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Archive for the ‘Civil Service’ 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.

http://louisianavoice.com/2012/09/04/new-lsu-teaguing-by-%CF%80-yush-may-be-imminent-raymond-lamonica-rumored-on-way-out-as-system-general-counsel/

And:

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/page/3/

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.

 

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Something’s not quite right over at the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC).

Conflicting dates of employment of an unclassified employee, the awarding of a contract to a vendor whose bid was nearly twice that of two competitors, and appearances on behalf of a state contractor at a Florida convention by a state legislator have flown under the radar until now.

Wes Hataway is Director of the Office of Workers Compensation Administration but the question is just when did he join LWC?

Department of Civil Service records and minutes of the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council simply do not match up.

Civil Service records indicate that Hataway was hired as an unclassified Assistant Attorney General on Jan. 25, 2010 at $93,600 per year and 13 months later, on Feb. 21, 2011, moved over to LWC as an unclassified Assistant Secretary to then advisory council Chairman Chris Broadwater at an annual salary of $105,000.

Here is what we received from the Department of Civil Service:

“See information below on Wes Hataway. Let me know if you have any questions or need more information.”

Begin Date End Date Agency Job Title Annual Pay Rate
1/25/2010 2/20/2011 Office of the Attorney   General Unclassified Asst Attorney   General 90,000.04 (begin)93,600.26 (end)
2/21/2011 Present LWC-Workforce Support &   Training Unclassified Assistant   Secretary 104,998.40

And indeed, there is a paper trail that appears to support that time frame. A two-page score sheet that evaluated proposals for a fraud detection contract with LWC dated June 22, 2010, includes the signature of Hataway and identifies him as one of the four-member team that evaluated and made recommendations for the contract. It also identifies him as representing the Attorney General’s Office—six months after he was ostensibly named as legal council for the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC).

(To enlarge, left click on image):

PTDC0124

PTDC0125

But another document dated Jan. 28, 2010, casts doubts as to Hataway’s status at LWC.

Minutes of the Jan. 28, 2010, meeting of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council contain an entry on the fourth and final page which says, “Director Broadwater introduces newly hired AG attorney, Wes Hataway. Wes will serve as General Counsel, and also work on the prosecution of fraud cases.”

MinutesAdvisoryCouncilJan2810

Hataway has since replaced Broadwater as Director of OWC but he regularly consults with Broadwater on pending matters coming before him, according to court documents, according to legal documents.

Broadwater, a Republican from Hammond, was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2011 but continues to represent workers’ comp insurance companies before the Office of Workers’ Compensation, the agency he once ran.

Broadwater also appeared in a four-minute video at an SAS Institute conference in Orlando, Florida. In that video, he praised the work of the company, which won that 2010 contract with a high bid of nearly $4.3 million.  http://www.allanalytics.com/video.asp?section_id=3427&doc_id=269491#msgs

The three-year contract, which was officially approved on Oct. 7, 2010 retroactive to Aug. 31, 2010, ended last Aug. 30.

The SAS bid was nearly double the bids of IBM and Ultix, each of whom had bids of $2.2 million.

Broadwater, Vice Chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, said in a letter to LouisianaVoice, “My service as vice chair of the Labor & Industrial Relations Committee in no manner alters my duties or the constraints placed upon me under the Code of Governmental Ethics.”

And while claiming that he is prohibited from receiving compensation “from a source other than the legislature for performing my public duties,” he admitted in a legal deposition that he represented insurance clients before OWC and he even admitted that he discussed with Hataway the pending appointment of his former law partner and that he has discussed with Hataway on several occasions matters pending before OWC.

Broadwater also related that Hataway had sought his advice on whether or not he (Hataway) had the authority as director to issue a stay of pending cases without involving the judges to whom the cases were assigned. Broad said in his deposition that he was of the opinion that Hataway did have such power.

Broadwater and Hataway are friends of long standing but that does little to explain why Broadwater would introduce him to council members as a new hire a full year before Civil Service Records and the RFP evaluation and recommendation form reflect any change from his employment status at the Attorney General’s office.

Calling the conflicting dates a clerical error doesn’t fly but then again, it could be just another aspect of the current administration that defies explanation.

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“No member of a civil service commission and no officer or employee in the classified service shall participate or engage in political activity; be a candidate for nomination or election to public office except to seek election as the classified state employee serving on the State Civil Service Commission; or be a member of any national, state, or local committee of a political party or faction; make or solicit contributions for any political party, faction, or candidate.”

Article X, Part I, Paragraph 9 (A) of the Louisiana State Constitution.

“No person shall solicit contributions for political purposes from any classified employee or official or use or attempt to use his position in the state or city service to punish or coerce the political action of a classified employee.”

Article X, Part I, Paragraph 9 (B) of the Louisiana State Constitution.

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For a man who has received more than $20 million in contributions to his various political campaigns, perhaps a half-million or so in questionable contributions shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows. After all, that’s less than 2.5 percent of the total.

Still, for the man who set himself up as the beacon of all that’s pure and pristine, the one who established the “gold standard” of governmental ethics, the one who loves to boast (only in out-of-state speaking engagements, of course) of “the most transparent” administration in the state’s history, anything less than clean campaign money should be unacceptable.

Alas, such is simply not the case.

Even his mother, a state civil service employee, got into the act in open violation of civil service regulations, but more about that later.

We have written at various times of many of the contributions which appear to be directly related to appointments to state boards and commissions. Donald “Boysie” Bollinger was appointed last March to the State Police Commission and Aubrey Temple of Deridder was appointed in July of 2008 to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Financing Corp.

Together, the two men and their businesses and family members have combined to give Jindal’s campaigns at least $95,000 and three of their business associates, Red McCombs ($15,000), Corbin Robertson ($5,000) and James Weaver ($1,000) formed a partnership to purchase water from the Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Louisiana-Texas border for re-sale in Texas. That attempt, at first supported by Jindal, failed when the Sabine River Authority reversed itself and killed the deal at least for the time being.

Temple, meanwhile, was paid $400,000 by the Coushatta Tribe back in 2001 for undisclosed services but he was never able to give an accounting for how the money was used. Also involved with the Coushatta Tribe was Alexandria attorney Jimmy Faircloth, who chipped in another $23,000 to various Jindal campaigns and has since reaped more than $1 million in legal fees for defending the state in various legal proceedings, most of which saw the state end up on the losing end of key court decisions.

Faircloth, while serving as legal counsel for the Coushattas, advised the tribe to sink $30 million in a formerly bankrupt Israeli technology firm call MainNet for whom his brother Brandon was subsequently employed as vice president for sales. The investment, to no one’s surprise except perhaps Faircloth, proved to be a financial bust for the tribe.

This is the same tribe, with Faircloth as legal counsel, that Paid disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff $32 million to help promote and protect their gambling interests but who provided little in return for his fee.

Another Abramoff associate, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, also contributed $5,000 to Jindal. DeLay was convicted of scheming to influence Texas state elections with corporate money but a federal appeals court overturned that conviction last month.

There was the $55,000 in laundered money the Jindal campaign received in 2007. Richard Blossman, Jr., president of Central Progressive Bank of Lacombe in St. Tammany Parish, issued $5,000 “bonuses” to each of 11 board members but instead of giving them the money, 11 contributions of $5,000 each were funneled into the Jindal campaign in the names of the board members—without their knowledge or permission. Regulators subsequently took over the bank and Blossman was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for bank fraud.

Jindal has refused to return the money.

The State Board of Ethics also said River Birch, Inc., of Jefferson Parish formed six “straw man entities” through which it laundered $40,000 in illegal donations to Jindal.

Again, Jindal kept the money.

The governor accepted $158,500 in contributions from Lee Mallett and a host of his companies in Iowa, LA., and Lacassine and in return, Jindal appointed Mallett to the LSU Board of Supervisors—even though Mallett attended McNeese State University only briefly and received no degree. Jindal also had the Department of Corrections issue a directive to state parole and probation officers to funnel offenders into Mallett’s halfway house in Lacassine.

Jindal appointed Carl Shetler of Lake Charles to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors in July of 2008 after Shetler, his family and businesses contributed $42,000 to Jindal. Shetler’s biggest claim to fame came when he managed to get McNeese placed on athletic probation by the NCAA after it was learned that he paid money to McNeese basketball players. Now he helps preside over the very school that he placed in jeopardy. So much for that “gold standard” of governmental ethics.

Jindal also accepted $2,500 from Hospital Corp. of America (HCA) which paid a record settlement of $2 billion to settle the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history. The founder and CEO of HCA was Rick Scott, later elected governor of Florida, for whom Jindal campaign extensively.

Speaking of Florida and records, Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein was disbarred and sentenced to prison for running the largest ($1.4 billion) Ponzi scheme in the state’s history but not before he, his wife, his law firm and three of his corporations contributed $30,000 at a 2008 Jindal fundraiser hosted by Rothstein.

Most news media found the $10,000 contributed by Rothstein and his law firm but missed his wife’s and the corporation contributions that totaled an additional $20,000. Jindal announced that he would refund the money to a victims’ fund but instead, gave the $30,000 to the Baton Rouge Food Bank.

Jindal also took $10,000 from Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) and later gave ACS employee Jan Cassidy, sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy, a state job with the Division of Administration. ACS, meanwhile, has come under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for certain accounting practices.

Then there was the $11,000 Jindal accepted from the medical trust fund of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA), whose board president, Sean Alfortish, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for conspiring to rig the elections of the association and then helping himself to money controlled by the association.

The association also was accused of paying $347,000 from its medical and pension trust funds to three law firms without a contract or evidence of work performed. A state audit said LHBPA improperly raided more than $1 million from its medical trust account while funneling money into political lobbying and travel to the Cayman Islands, Aruba, Costa Rica and Los Cabos, Mexico.

The association, created by the Louisiana Legislature in 1993, is considered a non-profit public body and as such, is prohibited from contributing to political campaigns.

Saving the best for last

All these were sufficiently questionable to tarnish the “Mr. Clean” image Jindal has attempted to burnish throughout his administration but the most blatant display of arrogance and complete disdain for campaign laws has to be three individual contributions in 2003 that totaled a mere $5,000—from Jindal’s mother.

So what’s wrong with a relative contributing to his campaign? Several family members, after all, gave to the campaign as do family members of many other candidates.

Well, nothing…except that his mother, Raj Jindal, is a classified state employee, according to Civil Service records, an IT Director 3 with the Louisiana Workforce Commission, formerly the State Department of Labor. She earns $118,000 per year and has been working for the state for 38 years, certainly long enough to know the prohibition against state classified employees being active in political campaigns. State employees, after all, are routinely sent periodic reminders of civil service regulations governing political activity.

Records provided by the State Ethics Commission campaign finance reports indicate that Raj Jindal contributed $3,000 on April 23, 2003, to son Bobby. Nine days later, on May 2, she contributed another $500 and on June 17, she chipped in an additional $1,500, bringing her total contributions to the $5,000 maximum allowable by law—for non-civil service employees.

Article X, Part I, Paragraph 9 of the Louisiana State Constitution says:

“Section 9.(A) Party Membership; Elections. No member of a civil service commission and no officer or employee in the classified service shall participate or engage in political activity; be a candidate for nomination or election to public office except to seek election as the classified state employee serving on the State Civil Service Commission; or be a member of any national, state, or local committee of a political party or faction; make or solicit contributions for any political party, faction, or candidate (emphasis ours); or take active part in the management of the affairs of a political party, faction, candidate, or 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.

“(B) Contributions. No person shall solicit contributions for political purposes from any classified employee or official (emphasis ours) or use or attempt to use his position in the state or city service to punish or coerce the political action of a classified employee.”

One veteran political observer said that unless Jindal solicited the contribution, all liability lies with the governor’s mother for the rules violation.

But Jindal is a big boy, as evidenced by his advice earlier this year to his fellow Republicans to put on their “big boy pants.” He has to accept the responsibility for allowing his mother to flaunt state civil service rules not once, not twice, but three times. And yes, she also should be held accountable for her violation of rules that apply to every other state civil service employee.

Now the only question remaining is what will the Civil Service Commission do about the governor’s mother violating state campaign regulations governing political activity by Civil Service employees?

Our best advice is: don’t hold your breath waiting for disciplinary action.

The rules obviously do not apply to this governor.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—You may recall Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ill-fated retirement “reform” bills of 2012, all written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and introduced individually by Jindal’s lackeys in the House and Senate.

An example of how those “reforms” would have worked if passed can be found in the case of a single state employee whom we know but who is representative of thousands of state civil service workers.

In her case, she was (and still is, given that no civil service pay raises have been approved for five years now) making $52,000 per year and had 20 years’ service in 2012 (21 now). Her plan was to put in 30 years and retire. At her current pay, with no pay raises for the remainder of her career (which appears more likely with each year of the Jindal administration), she would retire at $39,000 per year. With inflation and no raises taken into account, $39,000 a year won’t go very far.

Had Jindal’s “reforms” passed, however, her annual retirement would have been reduced to $6,000 per year—a $33,000 per-year hit. And state employees do not pay into nor do they receive Social Security benefits. Six thousand dollars per year for 30 years’ service. Period.

And she was not an anomaly; stories like this would have been the case throughout state government.

Jindal claimed his retirement package was aimed at restoring the various state retirement systems to some semblance of stability by reducing the unfunded liabilities. But rather than continue to pay the state’s share of contributions to the systems those payments were actually reduced.

The bottom line is Jindal has complete and total disdain for the plight of those in the trenches—the ones who actually make state government work by showing up for work each day (which is certainly more than he does, given his extensive travel itinerary) and listening to the complaints of hostile citizens who don’t understand why they have so much difficulty getting the services they need—from road repairs to college and university infrastructure repair to services for the developmentally disabled where the waiting list is 10,000 persons—and growing. http://theadvocate.com/news/6739937-123/la-officials-try-to-shrink

And he’s made their job much harder by laying off rank and file employees while fattening the unclassified (appointed, non-civil service) payroll.

At the same time, he has been careful to take care of favored legislators with six-figure, do-nothing jobs which serve only to beef up their retirement benefits, some by more than tenfold.

LouisianaVoice, with the information available, did a before and after calculation of retirement benefits for several of those washed up legislators and local politicians. All calculations were based on the assumption they will remain in their new lofty positions at least three years. Here is what we found:

  • Former Rep. Jane Smith, by virtue of her appointment by Jindal to Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue at a yearly salary of $107,500, saw her retirement benefits climb from a modest $6,700 a year to $56,400 annually.
  • Former Rep. Kay Katz, appointed to the Louisiana Tax Commission at a $56,000 yearly salary will go from $6,700 per year to $29,400 a year in retirement benefits.
  • Troy Hebert who left the House to assume directorship of the State Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board, went from $4,500 to $37,500.
  • Lane Carson, who recently retired as Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs at $130,000 after five years on the job will retire at nearly $64,000 instead of about $7,500 on the basis of his service in the legislature.
  • Former St. Tammany Parish President and now Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) at $165,000 and former St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, now the $150,000 Director of Hazard Mitigation and Recovery are only guesses. Because we are unsure of their previous salaries or their tenure in office, we have arbitrarily given them 15-year tenures (including their current positions) which put their retirement at $85,000 and $75,000, respectively—estimates both.
  • Former State Sen. Robert Barham saw his modest $7,500 legislative retirement balloon to $84,500 on the basis of his $124,000-a-year position as Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Wildlife and Fisheries.
  • We already wrote about Congressman Rodney Alexander who is leaving Congress to accept Lane Carson’s former position as Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs at $130,000, a comfortable position that will boost his retirement from 15 years in the Louisiana Legislature prior to his election to Congress from $7,500 to $83,500.
  • But the grand prize goes to former State Rep. Noble Ellington. His 16 years in the House earned him a pension of about $8,900 but his hiring by Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon (at the behest of Jindal—his fingerprints are all over this appointment) as Deputy Commissioner of Insurance brought his retirement to almost $100,000 ($99,750).

Smith, Katz, Hebert, Carson, Barham, Alexander and Ellington qualify or will qualify for a combined retirement of more than $455,000 per year—an increase of $395,700 (667 percent) over their pre-Jindal appointment collective annual legislative retirement incomes of $59,300.

Now we harken back to Jindal’s aborted retirement “reform” which would have reduced our friend’s retirement from $39,000 to $6,000. On contrasting the two scenarios, one must ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

What is wrong is we have a governor who is just as slick and oily with the filthy ooze of dirty politics as any governor in the history of this state—while cloaking himself in the mantel of righteousness.

What is wrong is we have a governor who knows how to enrich his friends and stick it to everyone else—while pretending to act in the best interests of the state.

What is wrong is that we have a governor who entered Congress in January of 2005 as a man of modest means but emerged three years later as governor a multi-millionaire—and no one has asked how that happened.

What is wrong is that we have a governor who has demonstrated repeatedly that he has no compassion for the sick, the elderly, the developmentally disadvantaged, the mentally ill, state workers—and certainly not Louisiana citizens in general.

And what is wrong is we have a governor who does all that while hiding behind a façade of honesty, integrity, transparency and a “gold standard” of governmental ethics.

And now that same governor is attempting to call the shots in the election to fill the unexpired term of Rodney Alexander by promoting his puppet State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) for Congress. He did this by manipulating (a) the timing of Alexander’s retirement, (b) his immediate offer of a cushy job to Alexander, (c) turning over former Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell and chief fundraiser Allie Bautsch to work on Riser’s behalf, and (d) sewing up endorsements from State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe) and a host of Louisiana Republic congressmen, including former Payday Loan magnate John Fleming of Minden.

We in Louisiana are used to being conned by crooked politicians but they did it with so much more class than Jindal and his gaggle of sycophants.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—Poor Gov. Jindal; he just can’t catch a break.

No sooner does he try to put a positive spin on six straight months of increased unemployment rates in the state than 24/7 Wall St., the financial news and polling firm, publishes a survey showing that Louisiana is second only to Tennessee among the worst states in American in which to be unemployed.

Even Mississippi, at 10th worst, ranks eight notches higher than Louisiana.

Jindal, who loves to cite any survey that puts Louisiana in a favorable light, is likely to overlook the latest 24/7 findings which indicate the following for the state:

  • The 24.6 percent of average weekly wage covered is lowest in the nation (the national average is 33 percent);
  • The average weekly payout of $201 is second lowest;
  • The 30 percent of unemployed who are receiving benefits is tied with Tennessee for fifth lowest (again, the national average was 45 percent);
  • The 1.1 percent one-year job growth is 19th lowest;
  • The state’s unemployment rate of 7 percent puts it in the middle of the pack at 25th lowest—but Louisiana is one of only a handful where the unemployment rate actually rose from the previous year.

Jindal (through Lansing, of course; he never takes tough questions from the media) denies that the increased unemployment rate and the 3,800 state employees who received their pink slips in the last budget year are linked in any way.

Wow. As they say, figures don’t lie but liars figure.

Claiming that many of the state employees found new jobs with the private companies that took over state services, Sean Lansing, who apparently has taken Kyle Plotkin’s place as lead Jindal apologist, said, “Louisiana’s economy is continuing to thrive as we consistently outperform both the national and Southern economies. Suggesting otherwise can only be done by ignoring a slew of statistics and metrics that prove just how well we’re doing.”

Speaking of ignoring “a slew of statistics,” figures released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission indicates there were 146,800 unemployed in June in Louisiana, or 7 percent, up from 6.8 percent in May and the sixth straight month of increased unemployment.

Unemployment rates, it should be noted, count only those unemployed who continue to seek jobs, not those who have given up looking. That said, the fact that only 30 percent of the state’s unemployed (tied with Tennessee for fifth lowest) are receiving unemployment benefits would seem to contradict the administration’s rosy outlook.

Lansing, of course, fell back on certain business surveys which seem to come out every week painting the state as some kind of idyllic garden spot for business climate—all while Louisiana’s college graduates continue to leave the state in droves in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

If Louisiana is such an attractive magnet for business and jobs, someone please explain how this state has managed to go from eight to six congressmen (congressional representation is based on population, remember) and is projected by some experts to drop to five with the next census. (If all those people who have left the state had stayed, we can’t help but wonder what the unemployment rate would be.)

Lansing also pointed to decreases in Medicaid and food stamp enrollment and improved per capita income statistics to bolster the administration’s claim that Jindal is some sort of economic miracle worker.

But wait! Let’s take the food stamp enrollment first. “A state can have a great program, but if they make it really, really hard for people to qualify for benefits, then it’s just a great program sitting there that no one can use,” said Rebecca Dixon, policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

And those decreases in Medicaid were brought about in large part by the administration’s policies that have drastically reduced payments to doctors for treating Medicaid patients. As their own push back, many doctors have simply quit accepting new Medicaid patients. One doctor recently told LouisianaVoice that he can see a Medicaid patient “but if I have to order any procedures on that patient, Medicaid won’t pay, so I just don’t take any more Medicaid patients.”

Likewise, Baton Rouge area hospitals have very quietly begun laying off nurses and other personnel—a move directly attributable to the cutback in Medicaid payments approved by the Department of Health and Hospitals under the Jindal administration.

Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, took issue with Jindal’s claim that the climb in unemployment was not related to state layoffs.

“It can’t be the only factor, but to say they’re unrelated seems to be unrealistic and mathematically it can’t be,” he said. “I don’t think you can say the unemployment rate is not influenced by government employment layoffs.”

Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, ever the optimist at $320,000 per year (and who wouldn’t optimistic be at that salary?) said he expects the unemployment rate to drop because the state has thousands of jobs “in the pipeline” because of a large number of “just huge” projects in the works across the state. “As I look at the next few years, I see tens of thousands of new jobs,” he said. “I’m quite optimistic about the future.”

Tens of thousands? Wow again. Dude, there are people in this state who can’t hold out for the future, even for a “few years.”

Let’s go back to that 24/7 Wall St. report:

Job growth was relatively slow in the worst states to be employed because new job opportunities were taking longer to materialize. “In most of these states, the number of nonfarm jobs grew slower than the 1.3 percent national rate between June 2012 and June 2013,” it said.

In Louisiana, the nonfarm jobs grew at a whopping 1.1 percent during that time frame. So much for that healthy business climate.

Tens of thousands of new jobs on the horizon?

That’s a lot of guys standing on street corners dancing around like a dog in need of worming while playing air guitar on a cardboard pizza store sign.

That’s a lot of burgers and soft drinks.

You want fries with that?

 

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That one State Civil Service Commission member, D. Scott Hughes of Shreveport, changed his vote that allows the privatization of four state hospitals should come as no surprise. Many of you who logged comments on last week’s post even predicted it.

But for two members to skip a meeting of such importance is simply unforgivable.

For that reason alone, commission member Dr. Sidney Tobias of LaPlace and commission Chairman David Duplantier of Mandeville should resign immediately.

The board, sans Tobias and Duplantier, met Monday to reconsider the proposed contract between the state and Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana for operation of the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe, between the state and Southern Regional Medical Center and Terrebonne General Medical Center to take over Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma and between the state and Lake Charles Memorial Hospital to take over in-patient care and medical education from W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles.

The result was predictable: Last week the vote was 4-3 against acceptance of the contracts but on Monday it was 3-2 in favor.

All the vote did was seal the fate of nearly 4,000 employees who can now anticipate being laid off from their jobs effective June 23.

Keep in mind the decision hinged on a contract approved by the LSU Board of Stuporvisors which contained some 50 blank pages and which contained no financial provisions or termination clause.

Last week’s decision to reject the contract was because commission members said they need more details about financing arrangements. Are we now to believe that over the course of a weekend, sufficient financial information was filled in on those blank pages to satisfy the commission?

We understand that Dr. Tobias is a dentist and as such, has a busy schedule. But if his schedule is such that it is impossible to attend meetings at which the future of 4,000 state employees hang in the balance, then he has no business serving on the board and should resign immediately.

The same goes for attorney Duplantier. You either are in a position to serve or you are not. There can be no gray area in matters of this magnitude.

We bet if a meeting held the potential of costing either Duplantier or Tobias a major share of their clients or patients (read: income), there would be no way to keep them out.

Ego carries you only so far. If you like to boast to your friends that you’re on the Civil Service Commission but you do not have the time to attend a meeting at which 4,000 people lost their jobs, then you’ve lost something even greater; you’ve lost sight of your purpose.

At that point, Tobias and Duplantier become just two more egocentric narcissists with no real concern for others.

How can you face yourselves in the mirror?

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Gov. Bobby Jindal had another roadblock thrown in his path to privatization of four LSU hospitals on Wednesday when the State Civil Service Commission, by a 4-3 vote, rejected the state’s contracts with private hospitals to take over state-run facilities in New Orleans, Lafayette, Houma and Lake Charles.

The matter has already been scheduled for a re-hearing on Monday at 8 a.m. in the Louisiana Purchase Room on the first floor of the Claiborne Building at 1201 North Third Street in Baton Rouge.

In taking the action, commission members complained that the information provided by LSU was insufficient.

Really? A contract with 50 blank pages was not enough? The commission perhaps needed some specifics—like an offer and an acceptance and a termination clause?

It should be noted that the commission did not vote to reject the administration’s layoff plans relative to the privatization of the Interim Hospital in New Orleans, University Medical Center in Lafayette, Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma and W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles.

Civil Service Director Shannon Templet must make a decision on the layoff plan by next Tuesday in order for the layoffs to become effective on June 24.

But if the privatization plan is not approved, the hospitals would necessarily have to keep nearly 3,000 classified employees on the job in order to keep the hospitals open.

Dr. Fred Cerise, the former head of the LSU Health System who was fired by Jindal (through the Board of Stuporvisors, of course), said on Wednesday that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) still has not given the go-ahead for the hospital privatization plan and without that approval, everything else is moot.

Cerise said the state plans to use the $110 million that Children’s Hospital in New Orleans is paying to take over the Interim Hospital (formerly Big Charity before that facility was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina and a new structure built) will be used by the state to leverage greater matching funds from Medicaid.

“But if CMS does not approve the plan, the state will have to repay Medicaid for any excess money it received on the basis of that $110 million,” he said, adding, “I don’t think there’s any way CMS is going to give its stamp of approval to this plan.”

Dr. Michael Kaiser, Chief Executive Officer of the LSU Health Care Services Division, said he would ask the commission to reconsider its decision. He said the commission would be provided with the agreements between LSU and the private companies.

“I’m not sure what they intend to show the commission on Monday,” Cerise said, “but there’s no way they can show a savings when contracts for privatizing two of the hospitals (Chabert and Moss) don’t even contain any financial details.”

That, of course, raises the question of just why was the commission not provided copies of the agreements in the first place. Did Kaiser expect the commission to simply rubber stamp the privatization plan as it has in the past and as the LSU Board of Stuporvisers does on a regular basis with anything Jindal sends over?

In the past the Board of Stuporvisers has done Jindal’s bidding without question—from the firing of LSU President John Lombardi, LSU System General Counsel Raymond Lamonica, and Drs. Roxanne Townsend and Cerise, to operating in complete secrecy to hire a new LSU president who possesses credentials that are questionable at best, to approving essentially blank contracts for the takeover of LSU hospitals in Shreveport, Monroe, Houma and Lake Charles. The contracts consisted of about 50 blank pages and contained no mention of financial terms, specific offers, acceptances or termination clauses.

And for the privilege of doing Jindal’s bidding, members of the Board of Stuporvisers get to metaphorically lick the master’s hand with campaign contributions totaling about a quarter-million dollars between them.

All of which raises another question that no one has asked to this point but one for which there is a desperate need for an answer:

• When was the last time the LSU Board of Stuporvisors took any action during this governor’s administration that supported academics and was not done to achieve a political agenda—Jindal’s political agenda, to be specific?

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Kaiser, in the wake of the unexpected rejection of the administration’s plan by the commission, only now bemoans the fact that in anticipation of approval of the privatization, the public hospitals have no money in the state budget for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1.

That would be because Jindal did not include funding in his budget back in January because he was certain his privatization plan would be approved.

Somewhere out there, the ghost of Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle is flashing a big, innocent grin and saying to Bobby Jindal, aka Barney Fife, “Sur-PRISE, Sur-PRISE, Sur-PRISE!” (Our apologies to Barney Fife.)

Kaiser said the administration would have to try and determine what other action could be taken if the privatization is not approved.

More than 3,500 employees work at the four hospitals. Of that number, 2,953 are classified, or Civil Service rank-and-file employees. The remainder are unclassified and do not enjoy Civil Service protection. Their layoffs do not have to be approved by the commission.

More than half of the classified employees (1,690) are employed at the Interim Hospital in New Orleans. The remainder are at University Medical Center in Lafayette (487), Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma (556) and W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles (220).

It will be interesting to see if any legislators from the affected areas show up for Monday’s Civil Service Commission re-hearing. Republican House Speaker Chuck Kleckley is from Lake Charles.

Other Calcasieu Parish House members include Democrats Michael Danahay, A.B. Franklin, and Dorothy Sue Hill and Republicans Brett Geymann, John Guinn and Ben Hensgens.

Calcasieu senators include Republicans John Smith, Ronnie Johns and Dan “Blade” Morrish.

House members from Lafayette Parish include Democrats Terry Landry, Jack Montoucet, Stephen Orgego and Vincent Pierre and Republicans Taylor Barras, Stuart Bishop, Nancy Landry, and Joel Robideaux.

Senators who represent Lafayette Parish are Republicans Elbert Guillory, Johathan Perry, Page Cortez and Fred Mills.

Terrebonne/Lafourche parish House members include Republicans Gordon Dove, Sr., Joe Harrison and Lenar Whitney of Terrebonne and Democrat Jerry Gisclair and Independent Jerome “Dee” Richard, both of Lafourche. Richard, by the way, was present at Wednesday’s commission hearing.

Representing Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes in the Senate are Democrats Troy Brown and Gary Smith and Republicans Norbert Chabert and Bret Allain.

Orleans Parish House members include Democrats Neil Abramson, Jeffery Arnold, Austin Badon, Wesley Bishop, Jared Brossett, Walt Leger and Helena Moreno. Orleans Republicans include Raymond Garofalo, Christopher Leopold and Nick Lorusso.

Senators who represent Orleans include Republicans A.G. Crowe and Conrad Appel and Democrats Karen Carter Peterson, Jean-Paul Morrell, David Heitmeier and Edwin Murray.

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The announcement has already gone out in the Department of Education (DOE) and on Monday, an official layoff plan will be presented to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission.

We hope the commissioners will consider the fate of affected employees who have families to support and mortgages, tuition, and car notes to pay before approving the plan in the same routine manner as with recent layoff plans.

That, after all, is the most damning aspect of this entire administration: the fact that human lives are affected adversely in the name of greed, power and ego. They are people who have names and faces. They have human emotions just like the rest of us. They go to work, come home and mow the lawn. They fish on weekends and perhaps coach their kids in softball, baseball and soccer. They sit beside us at church and in the movie theater.

They grew up believing that if they studied hard in school, made good grades, acted as responsible citizens and worked hard at their jobs, they would realize the American dream of a home, a family, and the opportunity for their children to do better than they.

That may be the way it’s turning out for some, but for the most part, state workers today are living with the same fears of insecurity as the rest of us. The administration of Bobby Jindal is doing everything in its power, through a compliant and pitifully weak legislature, to thin the herd, as it were, of the most vulnerable state employees—those with no one to speak on their behalf—by firing thousands of decent, hard-working employees and gutting the retirement of those who remain.

And what about the private citizen, those who do not work for the state? Yes, you have a dog in this hunt, too, whether you know it or not, whether or not you are willing to pull yourself away from Duck Dynasty or American Idol long enough to get involved.

It is your children whose public education is being destroyed before your very eyes. It is their tuition costs that are soaring because Gov. Bobby Jindal, perhaps the weakest—and at the same time, most power hungry and ambitious—governor this state has seen for at least 100 years insists on keeping taxes low for his constituents and corporate entities who contribute heavily to his campaigns. Altogether, tax breaks, exemptions and incentives have been handed to these supporters on a silver platter to the tune of some $5 billion a year in breaks.

It is the state that suffers at Jindal’s bumbling, self-righteous refusals to accept federal Medicaid funds, broadband internet funds, federal funds for a passenger rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and federal funds for early childhood development.

His reason? He doesn’t like to accept federal funds with the strings that are attached. Well, he certainly accepts massive federal funding to pay for hundreds of contracts awarded by DOE when it fits his agenda. He has no problem accepting billions in federal highway funding dollars. And despite his protestations to the contrary, he had no problem accepting federal stimulus money to dole out to local governments at Protestant churches during his first term of office.

By the way, does anyone happen to know the number of churches he has visited since his re-election?

None.

Zero.

Nil.

Nada.

Zilch.

Yea, not one.

He also has had no problem with accepting hurricane relief funds. Of course, he probably would have been ridden out of the state on a rail had he declined those funds at a time they were so desperately needed. But the Road Home Program, run by his appointees, has a less than stellar record in administering hundreds of millions of federal funds as evidenced by a recent audit that found that more than $100 million may have been misspent.

So now we’re looking at a significant layoff at DOE. The notice went out to DOE employees on Friday (that’s when news releases that cast the administration in a bad light are most likely to be issued).

Early word is some three dozen employees will get the axe, to become effective on May 30.

“This layoff is being proposed due to a reduction of state funds of $3.4 million in the Operating Budget for fiscal year 2013-2014.

But wait. They’re trying to save $3.4 million?

A printout of DOE employees reveals a list of fairly hefty salaries of unclassified (appointed) employees in both DOE and the Recovery School District (RSD).

There are 54 employees of DOE and RSD who earn $100,000 or more per year for a total payroll of $6.7 million.

The breakdown shows there are 32 RSD unclassified employees earning a total of $3.66 million and 22 DOE unclassified employees earning $100,000 or more with a total payroll of another $3 million.

And that is just those making more than $100,000. There are 86 who make $90,000 or more in both DOE and RSD and only six of those are classified employees—all in DOE.

Let’s take a look at some of the individuals, their job titles and salaries.

Recovery School District:

• Neeta Boddapati—Administrator, Other Pupil: $95,000;

• Clara Bradford—Clerical Other Special Programs: $95,000;

• Ronald Bordelon—Administrator, Chief Officers: $150,000;

• Edwin Compass—Director: $125,000;

• Nicole Diamantes—Administrator, Other Special Programs: $105,000;

• Patrick Dobard—RSD Superintendent: $225,000;

• Gabriela Fighetti—Administrator, Regular Programs: $117,000;

• James Ford—Administrative Superintendent: $145,000;

• Lona Hankins—Director: $131,000;

• Helen Molpus—Administrative Chief, Officers: $115,000;

• Dana Peterson—Administrative Superintendent: $125,000;

Bear in mind that even with all the high salaries and impressive sounding titles that go with them, the RSD has an abysmal record:

• All 15 direct-run RSD schools were assigned a letter grade of “D” or “F.” compared to only one of the five (20 percent) Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) direct-run schools.

• Of the 42 charter RSD schools, 33 (79 percent) received a “D” or “F” compared to none of the 11 charter schools run by the OPSB.

• Of the 5422 students attending direct-run RSD schools, 100 percent received a “D” or “F.”

• Of the RSD students attending charter schools, 15,040 (76 percent) attend schools with grades of “D” or “F.”

DOE—State Activities:

• Erin Bendily—Deputy Superintendent: $140,000;

• Nicholas Bolt—Fellow: $105,000;

• James Bowman—Director: $148,000;

• Kenneth Bradford—Director: $110,000;

• Hannah Dietsch—Assistant Superintendent: $130,000;

• Howard Drake—Liaison Officer: $160,000;

• Joan Hunt—Executive Counsel: $125,000;

• Gary Jones—Executive Officer: $145,000;

• Kerry Laster—Executive Officer: $155,000;

• David “Lefty” Lefkowith—Director: $146,000;

• Kunjan Narechania—Chief of Staff: $145,000;

• Stephen Osborn—Assistant Superintendent: $125,000;

• Elizabeth Scioneaux—Deputy Superintendent: $132,800;

• Jill Slack—Director: $124,000;

• Gayle Sloan—Liaison Officer: $160,000;

• Melissa Stilley—Liaison Officer: $135,000;

• Francis Touchet—Liaison Officer: $130,000;

• John White—Superintendent: $275,000;

• Heather Cope—Director: $125,000.

If John White sincerely wished to save $3.4 million, he could probably do with fewer liaison officers, directors and “fellows,” whatever that is.

White has deliberately brought in a bevy of highly-paid, appointees whose credentials, like those of Lefkowith, might have little to do with education and more to do with political loyalty.

But then, White was himself brought in by Jindal to do the governor’s bidding—even before his official appointment.

Jindal’s first attempt at installing White was rejected by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and he was not officially appointed superintendent until after a new board took office in January of 2012. But that did not stop White—and Jindal—from moving forward with their agenda.

In December of 2011, with Ollie Tyler ostensibly serving as acting superintendent, personnel changes were in the offing in the department when White announced to the staff members involved in the proposed changes, “Nothing gets done until I say so.”

That’s confidence.

That’s arrogance.

That’s the way things are done in this administration. Disregard of the law has become the order of the day.

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We’ve been trying to spread the message for some time now about how the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal is cognizant only of the well-being of Bobby Jindal and his presidential aspirations which, by the way, are evaporating like so much acetone-based nail polish remover.

We’ve sounded the alarm on reforms to public education, budget cuts to higher education, attempted pension reforms, privatization, the firing of state appointed officials and the demotion of legislators, the refusal to accept federal funding for Medicaid, broadband internet, a rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, early childhood intervention and federal stimulus funds (though there seems to be no compunction about all that federal highway money that the state receives, nor hurricane relief when it’s needed).

We’ve written extensively about how the appointments to plum commissions and boards seem to gravitate toward big campaign contributors and how the appointees use their purchased positions to inflict the whims of the governor on state institutions and state employees.

And we were first to sound the alarm, thanks to a timely heads-up State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux), that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had not approved the Jindal administration’s half-baked state hospital privatization plan—a development which could cost the state another $800 million in Medicaid funds if the state does not submit its plan for approval in time for the adoption of next year’s state budget.

Now, though, it seems that others are beginning to catch on. There are rumblings of discontent in the Legislature, the Board of Regents backed the governor down in his attempt to fire the commissioner of higher education, the state school principals association simply walked away from a state-sponsored Principal of the Year contest over the criteria imposed on the selection process by Education Superintendent John White.

We broke the initial story about White’s decision to provide personal data on all Louisiana public school students to inBloom, a massive computer data bank controlled by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch. The backlash from that story has forced White to back down on the agreement with inBloom, though we’re still skeptical about the legitimacy of his announcement that he was calling the information back into the Department of Education. It seems to us that it might be a little difficult to take back what was already submitted to inBloom. Kind of like getting the genie back into the bottle.

We are told, by the way, that White and his minions have literally freaked out over our latest request for public records relative to the DOE Value Added Model (VAM) for teacher evaluations. Apparently, there is some information in the records we requested that he desperately does not want the public to know.

And of course, there is that federal investigation looming over the governor’s office regarding that $184 million contract awarded to CNSI by its former employee, Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein. Greenstein was the first domino to fall in that little scandal and there could be more.

But now, state employees, while still maintaining their anonymity for the sake of keeping their jobs, are starting to sound off and they’re doing so loudly and clearly.

The essay below was penned by a state employee. We know the employee’s name but we are sworn to secrecy to protect a state worker who has seen wanton disregard for propriety and ethics up close and personal.

To summarize, the essay is about the surreptitious retaining of Ruth Johnson, retired Department of Children and Family Services Director, to a $49,900 contract from Feb. 18 through June 14 at which time she is expected to be hired full time at a six-figure salary.

Contract Details

Contract Number 720077
Contract Title DOA/OIT & RUTH JOHNSON
Contract Description PROVIDE CONSULTING, RESEARCH, ANALYSIS, AND ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT TO THE OFFICE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR ALL MATTER S RELATED TO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES. 100% STATE GENERAL; $80/HOUR PLUS $4,377.60 TRAVEL
Agency DOA-OFFICE OF CIO
Amount $49,900.00
Begin Date 2/18/2013
End Date 6/14/2013
Approval Date 3/14/2013
Document Type CONSULTING CONTRACT-CFMS
Status ENCUMBRANCE SUCCESSFUL
Contractor RUTH JOHNSON
Contractor City and State BATON ROUGE, LA

So why put her on contract instead of hiring her outright?

For that answer, refer back to her contract, which runs through mid-June.

The Legislature, by law, is required to adjourn no later than June 6. When her contract expires, it will be too late for her appointment to full time status to be confirmed by the State Senate.

By going the route of a contract through June 14, DOA avoids the messy confirmation process and as we shall see in the essay below, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) has already seen through the ruse.

Here is the essay by Anonymous:

As I read recent headlines regarding the current administration, I find myself pausing to take a reflective look back. What I see saddens me.

There are so many who have chosen to defile the system with little regard or respect for their colleagues, Louisiana law, and even the Legislature for that matter. Some might even go as far as to say they’ve done so with an incredible degree of arrogance—assuming no one around them will notice. Maybe they assume no one will speak up. Maybe they have, like Jindal, become too callous to care. But I want to take a second to assure you—especially those “insiders” monitoring this blog—that your colleagues do notice.

Last Thursday, on the floor of the State Senate, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) called attention to a particular contract the administration planned to sneak by state employees and the legislature. You know the one that contracts out the Chief Information Officer position to former DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson?

Yep, that one. It’s the one that seems to us, to be an attempt to circumvent both the legislative process as well as Louisiana law. It’s the same contract that fills what statute says must be an appointed and unclassified position—with a contractor, or vendor, if you will. It is the contract that was written for $49,900 (just $100 below the $50,000 level that requires approval of Contractual Review). And it’s the same one that expires one week after the session ends which would allow Ms. Johnson to avoid a confirmation hearing.

And most importantly, it is the one that allows Ms. Johnson to return to State service as a rehired retiree without having to follow any of the guidelines outlined by LASERS. href=”http://www.lasersonline.org/uploads/21ProceduresWhenHiringReemployedRetirees.pdf).”>http://www.lasersonline.org/uploads/21ProceduresWhenHiringReemployedRetirees.pdf).

Yes, they have been watching.

Do you know what else they’ve seen? How about that new position created for a family member of a current Louisiana Congressman? The $150,000 position that did not exist before now? They noticed. And are you aware they also noticed that the holder of that position, Jan Cassidy, called a state employee prior to her arrival to ensure a state contract won by her employer at the time (ACS/Xerox) was pushed through before she arrived? You didn’t think they would see that either, did you?

I’m sure it seems unbelievable they might not be as naive to the wrong doing as you assumed. Employees aren’t supposed to question things. But they have been. And you should know they’ve been watching much further back than just the past year.

They all noticed that job you filled with a family member of a prominent public servant only a few months after laying off a number of employees from the same area. They all noticed how the spouse of the current Deputy Commissioner was able to gain rights to a classified position, available when and if her unclassified one comes to an end. They saw the ethical violations involved as she discussed matters directly with her spouse and HR Director at the time.

And if it isn’t enough that the Deputy Commissioner is indirectly supervising his spouse, he actually ensured she was placed in the best position she could qualify for at the time. Yes, the gullible, never-figures-out-your-secrets employees noticed. And not surprisingly, it would seem as if a close friend of said spouse noticed as well. How else could someone close to retirement, who supervises no one, snag a $15,000 raise while her colleagues continue to work alongside her with no merit increases or opportunities to move forward.

Yes they have seen the Tim Barfields and the Bruce Greensteins – same people only differing faces. They have passed all of you in the halls, the parking lots, and sometimes at various functions and ponder how you could smile at them and make light of current events. They wonder how you walk these halls and look them in the eyes as if you haven’t plundered them for your own advancements.

And while they may not show it outwardly, they know what you have done for yourselves at the expense of others. They know who signed the papers and who pushed through the favors and you can bet they only wish they could ask you if it’s worth it. Is being on the inside with an inflated sense of entitlement and self-worth so much that you’d sell your integrity to move yourself forward? Is it worth losing any remaining respect your colleagues might have had for you? Is it worth not only stealing from and lying to the public, but also to the people you interact with on a daily basis?

I hope it is. Because in the end, that money and “insider” status is all you’ll have. Someday you’ll realize those are just temporary tokens you can’t take with you when you leave this place or when you yourself become one of this administration’s sacrificial lambs. Surely you can ask Bruce Greenstein about that one. I imagine he’d tell you that politicians will wither and fade, as will your self-imposed status, and you’ll be left with the people you stepped on and stole from to get to where you are. Maybe then, when you don’t think you hold the cards, maybe that will be a better time to ask – was it worth it?

And don’t worry – as always, they will be watching.

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