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Archive for the ‘Auditor’ 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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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

When Hurricane Gustav struck south Louisiana on Sept. 1, 2008, almost three years to the day after Katrina, it set in motion a series of events that would ultimately:

  • upset the Livingston Parish political structure;
  • leave the parish facing a bill for more than $40 million in cleanup costs;
  • see a call for but never a follow up on an investigation into the formation of a fictitious corporation (at a fictitious address headed by a fictitious person) which somehow managed to be the only bidder on a lucrative contract;
  • result in the arrest of another contractor who was also serving as an FBI informant to help root out fraud, and
  • leave residents more than six years later still wondering who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

First, some background.

The massive cleanup that followed Gustav required fast action and, regrettably, such fast action oftentimes opens the door for governmental abuse. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared that to be the case in Livingston Parish’s cleanup, and the agency denied an astounding $59 million in clean-up costs.

Crucial to FEMA’s decision was Corey delaHoussaye, a contractor hired by Livingston Parish to assist with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting issues nearly a year after the storm struck.  DelaHoussaye, coincidentally, also served as an FBI informant during the cleanup.  Livingston Parish District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, along with the State Office of Inspector General (OIG), have accused  delaHoussaye of submitting his own fraudulent invoices for hours they assert he did not perform work as part of his $2.3 million billings.  DelaHoussaye attorney, John McClindon, contends that the OIG got a search warrant for delaHoussaye’s residence on July 17, 2013 but delayed executing it and arresting delaHoussaye for eight days so it would coincide with a council meeting to approve delaHoussaye’s final $379,000 in invoices.  DelaHoussaye wasn’t paid, and he sued the parish for nonpayment.

Meanwhile, Perrilloux sought an indictment against delaHoussaye, but he came up one vote short in an 8-2 vote of the grand jury in December of 2013.  Undeterred, Perrilloux proceeded with a bill of information containing 81 counts, including 73 of filing false public records, but last Friday Perrilloux dropped 19 of those 73 counts.

On Monday, 21st Judicial District Judge Brenda Ricks ruled that insufficient evidence exists to proceed with a trial—a major victor for delaHoussaye.  Perrilloux presented only one witness during Monday’s hearing: OIG investigator Jessica Webb, who testified that, during times delaHoussaye charged the parish for hours worked, he sometimes was at an anti-aging clinic, at Greystone Country Club playing golf, or at Anytime Fitness working out.

McClindon, calling the OIG’s investigation “half baked,” said the OIG’s office seized his client’s computers and “looked at what they wanted to look at,” ignoring emails and failing to talk with anyone.

Similarly, at the trial of Murphy Painter, former director of the State Office Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), former OIG investigator Shane Evans testified that he merely “wrote down” what ATC employee Brant Thompson said to him regarding Painter’s being “manic depressive, out of control, and selectively enforcing alcohol statutes,” and admitted the OIG did zilch to corroborate Thompson’s assertions even though it was Thompson’s initial characterization that reportedly prompted Gov. Bobby’s firing of Painter. (Subsequent details later revealed Painter’s firing was steeped in the time-honored tradition of Louisiana politics as usual.) http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/06/emerging-claims-lawsuits-could-transform-murphy-painter-from-predator-to-all-too-familiar-victim-of-jindal-reprisals/

A company called Comprehensive Business Solutions, with an address on Coursey Boulevard in Baton Rouge, was created by someone named Patterson Phelps of Mandeville in March of 2010, according to corporate records filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

That date was just prior to the Livingston Parish Council’s issuing invitations to bid on a lucrative contract for cleanup.

The only problem is there is no such business at the address given and in fact, never was, and no one has been able to ascertain who Patterson Phelps is, other than speculation that it was an alias for a member of the parish council who was attempting to obtain the contract for himself.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State said the corporate papers were filed electronically with payment made by credit card and that no records exist that would reveal who was actually responsible for creating the shell company.

The parish council did indicate it would instruct Perrilloux to conduct an investigation into the identity of the mystery person, but no results of any investigation, if it was ever conducted, have been made public.

Perrilloux, apparently fuming over Ricks’ ruling, said after the hearing that he would proceed with trial anyway and added, “Just because they wear a black robe doesn’t mean they know everything.” Legally, Perrilloux cannot proceed with a trial unless Ricks’ ruling is overturned by the First Circuit Court of Appeal or the Louisiana Supreme Court. He later said he would appeal the decision.

Brian Fairburn was Livingston Parish’s Emergency Manager and Coordinator for Homeland Security at the time Gustav struck.  His job was to hire monitors who would oversee operations to ensure FEMA reimbursement eligibility.

Fairburn testified that Mike Grimmer, then-Livingston Parish President, indicated to him that he had grave concerns regarding some of the itemized charges on the FEMA project worksheet and likely would not sign off on it.  When asked why, Fairburn indicated Grimmer told him, ‘“The costs are too high and we have permitting issues.’ (He) specifically told me we were taking kickbacks, that we were just out there creating work for these contractors to do.”  When asked whom Grimmer asserted was taking kickbacks, Fairburn responded, “Jimmy McCoy (Councilman from District 2), and he included me as being in on it also.” Fairburn added that Grimmer, “tried to ruin McCoy,” and that he “wanted to show that there was trouble, corruption, and crime in the parish.”  Fairburn also testified that he was terminated soon after the Gustav project but added that when Layton Ricks defeated Grimmer for parish president, he was rehired.

Brian Fairburn testified that during a meeting on November 26, 2008, Eddie Aydell of Alvin Fairburn and Associates (no relation to Brian) expressed serious reservations about proper permitting with the Army Corps and that Aydell was “scared” the Corps would assert that permits should have been issued before work was begun.

It was at that juncture that delaHoussaye was hired to assist with permitting issues.  Brian Fairburn said that McCoy said that the parish “would not” be obtaining any Corps permits and that Grimmer “shut the project down,” after which the Corps issued a cease and desist order on drainage projects.

FEMA’s attorneys were not happy with state and parish attorneys’ attempts to turn the hearing into a trial of delaHoussaye, and they strongly objected to 20 exhibits and depositions, including photographs of delaHoussaye and his son, which they said were unrelated to the hearing.  FEMA attorney Linda Litke said, “delaHoussaye was hired a year after the disaster in 2009 to basically go through the documentation and clean up the mess……  The parish attempted to criminally indict him…..They have now attempted to proceed with criminal action against him without an indictment.  It is reprehensible that they would bring this documentation in this case……DelaHoussaye is a confirmed FBI informant.  He was a whistleblower, and that is why the parish has gone after him.”

Perhaps the most riveting testimony was that of former Parish President Mike Grimmer, who testified that McCoy signed a contract addendum even though Grimmer was the only one with authority to do so.  He said he was “unaware the contract addendum was even out there.”  He indicated the addendum greatly increased the prices, including an increase in the per linear foot price.

Grimmer stated that he got calls from irate homeowners regarding crews, “trespassing on their properties….. and the trees had been taken with no permission.”  Grimmer also testified he obtained invoices for payment on work performed at local schools and North Park which had already been paid by other local agencies.  He referenced Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s report which he testified that he’d requested.  He said it reinforced his concerns about documentation problems for cleanup operations. Grimmer’s response took “no exception” to the report.

That report also cited a contractor for hiring direct family members of Council members McCoy and Don Wheat which the report said may have violated ethics laws, so the matter was referred to the Louisiana Ethics Board.  Wheat, Councilman from District 6, responded angrily to the report and stated that Gov. Jindal’s GOHSEP’s Office had indicated the FEMA report was “fundamentally flawed” and on appeal and that Purpera, “continued with the same flaws and I urge you to correct your mistakes.”

Grimmer expressed shock when he attended an Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) meeting in May of 2009 and a $42 million tab for wet debris removal was “dropped in my lap.”  Grimmer asked for a breakdown and, on June 9, 2009, he got one and an indication that the final tab was estimated at $92 million.  He refused to sign off on the $42 million and verbally instructed all work to cease, and the Army Corps followed up with a written cease and desist order shutting down all drainage work.

FEMA attorneys then provided the panel with a handout of a power point presentation created by Grimmer entitled, “The Truth about the Debris Cleanup.”  Slides were presented depicting:

  • an oak tree removal for $8,415;
  • two other single-tree removals for $6,570 and $4,600, and
  • a pile of limbs for $2,805.

Grimmer said those types of vastly inflated costs prompted his decision to shut down the entire project.

Grimmer, over the objections of state and parish attorneys, last May told a three member arbitration panel that he alone would have been accountable to Purpera if he’d approved the project worksheet and that contractors, monitors, councilmen, and others would all be “gone and happy.”  He expanded on how the whole episode and his decision had adversely impacted him in the community, with long-time friends and business associates distancing themselves from him and people being angry at him but that, “at the end of the day,” he felt he’d made the right decision and felt vindicated by Purpera’s report.

Cross examination at that hearing focused on Grimmer’s frosty relationship with council members and his having referenced five such members as “the five amigos.”  Grimmer confirmed McCoy and Wheat were included in the five.  Grimmer admitted that delaHoussaye shared the fact that FBI investigator Steven Sollie had contacted him and that he was cooperating in an FBI investigation of the Gustav cleanup operations.  State and parish attorneys sought to get Grimmer to admit that he “had no interest” in the project’s costs until he obtained knowledge of the ongoing FBI investigation, a charge Grimmer vehemently denied.  Grimmer also indicated that, though he couldn’t remember which one, a FEMA monitor was paid $20,000 to make debris FEMA-eligible.

The panel ruled in FEMA’s favor.

If Perrilloux follows through and if the state’s and parish’s appeal hearing of FEMA’s decision is any guide, a trial is likely to air some of the dirtiest elements of Livingston Parish political corruption.  Louisiana Voice has obtained a transcript of the 2,197 page appeal hearing, and the contents are interesting, to say the least.

Perhaps that may be why delaHoussaye attorney McClindon said after Ricks’ ruling, “It would probably be best for us all to sit down and work this whole thing out.”

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By Robert Burns

Special to LouisianaVoice

As many Louisiana Voice readers are aware, I am a former auctioneer and was appointed by Gov. Jindal to the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB) during the early months of his first term. What I encountered was corruption both on the board itself and among auctioneers in the industry. I sent regular emails to the head of boards and commissions routinely expressing my shock and dismay. In less than two years, Jindal terminated my services, providing no other explanation other than, “things just aren’t working out.”

The next meeting after my termination, I began videotaping auctioneer meetings and have continued to do so to this day. I also have made occasional public records requests to view auctioneer files. My purpose in reviewing those files is that often times consumer complaints are filed and LALB attorney Anna Dow works with the complainant and the auctioneer to work the complaint out.  These solutions, however, are never even referenced to the board itself and even board members themselves are in the dark as to their existence.  Basically, Dow keeps the board members on a “needs to know basis,” and it was my experience as a board member that she deemed me to “need to know” very little. Hence, the only way anyone (board member or member of the public) can know of these complaints and other auctioneer issues is to examine the auctioneers’ files.

Louisiana Association of Professional Auctioneer (LAPA)’s founder and President, Rev. Freddie Lee Phillips, and I have been concerned about the sheer number of such complaints and some troubling details of these “workouts.”  Examples include:  One auctioneer, William Jones,  deceiving the LALB for eight years about his state of residency; National Auctioneer Association (NAA) Hall-of-Famer Keith Babb threatening a complainant against pursuing a complaint against him, and complainant Robert Kite alleging collusion and shill bidding entailing NAA Hall-of-Famer Marvin Henderson and NAA Past-President Joe Wilson. None of this type of information is available anywhere but in auctioneer files. Accordingly, we decided the best thing for us to do is conduct an audit of all auctioneer files. Because the LALB is a one-person office (with the individual almost never actually working in the office but rather working from home), we knew this should be a project extended out over a 2-3 year timeframe so as not to impose too great of a burden on the office.  Accordingly, I made this simple public records request of 12/4/14 for the first 10 files. Material gleaned from the files is incorporated into this indexed webpage of auctioneers having issues with the LALB.

The one-person executive director of the LALB, Sandy Edmonds, balked at the public records requests associated with the project.  Edmonds is the same one who has been cited by the Inspector General’s Office for payroll fraud and lying about it to investigators. Specifically, she reported both to the LALB and the Interior Design Board that she was “on the clock” even though she actually was on vacation. They subpoenaed her cell phone records, after which she refused to answer any more of their questions.

Edmonds is paid $32.67/hour, or $25, 480 for the LALB and $25/hour, or $32,500 for the Interior Design Board ($57,980 total). She received numerous pay raises which Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera characterized as illegal.

In a meeting on January 3, 2013, Inspector General Lead Investigator Tom Boulton said, “There is no such thing as a performance-based employee.  It’s illegal.” Both he and Inspector General Investigator Rob Chadwick said that they found it inconceivable that the office for both boards (it’s a shared office) is almost never occupied, and both men wanted to know how much rent was being paid for an essentially-unoccupied building.

Purpera, whose office also investigated the work setup, issued this damning report, and referred the whole matter to East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore for possible prosecution of Edmonds for payroll fraud. When Vice Chairman James Sims asked what the LALB should do about the Legislative Auditor report, Board Attorney Anna Dow relayed “nothing,” and Edmonds added, “Welcome to politics,” and indicated that Jindal himself said they were not to worry about it and that the board “cannot” recover funds which Edmonds had been overpaid. Board Chairman Tessa Steinkamp said, “We have to follow the Governor.”

Why re-hash old news?  Well, at the LALB meeting of Tuesday, January 15, 2015, Board Attorney (and convicted felon) Larry S. Bankston asked the Board to deny future requests from me and to seek “legal instruction from the court.” Notice how vague he is about the timeframe of the project (i.e. he neglects to inform the board that this is a 2-3 year project.

The board did not respond to Bankston’s request for it to resist my public records requests, but in light of Edmonds’ past employment reports issued by the Inspector General’s Office and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, we feel the public has a right to full disclosure about auctioneer problems, and clearly this is a legal requirement Edmunds has no intention of meeting.  She has even insisted that public records requests be subcontracted out to the Attorney General’s Office, which charges $50 per hour for that service.

Just another episode of typical Louisiana political chicanery.

 

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A confrontation reminiscent of the one nearly 50 years ago between the managing editor (yours truly) and the family news editor at the Ruston Daily Leader has arisen between Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) and if the late Wiley Hilburn were alive today, he might well find the latest one just as amusing.

Hilburn was on hand when I needed a camera to cover a breaking news story. The only problem was, the news camera was broken and the only one available was a cheap one Publisher Tom Kelly had purchased for use by family news editor Virginia Kavanaugh for her section. “Give me your camera,” I said as I hung up the telephone and stood from my chair across from her. “I have to get a picture of a wreck on I-20.”

“No,” said Mrs. Kavanaugh. “You can’t have it. It’s for my use.”

In complete exasperation and more than a little frustrated at this unexpected lesson in humility, I looked over at Hilburn who had just walked in with a news release from Louisiana Tech University. The look I got in return told me I was on my own. “But I’m the managing editor!” I finally blurted. It was the only thing that came to mind in response to her unexpected insubordination. As I write this, I swear I can still hear Hilburn laughing at the absurdity of the scene that unfolded before his eyes. He would repeat that story for my benefit for years to come, laughing just as hard as he did that morning at the very audacity of my naïve belief that in some parallel universe, my managing editor badge trumped her title as family news editor.

And I never got that camera.

Now the PSC has ripped a page from Mrs. Kavanaugh’s playbook and it’s just as funny.

Jindal, in a desperate attempt to scrape together a few pennies to cover what at last estimate was a deficit of about $141 million, is conducting a fire sale of what state assets still remain after he disposed of state buildings and parking garages in years past to patch similar budget holes.

The administration wants to sell some 700 state vehicles, including 13 assigned to the PSC but commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday (Dec. 17) to direct the PSC staff not to relinquish the vehicles because, the commission lacks funds with which to rent cars and to sell them would hinder its work.

Jindal planned to confiscate the vehicles to be sold with the others early next year in yet another cost-cutting move. The administration says the PSC vehicles aren’t used enough to justify their upkeep.

(The same might be said for some of the governor’s highly-paid appointees. And let’s not even discuss the cost of overtime, lodging, travel and meals for state police security details that accompany the governor on all of those trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and Washington.)

It should be noted that the $141 million shortfall was before the latest plunge in oil prices which Jindal conveniently blames for the fiscal mess in which the state finds itself—again. Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera is scheduled to give a presentation tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 18) to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget and early indications are the governor’s office and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols aren’t going to be very happy.

The $1.4 million anticipated from the sale of the vehicles represents a shade less than 1 percent of the $141 million deficit (which may be even more after the legislative auditor’s report) and is only a tiny fraction of the $25 billion state budget.

“Of the 13 state vehicles at the Public Service Commission, 11 of them are driven less than 15,000 miles a year,” said Jan Cassidy, Assistant Commissioner of Administration for Procurement. “The cost of maintaining underutilized vehicles is greater than the cost of reimbursing employees for travel when it’s necessary,” she said.

The $1.4 million anticipated from the sale of the vehicles would not be net since the state would be required to either pay employees for use of personal vehicles or pay for rental of cars through a contract the state has with Enterprise Car Rentals.

The administration put agencies on notice about the planned sale last week, giving them two weeks to turn over vehicles designated for auction.

“Reducing state expenses requires all state agencies to review their priorities and ensure they are spending taxpayer dollars appropriately,” Cassidy said.

One of those voting to defy the governor was Scott Angelle who once served in Jindal’s cabinet. A dispute between the PSC and the governor’s office has been simmering and the vehicle flap is only the latest issue as things have reached a boiling point.

The PSC has been critical of a recent practice by the administration and the legislature to take over funds paid to the PSC as fees by regulated companies. Members say the action amounts to an unconstitutional tax levy while the governor and legislator argue for the right to use the fees as part of the state budget. That outcome of that argument is now pending in court.

We can only assume that state police vehicles were exempt from the fire sale order. But with this administration, who knows?

Nor was there was any immediate word on whether or not the administration would attempt to seize the PSC vehicles, which would just be another log on that smoldering fire.

But somewhere within the walls of the Governor’s mansion (he’s rarely on the fourth floor of the State Capitol, we’re told), Bobby Jindal must be incredulous as he exclaims perhaps to wife Supriya or, to a curious butler, “But I’m the governor!

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State Rep. Jim Fannin (D/R-Jonesboro) may have inadvertently exposed the Jindal administration’s $178 million “surplus” for the fraud it is in a brief conversation with one of our readers from north Louisiana who knew the right questions to ask, LouisianaVoice has learned.

Fannin, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered a “State of the State” address at the Fall Meeting of the Louisiana Retired Teachers Association in Baton Rouge on Monday and afterwards was confronted by retired teacher Kay Riser Prince of Ruston.

Rubbing her forefinger and thumb together, Riser asked Fannin, “Is Jindal’s new-found money real—that is, can the light bill be paid with it, or is all on paper?”

“I don’t know,” answered Fannin initially before he finally said it is money that was assigned to various agencies but not spent.

“When I taught at (Louisiana) Tech,” Riser responded, “we were told that if we did not spend money that had been allocated by June 30, it went back to the state.”

Fannin then admitted to Prince that was where Jindal’s “discovery” of some $320 million originated.

Prince was able to obtain an answer to a question no one else has been able to get—probably because Fannin was sent a list of funds Jindal had supposedly “swept” from some 17 agencies to arrive at his bogus surplus and when asked point blank, he acknowledged that the surplus was, at best an illusion, an accounting sleight of hand.

So now it would appear that the surplus so proudly proclaimed by Jindal is not cash after all, but an accounting entry and any available cash at the time of the under-budget expenditures (reportedly dating all the way back to 1997) has long since reverted back into the General Fund and has been spent.

In fact, if the state kept books like a business, this shell game might well have affected the retained earnings of owners’ equity and may have even resulted in Enron-like indictments.

In standard business practice, such funds would have been included as a carry-forward asset but never as revenue leading to a subsequent accounting period budget surplus. You can ask Enron’s now defunct accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, about that.

But Gov. Bobby Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols have each seen their shadows and have retreated back into the fantasy world in which they now reside—but not before Nichols fired off a broadside at State Treasurer John Kennedy for not knowing of the existence of a nonexistent bucket of cash lying around for all these years—and they’re not scheduled to emerge until the Legislative Auditor’s report sometime in late December.

By that time, of course, Jindal will be in Iowa or traipsing around in the snows of New Hampshire in search of caucus and primary votes he hopes will catapult him into semi-serious contention for the Republican presidential nomination—an exercise our crystal ball tells us will give him the distinction of having less a chance at the nomination—or even of being picked for VP— than Alf Landon had of beating FDR in 1936 or of Barry Goldwater upsetting LBJ in ’64. Meanwhile, the looming legislative session will be but a mere distraction, and Louisiana’s financial troubles will start to become a fading bad dream for him and a mess to be sorted out by his successor.

 

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