Archive for the ‘Boards’ Category

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

Wow. Who saw that coming?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can hardly wait.


Read Full Post »


An interesting civil trial is transpiring at the 19th Judicial District Court. Though estimates vary, if the plaintiffs prevail, about one taxpayer in five in the Greater Baton Rouge area may eventually wind up with a surprise check in the mail.

The trial involves a group of taxpayers, now represented as a class, who have sued the Amite River Basin Commission (ARBC) over what they claim are vastly overpaid property taxes covering construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal. The project was originally envisioned after the massive 1983 flood which resulted in significant backwater flooding long after rains had stopped. The concept behind the project involves providing a sort of relief valve (the Canal) to divert water from the Comite River into the Mississippi River. By lowering the water level of the Comite River, water levels would also be lowered in the Amite River basin in flood-prone areas such as Port Vincent and French Settlement.

What is in dispute is the amount of funding for which the ARBC (through local property owners) is responsible. The original estimate of the project’s construction costs was approximately $120 million (the current estimate is $199 million). Of that $120 million, the Army Corps of Engineers (through the Federal government) was to be responsible for 70% of the construction costs, or $84 million. The remaining $36 million cost was originally designated to be $30 million to the State of Louisiana, and $6 million to the ARBC.

A sidebar to the whole affair is how a Baton Rouge lawyer is legally or ethically able to represent ARBC when he also served as the plaintiff attorney in litigation against the state that could ultimately cost the state from $60 million to $70 million.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have indicated that $6 million was the full extent of the construction costs for which the ARBC was responsible. To date, by way of a 3-mill property tax approved by voters in the District in 2000, combined with a renewal (at 2.65 mills) of that tax in 2010, plaintiff attorneys say about $24.5 million has been collected to date. The suit seeks a refund of the alleged $18.5 million overpayment.

At various stages in the trial, plaintiff attorneys have accused ARBC Executive Director Deitmar Rietschier of financial mismanagement and voter deception in order to “keep a project alive that is on life support.”

The attorneys have argued that Rietschier has an ulterior motive for over-collecting on the tax in order to fund his own $93,000+ annual salary along with his executive secretary’s $38,000 salary.  The board’s executive secretary, Toni Guitrau, also happens to be the Mayor of the Livingston Parish Village of French Settlement.

So, basically, the trial boils down to the claim that taxpayers of the district have been tricked into paying around $1.1 million in salaries for Rietschier and Guitrau during a period for which no funding has been appropriated for the project’s continued construction.

Plaintiff attorney Steve Irving argued that it is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the final cost of the project or if, it may even be completed.

Defense attorney Larry Bankston says there never was any intent to cap the ARBC’s contribution to construction costs at $6 million. He argues that the Canal project remains viable and is fully ongoing. He indicated that he has eight more witnesses to call.

Bankston’s roles as both plaintiff and defense attorney in cases involving the state would appear to pose a conflict of interests. Currently, he is:

  • Legal counsel to the State Auctioneer Licensing Board under a $25,000 contract;
  • Defense attorney for ARBC in its ongoing litigation over the overpayment of taxes to that board;
  • Plaintiff attorney in ongoing litigation against the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, and the state’s Rice Promotion Board and Rice Research Board over claims of excessive assessments against the state’s rice farmers.

Employing the doctrine that “the state is the state is the state,” it would appear that Bankston may have a conflict of interests under the code of ethics which governs attorney representation.

But as we discovered years ago, nothing is ever cut and dried in the legal world. And it’s obvious those in charge of attorney ethics or either ignorant of the subject or protective of their peers—or both.

And so it is with this question. We contacted a number of organizations, including the Attorney Disciplinary Board, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, and the State Bar Ethics Council and each one punted. Eric K. Barefield of the State Bar Association’s Ethics Council did finally respond to our email question about the propriety of working both sides of Litigation Street but his answer did little to shed light on the issue:

“Thank you for your inquiry. The Louisiana State Bar Association’s Ethics Advisory Service is designed to provide eligible Louisiana-licensed lawyers with informal, non-binding advice regarding their own prospective conduct and/or ethical dilemmas under the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct (the “LRPC”).  According to limitations set by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, we are not permitted to evaluate contemplated disciplinary complaints, to serve as the catalyst for potential complaints or even to comment on the conduct of lawyers other than that of the requesting lawyer. 

“As such, regrettably, we are not permitted to help you evaluate whether the lawyer in your scenario has or may be violating the LRPC nor are we permitted to give you legal advice on matters such as those contained in your e-mail. 

“In addition to the foregoing, if you are concerned about protecting and/or asserting your rights and interests in this matter, perhaps you should strongly consider consulting another lawyer as soon as possible with regard to getting an evaluation of your facts and a legal opinion about your rights, interests and options.  Regrettably, no one on the staff at the LSBA is permitted to offer legal assistance and/or legal advice.”

That rendition of the Bureaucratic Shuffle would easily get a “10″ rating on Dancing with the Stars.

Bankston, you may remember, is a former staff attorney for the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, was assistant parish attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish and a member of the Baton Rouge City-Parish Commission before his 1987 election to the Louisiana State Senate.

In 1994, while serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bankston met in his law office with Fred Goodson, owner of a Slidell video poker truck stop. The FBI later said Bankston and Goodson discussed a plan to manipulate the legislative process in order to protect the interests of video poker companies in exchange for providing key legislators secret financial interests in video poker truck stops.

Bankston was subsequently indicted and convicted on two racketeering counts, one of which was a scheme whereby Goodson would pay Bankston “rent” of $1,555 per month for “non-use” of Bankston’s beachfront condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama—a bribe, according to prosecutors.

Bankston was sentenced to 41 months in prison in 1997 and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

Released on Nov. 6, 2000, Bankston was subsequently disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Mar. 9, 2002, retroactive to Nov. 19, 1997, but was re-admitted to practice law on Feb. 5, 2004.

So, now he represents two state boards and is suing two others and a state agency.

And there apparently is no one who can—or will—call a foul in this game.


Read Full Post »

“The record is replete with instances in which Mr. Begue acted as prosecutor throughout the proceedings, and at times, simultaneously acted as prosecutor, panel member and independent counsel—even ruling on his own objection.”

—Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal unanimous decision on Sept. 26, 2012, to reverse the the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry’s 2010 revocation of the license of Shreveport dentist Dr. C. Ryan Haygood.

“Based upon our review of the record, we find that Mr. Begue’s functions of general counsel, independent counsel, prosecutor and fact-finder were so interwoven that they became indistinguishable, which created the appearance of impropriety and deprived the proceedings of the imperative and fundamental appearance of fairness. Therefore, the board’s decision to revoke Dr. Haygood’s license must be reversed.”

—Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, in that same decision.

Read Full Post »

When we wrote on March 7 that the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry (LSBD) functions simultaneously as adjudicator, prosecutor, judge and jury in disciplinary hearings against dental professionals, we were not embellishing or fudging the facts. Quite the contrary; we were being quite literal.

Take the behavior of LSBD legal counsel Brian Begue, for example, in the 2010 hearing on charges brought against former Shreveport dentist C. Ryan Haygood, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a degree in molecular biology and the LSU School of Dentistry.

Since 1995, Begue, rather than serve as a staff attorney at a set salary, has received eight separate contracts from the board totaling an eye-popping $2.825 million, including $450,000 for each of the last five three-year contracts.

(And State Sen. Robert Adley, Gov. Bobby Jindal and others are carping about the attorney general hiring a private law firm to pursue that lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East? But that’s another story.)

Begue’s role in his capacity as board legal counsel, according to a Sept. 26, 2012, ruling by the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans, is restricted to that of an advisor “who is independent of complaint counsel and who has not participated in the investigation or prosecution of the case.” (Emphasis added.)

The appeal court, in its ruling, noted that Begue “participated in the hearing before the board’s panel both as prosecutor and adjudicator” during Haygood’s hearing before the board. An adjudicator is one who presides, judges and arbitrates during a formal dispute and as such, may rule on evidentiary objections and other procedural questions if so delegated to do so by the board chairman.

Moreover, the court said, the LSBD “condoned Mr. Begue’s behavior and failed to acknowledge Dr. Haygood’s objection that Mr. Begue was overstepping his role in the proceedings.”

The appeal court went even further to say that the board’s hearing record was “replete with instances in which Mr. Begue acted as prosecutor throughout the proceedings, and at times simultaneously acted as prosecutor, panel member and independent counsel,” and noted that in a separate 1997 case, the Louisiana Supreme Court said that the “commingling of prosecutorial and adjudicative functions violates both the letter of the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act and the due process goals it is designed to further.” The idea of the same person serving as judge and prosecutor “is anathema under our notions of due process. Such a scenario is devoid of the appearance of fairness,” The appeal court said.

To fully appreciate the extent of Begue’s—and by its complicity, the board’s—willingness to disregard any semblance of fairness or due process, consider this gem: the court observed that Begue’s brazen behavior went so far as “even ruling on his own objection.” (emphasis added.)

The absurdity of such actions brings to mind the episode of the old Danny Thomas CBS series Make Room for Daddy in which he launched The Andy Griffith Show. In that episode, Thomas, in the role of Danny Williams, is pulled over for speeding by Griffith in the role of Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor. At the courthouse, it turns out that Andy is also the judge and when he imposes a fine, Danny demands to speak to the mayor. “All right,” drawls Andy as he picks up the phone and tells the operator to give him the mayor’s office. A second phone on the desk of the sheriff/judge rings and Taylor picks it up and answers, “Mayor’s office, Mayor speaking.”

Any first-year law student would know an attorney cannot rule on his own objection. That is very definition of a kangaroo court. And if he is not acquainted with that basic rule that every high school debater knows, the practice of law is the last occupation he should be pursuing. Perhaps he would be better suited to cleaning Porta-Johns.

And for that, he holds a $450,000 contract with the board.

But it gets better.

Ten years earlier, in hearings on charges against Dr. Randall Schaffer, Begue had openly violated a Louisiana Supreme Court order to cease participating in board proceedings by serving as both prosecutor and board general counsel. Yet, he continued that same practice in Dr. Haygood’s hearings before the board—and in all likelihood, will again in the next case against some unsuspecting dentist.

Haygood ultimately was convicted on eight separate charges, three of which had been dropped before his hearing took place, a quantum stretch its own right on the part of the board. He was fined $5,000 on each of the eight counts ($40,000) and ordered to pay not only his own attorney fees but those of the board and the fees of board investigator Camp Morrison (combined total of $133,000), for a total financial penalty of $173,000. Additionally, the board ordered permanent revocation of Haygood’s dentistry license.

The activities of board-contracted private investigator Morrison are almost as bad—except he has received eight contracts since 1997 totaling “only” $1.735 million, more than a million dollars less than Begue, but still nothing to sneeze at.

What’s more, the board pushed a bill through the Louisiana Legislature two years ago that allows the board to provide legal representation for Morrison—at the board’s (read: taxpayer) cost, a benefit bestowed upon no other state contractor.

Also, Morrison is provided a rent-free office in the LSBD suite on the 26th floor of One Canal Place in New Orleans, a suite for which the board pays a whopping $4,700 per month in rent.

Occasionally, contract workers for state agencies are provided work space in state offices but that is only for those jobs which cannot be performed offsite. But it is unheard of for a state contractor to be provided legal representation. In fact, the reverse is true. Contractors are required to maintain their own errors and omission insurance and to provide their own legal counsel in case of litigation—and those contracts contain hold harmless clauses, or indemnification, for the state.

So, the question obviously is what did Dr. Haygood do to bring the wrath of the LSDB down upon him?

A better question might be what did Morrison and Begue do?

We will attempt to address the two questions in order.

Apparently, Haygood’s biggest sin was opening offices in Shreveport and Bossier City and initiating an aggressive advertising campaign that resulted in attracting former patients of prominent Shreveport dentist Ross Dies who was one of several defendants named in a federal lawsuit filed by Haygood.

Other defendants include Morrison; unlicensed investigators Karen Moorhead and Dana Glorioso hired by Morrison and who Haygood says posed as patients, giving him false symptoms in order to help Morrison build his case against Haywood; former LSDB executive director Barry Ogden; members of LSBD, and several dentists who Haygood says assisted LSDB in its investigation of him.

The fact that board member Dr. H.O. Blackwood also was a Haygood competitor in the Shreveport area didn’t help, Haygood says in his lawsuit.

Haygood says in his lawsuit that Ogden and Begue were “well aware” at the time Ogden appointed Begue as independent counsel that Begue had already “participated in the investigation or prosecution of the case” against Haygood. “In fact, Begue began discussing the investigation with Morrison as early as April 2007, at the outset of the investigation, and he conducted conversations with Ogden, Morrison and other board members regarding the status of the investigation long before he (Begue) was appointed independent counsel.” Haygood said that as long-time counsel for the board, Begue “was aware that his activities prior to the appointment by Ogden disqualified him for service as independent counsel.”

Haygood said that aggressive, unrestrained investigation tactics employed by Morrison and Begue “create an obligation of the board to pay costs that it is typically unable to pay,” costs that are passed on to the dentist under investigation if he is convicted—and few brought before the board escape without some type of monetary penalty.

“Morrison utilizes coercive and threatening tactics when interviewing witnesses,” Haygood said. While conducting his investigation of Haygood, for example, Morrison appeared at the home of Haygood’s hygienist, Julie Snyder, at 8:30 p.m. during her maternity leave, the lawsuit says. “Finding her home alone with her newborn baby, Morrison told Snyder that he knew that she and Haygood were guilty and pressed her to admit wrongdoing, Haygood says, adding that other dentists “have had to have police officers assist in removing Morrison from their offices after he refused to leave.”

It should be noted that when a dentist is brought before the board for a hearing on charges brought against him, the board is represented by Begue and another lawyer designated as the prosecuting attorney. The dentist, on the other hand, is not allowed to have legal representation before the board.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, in its September 2012 ruling, noted that board member Dr. Conrad McVea, Jr. directed Morrison “to send people in” to Haygood’s offices. This was the son of former board member Conrad McVea, Sr. who told Dr. Randall Schaffer, who is Jewish, that he could never maintain the professional standard of care in his practice because he had never accepted Jesus as his personal savior. The obvious question here is: are board memberships passed down from father to son like some type of inheritance or family heirloom?

Moorhead was recommended as one of the two unlicensed investigators to pose as patients by Dr. White Graves, a former board member and Moorhead’s employer, the Fourth Circuit decision says.

“Dr. Haygood argues that he was not afforded due process at the hearing before the board,” the appeal court said. “He also contends that during four days of testimony, Mr. Begue ‘repeatedly interfered and zealously advocated on behalf of the board by cross-examining witnesses, supplying objections to complaint counsel, and questioning the credibility of Dr. Haygood.’

“We have comprehensively reviewed the transcripts of the four-day hearing and we agree with Dr. Haygood’s representation of Mr. Begue’s actions.”

The Fourth Circuit’s decision further said that Begue’s “twofold role as prosecutor and adjudicator violated Dr. Haygood’s right to a hearing that is fair and impartial. The type of commingling found in this case is strictly prohibited by the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act.

“Based upon our review of the record, we find that Mr. Begue’s functions of general counsel, independent counsel, prosecutor and fact-finder were so interwoven that they became indistinguishable, which created the appearance of impropriety and deprived the proceedings of the imperative and fundamental appearance of fairness.

“Therefore, the board’s decision to revoke Dr. Haygood’s license must be reversed,” the ruling said, adding that the board “improperly combined the prosecutorial and judicial functions by allowing its general counsel, Mr. Begue, to serve as the prosecutor, general counsel, panel member and adjudicator for the proceedings. We hold this conduct is violative of the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act and Dr. Haygood’s due process right to a neutral adjudicator and a fair hearing.”

“We find the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry’s decision to revoke Dr. C. Ryan Haygood’s dental license is arbitrary and capricious; therefore, we reverse the trial court’s judgment (the state district court had earlier upheld most of the board’s actions) which affirmed the revocation of Dr. Haygood’s license and remand this matter to the board for a new hearing.”

Wait. What? Remanded to the board for a new hearing?

Yep. The Haygood matter went right back to the board to be heard by the same panel.

You don’t need three tries to guess the odds of a different outcome for the rehearing. One might have a better chance in Warren Buffett’s $1 billion prize for picking the winner of every game in the NCAA March Madness bracket.

Haygood, realizing he would never receive a fair hearing, much less a different outcome in repeated appearances before the board, finally packed up his chair and drill and moved to North Carolina where he currently practices his trade. But because he refuses to give the board the satisfaction of backing down, his hearing is still pending.

And that is how kangaroo courts work.

Read Full Post »

“I’s here.”

—Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board Vice Chairman James Sims and consumer member Greg Bordelon, both responding to roll call at the board’s Nov. 5, 2012, meeting in apparent mocking of fellow member Rev. Freddie Phillips, who is black. The incident was reported in the Baton Rouge Advocate:  article

Read Full Post »

By Robert Burns

LouisianaVoice writer

Following up our recent post regarding shill bidding and the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB) turning a blind eye to the illegal practice, I’ll now shift to another alarming aspect:  racism.  To get the true tone and tenor of that racism, I would encourage readers to click on the audio links supplied in this post and merely listen to (or watch) what is said.

As mentioned in our first installment, Rev. Freddie Phillips was appointed to the LALB in early 2008.  He is the first and, to date, only African American auctioneer in Louisiana’s history.  Rev. Phillips attended the 2008 National Auctioneer’s Association (NAA) convention soon after he joined the LALB.  He wasn’t aware that, as an LALB Member, he was entitled to have his trip paid for by the LALB.  Upon his return and learning that fact, he applied for reimbursement.  His request, however, became engulfed in an ocean of technicalities (most notably reimbursement being sought after the closeout of a fiscal year), so Rev. Phillips ultimately ceased pursuit of the reimbursement.  Instead, he informed me that he would seek approval to attend the 2010 NAA Convention as an LALB representative instead.

Accordingly, at the May, 2010 LALB meeting, Rev. Phillips made what he thought would be a simple request to attend the Convention.  He quickly got a surprise, however, when I was the only other LALB member voting to approve his request.  He thus became the first LALB member to be denied the privilege of attending as a Board representative.  Many board members, in explaining why they opted not to approve his attendance, were rude and mean-spirited in their assessment of Rev. Phillips.  Those assessments included former long-time LALB chairman Delmar “Buster” Gay’s saying that  Rev. Phillips may be an embarrassment at the convention.  Then-Vice Chairman (now Chairman) Tessa Steinkamp also said that she wouldn’t want Rev. Phillips to represent the LALB.

Frustrated in his efforts, Rev. Phillips began seeking historical LALB travel records, only to face demands by then-Chairman James Comer and former long-time Chairman Gay as to why he wanted the records. (Editor’s note: Louisiana’s public records laws expressly prohibit any inquiry into why a citizen would want to see any public record.) The badgering reached an apex when Comer told Rev. Phillips to get an attorney and sue the LALB.  As evidenced by the preceding audio clip, Comer also indicated that Rev. Phillips and I may end up “by theirselves (sic),” implying that Gov. Jindal may soon remove one or both of us from the LALB (a prophetic statement as I was subsequently terminated).  Rev. Phillips  finally spoke up, saying, “I don’t have to take this.”   Others also spoke up in his behalf.  First, I defended him.  Also, audience member (and then-auctioneer) Nell Stuart expressed her displeasure with comments made regarding Rev. Phillips.  Finally, Rev. Phillips’ then-Representative, Rep. Regina Barrow, whom Rev. Phillips and I invited so she could witness first-hand the relentless attacks, voiced her own observations of “underlying issues” that she’d witnessed.

All of the audios in the preceding paragraph transpired at one meeting (which would turn out to be my last):  August 2, 2010.  I sent all of these audios clips (and others) to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office and relayed my sentiments that the kind of conduct being exhibited by Chairman Comer, former long-time Chairman Buster Gay, then-Vice Chairman (now Chairman) Steinkamp, and others was completely unacceptable and that I expected either changes or that other more professional board members would be recruited to serve.  I also made it clear to the Jindal administration that I intended to provide these audio clips to anyone who requested them or may have interest in them.  I was given my walking papers (I believe the term is teagued) by Gov. Jindal 39 days later.  What Gov. Jindal nor the Board counted on was that my ouster would leave me free me video subsequent meetings.

The August 2, 2010, LALB meeting prompted Rep. Barrow to address board and commission appointments in general at a special meeting of the Joint Committee on Governmental Affairs on November 17, 2010.  She requested that a representative from the LALB attend to answer any questions the panel may pose but only Rev. Phillips and Ms. Steinkamp attended.

Rev. Phillips never received a check for his attendance at that legislative hearing even though the LALB had no qualms about issuing Ms. Steinkamp a check for her $97 per diem for her attendance. When Rev. Phillips inquired why he didn’t receive a per diem payment,  Executive Director, Sandy Edmonds, said that since Rev. Phillips was “suing the board” (Rev. Phillips filed a Writ of Mandamus to obtain travel records which Chairman Comer was refusing to provide), he “should not be a representative of the board.”

Following is a list of a few of the events involving Rev. Phillips that have transpired since my ouster from the LALB:

1.  1/10/11:  Rev. Phillips repeatedly threatened with lawsuits for questioning the fact the LALB didn’t vote to approve its attorney charging for time attending an NAA Convention (the same one he was denied being able to attend).  The threats begin at the 3:09 mark of this video.  The lawsuit treat was followed up in writing soon thereafter.  (Note:  By the time of that meeting, former long-time Chairman Buster Gay’s LALB membership had been severed.  Also the 1/10/11 meeting turned out to be Chairman Comer’s last meeting as his membership was severed days after the meeting).

2.  7/17/11:  Rev. Phillips’ license is threatened for attempting to bring up issues at New Orleans Auction Galleries (NOAG), which filed bankruptcy on 4/1/11 and employed LALB Chairman Steinkamp as its “Vice President, Director, and Treasurer.”  Chairman Steinkamp begins her threat at the 1:33 mark of this video.  At the time of bankruptcy, NOAG had over $600,000 in unpaid consignors and had been paying company operating expenses with consignor escrowed funds, yet Chairman Steinkamp, her position with NOAG notwithstanding, never alerted the LALB to any problems at NOAG and the LALB instead learned of them via the bankruptcy filing.

3.  9/17/11:  Rev. Phillips is asked four times within a two-minute span if he is “carrying a weapon.”   There’s no way to know if there’s a correlation, but Board Attorney Anna Dow sent then-Chairman Comer this letter dated July 25, 2010 relaying that the females feel a need for security in light of “events over the last few years.”  From the August 2, 2010 meeting on, the LALB has employed an EBRP Deputy (Ronald Landry) at all its meeting at a cost of $160/meeting.  Rev. Phillips told me that the “are you carrying a weapon” inquiry was the proverbial “last straw” and that he informed Gov. Jindal’s administration hat he would not agree to serve another concurrent term and that Jindal needed to begin searching for a replacement for his second term.  Gov. Jindal did appoint a replacement days after he began serving his second term.

4.  11/05/12: At the first LALB meeting that Phillips missed in more than four years, LALB Vice Chairman James Sims and Consumer Member Greg Bordelon respond to the roll call with “I’s here.”  Rev. Phillips requested that I submit that audio clip to Gov. Jindal’s Office, so I did.  Accordingly, knowing that an article in The Advocate was pending about the incident, Gov. Jindal’s office requested that the Inspector General’s Office investigate the matter.  The IG’s Office issued this report in which Sims attributed his response to his “diabetes and dentures.”  Bordelon, meanwhile, denied answering the roll call in that manner in the Advocate article but ultimately admitted he did make the roll call response but said he was “merely mocking Sims, a North Louisiana redneck.”  Shortly after release of the IG report, The Advocate published this article of the report’s findings.  Bordelon’s LALB membership was severed about three months later.  Mr. Sims continues to serve as LALB Vice Chairman.

Rev. Phillips decided that it would be a good idea for the LAPA website to have an “embarrassment index” which was alphabetized by board member or affiliate.  It was an excellent suggestion, and here’s that alphabetized link of embarrassments for anyone who’d like to see it.  Perhaps future LALB meetings will provide additional material.

Read Full Post »

Robert Burns of Baton Rouge, a former fraud investigator, has agreed to join LouisianaVoice as an underpaid (read: gratis) researcher and contributing writer. His initial series of stories will chronicle his experiences as a member of the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board. 

—Tom Aswell


By Robert Burns

LouisianaVoice writer

Following up on Tom Aswell’s recent posts regarding the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, there is another State Board with an extensive history of questionable activity:  The Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB). The board is comprised of five auctioneers and two at-large “consumer” members.  The board’s actions include turning a blind eye to an illegal practice called “shill bidding,” ignoring the apparent victimization of elderly auction clients, racism and possible travel voucher and payroll fraud.

In early 2008, Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed me and a very good friend, Rev. Freddie Phillips (Louisiana’s first and only African American auctioneer) to the LALB.  Rev. Phillips and I each endured relatively short, tumultuous tenures on the LALB due to our observations of abuse and the fact that we did not (and do not) hold back in voicing our displeasure with that abuse.

In fact, sensing that Louisiana’s then-only auctioneer trade association, the Louisiana Auctioneer’s Association (LAA), seemed to openly encourage these practices (particularly shill bidding), Rev. Phillips decided to form a second association, the Louisiana Association of Professional Auctioneers (LAPA).  Although he invited any auctioneer willing to adhere to LAPA’s strict code of ethics to join only two others, myself and auctioneer JonEric Kramer, did so. Other auctioneers, and especially LALB Members, became furious that LAPA’s website, Rev. Phillips’ brainchild, so readily exposes widespread unethical activity within the auction industry.

My post for today focuses on the issue dearest to me: shill bidding.

LAPA’s first tenet is vigorous opposition to shill bidding, an illegal auction practice in which plants are placed in the audience by the auctioneer or seller for the sole purpose of driving up the bid with no intention to buy the property.  The practice is illegal unless it is divulged to the auction bidders; however, the practice is pandemic in Louisiana’s auction industry. In my opinion, shill bidding is literally destroying the auction industry. The entire auction process hinges on the public being able to rely upon that process for market transparency. When shills are introduced, the transparency is destroyed and the public rapidly becomes cynical and justifiably distrustful of auctioneers.

The issue of shill bidding came to a boil in 2010 when then-Rep. Damon Baldone (D-Houma) asserted that auctioneer Barbara Bonnette, an Alexandria-based auctioneer, tried to artificially inflate his $675,000 bid on an historic home in Thibodaux by falsely representing that a $700,000 bid had arisen when, in reality, it had not.  Rep. Baldone was furious over the attempt to “steal” $55,000 from him (by advancing his bid to $725,000, from $675,000, plus a 10% buyer’s premium associated with that advancement).  As a result, during the 2010 legislative session, he introduced a bill (HB 1439) to make shill bidding a crime and declare it “theft by nonviolent means.” That’s when all hell broke loose in the Louisiana auction industry. I testified in favor of Baldone’s bill,  and overnight became the most hated auctioneer in Louisiana.  LAPA has a webpage to explain shill bidding, and another to  publicize statements made by auctioneers in public forums about shill bidding.  Those public statements include prominent Livingston-based equipment auctioneer Marvin Henderson testifying in strong opposition to the bill, State Rep. John E. “Johnny” Guinn, R\-Jennings (who is himself a Louisiana-licensed auctioneer) stating publicly to the LALB that he was “embarrassed” by my testimony, the formal reading into the House records of the nineteen (19) auctioneers testifying or stating vigorous opposition to the bill, auctioneer Joe Massey relaying he felt I had “stabbed auctioneers in the back,” auctioneer Marvin Henderson trivializing my auction career.  All of this furor over my steadfast resolve that auctioneers ought to obey the laws prohibiting shill bidding (or fully disclosing it to conform with the law).  So, I found myself as a sitting member of the LALB, an agency for which the stated purpose is to “protect the public” (which is precisely what shill bidding laws are designed to do), and I became public enemy number one among Louisiana auctioneers for adhering to the very Oath I took when becoming an LALB Member!

My testimony led to immediate actions by LALB Members and the auctioneer community to have me removed from the LALB.  First, then-LALB Chairman James Kenneth Comer sought to have ethics charges brought against me for my testimony.  Ironically, in the weeks leading up to my testimony, LALB Executive Director Sandy Edmonds was actively recruiting auctioneers via phone, including me, to testify against the bill (she was doing so at the behest of then-Chairman Comer).  Rev. Phillips received a similar phone call, and I confirmed that prominent Kenner-based real estate auctioneer Dave Gilmore had also gotten such a call.  So, Chairman Comer, through Ms. Edmonds, was actively recruiting auctioneers to testify against the bill, a practice which is clearly an ethical violation (to recruit either for or against), yet he would seek to have ethics charges against me for my testimony in favor of the bill. The Ethics Board quickly relayed that I had in no way committed an ethics violation as I was “expressing (my) opinion regarding shill bidding and not those of the LALB.”

Immediately after my testimony in favor of Baldone’s bill, I was approached by several auctioneers in the hallway.  One of the auctioneers, State Rep. John E. “Johnny” Guinn (R-Jennings), used profanity in berating me over my testimony.  The incident got so bad that I filed a police report with Capitol Police.  The officer who took my report relayed that he personally delivered it to then-House Speaker Jim Tucker.  The officer relayed to me that Speaker Tucker was furious over Guinn’s conduct.  Speaker Tucker, in turn, delivered the police report to Jindal’s office, and that was the last I ever heard of it.  However, I have strong reason to believe that my filing clearly infuriated Guinn as evidenced by Guinn mailing this letter to Gov. Jindal seeking my removal from the LALB.  Nine days later, Jindal complied and sought my resignation.  His “Special Assistant,” Jonathan Ringo (who now is an associate attorney with Jimmy Faircloth’s firm), upon my asking him why my resignation was being sought, said only that “things just aren’t working out.”  When I refused to resign, Gov. Jindal terminated my services effective September 10, 2010.

As I’ll demonstrate in my next installment, my shill bidding testimony was likely not the only reason Jindal removed me from the LALB.  I was complaining bitterly to his office regarding my observation of blatant racism on the LALB regarding Rev. Phillips.


Read Full Post »

Our friend C.B. Forgotston was first to point out an apparent violation when the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hired a legislative liaison and agency advocate/lobbyist. http://forgotston.com/

Now, LouisianaVoice has come upon a recent opinion by the Louisiana Board of Ethics in Absentia which would seem to validate Forgotston’s cynicism. (By way of explanation, the Board of Ethics in Absentia is the agency formerly known simply as the Board of Ethics before Gov. Jindal set the “gold standard of ethics” when he gutted the board’s powers barely a month after taking office in 2008.)

The Baton Rouge Advocate published a brief, five-paragraph story a week ago (March 10) in which it announced that the Department of Children and Family Services had hired a new legislative liaison in the person of Dave Pearce at a salary of $75,000 a year.

Pearce, who previously worked as assistant director of constituent services in Jindal’s office (yes, they’re bailing out over there), moved into the unclassified position where he will serve as “executive lead on all federal and state legislative matters for DCFS,” the Advocate said.

But the most revealing part of the story was contained in the last paragraph in which the newspaper pointed out that documents submitted to Civil Service indicated that the position serves as a lobbyist and advocate on behalf of the DCFS.

Forgotston was quick to point out that Pearson may be in violation of two state laws, assuming the newspaper account is correct. He cited two statutes to support his position:

  • La. R.S. 24:56(F) provides: No state employee in his official capacity or on behalf of his employer shall lobby for or against any matter intended to have the effect of law pending before the legislature or any committee thereof. Nothing herein shall prohibit the dissemination of factual information relative to any such matter or the use of public meeting rooms or meeting facilities available to all citizens to lobby for or against any such matter. (Emphasis Forgotston’s.);
  • La. R.S. 43:31(D) provides:   No branch, department, agency, official, employee, or other entity of state government shall expend funds of, administered by, or under the control of any branch, department, agency, employee, official, or other entity of state government to print material or otherwise to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition on an election ballot nor shall such funds be used to lobby for or against any proposition or matter having the effect of law being considered by the legislature or any local governing authority. This provision shall not prevent the normal dissemination of factual information relative to a proposition on any election ballot or a proposition or matter having the effect of law being considered by the legislature or any local governing authority. (Emphasis Forgotston’s.)

“In other words, no state employee shall lobby nor shall any public funds be used to lobby,” he said.

Jindal, with the sage legal counsel of Jimmy Faircloth, might well respond with the classic line, “I understand the situation but I don’t see the problem.”

Well, we did a little checking of our own and found that even though lobbyists are required to be registered with the Board of Ethics Emeritus, Pearce’s name is nowhere to be found on the lengthy roster of state lobbyists.

And then, we did a little more digging and found a fairly recent opinion of the Bored of Ethics that addresses that very scenario. (We’re being a bit unfair to the Ethics Board because it was Jindal’s legislation in 2008 that removed the board’s enforcement powers, thus reducing its status to that of an advisory board only.)

In a Sept. 24, 2013, two-page letter to Brian Begue, legal counsel for the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry (LSBD), ethics staff attorney Aneatra P. Boykin responded to a number of questions posed by Begue:

  • Are (dentistry) board members considered state employees under state law?
  • Are state employees and public servants considered the same?
  • What is the effect of state statute which defines public employees as board officers and its employee(s)?
  • What is the effect of state statutes which sate that employment does not include appointed officials?
  • May the members approach their own legislators regarding legislation affecting the practice of dentistry or dental hygiene?
  • May (board members) approach their own legislators regarding legislation having nothing to do with the regulation of dentistry or dental hygiene?
  • Must (board members) register as lobbyist(s) if the answer to the questions is in the affirmative?

“The (Ethics) Board concluded and instructed me to advise you that the lobbying laws under the jurisdiction of the Board of Ethics apply to members of the Dentistry Board,” Boykin said. She said state statutes provide “that no state employee in his official capacity or on behalf of his employer shall lobby for or against any matter intended to have the effect of law pending before the legislature or any committee thereof.”

She further said state statute “defines ‘public employee’ to include anyone, whether compensated or not, appointed by an elected official to a post to serve the governmental entity or an agency thereof or anyone performing a government function” and that a section of that same statute “defines public servant as a public employee or elected official.”

Members of the LSBD—and members of any other board appointed by the governor—are state employees under state law.

Accordingly, “Dentistry Board members may not have any direct communication with legislators regarding legislation affecting the practice of dentistry or dental hygiene or any other matter intended to have an effect of law pending before the legislature,” she said.

Nothing prohibits board members from disseminating factual information relative to dentistry or dental hygiene, she added.

So, if those same standards are applied to Pearce, he could have a definite problem in carrying out the duties of his new position.

But Forgotston, never one to leave his flank unprotected, has an answer for that as well, even if his suggestion is offered with tongue planted firmly in cheek:

“In the past, we know that Jindal appointees often believe that they are above the law. Without any repercussions, they have failed to follow laws such as having valid La. driver’s licenses, having Louisiana license plates on their personal vehicles and payment of the Use Tax on vehicles brought into Louisiana from other states.


  • A legislator should file and pass legislation during the 2014 Regular Session to repeal the above two provisions of the law.

Problem solved.

Read Full Post »

“This isn’t my face. I used to be real pretty.”

—Roblyn Ruggles, quoted in the Aug. 31, 1993 Wall Street Journal after eight oral-surgery procedures left her disfigured, without jaw joints, mouth permanently agape, and unable to bite into a sandwich or purse her lips for a kiss—a victim of jaw implants marketed by Drs. John Kent of the LSU School of Dentistry and his partner Charles Homsy of Houston.

“Dr. (Conrad) McVea stated both to me and to the Board that I could not be expected to comply with professional standards because I had not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.”

–Dr. Randall Schaffer, who is Jewish, in his federal lawsuit against the Louisiana Board of Dentistry and its members, including Dr. McVea, its attorney and its private investigator after the board revoked his license when he turned whistleblower against Dr. Kent’s faulty jaw implant.

Read Full Post »

Suppose for a moment that you work as a technician for a large computer company and in the course of your duties, you discover the company is knowingly marketing computers with faulty hard drives destined to crash within a few months.

Imagine now that when you call the defect to the attention of your company CEO, you are fired, ostracized by your industry and unable to find employment because the word is on the street that you are disloyal and suddenly unreliable despite a stellar work record.

Taking this scenario a step further, you suddenly find yourself prosecuted—and persecuted—by your former company’s board of directors on vague charges of fraud and malfeasance. The board, you learn, will go to any length to defend its CEO—including the destruction of your career. Making matters worse, your accuser is also the prosecutor, the judge and the jury in your trial.

Even worse, when you walk into the courtroom, you are informed that you have already been convicted—without benefit of a trial—of unspecified crimes and that if you pay a fine of $25,000 and sign a consent decree, the matter will go away.

You are innocent of any wrongdoing, so of course you tell your accusers to take a long walk off a short pier.

They in turn inform you that there are other charges that haven’t even been mentioned yet and if you refuse to sign the consent decree and decide to stand and fight, your fine will increase to $100,000 or more—plus the fees of your own attorney and those of the prosecuting attorney—and the costs incurred by the “investigator” who discovered your crimes, costs which also could exceed $100,000.

Finally, you are told by one of the board members that you will never be allowed to work again in your field because of a difference in religious beliefs between you and the board.

Now give that company a name like say, the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, change the product from a computer hard drive to a dental implant and you have a pretty good idea of the plight of Dr. Randall Schaffer.

Schaffer, a 1982 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry with a Doctor of Dental Surgery, went on to two residencies at Charity Hospital and Louisiana State University Dental and Medical Center in New Orleans. Certified in General Dentistry in 1984 and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 1988, he entered into private practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery in 1988 in Marrero and in Corinth, Mississippi.

More than a decade earlier, Dr. John (Jack) Kent, head of the LSU School of Dentistry’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, developed a joint replacement device for temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) sufferers. Kent subsequently entered into an agreement with a Houston company, Vitek, and the company’s principal shareholders, Drs. Charles and Ann Homsy, to manufacture and market the Proplast implant.

It proved to be a lucrative arrangement for Kent who was given stock in Vitek and earned royalties of 2 percent to 4 percent on the sale of Vitek products. He also received monetary compensation for giving written and verbal presentations to oral and maxillofacial surgeons throughout the world, according to a lawsuit filed by Schaffer against Kent, LSU, members of the Dental Board, attorney Brian Begue and board investigator Camp Morrison.

It did not take long for the implants to begin to fail, causing disfigurement, excruciating pain and at least eight suicides, according to a July 29, 2002, story in U.S. News & World Report.

As a resident at LSU, Dr. Schaffer became aware of the negative effects to patients receiving the implants, which Schaffer described as “defective (100 percent) in all patients implanted.”

Schaffer says in his lawsuit that he informed Dr. Kent of the “disastrous results” of the implant but Kent refused to stop placement of the devices and “threatened Dr. Schaffer with dismissal should this information regarding the research and adverse results be made public.”

By 1989, Schaffer was in private practice and was assisting implant victims by offering consultation and corrective procedures at no charge. “As hundreds of cases came forward, Dr. Schaffer began assistant plaintiff attorneys in the cases against Dr. Kent, his associates, and Louisiana State University,” the lawsuit says. “Eventually 675 patients were combined as a class for discovery purposes,” leaving the state exposed to about $1 billion in liability.

In 1992, the first case, that of Mary Elizabeth Leger of Jonesboro, Arkansas, was settled for $1 million.

Today, Schaffer lives in Iowa, Vitek is bankrupt, Dr. Charles Homsy is nowhere to be found (though he did surface long enough to write a scathing indictment of “predatory trial lawyers” for the Cato Institute in September of 2001), and DuPont, which manufactured the raw ingredients used in the implants was protected by the “bulk supplier doctrine,” which is a defense to failure-to-warn claims.

When Schaffer was named as a witness and consultant in the class action cases, the Board of Dentistry immediately launched its investigation of Schaffer who says that in 1995, the board “zealously embarked upon an investigation, prosecution and adjudication of a wide variety of claims.”

On Sept. 5, 2000, a board panel consisting of Drs. H.O. Blackwood, Conrad McVea and Dennis Donald revoked Schaffer’s license and imposed “excessive penalties,” Schaffer’s petition says. “The panel members and (then-board executive director) Barry Ogden, (investigator) Camp Morrison, (board attorney) Brian Begue and Arthur Hickham conspired to deprive me of my due process rights during my hearing.”

Begue openly violated a Louisiana Supreme Court order to cease participating in the proceedings by served as both prosecutor and board general counsel, Schaffer’s petition says. While another attorney was ostensibly brought into the matter by the board following the Supreme Court’s ruling barring Begue’s participation, Begue still participated in the proceedings

Even though his revocation was not permanent, Dr. Blackwood, who acted as chairman of Schaffer’s reconsideration hearings in 2004, 2007 and 2012, said on Dec. 7, 2012 that he had promised himself “from the beginning,” that Schaffer would never get his license reinstated.

As blatant as that comment was, it paled in comparison to Dr. McVea’s declaration that because Schaffer had not received his salvation because he had not accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior he could not be expected to comply with professional standards.

Schaffer is Jewish.

Donald added that Schaffer was “a bad person who had hurt people.”

Even if Schaffer’s revocation had been reversed by the courts, in all likelihood, his case would have been remanded back to the same board and the same panel that originally pulled his license as occurred in another disciplinary matter involving a second dentist whom we shall write about in our next post. In effect, the court would have simply thrown Schaffer back to the same pack of wolves, thus making it futile to pursue his case any further before the same group of people.

He said Kent had about 2,500 malpractice lawsuits against him. “I had one, which I won, and yet the board came after me while doing nothing to Dr. Kent,” Schaffer said. “They went behind me to my patients and told them such things as I had killed a patient and that I was going to (the Louisiana State Penitentiary at) Angola. I have accounts receivable in the millions of dollars because I never turned a patient away because he could not pay,” he said.

Once the board had pulled his license, however, it still kept the pressure on Schaffer with no let up.

Schaffer, after being forced out of his practice, leased his office building to another dentist, David Gerard Millaud.

On Dec. 20, 2000, Ogden sent a two-page letter to Dr. Millaud, saying:

“It has come to our attention that you are practicing in the office of Dr. Randall Schaffer…”

Then, in perhaps an unintentional admission that investigator Morrison was continuing to conduct surveillance on Schaffer, whom the board had already broken, Ogden said, “We have also observed Dr. Schaffer’s spending a great deal of time on the office. As you know, his license has been revoked and he is prohibited from practicing dentistry in any form.

“I also wish to call your attention to (state statute) which states:

The board may refuse to issue or may suspend or revoke any license or permit, or impose probationary or other limits or restrictions on any dental license or permit issued under this chapter for any of the following reasons:

Division of fees or other remuneration or consideration with any person not licensed to practice dentistry in Louisiana or an agreement to divide and share fees received for dental services with any non-dentist in return for referral of patients to the licensed dentists, whether or not the patient or legal representative is aware of the arrangement…”

The letter prompted an immediate response from Schaffer’s attorney Michael Ellis of Metairie, who wrote board attorney Jimmy Faircloth (who substituted for Begue after Begue was forced by the Supreme Court to step aside).

“I find it incredulous that the board would write such a letter under the circumstances of this case,” Ellis said. “I know of no law which prohibits Dr. Schaffer from ‘spending a great deal of time in the office.’ The board has effectively put this man out of business and now wants to harass a young dentist to whom Dr. Schaffer is renting space.

“If the board has any evidence whatsoever that either Dr. Millaud or Dr. Schaffer was in violation of the law, I ask that you notify me immediately. If the board is not in possession of such evidence, (Ogden’s) letter must be considered nothing but a tactic of harassment calculated to prevent Dr. Schaffer from earning a living.”

Millaud, who said he was not sharing fees or paying other remuneration to Dr. Schaffer, nevertheless decided that his best interest would be served by terminating his lease arrangement with Schaffer, Ellis said.

Then-State Sen. Chris Ullo (D-Marrero), who died earlier this year, contacted Gov. Mike Foster to intervene with the board on Schaffer’s behalf but Foster declined to get involved with what some might describe as his rogue board.

Then, following Ogden’s letter to Dr. Millaud, Schaffer himself requested an audience with Foster. On Dec. 27, exactly a week following Ogden’s letter to Millaud, Chris Stelly, writing on behalf of Foster, said the board “is an independent body created and empowered” by state law and that the board had “sole jurisdiction over this matter. Therefore, this office does not have the authority to intervene.

“However, I have taken the liberty of forwarding your letter to Mr. C. Barry Ogden, executive director of the LA State Board of Dentistry, for his information.”

That, readers, is what is known as the classic bureaucratic shuffle.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,210 other followers