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Archive for the ‘Civil Service’ Category

“The petty thief is imprisoned but the big thief becomes a feudal lord.”

Zhuangzi

 

There it was, splashed across the Metro page of Tuesday’s Baton Rouge Advocate:

“OMV audit: More than $200,000 stolen”

The entire matter is heavily weighed down by irony but you’d never know it from reading the story.

It seems that a new audit of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS) has revealed that two employees of the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) misappropriated more than $211,000 before being arrested.

The two, Heather Prather of Baker in East Baton Rouge Parish and Angelle Temple of Marksville in Avoyelles Parish were actually arrested in early 2015—nearly a year ago—and fired for felony theft, injuring public records and malfeasance in office.

 

“Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and then they make you king.”

Bob Dylan

 

“Upon investigation, OMV management determined that the OMV employees had diverted public funds for personal use and violated state laws,” according to the Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Apparently the two issued receipts to paying customers but then either altered, voided or simply did not post the transactions. There was no indication as to whether or not the two knew each other or if they conspired together or acted separately in misappropriating the funds.

And yes, $211,000 is a lot of money and nothing in this post should be interpreted as excusing the women’s actions.

But isn’t it odd that the media would give such prominence to this story while overlooking official misappropriation of public funds?

Take, for example, the lingering case of high ranking State Police official Jill Boudreaux and the unmet demand that she repay nearly $60,000 in money she received to which she was not entitled. That little matter is still unresolved after almost six years.

And then there is Bobby Jindal. He allowed the taxpayers of Louisiana to pick up the tab for the cost of more than $3 million for State Police security details. Those costs were incurred while he spent more than two-thirds of his final year in office campaigning out-of-state for the Republican presidential nomination. A reasonable person would assume his campaign would have paid for that protection since his travels had zero to do with his job as governor of Louisiana.

But few lately have accused Jindal of being reasonable. The cost of flights, taxis, auto rentals, lodging, laundry and meals cost Louisiana taxpayers more than $640,000 in addition to the salaries of state troopers assigned to his out-of-state security detail. None of that has been refunded by Jindal’s campaign.

 

“He who uses the office he owes to the voters wrongfully

and against them is a thief”

Jose Marti

Boudreaux, Undersecretary for DPS, which has management oversight responsibility for OMV, first said the office would consider a policy of no longer accepting cash as a safeguard against theft by employees.

Later, however, she and the Auditor’s Office agreed that OMV only needs a better system of controls over accepting cash. State Police public information officer Doug Cain said the goal of OMV was to continue to provide convenience to the customer while at the same time, assuring “due diligence to have accountability on the process.”

Due diligence appears to have been lacking in efforts to have Boudreaux repay the $59,000 she was paid as part of an early retirement incentive offered nearly six years ago.

In April of 2010, the Jindal administration, in an offer to implement across the board savings, made a one-time incentive package offer to various state agencies as a means to encourage state employees to take early retirement.

Handled properly, it appeared at the time—and still does appear—to have been an economical and compassionate way to nudge employees who wanted out but who could not afford to retire, into making the decision to walk away, thus reducing the number of state employees which in turn translated to long-term savings in salaries and benefits paid by the state.

On April 23 of that year, DPS Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux sent an email to all personnel informing them that the Department of Civil Service and the Louisiana State Police Commission had approved the retirement incentive as a “Layoff Avoidance Plan.”

In legal-speak, under the incentive eligible applicants would receive a payment of 50 percent of the savings realized by DPS for one year from the effective date of the employee’s retirement.

In simpler language, the incentive was simply 50 percent of the employee’s annual salary. If an employee making $50,000 per year, for example, was approved for the incentive, he or she would walk away with $25,000 in up-front payments, plus his or her regular retirement and the agency would save one-half of her salary from the date of retirement to the end of the fiscal year. The higher the salary, the higher the potential savings.

The program, offered to the first 20 DPS employees to sign up via an internet link on a specific date, was designed to save the state many times that amount over the long haul. If, for example, 20 employees, each making $50,000 a year, took advantage of the incentive, DPS theoretically would realize a savings of $1 million per year thereafter following the initial retirement year.

That formula, repeated in multiple agencies, could produce a savings of several million—not that much in terms of a $25 billion state budget, but a savings nonetheless.

The policy did come with one major caveat from the Department of Civil Service, however. Agencies were cautioned not to circumvent the program through the state’s obscure retire-rehire policy whereby several administrative personnel, the most notable being former Secretary of Higher Education Sally Clausen, have “retired,” only to be “rehired” a day or so later in order to reap a monetary windfall.

“We strongly recommend that agencies exercise caution in re-hiring an employee who has received a retirement incentive payment within the same budget unit until it can be clearly demonstrated that the projected savings have been realized,” the Civil Service communique said.

 

“A man with a briefcase can steal millions more than any man with a gun.”

Don Henley

 

Basically, to realize a savings under the early retirement incentive payout, an agency would have been required to wait at least a year before rehiring an employee who had retired under the program.

Boudreaux, by what many in DPS feel was more than mere happenstance, managed to be the first person to sign up on the date the internet link opened up for applications.

In Boudreaux’s case, her incentive payment was based on an annual salary of about $92,000 so her incentive payment was around $46,000. In addition, she was also entitled to payment of up to 300 hours of unused annual leave which came to another $13,000 or so for a total of about $59,000 in walk-around money.

Her retirement date was April 28 but the day before, on April 27, she double encumbered herself into the classified (Civil Service) Deputy Undersecretary position because another employee was promoted into her old position on April 26.

A double incumbency is when an employee is appointed to a position that is already occupied by an incumbent, in this case, Boudreaux’s successor. Double incumbencies are mostly used for smooth succession planning initiatives when the incumbent of a position (Boudreaux, in this case) is planning to retire, according to the Louisiana Department of Civil Service.

http://www.civilservice.louisiana.gov/files/HRHandbook/JobAid/5-Double%20Incumbency.pdf

Here’s the kicker: agencies are not required to report double incumbencies to the Civil Service Department if the separation or retirement will last for fewer than 30 days. And because State Civil Service is not required to fund double incumbencies, everything is conveniently kept in-house and away from public scrutiny.

On April 30, under the little-known retire-rehire policy, Boudreaux was rehired two days after her “retirement,” but this time at the higher paying position of Undersecretary, an unclassified, or appointive position.

What’s more, though she “retired” as Deputy Undersecretary on April 28, her “retirement” was inexplicably calculated based on the higher Undersecretary position’s salary, a position she did not assume until April 30—two days after her “retirement,” sources inside DPS told LouisianaVoice.

Following her maneuver, then-Commissioner of Administration Angelé Davis apparently saw through the ruse and reportedly ordered Boudreaux to repay her incentive payment as well as the payment for her 300 hours of annual leave, according to those same DPS sources.

It was about this time, however, that Davis left Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to take a position in the private sector. Paul Rainwater was named to succeed Davis on June 24, 2010, and the matter of Boudreaux’s payment quickly slipped through the cracks and was never repaid.

Granted, $59,000 is not a lot in the over scheme of things—especially with the state facing a budgetary shortfall of nearly $2 billion. But as the late Sen. Everette Dirksen said, “A million here and a million there and pretty soon you’re taking about real money.”

Well, no matter the amount, it’s real money.

Perhaps when Jay Dardenne takes over as the incoming Commissioner of Administration, he may wish to take another look at the manner in which Boudreaux took $59,000 in extra cash and then defied the directive by Davis to repay the money.

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Louisiana Troop A State Police Lieutenant John Cannon remains on his $115,690 per year job despite having been reprimanded for numerous offenses including theft of satellite television signals, failure to file required Daily Activity Reports (DARs), unauthorized voiding of traffic tickets, failure to investigate a fleet crash, failure to deliver fatality packets to the families of traffic fatality victims, and twice having sex with a woman while on duty—with one of those times being in the rear seat of his patrol unit.

Legislators approved two double digit state police pay increases six months apart earlier this year even as more than 35,000 state civil service employees were learning that they again would not receive 4 percent pay increases. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/29/state-general-fund-has-yet-to-see-any-of-the-11-million-in-delinquent-fine-collections-to-pay-for-state-police-pay-raise/

http://theadvocate.com/news/13605105-128/no-pay-raises-for-most

Troop A includes the eight parishes of East and West Feliciana, Pointe Coupee, East and West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Livingston, Ascension and part of St. James. Cannon, a shift supervisor, has been a state trooper since 1990. He was promoted to sergeant in July of 2000 and to lieutenant in August of 2010.

LouisianaVoice obtained the 38-page state police internal affairs investigative file on Cannon through a public records request. That file indicates Cannon was never demoted for his actions. His most severe punishment included a 36-hour suspension without pay and a $904.96 per pay period reduction in pay for nine two-week pay periods (the equivalent of a 240-hour suspension)—from Oct. 27, 2014 through June 21, 2015, that was handed down by letter of Sept. 10, 2014 from Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy.

The internal affairs investigation of claims that Cannon had sex with a woman on two occasions while on duty was launched on May 15, 2014, after West Feliciana Parish sheriff’s deputies reported they had a woman in custody for possession of Lortab and marijuana. The woman, whose name was redacted throughout the report, told deputies that she twice had exchanged sex for money with Cannon.

She repeated her story to state police detectives but failed a polygraph test on the question of her being paid for sex, the report said. Cannon subsequently admitted to detectives that he had sexual intercourse with the woman but denied he paid her for sex although he did admit that he twice gave her money. He said the money was given immediately before or after each sexual encounter but that on the first occasion the money was to pay her cell phone and the second time was to pay her rent and that he was only trying to help her and to establish a friendship.

While the woman was twice subjected to polygraph tests and failed on the key point of payment for sex, the state police report never indicated that a similar test was administered to Cannon even though that was the only aspect of the entire affair that would have actually been criminal in nature.

The two first met on Feb. 16, 2014 in, New Roads in Pointe Coupee Parish where Cannon was working a seat belt grant. The woman told investigators that the two had multiple conversations by phone before meeting behind the parish library in New Roads on Feb. 21 “sometime between 9 and 11 p.m.,” but that they did not engage in sex on that occasion. She said they subsequently “negotiated sex on the phone.”

Cannon later called her at her father’s home in St. Francisville where she was living and told her he “needed her,” she said. The woman told authorities that she told Cannon she was out of money and that he later picked her up in his marked state police unit near her father’s residence and “immediately gave her $120, which she claimed was for sex,” according to the report. Cannon later said the amount was closer to $60 and was not for sex but for her cell phone bill. The report by internal affairs put the date as March 4, 2014.

She told investigators that their first sexual encounter took place in a wooded area south of St. Francisville just off U.S. 61 and lasted “approximately two minutes.” Afterward, she said, Cannon realized his patrol car was stuck and that she smoked a marijuana joint while he checked to see how badly the car was stuck. Apparently realizing how it might look if he were caught with her in such a secluded area, especially given the fact that he was dating an employee of the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office at the time, he ordered her to walk to the main highway and catch a ride while he called for someone to pull him out.

She did catch a ride to her father’s house while Cannon called the sheriff’s department for help in removing his vehicle.

Almost two months later, on April 29, Cannon picked her up—in his state police unit while on duty and in full uniform—from an apartment in Baker where she was living with her boyfriend. Cannon drove to a home she told authorities she believed to be in Baton Rouge but which Cannon later admitted was a friend’s home in Prairieville in Ascension Parish. They again had sexual intercourse in a bedroom of the home, that time for a duration of about three minutes, she said. She told investigators she requested $150 afterward but Cannon gave her only $100. He admitted that he stopped at a Regions Bank ATM on Highland Road in Baton Rouge in order to withdraw some cash. He said the amount he gave her was closer to $60 to $80 but when advised that she claimed it was $100, he told investigators it “was possible he could have given her that amount,” the report said.

The report reiterated Cannon’s claim that while he gave her money, it was to pay her phone bill and to pay her rent but was never given in exchange for sex

While en route from Baker to Prairieville, she activated Cannon’s patrol unit’s siren which resulted in other motorists moving out of the way and that she videoed the interior of his unit with her cell phone. She said she also took a photo of the house to show her boyfriend. She said Cannon was aware of her videoing the inside of his patrol car but that he did not know about her taking a picture of the house.

His 36-hour suspension ran from Oct. 10, 2014 through Oct. 13, 2014, and he was allowed to return to work from Oct. 15 through Oct. 26.

That 224-hour time frame actually covers 18 pay periods because, according to the specified dates of his suspension, he was suspended only on every other pay period, thus allowing him to work during alternate pay periods.

The suspension also contained no prohibition to Cannon’s being able to work overtime in order to make up for the $904.96 reduction in pay for each pay period for which he was suspended. LouisianaVoice has submitted a follow-up public records request for documents related to all overtime worked by him from Oct. 27, 2014, and June 21, 2015.

Cannon has had a checkered record in his 25 years as a state trooper.

  • On April 12, 1995, he received a letter of reprimand for his involvement in a traffic accident in his state police car, a not uncommon occurrence for state police.
  • On Jan. 25, 2001, he was suspended for 80 hours after being found in possession of an illegal satellite access card for Direct TV.
  • On June 6, 2003, he received an eight-hour suspension for failure to submit his Daily Activity Reports (DARs).
  • On April 27, 2006, he received a reduction in pay equivalent to a 24-hour suspension for failure to investigate a fleet crash.

And even after Dupuy’s letter of Sept. 10, 2014, which imposed the 240-hour suspension for his sexual misconduct while on duty, he received a reprimand but no suspension on March 18 of this year for his failure to act upon six traffic citation void slips and for failure to follow state police procedure with nine other citations.

Additionally, a review revealed that Cannon had seven fatality reports that are provided by state police as a courtesy to families of the deceased which he had not delivered. The fatalities had occurred between the dates of March 24, 2014, and Oct. 1, 2014, but still had not been delivered to families of the deceased as of Dec. 4, 2014.

And while technically, Cannon claims he was not paying for sex, a case could be made that because he was on duty at the time of his trysts, he was being paid for sex.

All of which raises the obvious questions: Was he being protected from above and if so, who was protecting him?

Here is Lt. Col. Dupuy’s letter of Sept. 10, 2014, to Cannon (Click on image to enlarge):

IMAG1320IMAG1321IMAG1322IMAG1323

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Furtive plans by some agency heads to move certain unclassified employees into Civil Service classified positions before Bobby Jindal leaves office could be thwarted by Civil Service rules designed expressly to prevent such maneuvers.

LouisianaVoice received reports on Wednesday (Sept. 23) of plans to move some of Jindal’s appointees from unclassified to classified positions as a means of protecting them from potential termination by the new governor when he takes office on Jan. 11.

“Since the clock is ticking on the Jindal administration,” wrote one state employee, “his department heads are converting…unclassified folks into classified positions. Only trouble is, those positions don’t pay that well. [I] overheard a conversation by some HR (Human Resources) folks that they don’t know how to make the slip switch and include a $30,000 add-on to the classified position.”

But former Civil Service Director Shannon Templet, in one of her last actions before accepting the position of director of human resources for the Louisiana House of Representatives, may have put the kibosh on any such plans—or at least made any such attempt considerably more difficult.

General Circular 2015-033, issued to heads of state agencies and human resource directors on Sept. 1, addresses that very scenario although there still may be a small window of opportunity to circumvent a prohibition against converting appointees to unclassified positions. CIVIL SERVICE CIRCULAR 2015-033

The circular alluded to Civil Service Rule 22.2 which says all appointing authorities shall obtain the Civil Service Director’s approval before making a permanent appointment to any job at specified pay grades.

But the policy governing such appointments is applicable only between the date of any election for a statewide elected office (Oct. 24, 2015) through Inauguration Day (Jan. 11, 2016).

There appear to be no restrictions to such transfers between now and Oct. 24, which is nearly a full month away and some movement may have already occurred.

“Unless the director grants permission, vacancies covered under this rule cannot be filled on a permanent basis through a probationary or permanent appointment into a regular ongoing position,” the circular says. “This also applies to promotions and transfers into an agency while on permanent status.

“The process will be handled as follows:

  • Vacancies affected by this rule shall not be announced without obtaining prior approval of the director by means of a letter which includes justification explaining why the vacancy needs to be filled.
  • Agencies are to send letters requesting approval to fill to the Staffing Division.
  • Agencies will be notified via email of the director’s decision.
  • Verification of approval must be attached to the exam plan…for audit purposes.

Even if an appointive (non-classified) position should be converted to a classified one, the additional task of adjusting the position’s salary poses yet another problem—unless the appointee would agree to a major pay cut.

Because Civil Service classifications govern pay scales for every classified position in state government—as opposed to unclassified positions, which have no such restrictions—appointive posts generally pay much higher salaries than civil service jobs. Converting from unclassified to classified necessarily would dictate significant reductions in pay.

But even if that wrinkle could somehow be worked out, there is one more deterrent to such an underhanded tactic. Any transfer, lateral or otherwise, or new appointment generally carries with it a six-month (180 days) probationary period during which the employee may be terminated without cause.

As of today (Sept. 23), there are exactly 110 days until a new governor takes office.

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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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