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I am certain that I will not agree with every move John Bel Edwards makes as governor. The re-appointment of Mike Edmonson as Superintendent of State Police comes immediately to mind. Such is the nature of politics. No man alive can please everyone every time.

And when I do disagree, as in the Edmonson re-appointment, I will say so. I believe Edwards understands and respects that.

In the meantime, I am willing give him a chance. He has a monumental task before him in his efforts to help the state overcome eight years of Bobby Jindal’s reign of error. He must form coalitions with Republicans in the legislature in order to even approach a successful administration. But I certainly don’t expect legislators to be the whipped puppies they were during Jindal’s misrule.

I gave Jindal that same benefit of the doubt. If I am to be honest, I have to admit that I voted for Jindal not once, but twice. I voted for him in 2003 when he lost to Kathleen Blanco and again in 2007 when he won. I honestly thought he meant it when he said he supported state employees and that he stood for transparency and a high ethical bar. I believed him when he said his appointments would be based on “what you know, not who you know.”

Well, we all know how that went down. He tried to gut state retirement, he destroyed the Office of Group Benefits, gave away the state charity hospital system, drove higher education to the brink of exigency (bankruptcy), and worse, he set a new low in the areas of transparency and ethics. And one only has to examine his appointments to the myriad state boards and commissions. They are dominated (and that’s putting it lightly) with major donors to his various political campaigns. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bobby-jindals-biggest-donors-benefited-from-his-administration_55e9e976e4b002d5c075fb17

http://louisianavoice.com/category/campaign-contributions/

Moreover, “what you know” didn’t go too far in other areas, either. The number of state employees and legislators he teagued for daring to disagree with him is a very long list. And his “deliberative process” catch-all denial of public records threw a heavy blanket on any hopes of transparency.

So, it was with some surprise that I read Rolfe McCollister’s diatribe in his Baton Rouge Business Report this week. https://www.businessreport.com/article/publisher-whats-big-secret

Of all the ones to whine about any lack of transparency on the part of the governor-elect who has yet to even take office, Rolfe stands alone as the singular standard-bearer of double standards.

He contributed $17,000 to Jindal’s campaigns in 2003, 2006, and 2008. He was treasurer of Jindal’s 2007 gubernatorial campaign and served as chairman of Jindal’s transition team after his 2007 election. He served as director of Jindal’s first fundraising organization, super PAC Believe in Louisiana, and most recently served as treasurer of Believe in Louisiana as it raised funds for Jindal’s presidential campaign.

His Louisiana Business, Inc. partner, Julio Melara also was a player. Melara and his wife contributed an additional $8,500 to Jindal campaigns

And what did Rolfe and Julio get in return for all that?

Well Julio wound up with a pretty nice appointment to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome Board), complete with all the perks that go with the appointment.

McCollister was named to the LSU Board of Supervisors and that’s where the hypocrisy really boils to the surface. Board members get choice tickets to LSU sporting events (including a private suite in Tiger Stadium). http://forgotston.com/2013/07/16/need-a-lsu-tuition-break/

And until the quota was reduced earlier this year, each member could award up to 20 tuition-free scholarships to LSU. Even after the reduction, they still get 15 scholarships each. http://theadvocate.com/news/11898955-123/lsu-board-revamps-number-of

Those perks could mean more than $100,000 per year per board member. In 2012 alone, the board handed out $1.3 million in scholarships to their friends—even as college tuition was skyrocketing for the average student with no contacts on the board. http://thelensnola.org/2013/07/11/lsu-board-of-supervisors-awards-1-3-million-through-little-known-scholarship-program/

Rolfe didn’t invent the perks and though he tied with two other members for the fewest scholarships awarded—five. But you never heard him raise a single objection to their abuse.

Rolfe, as publisher of the Business Report, purports to be an objective chronicler of political news. You would think that as such, he would champion all efforts to obtain records of a public body.

You would think wrong. He, along with four other members, did not respond to an email from reporter Tyler Bridges, then writing for The Lens of New Orleans, seeking comment. How’s that for transparency?

He certainly came off as a bit petulant this week when he went on a rampage about Edwards’s education transition team’s meeting in private “at least four times.”

There’s more. “McCollister notes it was Edwards who proclaimed at a Public Affairs Research Council forum in April that his administration would be more transparent than previous administrations, saying ‘a scope of secrecy’ has been allowed to exist,” his staff wrote today (Wednesday, Dec. 23). https://www.businessreport.com/article/publisher-gov-elect-edwards-transition-committees-discussing-public-education-big-issues-behind-closed-doors?utm_campaign=dr_pm-2015_Dec_23-15_05&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dr_pm

“But what does conducting all of the discussions of the transition committees behind closed doors in secret do for the citizens? What I haven’t seen yet is an editorial from The Advocate or The Times-Picayune objecting to the discussion of ‘public’ education in private. Why not? I thought transparency was their big issue.

Rolfe has a very short memory. I can’t recall the Jindal transition team over which Rolfe presided ever holding a public meeting prior to Jindal’s taking office. And when The Advocate, the Times-Picayune and the LSU Reveille were demanding the release of the names of all the candidates for the LSU presidency, where was he?

It’s hard to tell because the very one who should have been front and center in championing the right of the public to know who those candidates were, was strangely mute.

Not a peep out of Rolfe who was in a unique position to reason with the boy blunder to release the names.

Likewise, when the LSU Board agreed to that hospital privatization contract with the 50 blank pages, he should have been the first one on his feet shouting that a blank contract was not just questionable, but also not a legal document. Instead, he sat quietly as the contract was approved, laying the groundwork for the litigation over state hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe now winding its way through the courts.

Likewise, not one word of protest when the contract was awarded to a foundation in Shreveport whose CEO was…(wait for it)…a fellow member of the LSU Board.

“The public knows very little in specifics about what Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards will propose and how far he will take some issues,” McCollister wrote. “Transition teams are made up of a majority of his friends, advisers and supporters—or those who think like he does (and Jindal’s wasn’t, Rolfe?). While this exercise is often ceremonial, it can reflect the views and direction of the new governor—and his closest friends and allies who will be whispering in his ear for the next four years (and of course, you never once “whispered in Jindal’s ear, right?). The public education committee has had five meetings in secrecy. What did they talk about, and who said what? We won’t read or hear about it in the media because they weren’t allowed inside—and the press never uttered a peep (Perhaps they learned from your example on the LSU Board, Rolfe.).

To those who don’t know your history, you sound like a champion of pure, open government.

Unfortunately, your words fall far short of matching your actions. Those indignant protests would carry a lot more weight if you had the track record to back them up.

That’s called hypocrisy, Rolfe. And that’s unfortunate, though not necessarily unexpected.

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It looks as though Bobby Jindal’s former commissioner of administration Kristy Nichols will finally have to comply with state regulations. Or maybe not.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics, in typical fashion first put the kibosh on any effort by Kristy Kreme to lobby state government on behalf of her new employer—and then promptly withdrew the opinion.

The board was essentially neutered by Jindal during his rush for ethics “reform” in his first days in office back in 2008. Because of those “reforms,” the board lost considerable steam and all its enforcement powers and it now appears it is missing a spine.

And one has to wonder if the Jindalistas had any influence on the decision to withdraw the unfavorable opinion.

Nichols served as Jindal’s commissioner of administration for three years, from October 2012 to October 2015. Those years were marked by consistent budgetary shortfalls, cuts to higher education and health care, the contentious revamping of premiums and benefits for state employees, retirees and dependents through the Office of Group Benefits and the equally controversial privatization of the state charity hospital system.

She also was sued twice by LouisianaVoice over her failure to produce public records in a timely manner. It was in that area that she enjoyed her greatest success by breaking even. She prevailed in the first lawsuit but lost the second one. She still owes a judgment of $800, plus attorney fees and court costs. She chose to spend even more state money in appealing the decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

She announced in September that she would be going to work for Ochsner Health System as a lobbyist. Well, technically, her new title is vice president of government and corporate affairs. While state law precludes her lobbying the legislative or executive branches for two years, there appears to be no prohibition to her lobbying local governments (parishes and municipalities) on the part of Ochsner.

She contacted the ethics board on Nov. 5 through attorney Kimberly Robinson of the Baton Rouge law firm Jones Walker.

Robinson was recently named by Gov-elect John Bel Edwards to be the new secretary of the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

The board last Thursday (Dec. 17) addressed six specific areas about which Robinson sought opinions. The board shot down four of those and took no position on the remaining two because of what it termed insufficient information, according to Walter Pierce of the INDReporter Web site. http://theind.com/article-22377-Ethics-Board-blocks-Nichols.html

A spokesman for the ethics board, however, told LouisianaVoice on Monday that the opinion has been “withdrawn” and the entire matter re-scheduled for the board’s Feb. 19, 2016, meeting.

The opinion initially would have barred Nichols for two years from:

  • Direct transactions or communications with the Division of Administration;
  • Participating in any transaction, researching or preparing materials for use in or in support of a direct act or communication with a legislator;
  • Communicating or having a transaction with the Department of Health and Hospitals, and
  • Assisting Ochsner in communications or transactions with LSU. The LSU Board of Supervisors currently oversees the public-private partnerships between the state-run hospitals and private health care providers.

There was no immediate explanation of what the remaining two questions from Robinson concerned.

There are several areas of concern in allowing Nichols to lobby state government on behalf of Ochsner, not the least of which is the agreement between the state and Ochsner during her term that allowed Ochsner to partner with the state in running the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma.

In 2013, the LSU Board of Supervisors signed off on the contract containing 50 blank pages. That contract handed over operation of state-owned hospitals in Lake Charles, Houma, Shreveport and Monroe. The blank pages were supposed to have contained lease terms. Instead, the LSU board left those details to the Jindal administration (read Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols).

Eventually details emerged about the contracts, including that of the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma. And, thanks to the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council, the picture began to come into focus.

Leonard Chabert Medical Center was opened in 1978 as a 96-bed facility with 802 employees but by the time it was privatized, it was down to 63 beds.

In 2008, a hospital-based accredited Internal Medicine residency program was begun. In 2011, the hospital’s revenue was 47 percent uncompensated care for the uninsured, 29.5 percent Medicaid, 13 percent Medicare, 5.5 percent state general fund and 6 percent interagency transfer from other departments with only 1 percent being self-generated.

When the Jindal administration moved to unload state hospitals, Chabert was partnered with Southern Regional Medical Corp., a nonprofit entity whose only member is Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC).

TGMC is slated to manage Chabert with assistance from a company affiliated with Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest private not-for-profit health system with eight hospitals and forty health centers statewide. Terms of the agreement call for a five-year lease with an automatic renewal after the first year in one-year increments to create a rolling five-year term.

Though Southern Regional is not required to pay rent under terms of the agreement, the Terrebonne Parish Hospital Service District No. 1 is required to make annual intergovernmental transfers of $17.6 million to the Medicaid program for Southern Regional and its affiliates.

The cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) calls for supplemental payments of $31 million to Ochsner. Small wonder then that the Houma Daily Courier described the deal as “a valuable asset to Ochsner’s network of hospitals” and that the deal expands Ochsner’s business profile.

Between 2009 and 2013, Ochsner’s revenue doubled from $900 million to $1.8 billion and the deal would mean more revenue for Ochsner, the Daily Courier said. http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140325/articles/140329692?p=3&tc=pg

There has never been a reasonable explanation as to why the LSU Board signed off on a blank contract that the Jindal administration would fill in after the fact. Was it just by chance that Nichols, as Commissioner of Administration, was responsible for that task? And was it just happenstance that two years after Ochsner received that $31 million, it saw the need to bring Nichols aboard just as her employment with the Jindal administration was winding down?

LSU Board of Supervisors handed over University Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe to the Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) even though the CEO of BRF was a sitting member of the LSU board at the time.

Within two years, that deal fell apart and the board and BRF are now involved in complicated litigation.

Meanwhile, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to approve the Jindal/Nichols privatization plan.

 

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Just as there are many deserving nominees for Boob of the Year, so are there those who deserve to be recognized for their work to bring the actions of those boobs to public light. Their efforts have helped to expose corruption in lieu of an ineffective State Ethics Board that Jindal gutted as his first action upon becoming governor.

And for those who think we’re too negative, here is our chance to put some positive spin on state politics. Unlike our Boob of the Year nominees, few of our nominees for the John Copes Beacon of Light award are public officials, though it would be unfair to say that no elected official is worthy.

Copes, a Louisiana Tech graduate, was one of the very first political bloggers in Louisiana, launching his website The Deduct Box in 1999. A resident of Mandeville, he died in October of 2006 at a time when his blog was getting about 10,000 hits per day.

Because any such list is subjective, some deserving candidates will be left out by oversight as occurred with our Boob of the Year nominees. Accordingly, you are free to make your own nominations.

So, with that in mind, here we go:

  • Former State Sen. Butch Gautreaux: All he did was to bust a gut in trying to save the Office of Group Benefits from certain corruption and mismanagement. He failed, of course, because Bobby Jindal wanted to privatize the agency and indirectly raid OGB’s reserve fund. Now the fund has been depleted, premiums have risen and benefits have been cut and Sen. Gautreaux has been proven correct.
  • State Sen. Dan Claitor: Claitor filed a lawsuit to nullify the illegal retirement increase of some $50,000 for State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. He won that suit and then filed a bill to make certain there were no more backdoor deals for Edmonson. He also objected to the administration’s less than ethical ruse to delay payment of Medicaid claims by two months, thus kicking the final two months’ problems into the next fiscal year—long after Jindal and his fraudulent cohorts will be gone. Sadly, Claitor’s objections to the move were ignored by the administration—and his fellow legislators who once again, allowed Jindal to have his way with them.
  • Lame duck BESE members Carolyn Hill and Lottie Beebe: Both stood up to State Superintendent of Education John White and both paid the price. Out of state money poured in for their opponents and both Hill and Beebe were defeated for re-election.
  • John Bel Edwards: It may be too early to call him a Beacon of Light. That will depend on what he does as governor. But he did fight Bobby Jindal for eight years and overcame mind boggling odds against a Democrat with little name recognition outside Tangipahoa Parish upsetting powerful (as in $10 million worth of power) U.S. Sen. David Vitter. While Jindal held onto his congressional salary right up to the time he took the oath as governor, Edwards has resigned from the Louisiana Legislature.
  • Tommy and Melody Teague: She was fired from her job (but won it back on appeal) for daring to testify before Jindal’s governmental streamlining committee; he for the audacity of taking over an agency (OGB) with a deficit of some $200 million and take it to a surplus of $500 million and then not falling all over himself to support Jindal’s proposed privatization of OGB. Jindal prevailed of course, and the surplus (reserve fund) was depleted, premiums increased, benefits reduced and many retirees now living out of state have lost their medical benefits altogether. At least Tommy Teague saw the danger way before the smartest man in the room.
  • Murphy Painter: As director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), he refused to allow FOB (friends of Bobby) short circuit the regulations for an alcohol permit for Champion’s Square across from the Superdome. For insisting that the applicant comply with ATC regulations, he was fired and indicted on made up criminal charges. Rather than bene over and grease up, he fought back, was acquitted at trial and stuck the state with his legal bills of nearly $300,000.
  • Whistleblower Jeff Mercer: The Mangham, Louisiana contractor was harassed, coerced and intimidated when he refused to comply with a DOTD inspector’s demand that he give the inspector money and/or equipment (a generator). When he complained about the extortion attempt, more pressure was applied in the form of harsh inspections, delayed and denied payments for work performed. He went bankrupt as a result of the DOTD actions but determined to fight back, he sued and won a $20 million judgment from the state. A pity since the governor’s office was made aware of the inspector’s actions but chose to do nothing to avert the eventual courtroom battle.
  • Whistleblower Dan Collins: The Baton Rouge professional landman complained about things he observed in the Atchafalaya Basin Program and promptly got frozen out of future state contracts. Undaunted, he and his one attorney went up against the Department of Natural Resources and its four corporate attorneys and on Friday (Dec. 11, 2015) won treble damages totaling $750,000—all after complaints to the governor’s office had been ignored, leaving us with the unavoidable conclusion that the Jindalites would rather pay hefty lawsuit judgments than correct obvious problems early on. To paraphrase the title of Hilary Clinton’s book, sometimes It Takes a Pissed off Citizen….
  • Lamar White: This Alexandria native, along with Bob Mann, has been a persistent thorn in the side of our absentee governor, a couple of congressmen, and anyone else he sees tampering with governmental ethics. But more than merely badgering, Lamar thoroughly documents everything he writes. If any official has anything to hide, he will be outed by Lamar. He is the one who dug up the story about U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise’s close connections to David Duke. That story, said Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Billy Gunn, “exemplifies the power of the pen and its ability to challenge the mighty.” High praise for someone another blogger once ridiculed for his cerebral palsy affliction which makes it difficult for him to walk. “But there’s nothing wrong with his mind,” Gunn said. “He writes on subjects ranging from the rights of the disabled to racial inequity.” Walter Pierce, editor of the Lafayette news site The Ind.com, said, “He has a sort of selfless bravery.”
  • Bob Mann: Journalist/author/political historian Bob Mann holds the Manship Chair in journalism at LSU and has unflinchingly taken on the powers that be, including his bosses on the LSU Board of Supervisors. Mann, who writes a column for Nola.com and Salon.com, has become such an irritant that one LSU Board member, Rolfe McCollister, has even advocated Mann’s firing for his saying that the LSU Board was more loyal to Jindal than to the students at LSU. This is the same Rolfe McCollister, by the way, who publishes the Baton Rouge Business Report. So much for his defense of the First Amendment. McCollister quoted a “former seasoned journalist” as saying “Every good journalist knows that you cannot ethically cover the institution that pays your salary and the people who supervise the work you do for that salary.” So much for his defense of the First Amendment. But Rolfe, how about “ethically” serving higher education that your boss has tried to starve to death with repeated budgetary cuts that resulted in higher and higher tuition for students? How is that you’re able to “ethically” look out for the interests of students and faculty of LSU while giving $17,000 to Jindal’s campaign, serving as treasurer of his campaign, and treasurer of Believe Again, the Super PAC created to promote Jindal’s presidential campaign. I guess the question really comes down to who has the higher ethical standard, you or Bob Mann. We go with the Mann. Every time.
  • C.B. Forgotston: What can we say about this former legal counsel for the Louisiana House? C.B. has a political blog but he doesn’t post often. And when he does post, the dispatches are usually short. But what he lacks in verbiage, he more than makes up with impact. He is terse, to the point, and quite often vicious in his critique of anyone he sees in office who he believes is wasting time or state dollars. Most people who know him would rather be on the receiving end of volumes of criticism from Jindal and his minions than a single sentence of disapproval from C.B.
  • Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne: for having the courage to cross party lines and endorse Democrat John Bel Edwards over Diaper Boy Dave Vitter. Dardenne took a lot of heat for that but who could blame him after Vitter’s carpet bombing of him and fellow Republican Scott Angelle in the first primary? Some will say his appointment as incoming Commissioner of Administration was the payoff. Perhaps so, but if anyone can come up with a better person for the job, we’re listening.
  • State Treasurer John Kennedy: His ill-advised endorsement of Vitter aside, Kennedy has been tenacious in his guarding of the state treasury, taking on Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols time after time when they tried to play funny with the money. He would have easily walked in as Attorney General after the first primary had he chosen to run for that seat, which we encouraged him to do. Instead, he has chosen to remain as Treasurer—at least for the time being. Remember there is Vitter’s U.S. Senate seat that opens up next year and Kennedy would like that job. Whatever his motives for endorsing Vitter (many speculate had Vitter won, he would have appointed Kennedy to fill the remaining year, thus giving him the advantage of incumbency), no one can deny that he has been a splendid foil for the Jindalites for eight years.
  • Louisiana Trooper Underground: This unknown author or authors undoubtedly has/have reliable links deep within the upper echelons of the Louisiana State Police command in Baton Rouge. A relatively new entry into social media, this a Facebook page that posts the latest developments in the unfolding saga involving various troop commands and LSP headquarters itself.
  • Finally, all the others who have been Teagued: Tommy and Melody were the inspiration for the term but they are in good company with a long list of those who attempted to do the right thing and were either fired or demoted by a vengeful Jindal. Despite the obvious reprisals that lay ahead, each of them stood up for what was right and paid the price. They’re the silent heroes.

There are our nominees. You are free to write in your own favorite’s name. It is our sincere hope that the response to this will be as gratifying as that of the Boob of the Year.

Go.

Vote.

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As we face the end of eight years of ineptitude, deceit, and whoopee cushion governance, LouisianaVoice is proud to announce our first ever election of John Martin Hays Memorial Boob of the Year.

There are no prizes, just a poll of our readership as to whom the honor should go in our debut survey.

Hays was publisher of a weekly publication called appropriately enough, the Morning Paper in Ruston until his death last year. He relished nothing more than feasting on the carcasses of bloated egos. He single-handedly exposed a major Ponzi scheme in North Louisiana, sending the operator to prison. That got him some major ink in the Atlanta Constitution and the New York Times.

The problem of course, is trying to narrow the field to make the final selection manageable.

The obvious choice for most would be Bobby Jindal, but there are so many other deserving candidates that we caution readers not to make hasty decisions. After all, we wouldn’t want to slight anyone who has worked so hard for the honor.

So, without further ado, here are the nominees, along with a brief synopsis of their accomplishments.

  • Bobby Jindal: Mismanaged the state budget for an unprecedented eight consecutive years. At least there’s something to be said for consistency. In his eight-year reign of error (mostly spent in states other than Louisiana) he managed to cut higher education more than any other state; he robbed public education to reward for-profit charter schools and virtual schools; he gave away the state’s Charity Hospital system (he awarded a contract to the new operators—a contract with 50 blank pages which is now the subject of what is expected to be a prolonged legal battle; he appointed political donors to prestigious boards and commissions, including the LSU Board of Supervisors which, under his direction, fired two distinguished doctors, the school’s president and its legal counsel; He trumped up bogus charges against the director of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) to appease mega-donor Tom Benson and to appoint the husband of his children’s pediatrician to head up the agency; he forced state offices to pay higher rent in order to again accommodate Benson by signing a costly lease agreement with Benson Towers; rather than consider alternative ideas, he simply fired, or teagued, anyone who disagreed with him on any point; he refused Medicaid expansion, thus depriving anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 low-income citizens needed medical care; he tried unsuccessfully to ram through pension reform that would have been devastating to state employees; he insisted on handing out contract after contract to attorney Jimmy Faircloth who is still searching for his first courtroom victory after receiving well more than $1 million in legal fees; he spurned a major federal grant that would have brought high-speed broadband internet to Louisiana’s rural parishes; he stole $4 million from the developmentally disadvantaged citizens so he could give it to the owner of a $75 million Indianapolis-type race track—a family member of another major donor and one of the richest families in the state; he abandoned his duties as governor to seek the Republican presidential nomination, a quest recognized by everyone but him as a fantasy; he ran up millions of dollars in costs of State Police security in such out-of-state locations as Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina; he had the State Police helicopter give rides to his children, and the list goes on.
  • Attorney General Buddy Caldwell: All he did was completely botch the entire CNSI contract mess which today languishes in state district court in Baton Rouge; He consistently turned a blind eye to corruption and violations of various state laws while ringing up what he thought was an impressive record of going after consumer fraud (Hey, Buddy, those credit care scam artists are still calling my phone multiple times a day!); and his concession speech on election night was one for the books—a total and unconditional embarrassment of monumental proportions.
  • Kristy Nichols: What can we say? This is the commissioner of administration who managed to delay complying to our legal public records request for three entire months but managed to comply to an identical request by a friendly legislator within 10 days; We sued her and won and she has chosen to spend more state money (your dollars, by the way) in appealing a meager $800 (plus court costs and legal fees) judgment in our favor; it was her office that came down hard on good and decent employees of the State Land Office who she thought were leaking information to LouisianaVoice (they weren’t); she first reduced premiums for state employee health coverage in order to free up money to help plug a state budget deficit all the while whittling away at a $500 million reserve fund to practically nothing which in turn produced draconian premium increases and coverage cuts for employees and retirees (and during legislative hearings on the fiasco, she ducked out to take her daughter to a boy-band concert in New Orleans where she was allowed to occupy the governor’s private Superdome suite.
  • Troy Hebert: appointed by Jindal to head up ATC which quickly turned in a mass exodus of qualified, dedicated agents; he used state funds to purchase a synthetic drug sniffing dog (hint: there is no such thing as a synthetic drug sniffing dog because synthetic ingredients constantly change; this was just another dog, albeit an expensive one); he launched a racist campaign to rid his agency of black agents; while still a legislator, he was a partner in a firm that negotiated contracts with the state for hurricane debris cleanup.
  • Mike Edmonson: Oh, where do we start? Well, of course there is that retirement pay increase bill amendment back in 2014; there is the complete breakdown of morale, particularly in Troop D; then, there was the promotion of Tommy Lewis to Troop F Commander three years after he sneaked an underage woman into a casino in Vicksburg (he was subsequently fined $600 by the Mississippi Gaming Commission but only after first identifying himself as the executive officer of Troop F and asking if something “could be worked out.”); allowing Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux to take advantage of a lucrative buyout incentive for early retirement (which, in her case, came to $46,000, plus another $13,000 of unused annual leave) only to retire for one day and return the next—at a promotion to Undersecretary. She was subsequently ordered to repay the $56,000 but thanks to friends in high places, the money has never been repaid (maybe incoming Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne would like to revisit that matter); consistent inconsistency in administering discipline to officers who stray—such as attempting unsuccessfully to fire one trooper for assaulting a suspect (even though the suspect never made such a claim) while doing practically nothing to another state trooper who twice had sex with a woman while on duty—once in the back seat of his patrol car.
  • David Vitter: what can we say? The odds-on favorite to walk into the governor’s office, he blew $10 million—and the election. His dalliance with prostitutes, his amateurish spying on a John Bel Edwards supporter, an auto accident with a campaign worker who also headed up the Super PAC that first savaged his Republican opponents in the primary, turning Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle irreversibly against him and driving their supporters to Edwards’s camp. In short, he could write the manual on blowing an election.
  • The entire State Legislature: for passing that idiotic (and most likely illegal) budget on the last day of the session but only after Grover Norquist was consulted about the acceptability of a little tax deception; for allowing Jindal to run roughshod over them on such matters as education reform, hospital privatization, pension reform and financing recurring expenses with one-time money; for being generally spineless in all matters legislative and deferring to an absentee governor with a personal agenda.

Those are our nominees but only after some serious paring down the list.

Go to our comments section to cast your vote in 25 words or less. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 18.

As much as you might like, you are allowed to vote only once.

 

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If you were to seek two cases that stand as glaring testimony to the way in which the Jindal administration employs a double standard in addressing legal and ethical issues, you need look no further than the cases involving Murphy Painter and Jeff Mercer.

Though the men never met and while one was a state employee and the other a private contractor, together, the two represent the composite poster child for victims of political favoritism and corruption. Both fell prey to unethical behavior and of the way political priorities have been set by the Jindal administration for the past eight years.

We have chronicled the manner in which Jindal and his henchmen made Painter a scapegoat by firing him from his post as director of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC). We have shown how, when he refused to knuckle under and bend the rules for the benefit of Anheuser-Busch distributor Southern Eagle, SMG (the Louisiana Superdome management company), the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED) Board, and Tom Benson, Jindal not only fired Painter but even tried (unsuccessfully) to prosecute him in federal district court on bogus criminal charges of computer fraud.

Not only was Painter acquitted of all (there were 42 counts, none of which stuck) charges, but the state then was required to repay Painter’s legal costs of $474,000.

http://louisianavoice.com/2014/10/24/another-embarrassment-for-jindal-ex-atc-commissioner-murphy-painter-wins-defamation-suit-against-his-accuser/

LouisianaVoice was the first—and only—news service to suggest (correctly, it turned out) that Painter, instead of a criminal, was the victim of a political scheme intended to remove him from his position after he refused to approve an incomplete application by SMG for a permit to erect a large tent at Benson’s Champions Square adjacent to Benson Towers across from the Superdome. The tent was to house beer sales by Southern Eagle on Saints game days. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/06/emerging-claims-lawsuits-could-transform-murphy-painter-from-predator-to-all-too-familiar-victim-of-jindal-reprisals/

Jindal executive counsel Stephen Waguespack, now President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), insisted—twice—that the permit be expedited, Painter asked that he put his concerns in writing but Waguespack responded that he was far too busy to reduce his demands to writing (which would’ve left a paper trail, don’t you see).

Instead, Painter was simply fired and SMG got its permit. Of course, it was mere coincidence that the Benson family, SMG, its law firm, Southern Eagle and members of the LSED Board had combined to dump more than $207,000 into Jindal’s campaigns between 2002 and 2012.

Quick as the Jindal crowd was to administer justice (read reprisals) in the Painter case, it was painfully slow in ferreting out reports of corruption in one of the largest agencies in the state—the Department of Transportation and Development—and even slower in addressing those reports with the proper corrective measures. The fact is, nothing was ever done about reports of attempted shakedowns of a DOTD contractor and the subsequent harassment of that same contractor that eventually put him out of business.

It turned out to be an expensive oversight on the state’s part.

On Friday, a 12-person jury returned a unanimous verdict in which it awarded Jeff Mercer of Mangham $20 million, plus eight years (and counting) of judicial interest for allowing DOTD supervisors to condone demands of cash and equipment from Mercer by a DOTD inspector (we call that extortion where I come from; the inspector allegedly threatened Mercer with inspection problems with his work). Moreover, Mercer was able to prove that DOTD deliberately withheld payments for work performed by Mercer as payback for his whistleblowing, first reported by LouisianaVoice in April of 2012. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/04/09/contractor-claims-in-lawsuit-that-dotd-official-attempted-shake-down-for-cash-equipment-during-monroe-work/

http://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/05/story-of-attempted-contractor-shakedown-broken-2-years-ago-by-louisianavoice-results-in-20-million-verdict-against-state/

Mercer had even taken his complaint to the governor’s office, but nothing was ever done. No referral to the Inspector General’s office. The IG, by the way, works directly for and answers only to the governor and was prompt enough to bring charges against Painter three years ago.

So, the question must be asked: why was the governor’s office not front and center in taking appropriate action on reports of extortion, threats of federal prosecution against Mercer, and refusals to pay for work performed by him?

Why was the demand for compliance so urgent in the Painter case and the concern so lacking in the Mercer case?

To paraphrase Jindal: two words.

Campaign contributions.

Benson, SMG, and members of the LSED Board were major Jindal campaign contributors. Mercer was not.

Benson and his associates were friends of Jindal and as such, they possessed massive political power that the governor could not ignore—nor did he wish to.

Mercer was a small contractor from the small North Louisiana town of Mangham, situated about halfway between Winnsboro and Rayville—and smaller than each of those. He was not influential.

He was, they thought, an insignificant little nobody who could be ignored because he had neither the influence nor the political muscle to make himself heard over the rattle of dinner plates at the governor’s mansion or over the lofty, self-serving campaign rhetoric about Jindal’s gold standard of ethics.

The administration, it turns out, committed the worst tactical error possible in warfare and politics: it vastly underestimated the determination of a little man when he is truly pissed and it woefully underestimated the indignation and ire of a 12-person jury upon their hearing of the injustice heaped upon one of their own by an uncaring bureaucracy and of the unscrupulous actions of those within that same bureaucracy.

And boy, does it ever feel good when the underdog wins one!

 

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