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Archive for the ‘Civil Service’ Category

Troy didn’t want me there and, as if it might be his rights instead of a subordinate’s that were being violated. “Are the media allowed in here?” he asked, almost pleading.

Assured by the hearing referee that I could stay, he was reminded that it was a public hearing and anyone could attend, including the media.

The referee was presiding over a civil service appeal of the firing of one of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) agents by agency director Troy Hebert and Hebert clearly did not want the proceedings to become public.

Hell, yes, the media are allowed Troy and you can expect to see a lot of me at the various civil service hearings, EEOC hearings, and court trials currently pending against you. But Troy, I can understand your reluctance to operate in the open and in plain sight.

You probably learned that paranoia from your boss, Bobby Jindal. You know, the two of you are a lot alike in that regard; Bobby likes the furtive style of governing and he likes to fire anyone who doesn’t buy whole hog into his B.S. The problem is, Troy, Bobby (and it really hurts to say this) is a little smarter than you.

And it almost seemed there were as many lawyers as witnesses in the crowded hearing room. But this wasn’t like the O.J. Simson trial, it was a civil service hearing. Nevertheless, Hebert strolled into the hearing room in the W.C.C. Claiborne Building across the scenic but polluted Lake from the towering State Capitol accompanied by not one, not two, not three, not four, but (count ‘em) five attorneys—all paid for not by Hebert but by the good citizens of Louisiana. If I didn’t know better, I’d call that a classic case of overkill.

One of those attorneys was Jessica Starnes, officially Hebert’s “counsel of record.” Starnes served as legal counsel for ATC, a civil service classified position, but on March 30, was appointed to the unclassified position of “advisor,” assigned to the Executive Office (governor), all of which raises the question of how she can be an advisor to the governor and defense attorney for Hebert.

Oh, wait. I forgot. Hebert is the governor’s “legislative liaison,” so everything is tied up in a neat little incestuous knot; Bobby Jindal is apparently joined at the hip by Starnes on one side and Hebert on the other in this sordid mess, interchangeable parts, if you will. Remember the image of a beaming Starnes standing behind Bobby at his announcement for the Republican presidential candidacy? http://louisianavoice.com/2015/06/26/just-when-it-seems-jindal-cannot-get-creepier-viral-video-shows-willingness-to-exploit-his-children-for-political-gain/

But an even more pressing question: now that Starnes is no longer legal counsel for ATC but is the “counsel of record” for Hebert’s defense, will her work be billed to ATC along with the other four attorneys? Or was she on the clock, drawing a salary as the governor’s “advisor,” while arguing on behalf of her former boss in a matter seemingly unrelated to day to day activities in the governor’s office? Did she take leave from her current position to represent Hebert?

There wasn’t much at stake at the hearing, just the career and livelihood of former agent Brett Tingle of Prairieville, fired by Hebert in February—a dismissal carried out by letter delivered to Hingle’s home while he was convalescing from a heart attack.

The reasons for the firing were answered in detail in an 11-page letter from J. Arthur Smith, Tingle’s attorney, on March 10, which indicated the basis of the firing appears to stem from Hingle’s support of several black agents either disciplined or fired by Hebert. To learn more about Hingle’s firing and the response by his attorney, go here: http://louisianavoice.com/2015/03/13/atc-director-troy-hebert-rivals-his-boss-in-cold-hearted-demeanor-fires-agent-who-is-recovering-from-heart-attack/

There isn’t much to report about Friday’s proceedings. Settlement negotiations which were initiated by the referee before the scheduled hearing and which lasted about two hours, were done behind closed doors as is proper. When we were admitted back into the room and the hearing resumed, the referee simply informed us that the hearing was continued until Sept. 1-4.

The fact that no settlement was reached between the two parties could be interpreted as bad news for Troy because he is staring down the barrel of that federal EEOC racial discrimination complaint by three black agents filed almost exactly a year ago after two were fired and a third was transferred from Baton Rouge to Shreveport with no prior notice. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/14/forcing-grown-men-to-write-lines-overnight-transfers-other-bizarre-actions-by-troy-hebert-culminate-in-federal-lawsuit/

Hebert, known to require agents to stand and greet him with “Good morning, Commissioner” when he enters a room, who in the past has required agents—grown men and women—to write lines, and who once ordered a female agent to patrol dangerous New Orleans bars in uniform after she had already worked narcotics detail in the same bars in plain clothes, cannot easily afford an adverse civil service ruling prior to the EEOC hearing. That just would not bode well for him.

Hebert, who succeeded Murphy Painter who was fired after being set up by Team Jindal on bogus charges, ostensibly for accessing information on individuals on his state computer, ordered one of his agents to conduct a warrantless background check on me (it turns out I was found to be somewhat boring). Hebert also once boasted to another agent that he could easily have his IT people hack into my computer. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/03/25/hebert-like-bobby-jindal-stumbles-from-one-ill-fated-fiasco-to-another-in-oblivion-and-without-a-trace-of-embarrassment/

So what happened to Hebert after those two little episodes were revealed? Well, he was promoted to Jindal’s legislative liaison, whatever that may entail. We see it as simply a synonym for lap dog. Oh, and he also held a state contract for debris cleanup after Hurricane Katrina—while simultaneously serving in the Louisiana Legislature. No conflict there.

Witnesses were admonished not to discuss the pending Tingle matter with each other or anyone else, including the media. A violation of that dictum, the referee said, could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal from their jobs.

Well, folks, I’m not among the subpoenaed witnesses, I’m already retired, and I can’t be fired.

As the popular ’60s song goes, see you in September, Troy.

 

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JINDAL'S CANDID CAMERA BOMB(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

The unfolding tragi-comedy known as the Bobby Jindal campaign just keeps getting weirder but it’s hard to imagine it getting any creepier than his crude re-creation of America’s Funniest Videos episode in which he attempts to exploit his children—except it wasn’t really funny.

Apparently it was some kind of desperate, pathetic stunt designed to project his image as a family values candidate. Instead, it served up a sure-to-become-viral video that rivals his pitiful performance in that abysmal Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmNM0oj79t8

It’s almost enough to make us forget that exorcism he performed on “Susan” during his years as a student at Brown University. http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=1294-jindal

We’re talking, of course, about that cozy family gathering around a patio table, apparently at the governor’s mansion, during which he breaks the news in the most contrived, stilted manner possible that “mommy and daddy” are running for president—complete with the amateurishly scripted promise of a puppy “if we move into the White House.”

That his wife, Supriya, would be a part of such a blatantly manipulative display is in itself worthy of analysis by parenting experts but we will leave that argument for others. https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/inside-bobby-jindals-bizarre-trick-on-his-kids-122433837582.html

The performance drew such negative reaction that the video, which had been featured at the top of the web page announcing his candidacy, was removed altogether within hours of its posting.

But it did prompt some creative voiceover editing by a web site called Funny or Die, which resulted in this parody of the family discussion of his candidacy: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/fc8ad653ff/bobby-jindal-campaign-announcement-video-i-m-going-to-do-a-bad-job?_cc=__d___&_ccid=87jc4s.nqjwjn

Even Jon Stewart took the opportunity to lampoon the Jindal clan’s confab on the Daily Show:

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/2n06t0/jindal-all-the-way

All of which brings us to his formal announcement in Kenner on Wednesday.

What first was one of those aha! moments about the possible violation of state ethics and civil service rules quickly evaporated but at the same time raised new questions about the crowd attending that announcement.

There she was, smiling in her red dress as she stood in the crowd behind Bobby Jindal as he declared that he was officially a candidate for the Republican nomination for President.

Article X Section 9, parts A and C of the Louisiana State Constitution spell it out in clear and unmistakable terms:

  • No member of …the classified service shall participate or engage in political activity; be a candidate for nomination or election to public office …or take active part in …any political campaign, except to exercise his right as a citizen to express his opinion privately, to serve as a commissioner or official watcher at the polls, and to cast his vote as he desires.
  • Political Activity Defined. As used in this Part, “political activity” means an effort to support or oppose the election of a candidate for political office or to support a particular political party in an election.

 

Yep, there she was, blonde hair, red dress, beaming, and standing directly behind the lady holding the red “Geaux Bobby” sign. JESSICA STARMS

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

But wait.

Jessica Starns, formerly legal counsel for Troy Hebert’s Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, and until recently, a state classified (civil service) employee, attended Jindal’s big coming out party, and was even allowed (or perhaps required?) to actually share the stage with him and his family when he announced that he would do for the U.S. what he’s done for Louisiana.

It was more than a photo-op; this was an extended live, made-for-television event on national display in its finest pageantry. You’d probably call it a warm fuzzy for lack of a better term.

But a state classified employee attending, nay, participating in a political campaign event is strictly verboten under the Louisiana Constitution which Jindal was sworn to uphold.

Except that upon checking with Civil Service, we found that Starns is no longer a classified employee. Nor is she still at ATC.

It turns out that as of March 30 of this yer, she has a brand new title and classification. She is now an unclassified (appointed) $96,750 per year “advisor,” assigned to the Executive Office (governor). That means, of course, that her attendance at the event was legal after all.

While that quickly became a non-story, it did raise this question:

  • How many other state unclassified employees attended either by choice or mandatory dictate to show their enthusiastic support of Jindal? Or more accurately, to pack the crowd to make it appear Jindal had a groundswell of popular support? Unclassified employees, after all, serve at the pleasure of the governor. (And to tell the unvarnished truth, some of the ones in the photo looked for the world like they would’ve preferred being somewhere—anywhere—else.)

Not that Jindal or his handlers would ever participate in such a crass exercise as a tightly-controlled event like say, a scripted family meeting on the patio of the governor’s mansion.

 

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State Treasurer John Kennedy on Tuesday told the House Appropriations Committee that the Division of Administration exerts extortion-like tactics against legislators and takes the approach that it should not be questioned about the manner in which it hands out state contracts and that the legislature should, in effect, keep its nose out of the administration’s business.

Kennedy was testifying on behalf of House Bill 30 by State Rep. Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux) which provides for reporting, review and approval by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) of all contracts for professional, personal and consulting services totaling $40,000 or more per year which are funded exclusively with state general fund (SGF) or the Overcollections Fund. HB 30

HB 30 FISCAL NOTES

Kennedy, in a matter of only a few minutes’ testimony, attacked figures provided by three representatives of the Division of Administration (DOA) who objected to the bill because of what they termed additional delays that would be incurred in contract approval and because of claimed infringement upon the separation of powers between the legislative and administrative branches of government.

Here is the link to the committee hearing. While Kennedy spoke at length on the bill, the gist of his remarks about DOA begin at about one hour and 13 minutes into his testimony. You can move your cursor to that point and pick up his attacks on DOA. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Video/VideoArchivePlayer.aspx?v=house/2015/may/0526_15_AP

That argument appeared to be a reach at best considering it is the legislature that appropriates funding for the contracts. It also appeared more of a smokescreen for the real objections: DOA’s, and by extension, Bobby Jindal’s wish that the administration be allowed to continue to operate behind closed doors and without any oversight, unanswerable to anyone.

DOA representatives tried to minimize the effect of the bill by downplaying the number and dollar amount of the contracts affected (which raises the obvious question of why the opposition to the bill if its impact would be so minimal). The administration said only 164 contracts totaling some $29 million would be affected by the bill.

Kennedy, however, was quick to jump on those figures. “The numbers the division provided you are inaccurate,” he said flatly. “The Legislative Auditor, who works for you,” he told committee members, “just released a report that says there are 14,000 consulting contracts, plus another 4600 ‘off the books.’

“The fiscal notes of 2014 by the Legislative Fiscal Office—not the Division (DOA)—said the number of contracts approved in 2013 by the Office of Contractual Review was 2,001—not 160—professional, personal and consulting service contracts with a total value of $3.1 billion,” he said. “I don’t know where DOA is getting its numbers.

“To sum up their objections,” he said, “it appears to me that DOA and more to the point, the bureaucracy, is smarter than you and knows how to spend taxpayer dollars better than you. That’s the bottom line. They don’t want you to know. This bill will not be overly burdensome to you. Thirty days before the JLCB hearing, you will get a list of contracts. If there are no questions, they fly through. If there are questions, you can ask.”

Kennedy tossed a grenade at DOA on the issue of separation of powers when he accused the administration of blackmailing legislators who might be reluctant to go along with its programs.

“Let’s talk about how the division’s advice on contracts has worked out,” he said. “The Division advised you to spend all the $800 million in the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly. Now they have zero in that account. In fact, they pushed you to do that. Some of you were told if you didn’t do that, you’d lose your Capital Outlay projects. How’s that for separation of powers? How’d that work out for you?

“My colleagues from Division who just testified against the bill are the same ones who told you to take $400 million out of the (Office of Group Benefits) savings account set aside to pay retirees’ and state employees’ health claims. How’d that work out?”

Kennedy didn’t stop there. He came prepared with an entire laundry list of accusations against the administration.

“My colleagues from Division are the ones who told you, ‘Look, we need to privatize our health care delivery system,’ which I support in concept. They sat at this table and I heard them say we would only have to spend $600 million per year on our public-private partnership and (that it would be) a great deal ‘because right now we’re spending $900 million.’ I thought we’d be saving $300 million a year. Except we’re not spending $600 million; we’re spending $1.3 billion and we don’t have the slightest idea whether it’s (the partnerships) working. How’d that work out for you?

“I sat right here at this table and I heard my friends from Division say we need to do Bayou Health managed care. You now appropriate $2.8 billion a year for four health insurance companies to treat 900,000 of our people—not their people, our people,” he said. “There’s just one problem: when the Legislative Auditor goes to DHH (the Department of Health and Hospitals) to audit it (the program), they tell him no.”

Kennedy said that pursuant to orders from DOA, “the only way they can audit is if they take the numbers given him (Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera) by the insurance companies.

“This is a good bill,” he said. “It’s not my bill. My preference is to tell Division to cut 10 percent on all contracts and if you can’t do it, you will be unemployed. But this bill allows you to see where the taxpayer money is being spent.

“I have more confidence in you than I do in the people who’re doing things right now,” he said.

Kennedy said he was somewhat reluctant to testify about the bill “but I’m not going to let this go—especially the part about separation of powers.

“You want to see a blatant example of separation of powers?” he asked rhetorically, returning to the issue of the administration’s heavy handedness. “How about if I have a bill but you don’t read it. You either vote for it or you lose your Capital Outlay projects. How’s that for separation of powers?”

That evoked memories from November of 2012 when Jindal removed two representatives from their committee assignments one day after they voted against the administration’s proposed contract between the Office of Group Benefits and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana.

“Everything they (legislative committees) do is scripted,” said Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray), speaking to LouisianaVoice about his removal from the House Appropriations Committee. “I’ve seen the scripts. They hand out a list of questions we are allowed to ask and they tell us not to deviate from the list and not to ask questions that are not in the best interest of the administration.” http://louisianavoice.com/2012/11/02/notable-quotables-in-their-own-words-142/

Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington) asked Kennedy what his budget was to which Kennedy responded, “Less than last year and less that year than the year before and probably will be even less after this hearing. But you know what? I don’t care.

“There’s nothing you can say to get Division to support this bill,” he said. “They’re just not going to do it.

“You can’t find these contracts with a search party. But if you require them to come before you, you can get a feel for how money is being spent that people work hard for and you can provide a mechanism to shift some of that spending to higher priorities.

“Next year, you will spend $47 million on consulting contracts for coastal restoration. I’m not against coastal restoration; I’m all for it. But these consultants will not plant a blade of swamp grass. Don’t tell me they can’t do the job for 10 percent less. That $47 million is more than the entire state general fund appropriation for LSU-Shreveport, Southern University-Shreveport, McNeese and Nicholls State combined.

“Under the law, agencies are supposed to go before the Civil Service Board and show that the work being contracted cannot be done by state employees but that is perfunctory at best,” Kennedy said.

To the administration’s arguments of delays in contract approvals and infringements on the separation of powers, Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles) dug in his heels. “This is not a bad thing,” he insisted. “We’re not going to go through every page of every contract unless someone calls it to our attention. It doesn’t matter if it’s 14,000 or 14 million contracts. The number is immaterial. If there’s an issue with a contract, we need to look at it.”

For once, the administration did not have its way with the legislature. The committee approved the bill unanimously and it will now move to the House floor for debate where Jindal’s forces are certain to lobby hard against its passage.

Should the bill ultimately pass both the House and Senate, Jindal will in all likelihood, veto the measure and at that point, we will learn how strong the legislature’s resolve really is.

But for Kennedy, the line has been drawn in the dust.

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My friend Walter Abbott up in Ruston seems to have a problem with any public employee as does, apparently State Rep. John “Jay” Morris, III (R-Monroe).

Abbott, as I, publishes a political blog and that certainly is his—or anyone’s—right. But the thing that he can’t seem to get around is his constant habit of labeling any public employee as a “deadhead.” In fact, he never refers to public employees, be they teachers, law enforcement officers, firemen, or highway construction crews, as anything but “deadheads.”

I’m not certain what Walter does for a living, but I would assume his work is essential and not of the “deadhead” status. But one can never be sure. Sometimes one creates a deliberate smokescreen (such as name-calling) as a tactic to deflect attention from himself. Again, I don’t know that, I’m just sayin’…..

Walter’s post today (March 31) provides a link to a story by Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Elizabeth Crisp which said that Louisiana college and university students plan to demonstrate at the state Capitol on April 15 as a protest to anticipated draconian cuts to higher education appropriations for the coming year.

But Walter, in his classic inimitable parsing of nomenclature, says in the headline to his blog: “Student Mob to Protest on Behalf of Deadheads.”

Student Mob? Seriously, Walter? You know with absolute certainty that these students will be roving bands of vandals, possibly armed, intent on rape and pillage and assorted other forms of crimes against humanity? Hell, Abbott, you’re better than the entire Justice League. Perhaps we need to make you an official state deadhead and bring you to Baton Rouge or New Orleans or Shreveport to fight crime—in advance with your gift of clairvoyance, of course. Which city? No problem; with your obvious skill at predicting the future, you need only tip off the deadhead law enforcement agencies in each city when a crime is about to take place.

And about that “deadhead” term you so love to toss around: I can only assume that you’ve drunk the Ted Cruz/Scott Walker/Rand Paul tea party Kool-Aid which finds all things public to be anathema.

In a previous blog you referred to teachers as “deadheads.” Well, Walt, unless I’m mistaken, a teacher taught you to read and write, which enables you to now turn on those same dedicated people by calling them “deadheads.”

Let me enlighten you about teachers, Walt, because you obviously do not know the facts or you choose to ignore them. Besides the problem that all teachers face, namely the constant push and pull from politicians who seem to think they have all the answers and rush in with ill-advised education “reform” measures, there are these specifics:

  • Kindergarten and elementary teachers: Not only must they teach, but they also have to do lesson plans, grade papers at night (after cooking for the family and cleaning house and helping their own kids with homework), contend with kids who can’t keep up in class because their lazy or irresponsible, drug-addled parents won’t take the initiative to help the kids at home, then attempt to appease those same parents who want to shift the blame for the kids’ poor grades onto the teacher. They daily see these same children come to school hungry or unbathed—or both. In addition to all these duties is the constant paperwork that must be filled out by teachers and as they perform all these tasks, they often are called upon to wipe snotty noses and wipe soiled behinds. Summer vacation? Fugetaboutit. That three-month vacation you always hear about is a myth. When school is out, classrooms must be cleaned, books put away, furniture stacked against the wall so janitorial crews can move in to do their jobs and by the time all that is done, it’s time to start planning the new school year.
  • Middle school teachers: One might think that middle school is a breeze but this is where kids grow into puberty, where cliques are formed and where little teen-age girls snipe at each other behind their backs. It ain’t pretty. As these children grow from adolescence into teens, attitudes are formed and teachers must deal with that reality on a daily basis. Moreover, remember those kids from elementary school who were lagging behind? Well some of them are older than their classmates because sadly, they had to be held back one or more grades. But they’re falling even further behind and it becomes the middle school teacher’s task to confront angry parents who won’t accept their own role in educating their own children. And that paperwork didn’t go away in elementary school. Neither do the late night paper grading sessions.
  • High school teachers: By now, the slower students have become a real challenge. Not only do they refuse to do their assignments and fall even further behind before eventually dropping out of school (and teachers consider every dropout a personal loss, some might even say a failure). But those who remain have by now developed really nasty attitudes (often encouraged at home by parents who still refuse to accept responsibility) and teacher-student confrontations often occur that sometimes become physical, placing the teacher in danger of bodily harm.

So there you have your teacher “deadheads,” Walt. But you know what? Through it all, they persevere at salaries most likely considerably less than what you make, because teaching is not an occupation, it’s a calling, and these educators are dedicated to that calling—something you obviously do not comprehend or care to.

But Walt insists on attaching that label to all public employees. Well, Walt, I was one of those “deadheads” for 20 years, working as a claims adjuster for the Office of Risk Management.

And being completely candid, I was far from being the best adjuster in the office (even though I was once told that I was by a member of management in his somewhat feeble effort at blowing smoke up my toga—some form of weird motivation, I suppose) but despite my many shortcomings (I love writing more than insurance), I still managed to help save the state several millions of dollars in bogus claims. To that end, despite my habitual failure to keep my diary updated and my distaste for insurance, I still managed to justify my salary many, many times over.

Finally, Walter, I would ask that you consider this in the future when dealing with these “deadheads”:

  • When you find a pothole in your street that tears up your vehicle’s front end, call a tea partier, not the highway department—they’re deadheads;
  • Same thing when you observe litter along the streets and highways;
  • When your sewer line backs up because of a lack of maintenance because the deadheads have been laid off, call a tea partier;
  • When you discover rust and other substances in your water line for that same reason, call a tea partier;
  • When your neighbor knocks down your fence and refuses to pay for it, don’t bother filing suit. Those courtroom employees, including the judge, are deadheads. Call a tea partier.
  • When your house catches fire, don’t call the fire department. They’re just a bunch of deadheads. Call the tea partiers;
  • When you or a family member is being assaulted by some thug, the police department, staffed with deadheads, is obviously the wrong call. The tea party will set things right for you.

Count on it.

As for Rep. Morris, his recent comments constitute a classic example of shooting the messenger.

He, like Jindal’s former chief of staff, now president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), Stephen Waguespack (the same one who leaned on Murphy Painter to ignore Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control regulations in that issue over the Budweiser tent at Jindal contributor Tom Benson’s Champion’s Square), doesn’t feel that Bob Mann retains the right of free speech under the First Amendment simply because he’s on the payroll of LSU.

Rep. Morris, you are an attorney and as such you of all people should be at the front of the line to defend that right. Instead, you choose to jump into the fray based on another blog, that of Scott McKay’s The Hayride. http://thehayride.com/2015/03/twitter-tough-guy-bob-mann-takes-on-labi-over-waguespacks-column/

McKay and Morris wax indignant that Mann has the audacity to write—on his own time—a column for the New Orleans Times-Picayune while teaching (this semester) one class because of the necessity to care for his wife who is ill.

Of all things, Morris chooses to compare Mann’s salary to that of a public school teacher who he says works for a paltry $32,000 a year. Well, isn’t it in the legislature’s power to increase those salaries? Has Rep. Morris ever, even once, made a move to raise the pay for teachers? Or instead, was he one of 53 House members who voted to kill House Bill 645 by Rep. Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe) to raise the state minimum wage? See for yourself: HB 645 VOTE

Rep. Morris, you can’t have it both ways: you can’t use teachers’ salaries against Bob Mann if you’ve never attempted to rectify the gaping disparity yourself. That comes under the heading of hypocrite. Don’t be so smug in jumping on Mann’s case as a means of questioning LSU’s budget while defending NLU perhaps because some of that university’s employees might be your constituents whom you don’t want to offend.

Rep. Morris asks the rhetorical question: “How are we polititians (sic) supposed to raise revenue to save higher ed when there might be a whole lot of waste?” Shouldn’t that be a question for you, as a representative of the people, to sort out? Have you and other legislators been asleep at the wheel so long that waste occurs right under your collective, oblivious noses?

If you are so concerned about waste, don’t you think it might have been a good idea for you to have checked the campaign expenditures of Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge) before you contributed $1,000 to his campaign, and who in turn contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales)? Do you really think their expenditures of $15,405 and $9,660, respectively, to purchase of LSU football and softball tickets from 2010 through 2014 was the most judicious use of their campaign funds? Could that perhaps be included in your sanctimonious, somewhat selective definition of waste?

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS:

Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. JOHN C JAY MORRIS III FOR STATE REP  2705 OAK DR MONROE, LA 71201 CONTRIBUTION 6/28/2012 $1,000.00
Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay FRIENDS OF ERICH PONTI CAMPAIGN Thibodeaux Ave Baton Rouge, LA 70806 CONTRIBUTION 11/14/2011 $1,000.00

CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES:

Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS PO BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70894-5905 TICKETS 5/13/2014 $3,310.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA 2012 FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS/PARKING 4/20/2012 $3,130.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ATHLETIC ADMINISTRATION BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 5/5/2013 $3,110.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS c/o Speakers’ Office LA State Capital Baton Rouge, LA 70801 2010 Legislative Football Tickets 4/21/2010 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 4/26/2011 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 6/6/2011 $950.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA LSU FOOTBALL TICKETS 1/4/2012 $905.00
Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ALTHLETIC BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 TICKETS 4/11/2014 $3,210.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 TAFT donation and tickets 5/23/2012 $3,135.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 tickets 5/22/2013 $3,115.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSUE SOFTBALL 2048 JOHNSON HWY EUNICE, LA 70535 DONATION 12/3/2014 $200.00

We’re just saying people who live in glass houses…

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Senator Daniel R. Martiny's Picture

STATE SEN. DAN MARTINY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Where’s Buddy?

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

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

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

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

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

But we digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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