s wife is the Jindal children’s pediatrician) and of the fact that Jindal appointed Hebert after his ill-fated attempt to frame former Commissioner Murphy Painter, attempted to obtain help from the governor’s office but we all know how that went.

Now she is seeking justice through the courts. She filed a formal appeal in June in Civil District Court in New Orleans.

And if history is any indication, the administration is well on the way toward yet another in a long line of legal defeats.

LouisianaVoice, in the coming days and weeks, will be taking closer looks at the state’s three major enforcement agencies.

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The way Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Director Troy Hebert runs his shop, it was inevitable that one or more of his employees would end up taking legal action against him.

And when you strip grown men of their dignity by making them write lines like some school kid, that borders on the sadistic.  Such petty behavior is just asking for trouble and trouble is certain to oblige.

In fact, he already has settled a couple of discrimination claims and now three more former employees have filed suit in federal court.

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 claims a pattern of racial discrimination, race-based harassment and retaliation, including the “systematic elimination of all African-American employees” of the agency.

When Hebert took over the office in November of 2010, “there were five African-American supervisors within the ATC Enforcement Division,” the suit says. Today, there are none.

One of the more egregious acts attributed to Hebert and reported earlier by LouisianaVoice was his ordering two of the plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit, Gilmore and McDowell, to go undercover to investigate a New Orleans bar where each had previously investigated in full uniform. Both men, fearing for their safety should they be recognized, requested that Hebert send other undercover agents, but he refused and told the two “to handle it,” the petition says.

http://louisianavoice.com/2012/12/20/atcs-troy-hebert-throws-subordinates-under-the-bus-to-deflect-from-his-own-inadequacies-inept-mismanagement/

On Feb. 6, 2012, Hebert relocated Gilmore from Baton Rouge to north Louisiana permanently with no prior notice and later informed agent Brette Tingle that he had reassigned Gilmore in the hope he would retire early or resign. Tingle, the petition says, advised McDowell and Gilmore on Aug. 23, 2012, that Hebert had confided in him that he intended to break up the “black trio,” a reference to McDowell, Gilmore and another agent, Bennie Walters. Walters was subsequently terminated two weeks later, on Sept. 7.

On Sept. 6, 2012, the day after Hebert demoted McDowell from Agent 3 to Agent 2 (the demotion was later rescinded), Hebert conducted an internal investigation of five agents and seized computers, iPads and cell phones and then ordered each agent to write four essays regarding ATC.

Another claim cited in the lawsuit concerns an email sent by one of the supervisor’s subordinates in which the agent failed to address Hebert as “Commissioner” or “Sir.”

Hebert, who requires that all ATC personnel rise from their seats and address him with a cheery “Good morning, Commissioner” whenever he walks into a room, responded by asking Human Resources Director Joan Ward “what type of disciplinary action” he could take “to get Hingle’s attention” to ensure his agents showed Hebert the “proper respect,” the petition says.

Hingle also claims that Hebert referred to him as “incompetent” and a “zero” in the presence of Hingle’s subordinate agents and that he confided to agent Brette Tingle that he was planning to “go after” Hingle.

On Dec. 27, 2012, Hingle said Hebert sent him a letter proposing his dismissal. He later rescinded the letter but sent a second proposal of dismissal on Jan. 22 and six days later was demoted from ATC Agent 5 to ATC Agent 3.

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.

The three men claim that Hebert, ATC and the Louisiana Department of Revenue are liable for compensatory damages, including economic and emotional losses, loss of retirement benefits and damages to their reputations.

They are asking for a jury trial and are seeking lost wages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

 

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Here’s the political shocker of the year: Gov. Bobby Jindal says that the Republican Party would be better off selecting a governor as its 2016 presidential nominee.

Wow. Who saw that coming?

Jindal might wish to ask former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney how that scenario worked out for him.

Wonder how Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida feel about that little snub?

Better yet, wonder who he had in mind? Gosh, there are so many: Chris Christie of New Jersey, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich and Rick Perry of Texas whom Jindal was quick to endorse a couple of years ago before Perry’s political machine sputtered and died on some lonely back road. Then there are those former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of neighboring Arkansas, and Sarah what’s-her-name up there in Alaska.

Oh, right. We almost forgot because well…he’s just so forgettable, but there’s also Jindal who recently placed about 12th in a 10-person straw poll at that wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

But he’s running. You betcha (sorry, Palin, we couldn’t resist). He is so intent in his as yet unannounced candidacy that he has already drafted his own plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Presidential candidates are usually expected to exhibit voter empathy and to be spellbinding orators who are capable of mesmerizing of voters en masse. John Kennedy comes immediately to mind. So do Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. I mean, after Clinton took two steps toward that audience member in his debate against President Bush the First in 1992 and said, “I feel your pain,” Bush never had a chance. Clinton looked that voter dead in the eye and spoke one-on-one as Bush was checking his watch.

Jindal has all the empathy of Don Rickles, but without the charisma.

As for oratory skills, to borrow a line from a recent Dilbert comic strip, he should be called the plant killer: when he speaks, every plant in the room dies from sheer boredom.

So much for his strong points: let’s discuss his shortcomings.

Jindal believes—is convinced—he is presidential timber. The truth is he has been a dismal failure at running a state for the past six years and he’s already written off the final two as he ramps up his campaign for POTUS.

Yes, we’ve been beset by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav. Yes, we had the BP spill. All of those provided Jindal valuable face time on national TV and still he trails the pack and when you’re not the lead dog in the race, the view never changes.

Because of those catastrophes, the state has been the recipient of billions of federal dollars for recovery. Nine years later, Jindal cronies still hold multi-million contracts (funded by FEMA) to oversee “recovery” that is painfully slow. The state received hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild schools in New Orleans. Construction on many of those schools has yet to commence. The money is there but there are no schools. (Correction: Largely white Catholic schools have received state funding and those facilities are up and running.)

Jindal tried to restructure the state’s retirement system—and failed. Yes, the retirement systems have huge unfunded liabilities but Jindal’s solution was to pull the rug from under hard-working civil servants (who by and large, do make less than their counterparts in the private sector: you can look it up, in the words of Casey Stengel). As an example, one person whom we know was planning to retire after 30 years. At her present salary, if she never gets another raise over the final eight years she plans to work, her retirement would be $39,000 per year.

Under Jindal’s proposed plan, if she retired after 30 years, her retirement would have been $6,000—a $33,000-a-year hit. And state employees do not receive social security.

Never mind that state employees have what in essence is a contract: he was going to ram it down their throats anyway—until the courts told him he was going to do no such thing.

He has gutted higher education and his support of the repeal of the Stelly Plan immediately after taking office has cost the state a minimum of $300 million a year—$1.8 billion during his first six years in office.

He even vetoed a renewal of a 5-cent per pack cigarette tax because he opposed any new taxes (try following that logic). The legislature, after failing to override his veto, was forced to pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent. Voters easily approved the amendment.

Then there was the matter of the Minimum Foundation Program, the funding formula for public schools. Funds were going to be taken from the MFP to fund school vouchers until the courts said uh-uh, you ain’t doing that either.

Jindal’s puppets, the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, fired the school’s president and two outstanding and widely admired doctors—all because they didn’t jump on board Jindal’s and the board’s LSU hospital privatization plan. Then the stuporvisors voted to turn two LSU medical facilities in Shreveport and Monroe over to a foundation run by a member of the stuporvisors—and the member cast a vote on the decision. No conflict of interest there.

Six months after the transition, the Center for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) has yet to approve the transition and if it ultimately does not approve it, there will be gnashing of hands and wringing of teeth in Baton Rouge (That’s right: the administration won’t be able to do that correctly, either) because of the millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding that the state will not get or will have to repay. Jindal will, of course, label such decision as “wrong-headed,” which is an intellectual term he learned as a Rhodes Scholar.

And from what we hear, his little experiment at privatizing Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SELH) in Mandeville by bringing in Magellan to run the facility isn’t fairing too well, either.

By the way, has anyone seen Jindal at even one of those north Louisiana Protestant churches since his re-election? Didn’t think so.

For some reason, the word repulsive keeps coming to mind as this is being written.

Jindal’s firings and demotions are too many to rehash here but if you want to refresh your memory, go to this link: http://louisianavoice.com/category/teague/

The LSU Board of Stuporvisors, by the way, even attempted to prevent a release of a list of potential candidates for the LSU presidency. One might expect that member Rolf McCollister, a publisher (Baton Rouge Business Report), would stand up for freedom of the press, for freedom of information and for transparency. One would be wrong. He joined the rest of the board to unanimously try to block release. Again, led as usual by legal counsel Jimmy Faircloth who has been paid more than $1 million to defend these dogs (dogs being the name given to terrible, indefensible legal cases), Jindal was shot down in flames by the courts and the Board of Stuporvisors is currently on the hook for some $50,000 in legally mandated penalties for failing to comply with the state’s public records laws.

It would be bad enough if the administration’s legal woes were limited to the cases already mentioned. But there is another that while less costly, is far more embarrassing to Jindal if indeed, he is even capable of embarrassment at this point (which he probably is not because it’s so hard to be humble when you’re right all the time).

In a story we broke more than a year ago, former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control commissioner Murphy Painter refused to knuckle under to Tom Benson and Jindal when Benson’s application for a liquor license for Champions Square was incomplete both times it was submitted. Budweiser even offered an enticement for gaining approval of a large tent and signage it wanted to erect in Champions Square for Saints tailgate parties: a $300,000 “contribution” to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome), whose board is heavily stacked with Jindal campaign contributors.

http://louisianavoice.com/2012/09/04/new-lsu-teaguing-by-%CF%80-yush-may-be-imminent-raymond-lamonica-rumored-on-way-out-as-system-general-counsel/

And:

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/page/3/

Jindal fired Painter. Because firing him for doing his job might be bad press, more solid grounds were sought and Painter was subsequently arrested for sexual harassment of a female employee and of using a state computer database to look up personal information on people not tied to any criminal investigation (something his successor Troy Hebert ordered done on LouisianaVoice Publisher Tom Aswell).

The female employee recanted but Painter nevertheless was put on trial and once more the Jindalites were embarrassed when Painter was acquitted on all 29 counts. Unanimously.

But wait. When a public official is tried—and acquitted—for offenses allegedly committed during the scope of his duties (the Latin phrase is “in copum official actuum”) then Louisiana law permits that official to be reimbursed for legal expenses.

In this case, Jindal’s attempt to throw a state official under the bus for the benefit of a major campaign donor (Benson and various family members), will wind up costing the state $474,000 for Painter’s legal fees and expenses, plus any outstanding bills for which he has yet to be invoiced.

So, after all is said and done, Jindal still believes he is qualified for the highest office in the land. He is convinced he should be elevated to the most powerful position in the world. If he has his way, it won’t be an inauguration; it’ll be a coronation.

So intoxicated by the very thought of occupying the White House is he that he has presumed to author a 26-page white paper that not only critiques Obamacare but apparently details his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Could that qualify as another exorcism on his part?

His epiphany, however, appears to be more akin to the Goldfinch that regurgitates food for its young nestlings than anything really new; it’s just a rehash of old ideas, it turns out.

During his entire administration—and even when he served as Gov. Mike Foster’s Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals—he devoted every waking moment to cutting Medicaid and depriving Louisiana’s poor citizens of health care. Even as head of DHH, according to campaign ads aired on the eve of the 2003 gubernatorial election, he made a decision which proved fatal to a Medicaid patient. That one campaign ad was aired so close to the election date that he was unable to respond and it no doubt contributed to his losing the election to then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco but he won four years later.

Nevertheless, his sudden interest in national health care prompts the obvious question: where the hell has he been for six years?

Not that we would for a moment believe that his newfound concern for healthcare is for political expedience but he apparently isn’t stopping there as he sets out to save the nation.

“This (health care plan) is the first in a series of policies I will offer through America Next (his newly established web page he expects to catapult him into the White House) over the course of this year,” he said.

We can hardly wait.

 

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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.

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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.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—Gov. Bobby Jindal is green and we can prove it.

He must have the welfare of the environment uppermost in his mind. He is all about recycling. The man was born to recycle. Just examine this list:

  • He recycled defeated State Rep. Jane Smith to Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue at $107,500.
  • He recycled former State Rep. Kay Katz to the Louisiana Tax Commission ($56,000).
  • He recycled former St. Tammany Parish President and defeated lieutenant governor candidate Kevin Davis to Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness ($165,000).
  • He recycled former Slidell police chief and mayor Ben Morris into a position at GOHSEP (unknown salary).
  • He recycled former House members Rickey Hardy, Tank Powell and Mert Smiley and former Grant Parish Sheriff Leonard Hataway to the State Pardon Board ($36,000 each).
  • He recycled former State Rep. Noble Ellington to Deputy Commissioner of Insurance ($150,000).
  • He recycled defeated St. Barnard Parish President Craig Taffaro as the new Director of Hazard Mitigation and Recovery ($150,000).
  • He recycled term-limited State Rep. Troy Hebert as Director of the Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board ($107,000).
  • He recycled former State Sen. Nick Gautreaux to Commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles (no salary available, but it doesn’t matter; he was forced out after a few months).
  • He has recycled former executive counselors Tim Barfield and Jimmy Fairchild more times than we can count and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols has been recycled a few times in her own right.
  • He recycled former State Rep. Lane Carson to Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs ($130,000).
  • And now that Carson is retiring after four years on the job, we get word that Jindal is recycling Congressman Rodney Alexander to fill Carson’s post.

No sooner did Alexander announce on Wednesday that he was retiring from Congress because of his stated dissatisfaction with partisan gridlock than Jindal made the offer.

Major League Baseball’s managerial revolving door has nothing on Jindal when it comes to running the same tired old names through the system, allowing them to fatten their retirements even as Jindal is laying off state employees who need their jobs—and who actually perform work as opposed to these appointees who only occupy a desk and suck on the public teat.

It just seems to us that there are others out there who are equally—or more—qualified for these positions and it gets more disgusting with each appointment of the same fat cats to these six-figure jobs.

Of course, we know the underlying reason for recycling all these washed-up legislators: it’s to bump up their retirement benefits—at the expense of you, the taxpayer.

You see, legislators don’t really make that much in outright salary, so their retirement benefits aren’t that much—unless they can secure a six-figure job and remain in it for three years. Retirement is computed at 2.5 percent of one’s highest three years of average earnings times the number of years of service. Thus, 2.5 percent of $130,000 is considerably more than 2.5 percent of $16,000 or so.

Now with Alexander, it’s different: he already has a federal pension from his tenure as a congressman. But now, even though he cashed in his legislative retirement from his days in the legislature, he can buy all that time back and draw a state pension based on his $130,000 salary for the final three years of Jindal’s administration.

Nice gig if you happen to have the stroke to get it and of course there’s nothing like being governor and having the power to screw the taxpayers while running around preaching fiscal responsibility and laying off state workers.

Granted, we are a bit jaded and cynical from covering this administration, but if someone can convince me that fix wasn’t already in on this retirement/appointment, we’re willing to listen.

We can’t help but wonder what Alexander’s duties will entail, duties that someone else was not qualified to perform—especially since Jindal already gave out all those veterans’ medals before his 2011 re-election.

Thanks, Bobby and thanks, Rodney, for all that “good, ethical government.”

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