When it comes to making a distinction between the duties of official public servant and campaign worker during the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the lines are often blurred as individuals move back and forth between state and campaign payrolls seamlessly and with few apparent changes in their duties.
Jindal deftly juggled the payroll of his closest advisers between his campaign payroll and taxpayer-funded salaries as part of his staff in his two successful runs for the governor’s office in 2007 and 2011, civil service and campaign records show.
At least three of those moved just as easily from the governor’s office in Louisiana to the re-election campaign of Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 and Timmy Teepell moved from Jindal’s 2007 campaign manager to his chief of staff once Jindal took office and he later left briefly to work for the national Republican Governors Association as brother Taylor Teepell moved from advisor to former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to first deputy legislative director and later deputy chief of staff for Jindal.
Timmy Teepell left Jindal’s office following the 2011 election to head up the southern office of OnMessage, a political consulting firm out of Maryland to which Jindal has paid more than $5 million from 2007 through the end of 2013.
Jindal’s campaign paid Teepell $110,000 in 2007 and $120,000 for four months during 2010 (Aug. 1 through Nov. 4) and five months during 2011 (July 1 through Nov. 30) but from Jan. 14, 2008 through July 30, 2010 and from Nov. 5, 2010, through July 1, 2011, he worked as Jindal’s chief of staff at a salary of $165,000 per year—paid by Louisiana taxpayers.
Teepell did receive one payment of $3,880 from Jindal’s campaign on Nov. 11, 2010—10 days after he begin his second stint as Jindal’s chief of staff but the overlap was probably a delayed payment for campaign work done before he re-joined the governor’s staff.
Taylor Teepell, worked for six months in Jindal’s 2007 campaign, earning $29,000 before going to work for former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who was serving as president of the Republican Governors Association.
Taylor Teepell entered Jindal’s office on Nov. 21, 2011, as older brother Timmy was departing. He first came on board as deputy legislative director at $90,000 but in less than a year, on Oct. 16, 2012, was named deputy chief of staff and given a raise to $130,000, the same salary Jindal makes. This was in the middle of a period in which state classified workers have received no pay raises.
Other attempts by Jindal to shuttle supporters back and forth between campaign and public payrolls are almost laughable in their transparent efforts to make everything appear to be above board.
Take the case of Melissa Sellers who received $35,600 from the Jindal campaign between March 30 and Nov. 8, 2007 and another $12,860 in two separate payments of $6,430 on Oct. 14 and Oct. 24, 2011. Jindal won re-election to his second four-year term on Oct. 22, 2011.
Civil Service records show that Sellers began as a state employee in the governor’s office as press secretary on Jan. 15, 2008—the day after Jindal was inaugurated for his first term—at a salary of $85,000. After being promoted to director of communications and given a raise to $90,000, she resigned on Oct. 7, 2011 but returned to the governor’s office in the same role only 18 days later, on Oct. 25. The campaign payments were during her brief hiatus from the governor’s office.
That means she pulled in $12,860 for working 18 days for Jindal’s campaign—a pay scale of more than $300,000 per year. But if the Oct. 24 represented a 10-day pay period (the first paycheck was on Oct. 14), then her first pay period would have extended at least as far back as Oct. 4—three days before her resignation from her state job. In any case, it appears there may well have been some overlap between the time she started working for the campaign and the date she resigned from the governor’s office.
More significant than her salary, however, was the timing of the move. By that time, Jindal and everyone else in the state knew he would win re-election easily over only token opposition, so what was the purpose of her taking an 18-day break from the governor’s office to work in a campaign that was already in coasting mode?
But then, upon returning to the governor’s office on Oct. 25, she remained barely more than a month, leaving again on Dec. 1, ostensibly to enroll in seminary to study for the ministry—a commitment that apparently did not last very long.
Instead, she next turned up in the re-election campaign of Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and now serves as his chief of staff. Along the way, she managed, along with two other Jindal campaign workers, to become involved in a scandal that resulted in Scott’s firing of popular Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
The three—Sellers and husband and wife team Frank and Meghan Collins—managed to acquire the dubious identity of “The Louisiana Mafia” for the heavy-handed manner in which they attempted unsuccessfully to jerk Bailey around.
They first demanded that state police provide transportation for Scott campaign workers but Bailey refused, explaining that he was obligated by law to provide transportation for the governor and his wife, but not campaign aides.
Next, the Florida Republican Party attempt to foist a $90,000 check onto the FDLE as payment for shuttling campaign workers but Bailey again said no, that it would be inappropriate for his department, which is supposed to be independent of partisan politics, to accept money from a political party.
Scott, or those representing him, then attempted to bring Bailey into a conference call to discuss Scott’s platform for the coming four years but again Bailey declined to involve his department in partisan politics.
And when he complained to Scott’s chief legal counsel, that he had received solicitations for campaign contributions to Scott on his state computer, the attorney, Pete Antonacci, advised him to “just delete” the emails—in violation of Florida law prohibiting the destruction of state records.
And then there is Frank Collins, one of the “Louisiana Mafia,” who should still be smarting from his experience in Jindal’s office.
Paid only $7,500 to work four months in Jindal’s 2007 campaign, he eventually succeeded Sellers as press secretary, but at $65,000—which was $20,000 less than Sellers made for the same position three years earlier. He left on Oct. 6, 2012, and like Sellers and wife Meghan, eventually ended up with Scott’s re-election campaign and now works as Scott’s deputy chief of staff while Meghan Collins is a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education.
Jonathan Ringo is a $110,000-a-year director in the governor’s office who once told Robert Burns—but then denied that he ever said it—that the Office of Inspector General “concurred” in Burns’ removal from the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board. Before bellying up to the public trough, however, he was paid more than $18,000 by Jindal’s 2007 campaign.
Matthew Parker has been director of legislative affairs for the governor’s office at $120,000 per year since Oct. 16, 2012. Before that, from Nov. 28, 2011 until being named to his current position, he was director of intergovernmental affairs at $95,000 per year.
But other than Timmy Teepell, Parker was the highest-paid Jindal campaign staffer, knocking down nearly $35,000 in seven months in 2007 and more than $79,400 in the first 11 months of 2011 for a grand total of more than $114,000.
Perhaps it’s only coincidence that Parker is Timmy Teepell’s brother-in-law.
The two lowest-paid employees in the governor’s office who also worked for his campaign at least have the consolation of getting frequent rides in state police helicopters.
Tyler Brey, who received $18,500 for working for seven months in the 2011 campaign, went on the state dime on March 11, 2013 as a $33,000-per-year external affairs liaison, whatever that fancy title entails. Last Oct. 1, even as state classified employees were going without a pay increase for a fifth consecutive year, Brey received a $1,300-per-year raise to $34,300. Brey also made 42 trips on the state police ‘copter, always accompanying Jindal as his sycophant, to such exotic getaways as Monroe, Springhill, Ruston, Jena, Winnfield, Delhi, and Mansfield, among others.
One of those trips Brey made with Jindal and communications director Kyle Plotkin, was to Minden on Feb. 3, 2013, eight days before he officially became a state employee.
The other frequent flyer was Daniel Kirk, who was paid $24,000 by the Jindal 2007 campaign before joining the governor’s office on Jan. 14, 2008, the same day Jindal was inaugurated for his first term.
He started as a $35,000-a-year administrative assistant and four months later was named a program manager at the same salary. But on Feb. 22, 2010, he was named a director in the governor’s office. It wasn’t altogether clear what a director does, but it must be pretty impressive considering he got a $30,000 bump in pay—to $65,000 but still $45,000 less than fellow director Ringo.
Kirk got to visit some of the same locales as Brey and got the added treat of flying to Georgetown in LaSalle Parish and Kinder in southwest Louisiana. He and Jindal also made a hop to Columbia, home of State Sen. Neil Riser, just about the time U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander was getting ready to announce his retirement so that Riser could run for his seat—unsuccessfully, it turned out.
In all, Kirk made 49 trips with Jindal in the state police helicopters, 19 of those during the 2011 election year and the other 30 in 2010, the year leading up to Jindal’s re-election run.
It’s impossible to say with any certainty that Jindal and his campaign-workers-turned-state-employees were using the state helicopters for campaign purposes, but with Jindal making nearly 200 ‘copter trips in 2010 and 2011, often accompanied by Sellers, Kirk or Timmy or Taylor Teepell or Brey, compared to only 86 during the next three years combined, one has to wonder.
And with the controversy sparked by Sellers and Meghan and Frank Collins in Florida in their attempts to commandeer state vehicles for campaign purposes, one also has to wonder if the “Louisiana Mafia” was only trying to repeat in Florida what they may have done with impunity in Louisiana in 2010 and 2011.