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Dr. Randall M. Wilk operates a medical practice in Gretna dedicated to the surgical treatment of diseases in the head and neck. http://www.drrandallwilk.com/#

Approximately 25 percent of his patients are cancer sufferers. Licensed to practice medicine in the state of Louisiana (License No. MD022962), Wilk earned his medical degree from the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans. He did his general surgery training at the Ochsner Medical Institutions and did his head and neck surgery training in Portland, Oregon.

He also has a Ph.D. in anatomy from LSU and a DDS from the Baylor College of Dentistry and has a certificate in oral surgery.

But even though he does not operate a dental facility, that DDS degree has cost him more than $100,000 in legal fees because of the heavy-handed tactics of the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry which carried its badgering of Wilk all the way to the floors of the Louisiana House and Senate.

“Since graduating from dental school 25 years ago I have never filled a tooth, made a denture, made a crown, cleaned teeth, restored a tooth, or anything that one would consider a dental practice,” Wilk says, adding that he went “from graduating dental school in 1987 to starting graduate school” that same year.

Wilk noted that the dental board, in its 2009 financial statement, reported a loss to the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) of more than $60,000 and that the only plan put forth for managing that loss was “higher revenue from the collection of fines.”

Within weeks of that report, Wilk said, “I received a letter from the board sating that they had received a complaint on me from a Camp Morrison.”

Morrison, a private investigator, has worked for the board for numerous years under a series of contracts totaling more than $1 million. Moreover, even though he is an independent contractor, he is given free office space in the board’s suite at the high-rent One Canal Place office building in New Orleans.

Dating back to 1997, Morrison was issued nine consecutive contracts totaling more than $1.8 million. Most of his contracts were for two-year durations. His first, from March 1, 1997 to Feb. 28, 2000, was for $45,000. But from Sept. 1, 2000, through Aug. 31, 2002, his contract more than trebled, to $150,000 and increased again to $200,000 with his next contract which ran from Sept. 1, 2002 through Aug. 31, 2004.

Beginning on Sept. 1, 2004, he was awarded four consecutive two-year contracts of $240,000 each. Those four contracts combined to run through Aug. 31, 2012.

For whatever reason, on Sept. 1, 2012, the board cut his contract back to nine months and $110,000 but when that pact expired on June 30, 2013, he was issued a new contract, this one for three years, from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2016, for $340,000.

Wilk said he was told that Morrison had reported to the board “that they had no record of me having an anesthesia permit from the dental board in 2007, that they had no record of me having a certificate in oral surgery, and that I was suspended from the Medicaid and Medicare programs.

“All of those are false statements,” he said, but the board refused to produce a copy of Morrison’s report. “I believe that filing a false report is a crime.”

Wilk said a meeting was scheduled and at that meeting two board members said they wanted him to sign a consent decree and to pay the board $5,000.

When Wilk said he had no intention of signing anything without first having his attorney examine the document, they left the room for a short time and returned with an adding machine “and told me that if I did not sign the document right then and there, that they could levy fines of over $100,000.”

He said the two handed him the adding machine tape “and placed the consent decree in front of me. For those familiar with the Godfather movies, the only thing missing was Luca Brassi with a pistol to my head.” He said a board member said it appeared that he (Wilk) felt his medical degree was more important than his dental degree.

“This was a pure and simple shakedown,” Wilk said.

He said it’s not unusual for medical specialists to obtain a dental degree prior to going to medical school and residency. “In the state of Louisiana, dozens of doctors are in this position. At least half-a-dozen are otolaryngologists, several are plastic surgeons, general surgeons, head and neck surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, gastroenterologists, anesthesiologists, even psychiatrists.

“Having a dental degree does not make your medical practice a dental practice,” he said.

Apparently the dental board and its investigator, Camp Morrison, disagree. Here are minutes of a 2011 dental board meeting at which Wilk’s case is discussed. DENTAL BOARD MINUTES MAY 20, 2011 (bottom of page 14)

Moreover, the DENTAL BOARD BULLETIN also mentions disciplinary action against Wilk (Item no. 14 in the left column near the bottom of page 3).

Wilk obtained legal counsel but the barrage from the dental board continued “for almost two years,” he said. “They subpoenaed me five times, requested copies of my patient records for several years and required my staff to go over 12,000 records. The final documents sent to them weighed several hundred pounds.

“Despite my being represented by counsel, Mr. Morrison continued to serve me subpoenas, to appear in my office waiting room, the operating room at Ochsner Hospital and at my home,” all the while passing out his cards to people and saying he was the investigator for the board of dentistry.”

Eventually, the board relented somewhat by notifying Wilk’s attorneys that if he paid the board $10,000 the matter would “go away.” Wilk said he feels that such tactics are tantamount to corruption or shakedowns. Again, he refused to pay.

Louisiana Revised Statute 37:793 (H) (2) says:

  • A personal permit is not required when the dentist uses the services of (1) a trained medical doctor, (2) doctor of osteopathy trained in conscious sedation with parenteral drugs, (3) certified registered nurse anesthetist, (4) a dentist who has successfully completed a program consistent with Part II of the American Dental Association Guidelines on Teaching the Comprehensive Control of Pain and Anxiety in Dentistry, or (5) a qualified oral and maxillofacial surgeon provided that the doctor or certified registered nurse anesthetist remains on the premises of the dental facility until any patient given parenteral drugs is sufficiently recovered.

When Wilk’s pointed out that the statute “specifically exempts me from what they are fining me for, their lawyer stated that he will have to ‘get that law changed.’” Wilk said. He said the board, which in 2010 reported an operating loss of $104,000, “held its own trial and fined me and held me for the board’s legal costs, totaling about $100,000.” They are their own judge, jury, and executioners,” he said. DENTISTRY BOARD 2009 FINANCIAL STATEMENT

The board subsequently prevailed on then-State Rep. Herbert Dixon to introduce legislation giving the dental board the necessary leverage to pursue claims against medical practitioners like Wilk who were not practicing dentists.

Wilk was scheduled to testify in committee against Dixon’s bill, HB 172, at 10 a.m. on May 15, 2012 but upon arriving, learned that the bill had been moved up to first on the calendar and had already been discussed and passed by the committee. It subsequently passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, yet more evidence that legislators often pass bills without really knowing what they contain or the implications of the language.

Wilk said that State Sen. David Heitmeier (D-New Orleans) had a discussion with Peyton Burkhalter, who had by then succeeded Barry Ogden as executive director of the board, and that Burkhalter had assured Heitmeier that the board had decided to drop the charges against Wilk. “He said that Mr. Morrison’s Gestapo tactics would end,” Wilk said.

State Sen. Fred Mills (R-Breaux Bridge) told LouisianaVoice on Thursday that he and former House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Terrytown) had experienced clashes with the board in the past. “They’ve got some problems with that board,” he said, “and I believe the answer in the end will be the establishment of oversight over them,” he said. “We’ve had to threaten them with legislative action, including replacing the entire board, in order to back them down in the past.”

Wilk said he feels there is outright corruption on the board and that its shakedowns of dentists and non-dentists alike constitutes extortion. “Knowing that no violation of any statute occurred but demanding payment under threat of costly litigation is unethical conduct,” he said.

“I believe that their changing the law was intended to persecute me but also puts many other practitioners at risk. The implications…are far-reaching and as such constitute a restraint of trade. The precedent set by this bill (HB 172) (allows) other boards to reach beyond their jurisdiction. This law does nothing to protect the public,” he said.

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A couple of weeks ago, we received a comment from a reader identifying himself only as “The Truth Man” who proceeded to go on a 128-word tirade against another reader who called himself the “Dental Genie” and gloating over the outcome of the lawsuit of Dr. Randall Schaffer against the Louisiana State Dentistry Board.

Normally, it is the policy of LouisianaVoice to protect the identities of those commenting on our stories. We take the position that if they do not wish to divulge their real names, there must be a legitimate reason. Often, that reason is that the writer is a state employee who would fear for his job should his name be revealed.

But when the writer turns out to be the former director of the state board that was being sued by Dr. Randall Schaffer and when that writer attempts to color the results of the legal action in the board’s favor, we take the position that he is waiving his anonymity. He is, after all, a very public figure, retired or not.

Barry Ogden, former director of the Louisiana Board of Dentistry, was referring to Schaffer’s lawsuit against the board after the board turned on him for blowing the whistle on a defective joint replacement device for temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) sufferers by the head of the LSU School of Dentistry’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department in the mid-1980s. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/11/from-protecting-their-own-to-persecution-of-a-whistleblower-its-all-part-of-the-bureaucratic-shuffle-by-state-dental-board/

Schaffer who was a resident at LSU at the time, became aware of the negative effects to patients receiving the implants and when he was named as a witness and consultant in the class action cases that ensued, the Board of Dentistry immediately launched an investigation and ultimately revoked his license to practice dentistry.

Schaffer sued the board and moved to Iowa where he worked as a consultant and expert witness in legal matters involving dental malpractice. His case wound its way slowly through the courts, as legal cases always do, running up tremendous costs in the process. Meanwhile, Schaffer was forced to undergo bypass surgery and the combination of medical problems and legal costs left him with no choice but to allow his case to abandon.

Thus, he did not “lose” his case; it was dismissed because of the aforementioned reasons. “I simply could not afford to keep feeding the (legal) beast,” Schaffer said. “It has cost me more than $100,000 and it broke me.”

Ogden’s misleading and less than gracious rant led to several email exchanges between LouisianaVoice and Ogden. We first reminded him that the dismissal of Dr. Randall Schaffer’s case was not based on the merits of the case, but upon extenuating circumstances—money and health. We also reminded him that there are other lawsuits pending against the board and that state agencies have—and are continuing to—investigate tactics by the board and its contract investigator Camp Morrison, who inexplicably was given free office space in the Dental Board’s suite, paid for by taxpayers.

“Are you going to print my comment or not?” Ogden replied. “You obviously have made up your mind about me. Everything I said is true and public. Is your blog blocking what you don’t want to hear? I hope you will give myself and the other defendants a fair and balanced report after we prevail in court.”

We promised to publish his comment, but in context with the facts of the Schaffer case and Ogden’s 400-page deposition in another pending legal matter (Dr. Ryan Haygood). “The Schaffer case does not end the legal actions against the Louisiana Board of Dentistry,” we wrote, adding that as long as we were now communicating (we couldn’t get a comment from the board in our original story), “please explain how it is that the private investigator (Morrison) who is (or was) under contract to the board had the luxury of having an office in your office suite.”

Rather than answer that question, Ogden wrote back, “I cannot authorize you to publish my comment until I see how you plan to edit it and in what context. Are you on a witch hunt against the board or are you willing to publish non-biased comments? I do not wish for my comments to be changed. However, you may delete the final sentence admonishing you to know your subject before commenting. Further, do you require that I will only have my comments published if I allow you to controvert them with your own commentary?”

Well, yeah, when we feel it appropriate to clarify certain claims we do reserve that right.

We then asked him to please answer a few simply questions, to wit:

  • Why do you send in people posing as patients with the express purpose of setting these dentists up?
  • How is it that many of the dentists penalized with the board just happen to be in competition with board members?
  • How do you justify levying a fine of say, $2,000 and when the dentist refuses, you suddenly hand him a bill for $100,000?
  • How can you justify the board serving as accuser, prosecutor and judge? That makes it impossible for a dentist to receive a fair hearing.
  • When the U.S. Constitution says that everyone accused of wrongdoing is innocent until proven guilty, how is it that a dentist first learns of his “guilt” upon receiving notification of his fine?

We wrote that we had other questions, but unless he could address those satisfactorily, we could see no reason for further discussion. “You answer these and we can talk further,” we said.

“All I was attempting to do in my first comment,” he replied, “was to set the record straight, as I have been fed up with the  lies being said about the board and, in fact, all the horse manure thrown at us by you which you believed from the start… Now you wish me fill in the blanks in your next story which you have probably already written. I see no use in further communication, especially on matters in litigation. You are attempting to take advantage of me knowing I cannot answer your questions.

“Therefore, please do not print any of my comments, and let’s call it a day.”

Sorry, Mr. Ogden. That’s just not the way it works. You opened this dialog with your April 3 email to us in which you taunted us about the dismissal of Dr. Schaffer’s case—without revealing the real reasons for the dismissal—and advising us to keep our mouths shut. You offered your remarks as a comment to our story and even asked if we intended to print it before apparently having a change of heart and asking that it not be printed.

Sorry again, but when you want something to be off the record, you preface it that way—up front. You don’t come back after the fact and ask that your ill-advised remarks not be printed.

Accordingly, here is the original comment by Barry Ogden, retired director of the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry (verbatim, as he requested):

  • For all of you who believe the fairy tale told by the dental genie, please be advised that ALL lawsuits filed on Dr. Shaffer’s behalf have been DISMISSED. I guess now you have to complain that both state and federal judges are as corrupted as the dental board. Further, how can anyone make a legitimate comment without looking at both sides? You can obtain a copy of the decision revoking Dr. Shaffer’s license from the dental board. It’s a public record. You may also look up all the lawsuits he has filed in state court and federal court in New Orleans to get the true picture. You know the old saying it is better to keep your mouth shut if you don’t know what you are talking about.

Next, we will examine how the board attempted to revoke the medical license of a New Orleans surgeon who has never even practiced dentistry using highly questionable investigative methods and employing tactics can only be described as extortion.

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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

In 2001, I attempted to sell my home via the traditional means.  My listing was with ReMax, but I wasn’t happy with the snail’s pace everything seemed to move at.  It was not the fault of my agent but rather a simple reflection of the reality of traditional real estate listings in that they do not create any urgency to buy.

About five weeks into my listing, I noticed an ad in the real estate section of the paper for an upcoming real estate auction.  The ad got my attention, so I called the owner of the real estate auction company.  Thereafter, I attended four of his auctions before deciding that was the route I wanted to go.  My auctioneer, at that time, had a 20-year stellar record of successful auctions (it’s now nearly 35 years).  I was impressed by his professionalism and how the auction method could generate a firm, unconditional offer accompanied by a 10% liquidated damages deposit on a definite date and time that was within only about 30 days of executing the auction listing.  I utilized his services (even keeping my ReMax agent in the mix), and I was pleased with the results.  Consequently, within days of us closing, I called him and asked if I could join his company.  He blew me off in saying, “Sure, but you have to get your real estate license first.”  He later said he thought that was the last he’d ever hear from me, but I surprised him when I called only three weeks later indicating I’d procured the real estate license and asking what I needed to do next.

Over the next two years, he taught me everything one needs to know to be a successful real estate auctioneer.  His honesty, his integrity, and his ethics are beyond reproach, and they’re reflected in his auction results.  He instilled such confidence in me that I even formed my own auction company and began auctioning real estate properties myself.  I enjoyed helping solve people’s problems more than anything I’ve done in my entire professional career.

As many Louisiana Voice readers are aware, Gov. Jindal’s office contacted me within months of his taking office about serving on the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB).  I would later learn I was contacted only because other applicants had felony convictions or other problems and were ineligible to serve.  I figured I had zero chance of being selected because I never contributed a dime to Jindal’s campaign and, except for 2003 (the year he lost), I didn’t even vote for him.  Nevertheless, I completed the application and figured that would be the end of it.  To my bewilderment, his office called me about six weeks later congratulating me on being selected to serve on the board.  I should have known something was wrong right then because it just didn’t make sense to be selected to serve on a board with no political allegiance to the governor.  Nevertheless, I naively felt honored to have been selected and anxiously looked forward to improving the auction experience for Louisiana consumers.

What I didn’t know was that I would encounter rampant racism on the board and that corruption was so prevalent that I had trouble believing any board could conduct itself in such an anti-consumer, auctioneer-biased manner.  I’ve written several articles already on this blog regarding what I encountered in my early days on the board, so I won’t repeat them here.

Even with all I encountered, however, I never dreamed the LALB could stoop as low as it has in the last six months.  Readers may recall the post entailing 84-year-old widow LALB complainant Betty Jo Story.  That case stands out as the most egregious abuse of any auction victim I’ve seen, yet LALB members found the auctioneer guilty of nothing and merely advised him to “go out in the hallway and work this out.”  Instead, he proceeded straight past Ms. Story and headed back to his home in DeRidder.  Thereafter, he refused to try and make things right with her, so she sued him in 36th JDC in DeRidder.  On October 29, 2014, serving in a pro-se capacity (and doing so quite well I might add), she obtained a judgment of $4,102.29, which the auctioneer paid within a week.

Even more disconcerting, however, was the preferential treatment granted to Brant Thomson, son of State Sen. Francis Thompson.  In that case, the LALB closed its investigation (finding no auctioneer wrongdoing), only to reopen it and find the auctioneer guilty and even file Thompson’s bond claim for him after he drafted a scathing letter to the LALB and had the presence of mind to copy to Ms. Holly Robinson, Gov. Jindal’s then-head of Boards and Commissions.  That incident is covered in this post.

Another complainant, Ms. Judy Fasola, claimed she was victimized by auctioneer Ken Buhler, who happens to have Marvin Henderson as his lead cheerleader with the LALB.  Henderson, a substantial contributor to Jindal campaigns, has historically exerted control over the board which, for whatever reason, is intimidated by him and his self-proclaimed (and no doubt accurately stated) ability to have members removed from the board with a mere phone call to the governor.  The LALB is afraid to assist any person, and that most certainly includes Fasola, in an auction complaint when such assistance may alienate Henderson (as pursuing a bond claim entailing Buhler or any affiliate of his would).

LALB cited a number of reasons for refusing to file a bond claim for Fasola at its November 5, 2014 meeting.  Thereafter, on January 13, 2015, Fasola refuted the LALB members’ November statements as being factually incorrect (a claim substantiated by prior videos).  That fact notwithstanding, at its March 10, 2015 meeting, the LALB, via a prepared statement drafted by legal counsel Larry S. Bankston, but read by his associate, Jenna Linn, stated that the board has “total discretion” regarding whom it wishes to file bond claims for and whom it wishes to decline to do so.  That is not a joke. That’s what Linn read from Bankston’s letter.

Given this public statement, perhaps it would be appropriate that consumers refrain from using the services of auctioneers.  The rationale is simple.  If a primary source of consumer protection is the auctioneer bond, and the LALB is now publicly asserting that it can cherry pick whom it will file bond claims for, that leaves consumers at the whim of political connections affiliated with the board.  When combined with the board’s demonstrated history of filing a claim for a politically connected alleged victim like Brant Thompson but declining to do so when it may alienate political powerhouse auctioneer Henderson, why should any consumer have faith and confidence in an auctioneer?  It’s time to face reality.  Though there are exceptions, the auction industry is corrupt and the board designed to protect consumers is even more corrupt.

I conclude by providing a webpage of Fasola’s three-meeting ordeal, complete with links for documents and video coverage.  Additionally, I provide this webpage of video highlights of the March 10, 2015 LALB meeting.  Linn rudely cut off my public comment when I referenced “FBI investigations,” so I provide an off-site assessment of why she likely recoiled when I uttered those words.

I have no idea if the next governor will do anything to clean up the mass of corruption, nepotism, and cronyism that exists on the LALB.  If he doesn’t, I would recommend a continued boycott of auctioneer services.  To do otherwise would be an injustice to the many clients and bidders I fought so hard to ensure access to experienced honest, open, and transparent auctions.

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Senator Daniel R. Martiny's Picture

STATE SEN. DAN MARTINY

C.B. Forgotston may have opened a can of worms…with the unwitting help of State Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie)—and much to Martiny’s chagrin.

Forgotston, you see, is an independent old cuss who used to work for the legislature and he has been serving for a number of years now as an unofficial overseer of all things state government and few events escape his skeptical critique of the actions and motives of elected officials, particularly legislators, or as he calls them, leges.

Called “King of Subversive Bloggers” by no less an expert on cynicism than Baton Rouge Advocate columnist James Gill, Forgotston is beholden to no one and any leges who crosses swords with him does so at his own peril.

Martiny may have found out the hard way when he sent this email to Forgotston Sunday around 4:16 p.m. informing C.B. that his emails to the good senator were no longer welcomed:

From: “Martiny, Sen. (Chamber Laptop)” <dmartiny@legis.la.gov>

To: “C.B. Forgotston” Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2015 16:16:34 -0600 Subject:

Re: Where’s Buddy?

Take me off your list until u do something positive about anyone.

Martiny was responding to Forgotston’s “Where’s Buddy” post in which he took Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to task for the AG’s reluctance to do his job in telling the Caddo Parish Commissioners they are in violation of the Louisiana State Constitution by virtue of their illegal participation in the Caddo Parish retirement system.

Forgotston noted that Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has done his job in saying commissioners’ participation in the retirement system is illegal but Caldwell, as has been his M.O. since taking office, has been strangely quiet on public corruption.

And while there is certainly nothing wrong in going after free-lance pharmaceutical salesmen (drug dealers), child pornographers and the like, Caldwell has displayed an obvious dislike for making waves in the political waters and has steadfastly run from public corruption cases.

And we know that while the 1974 State Constitution took much of the prosecutorial duties from the attorney general, the AG is still the legal adviser for all state agencies and if nothing else, Caldwell should step forward and whisper in officials’ ears when they are seen skirting the edge of the law. (Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols’ open violation of the state’s public records law comes immediately to mind. So does Auctioneer Board attorney Larry Bankston’s advice to the board to actually refuse to release public records.)

But we digress.

If you notice, Martiny’s message for C.B. to delete future mailings to him was written on his Senate chamber laptop, which some might interpret as an unwillingness on his part to hear from citizens on matters that concern them.

“My periodic mailings address issues of concern to me primarily about state and local government,” Forgotston said on Monday.

“The mailings are sent to each lege via a public server owned by taxpayers. The address to which it is sent is also provided by the taxpayers.”

Forgotston said that after a “gentle reminder,” Martiny, an attorney, relented and acknowledged the provisions of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Other leges may not be as familiar with the First Amendment as is Martiny,” he said. “As a public service, here is some background on the First Amendment which leges might find useful in dealing with members of the public.

“The First Amendment states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’” (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

The right to freedom of speech, he says, “allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

“The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances guarantees people the right to ask the government to provide relief for a wrong through the courts (litigation) or other governmental action. (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

“Not only do we have a right to contact the leges regarding matters of government, they are prohibited from interfering with our exercise of that right,” Forgotston said. “That includes the blocking of emails as some leges have done in the past.

“Any lege not wishing to receive my communications, please forward me a copy of your letter of resignation from the lege and you will be promptly removed from all future mailings.”

Now, just to give you a little background on Sen. Martiny, who:

  • Fought a bill by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) which would have prevent legislators from leaving the House or Senate and taking six-figure jobs in order to boost their state retirement. It’s worth noting that several legislators had been appointed to cushy state jobs by the Gov. Bobby administration. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro was named second in command at the Louisiana State Department of Insurance at $150,000 per year; Jane Smith of Bossier City was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Department of Revenue ($107,500), though she admitted she knew nothing about taxes or revenue; Troy Hebert of Jeanerette was named Commissioner of the Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board ($107,500); Kay Katz of Monroe, named to the Louisiana Tax Commission ($56,000); former St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis named Director of Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness ($165,000), and former St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was appointed Director of Hazard Mitigation and Recovery ($150,000).
  • Pushed through an amendment that gutted Senate Bill 84 by Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), a bill originally designed to protect vulnerable borrowers from predatory payday lenders. Nevers sought to cap payday loan annual interest rates at 36 percent which was an effective way to rein in those lenders who were charging annual percentage rates of up to 700 percent. Martiny’s amendment removed the APR cap and instead simply limited borrowers to 10 short-term loans each year.
  • Pushed through a bill that was subsequently signed by Gov. Bobby which prohibited state contractors from entering into agreements with labor unions, prohibited public entities from remaining neutral toward any labor organization, and prohibited the payment of predetermined or prevailing wages.
  • Introduced a bill that was subsequently signed by Gov. Bobby which re-created 17 state boards, offices and commissions. Louisiana already has far more boards and commissions than any other state but apparently no one saw a need for reducing the number.
  • Introduced a bill subsequently signed into law by Gov. Bobby that gave judges on state district courts, courts of appeal and the Louisiana Supreme court pay raises ranging from 3.7 percent to 5.5 percent—even as Louisiana civil service employees were forced to go without a pay raise for the third straight year.
  • Introduced but later withdrew a bill that would have allowed the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (DED) the authority to offer air carriers a rebate of up to $500 annually for each incremental international passenger flying to or from a state airport for a period of up to five years.
  • Introduced a bill allowing DED to offer tax credits refundable against corporate income and corporate franchise taxes for businesses agreeing to undertake activities to increase the number of visitors to the state by at least 100,000 per year. (We’re beginning to see the problem with the state’s economic incentive tax breaks here).
  • Introduced a bill to provide tax credits for solar energy systems of up to 50 percent of all costs.
  • Introduced a bill that would have allowed the Commissioner of Insurance to fire the Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Advocacy without cause.

Let’s examine that very last one again. Louisiana law provides for the appointment of a deputy commissioner of consumer advocacy by the Commissioner of Insurance.

This is important, provided that person is wholly independent of Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon who gets the bulk of his campaign finances from insurance companies he is supposed to regulate.

Donelon, obviously, cannot be expected to ride herd over his benefactors. That’s just not the way politics works in Louisiana. So a consumer advocate in the department is critical—especially after all those stories about Allstate and State Farm denying legitimate claims from Hurricane Katrina and other tactics such as the Delay, Deny, Defend strategy as taught the insurance companies by Gov. Bobby’s former employer, McKinsey & Co.

The law provides that the consumer advocate may be terminated only for cause.

But Martiny wanted to change that and though the bill did not pass, one has to wonder about his motives.

To learn that, you’d probably have to email him at dmartiny@legis.la.gov

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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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