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The photo in the Shreveport Times shows a grinning Gov. Bobby Jindal shaking hands with David Zolet, executive vice president and general manager of the North American Sector of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as the two jointly announced that the company plans to open a technology center at CSC’s national Cyber Research Park in Bossier City.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20140218/NEWS05/140218014/Computer-Sciences-Corporation-bring-800-jobs-Bossier-City

The company, partially owned by Lloyds Banking Group of London through its Scottish Windows funds, offers IT services, including cloud solutions, cyber security, technology consulting and, according to several sources, secret CIA flights for the purposes of interrogation and torture. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/may/06/lloyds-computer-sciences-corporation-cia-rendition

CSC will be the anchor tenant of the research park and will partner with Louisiana Tech University to account for 1,600 new jobs over the next four years, thanks in part to $14 million in state funding over the next decade to expand higher education programs to increase the number of computer science graduates per year.

Louisiana Tech is scheduled to receive the bulk of the $14 million as it plans to quadruple its number of undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer information systems and cyber engineering over the next five or six years, Jindal said, adding that Bossier City was selected over 133 other sites in the U.S. He said the company’s decision will help northwest Louisiana to become “one of America’s new technology hubs, enabling the region to attract technology partners of CSC as well as other technology companies attracted to the growing IT work force here.”

And while Louisiana Tech will get most of the initial funding, the lease payments for the 116,000 square-foot technology center that will be constructed and leased to CSC by Cyber Innovation Center will be paid with $29 million in state funds. City and parish governments will chip another $5 million each to purchase data center equipment for the building while CSC will invest in the servers and other computer technology.

While we are not sure of the identities of the other “technology partners” of CSC, it’s somewhat interesting to note that CSC customers are being urged to boycott the company over allegations that it took part in illegal CIA rendition flights in the U.S. “war on terror.”

Court documents have linked CSC to the rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who was abducted on Dec. 31, 2003, after being mistaken for a known terrorist by the CIA. http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240160206/Customers-urged-to-boycott-CSC-over-CIA-torture-flights

El-Masri was blindfolded, beaten, imprisoned for 23 days, stripped, sodomized, chained, drugged, flown to Afghanistan where he was again beaten and imprisoned for another four months, interrogated, threatened, denied legal representation, force fed and finally flown in a CSC-chartered plane to Albania, where he was left on a remote road in the middle of the night some 1500 kilometers from his home.

CSC was contracted for the flight as well as for other illegal CIA renditions, according to human rights charity Reprieve. CSC has so far refused a request by Reprieve to sign a pledge of “zero tolerance to torture,” and has also declined to respond to questions from Computer Weekly about the allegations.

Documents provided by Reprieve include invoices that show that CSC chartered N982RK, a Gulfstream jet, on the date El-Masri was abducted and logs provided by the civil-military air traffic safety regulator EuroControl show that N982RK few in stages from Washington to Kabul on May 26, 2004, and then to Kucova air base.

Aviation authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina called attention to the unusual flight patterns of the plane which had requested diplomatic permissions under a CIA identifier.

The U.S. has since admitted the abduction to German premier Angela Merkel.

“We think CSC was at the top of the contracting tree for this (CIA operation),” said Reprieve researcher Dr. Crofton Black. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that CSC was the prime contractor between the government and the companies that ran the flight operations.”

German ministries have been sharing IT services with the CIA and NSA and now it is learned that the German government does business with a company involved in abduction and torture—at a pretty handsome profit. http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/67143760611/outsourcing-intelligence-sinks-germany-further-into

For years, CSC was one of the CIA’s largest contractors and records show that the CIA paid the firm $11 million to have el-Masri picked up in Kabul and subsequently tortured for months on end before finally being released as a victim of mistaken identity.

One online news story about the company notes that CSC is a “massive company,” with at least 11 subsidiaries in 16 locations in Germany alone. CSC and its subsidiaries are part of a secret industry, the military intelligence industry but do the “traditionally reserved for the military and intelligence agencies,” but at cheaper rates and under “much less scrutiny.

Germany has paid the company some $405 million since 1990 and over the past five years, the country has awarded more than 100 contracts to CSC and its subsidiaries.

The story said it is “no coincidence” that the company’s various German offices are often located near U.S. military bases.

Cyber Research Park and Barksdale AFB, home of the U.S. Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing and Global Strike Command, and nearly adjacent in their proximity to each other, with the proposed CSC facility and Barksdale separated only by I-20.

Coincidence?

We certainly hope so.

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As anticipated, Deloitte Consulting, which met regularly with state officials over the past year to assist in planning for a comprehensive consolidation of information technology (IT) services for the Division of Administration, was named winner of the contract for “Information Technology Planning and Management Support Services,” according to an email announcement by the Division of Administration (DOA) that went out to IT employees Thursday morning.

The announcement, which did not mention a contract amount, came only hours after LouisianaVoice indicated that Deloitte had the inside track for the contract on the strength of its working with state officials in the planning of a request for proposals (RFP) for the work.

The email said that the evaluation of proposals was complete and that work under the contract is slated to begin on Monday, September 16.

The announcement cited five other states with full IT consolidation. These included Michigan, Utah, Colorado, New Hampshire and New Mexico. It also listed eight other states with limited IT consolidation: Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey and North Carolina.

The email, however, made no mention of the massive cost overruns experienced by several states in attempts at computer conversion and IT consolidation, including North Carolina, one of those put forward by the administration as an example:

  • North Carolina, one of the states cited as a model by the email has seen costs of a contract to modernize only one system, one to process the state’s Medicaid payments, go from the original $265 million to nearly $900 million;
  • California pulled the plug on its court computer system that was to connect all 58 of the state’s counties when the price tag leapt from $260 million to more than $500 million—with only seven courts using the system before the project was terminated.
  • Tennessee experienced repeated delays, missed deadlines and cost overruns and finally stopped work after seven years of development of its Vision Integration Platform (VIP). As is becoming more and more common with bad news, the announcement came late on a Friday in order to have minimal political impact. Tennessee also experienced problems with its much ballyhooed IT state projects that affected the Department of Children’s Services, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the state’s Project Edison payroll system. Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, by the way, announced last April that all of the state’s 1,600 information technology workers would be required to reapply for their jobs.
  • A consolidated service and network support project was supposed to consolidate IT services for 20 state agencies in Wisconsin at a cost of $12.8 million but cost overruns ran the price to more than $200 million, wiping out anticipated savings.
  • In Virginia a 10-year, $2.3 billion contract with Northrop Grumman to consolidate the state’s computer systems has been an ongoing nightmare of cost overruns and missed deadlines

The email touted lower overall operating costs through leveraging volume procurement, elimination of duplication, data center virtualization and standardization of IT architecture statewide.

It also said the project’s approach strategies would include capitalizing on vendor experience in other states, phased approach to consolidation of staff, agency involvement in the process and effective communication with agency staff regarding consolidation goals.

Now that Deloitte has been chosen for the contract, the next steps, according to the DOA announcement will be the selection of a project team, education of the vendor on Louisiana’s IT infrastructure and operations, survey and assessment, development of a plan of operational changes, and the request of software and hardware inventory.

Nothing was mentioned in the approach strategies about impending layoffs of state employees but that is a near certainty given the track record of other privatization/consolidation schemes rolled out by the administration.

And while DOA assures us that 36 states were reviewed in reaching the decision to consolidate the state’s IT services, one has to wonder if any time was spent examining other states in an effort to determine the cause of massive cost overruns, delays and missed deadlines.

Or is this simply yet another program fronted by Gov. Bobby Jindal but being pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council?

This is not to say IT consolidation is the wrong thing but with the state’s budget already in the tank, it seems that a more open discussion, more sunshine as it were, would be appropriate before plunging into something that could ultimately break the bank—and still leave us with an inoperative system.

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Ten companies have responded to that request for proposals (RFP) calling for the consolidation of information technology (IT) but because of the number of submissions, the scheduled awarding of the contract was moved back “seven to 14 days,” according to an email to bidders by Neal Underwood, assistant director of Statewide Technology.

One of the vendors being mentioned as the potential winner of the contract, expected to be worth millions of dollars, is Deloitte Consultants, one of three companies that met regularly with Division of Administration (DOA) representatives and state IT executives over the past year in discussions of what services they could provide the state.

Moreover, a confidential source said a Deloitte representative has already confided in several persons that the company “had a good shot” at winning the contract because it had been meeting with state officials over the past year.

That scenario evokes memories of the privatization of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) a couple of years back. DOA brought Goldman Sachs in to help formulate the RFP for the privatization and the Wall Street banking firm was subsequently the lone bidder—at $6 million.

Goldman Sachs subsequently withdrew from the project in a dispute over indemnification but re-bid when the RFP was issued a second time. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana eventually landed the contract to administer the agency’s claims.

So now we have Deloitte working with state officials for a year to help formulate the RFP and the company is now said to have the inside track to winning the contract. Déjà vu all over again.

At least two other companies, including IBM, were said to have held meetings with the state in the months leading up to the issuance of the RFP. One of those reported to have attended those meetings was Northrop Grumman but that company was not one of the 10 companies submitting proposals, sources say.

Several other companies reportedly requested permission to attend the pre-proposal meetings but were denied the opportunity.

The meetings would seem to fly in the face of a July 19 memorandum from Richard “Dickie” Howze, interim state chief information officer, to DOA section heads and Council of Information Services directors in which he cautioned against any contact with potential vendors during the RFP process at the risk of possible termination.

“During this procurement process it is crucial that you and your staff do not have any contact with vendors who are potential proposers or who may be part of a proposals as a subcontractor regarding this RFP or other related RFPs,” the memo read.

Besides Deloitte and IBM, companies submitting proposals included Dell Marketing, First Data, Gabriel Systems, Information Services Group (ISG), KPMG, Peak Performance Technologies, RNR Consulting and Tecknomic.

Even though the RFP was only for “Information Technology Planning and Management Support Services,” the state wrote into the RFP that the vendor awarded the planning RFP would not be precluded from the implementation of the consolidation, in effect guaranteeing the winner of the planning contract the contract for implementation of the plans.

It also alluded to recommendations for “potential legislation to support effective implementation and administration” for “effective governance models for the statewide centralized IT services organization.”

It was not immediately clear why “potential legislation” would not have been addressed during the 2013 legislative session and prior to the issuance of the RFP as opposed to issuing a contract and then attempting to address legislative issues as they arose during the course of the contract.

In conjunction with the RFP, DOA also issued a request for information (RFI) for business reorganization (and) efficiencies planning and implementation consulting services which would seem to be an exercise in redundancy given the fact that a similar efficiency study was conducted during the tenure of former Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis and that yet another such study is already underway using Six Sigma methodology.

Six Sigma is a methodology that employs tools and techniques for process improvement. The concept was pioneered by Motorola in 1981 and is widely used in different sectors of industry.

Just as with the RFP for the planning and management support services, several vendors responded with proposals. Oral presentations, as with the RFP, however, were limited to a select few companies, including Deloitte, McKinsey & Co., Alvarez & Marsal and CGI Technologies.

McKinsey & Co. is primarily an organization offering internships to trainees for conservative political causes. Gov. Bobby Jindal, who seems hell bent on privatizing virtually every agency and service in state government, worked for McKinsey & Co. for less than a year in the only private sector job he has ever held.

The RFI required that vendors, among other things, present their approach/methodology to identify operational efficiencies, experiences in other governmental settings, and the areas of governmental services “that would produce the maximum benefit.”

Portia Johnson, executive assistant to Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, sent an email to companies who submitted responses to the RFI. That email said:

“Thank you for your interest in RFI 107:01-000001238 Business Reorganization Efficiencies Planning and Implementation Consulting Services. Due to the vast response and in the interest of time, the State has chosen several vendors representative of the industry to interview. Although you have not been selected to proceed in the process, we have taken any documents submitted by you under advisement.”

Said another way: “You have been eliminated for consideration because we have other vendors with whom we prefer to do business. But we are going to go through your proposals and we will probably steal some of your ideas and you won’t get a dime for your efforts. Thank you for your trouble.”

  • CNSI and the federal investigation of its $200 million contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and the ensuing resignation of DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein, who had maintained continued contact with his old bosses at CNSI during the bidding, selection and contract awarding processes;
  • Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) and its inside track advantage by virtue of its CEO/President also serving on the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, which issued the contract to BRF to run the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe;
  • Goldman Sachs helping to write the RFP for the takeover of OGB and subsequently being the only bidder on the RFP;
  • Meetings between state officials and vendors for a year leading up to the issuance of an RFP for the consolidation of IT services in more than 20 departments within the state’s executive branch;

Folks, we’re beginning to detect a pattern here.

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The Division of Administration (DOA) on Friday issued a new request for proposals (RFP) for the consolidation of the information technology (IT) departments of 20 departments within the state’s Executive Branch. http://wwwprd1.doa.louisiana.gov/OSP/LaPAC/agency/pdf/5479100.pdf

July 12 is the deadline for submissions and Aug. 16 is the target date to announce the awarding of the contract, tentatively set to begin on Aug. 30, according to the RFP.

This is sure to be yet another contract to be awarded to some company who will in all likelihood underbid the cost and come back later with expensive contract amendments like F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) with the Office of Risk Management and CNSI with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) to mention two that come quickly to mind.

But even more important, it appears that possibly hundreds—maybe more than 1,000—of state IT employees will be losing their jobs as a result of the new contract which probably will end up costing the state more money than the current in-house IT systems.

The Office of Information Services (OIS) is responsible for the development, implementation and support of the Integrated Statewide Information System (ISIS) application as well as the DOA programmatic and desktop application, including traditional application development of large complex systems run on the DOA mainframe, client service applications run on midrange computers and Web-based applications.

Remember when Carol Steckel tried to fire 69 IT employees and to contract out DHH’s Center for Health Care Innovation and Technology services to the University of New Orleans?

In that case, she got a little ahead of herself by holding a conference call with the IT employees last December to announce that their jobs would be gone in January. The employees returned to their work stations after that call only to find they had been locked out of their computers. These were the employees who, among other things, help other state employees with their computer problems.

After the Civil Service Commission, in a rare moment of lucidity, denied Steckel’s layoff plan because of insufficient information, UNO backed out of its agreement to take over the agency’s IT services.

An IT employee with DHH’s Center for Health Care Innovation and Technology wrote LouisianaVoice that employees had been misinformed on future employment by DHH executives on three separate occasions. “At each meeting, we felt as though we were being threatened with furlough without pay, having to pay 100 percent of COBRA to maintain our insurance, (and) being threatened (with) not receiving our 300 hours of saved annual leave,” the employee wrote.

In March, Jan Cassidy, sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy, was hired to head DOA’s Procurement and Technology section at a salary of $150,000 per year, prompting one observer to ask, “What is she going to procure? The state is broke and there’s an expenditure freeze.”

Apparently we will be getting the answer to that question when the proposals start coming in from vendors and a contract is awarded.

Jan Cassidy previously worked for Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for 20 months, from June 2009 to January 2011 and for 23 months, from January 2011 to November 2012, for Xerox after Xerox purchased ACS.

As Xerox Vice President—State of Louisiana Client Executive, her tenure was during a time that the company held two large contracts with the state.

The first was a $20 million contract with DHH that ran from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011 and paid Xerox $834,000 per month.

The second contract was for $74.5 million, 100 percent of which was funded by a federal community development block grant (remember how Jindal abhors federal money?) and which ran from March 27, 2009 to March 26, 2012 and required ACS/Xerox to administer a small rental property program to help hurricane damaged parishes recover rental units.

A state contract data base search by LouisianaVoice turned up four contracts with ACS totaling $45.55 million and campaign finance reports revealed three ACS political contributions totaling $10,000 to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In Texas, an ACS contract awarded by the Rick Perry administration quadrupled to $1.4 billion as Texas Medicaid spent more on braces in 2010 ($184 million) than the other 49 states combined but which an audit found that 90 percent of the reimbursements were not covered by Medicaid.

The Wall Street Journal said statewide fraud reached hundreds of millions of dollars as ACS spent more than $6.9 million lobbying Texas politicians from 2002 to 2012.

In June of 2007, ACS agreed to pay the federal government $2.6 million to settle allegations that it had submitted inflated charges for services provided through the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Labor and Health and Human Services by submitted inflated claims to a local agency that delivered services to workers using funds provided by the three federal agencies.

http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2007/07/11/acs-settles-federal-fraud-case.aspx

In Washington, D.C. the Department of Motor Vehicles reimbursed $17.8 million to persons wrongly given parking tickets. The contract that operated the District’s ticket processing was ACS.

http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2007/07/11/acs-settles-federal-fraud-case.aspx
In 2010, ACS settled charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had backdated stock option grants to its officers and employees.

http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2010/lr21643.htm

In Alabama, Steckel, then director of the state Medicaid agency, awarded a $3.7 million contract to ACS in 2007 even though the ACS bid was $500,000 more than the next bid. ACS, of course, had a decided edge in getting that contract: it hired Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s former chief of staff Toby Roth. And Steckel, of course came to Louisiana to work for DHH though she still maintained her residence—and, apparently, her vehicle registration—in Alabama. http://www.ihealthbeat.org/articles/2007/8/22/Alabama-Contract-for-Medicaid-Database-Sparks-Controversy.aspx

http://harpers.org/blog/2007/09/the-inside-track-to-contracts-in-alabama/

Steckel first said the proposed contract with UNO would save DHH $2.1 million over three years but later revised that figure upward to $7 million, prompting members of the Civil Service Commission to express “zero confidence” in her figures and to reject her layoff plan.

Jan Cassidy also worked for 19 years, from 1986 to 2005, for Unisys Corp. where she led a team of sales professionals marketing hardware and systems applications, “as well as consulting services to Louisiana State Government,” according to her website.

Unisys had five separate state contracts from 2002 to 2009 totaling $53.9 million, the largest of which ($21 million) was with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and which was originally signed to run from April 1, 2008, through Nov. 30, 2009, but which State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson cancelled in April of 2009, saying he was dissatisfied with the work and that his staff could complete the project.

That contract called for an upgrade to the state computer system that dealt with driver’s licenses, vehicle titles and other related issues within the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles.

http://www.wafb.com/global/story.asp?s=10152623

Altogether, the 23 agencies account for 1,158 IT employees who stand to lose their jobs with the awarding of a contract for the consolidation.

The agencies and the number of filled positions to be affected are as follows:

• Executive: 275;

• Public Safety: 142;

• Children and Family Services: 120;

• Transportation and Development: 111;

• Health and Hospitals: 62;

• Revenue and Taxation: 88;

• Retirement Systems: 58;

• Workforce Commission (formerly Labor): 45;

• Civil Service: 8;

• Agriculture: 13;

• Corrections: 39;

• Economic Development: 3;

• Education: 44;

• Environmental Quality: 29;

• Insurance: 8;

• Natural Resources: 30;

• State: 25;

• Treasury: 3;

• Wildlife and Fisheries: 24;

• Culture, Recreation and Tourism: 14;

• Juvenile Justice 5;

• Public Service Commission; 7;

Given problems and cost overruns in other states, there have to be concerns over similar problems or questions whether there even is a company out there willing to submit a proposal that has not gotten contracts under questionable circumstances or which found it necessary to come back later for costly contract amendments.

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, the operative term was FUBAR. In administration Jindal, the concern should be whether or not we might be headed for another CNSI or ACS/Xerox scenario.

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The late comedian Brother Dave Gardner once said, “I believe if a man’s down, kick him. If he survives it, he has a chance to rise above it.”

As a loyal follower of Brother Dave since the days of my long gone wasted youth of so many years ago, it is not mine to question. I was, after all, brought up in the Baptist Church (but switched to Methodist when I married) where I was taught that faith surpasses all understanding—or something like that.

So even though my thought processes tell me it’s wrong to kick anyone, especially when he’s down, my heart must follow the teachings of the one who said he was a preacher (but he preached “for it,” whatever “it” was). To do otherwise would be blasphemy.

So here goes: It looks as though Superintendent of Education John White may have lied again (insert collective audible gasp from readers).

White, named last December by the Education Clearinghouse web blog as the worst education superintendent in the country http://educationclearinghouse.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/louisianas-john-white-the-worst-superintendent-in-the-country/, announced on April 19 that he was withdrawing student information from a non-profit database run by NewsCorp. Owner Rupert Murdoch and linked to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Or did he?

He made the announcement only days after talking up the arrangement to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), which had been unaware of his agreement to “park” student data in the inBloom “garage.”

LouisianaVoice first broke the story last February that White had entered into an agreement with inBloom to provide sensitive personal data on hundreds of thousands of Louisiana school children—with no guarantee from inBloom that the data would not be susceptible to intrusion or hacking.

The inBloom contract with Gates also would have allowed for the unrestricted subcontracting of duties and obligations covered under the agreement.

Murdoch said in 2010, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.” http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/blog/jeb-bushs-education-nonprofit-really-about-corporate-profits?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+itpi-blog+%28ITPI+Commentary+Feed%29.

White met in September 2011 with Peter Gorman, senior vice president of Wireless Generation, the newly-formed education division of NewsCorp. It was in an exchange of emails with Gorman that White told Gorman, “Dude, you are my recharger.”

In a January email to White, Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) executive assistant Vicky Thomas informed White that the department was participating in the data storage agreement with inBloom.

When news of the agreement between DOE and inBloom first became public, many parents protested to DOE about the furnishing of student data to the Murdoch company. NewsCorp had been involved in a major computer hacking scandal in Europe only months before and parents were wary of allowing the release of sensitive data to his company—or anyone else.

When White made the announcement on April 19 that he was rescinding the agreement, inBloom immediately tweeted, “Louisiana still part of inBloom community. Many inaccuracies in coverage.”

LouisianaVoice made a public records request three days later on April 22, for “the official letter or email that you sent to inBloom to cancel the data storage agreement as per the lead paragraph…from the Monroe News Star.”

White, openly flaunting the state’s public records law, ignored the request until LouisianaVoice filed a lawsuit seeking that and other records requested of the department. On Thursday, May 9, only days away from next Monday’s court hearing on LouisianaVoice’s lawsuit, DOE forwarded the last of a flurry of responses to various records requests.

Those responses obviously will be used as a defense that the department did, in fact, respond to all our records requests. Overlooked, apparently, is a provision in state law that says records must be produced immediately, not several months down the road and done so only to head off pending litigation.

Thursday’s response from DOE attorney Troy Humphrey said:

“Our public information office has requested that I inform you that the Department is not in possession of any public record(s) responsive to the above-written request.”

Wait. What?

If you have an agreement with an entity to provide personal data on hundreds of thousands of students, wouldn’t it be fair to assume there would be a contract or at least a memorandum of understanding setting out the terms and conditions of the agreement?

And if there is a contract and/or a memorandum of understanding, wouldn’t it also be fair to assume that if that agreement were cancelled by either party, there would be a letter or at least an email to that effect? A paper trail, as it were?

Is White so naïve that he can enter into and exit from an agreement as momentous as this without some official documentation?

He previously had either neglected or refused to provide copies of a memorandum of understanding with inBloom and now he’s trying to tell us that there is no written record of his withdrawing from the agreement?

Wow. Talk about a leap of faith.

Perhaps Rep. Alan Seabaugh needs to give him a call to jog his memory.

Or better yet, maybe Peter Gorman should check in. He was, after all, White’s “recharger.”

If and when Gov. Bobby Jindal or BESE President Chas Roemer gives White a “vote of confidence,” you’ll know he’s toast.

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“The findings relating to RSD’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations should be addressed immediately by management.”

—Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, in his management letter to Recovery School District (RSD) Superintendent Patrick Dobard in which Purpera noted that a state audit had found that RSD could not account for more than $2.7 million in movable property. It was the sixth consecutive year in which RSD was cited for lax property control and missing or stolen property.

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At the risk of sounding a bit smug, regular readers may remember that we had serious misgivings about that $194 million CNSI contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) from the outset.

And so, it turns out, does the FBI.

And Gov. Bobby Jindal, much like another governor of some 2,000 years ago, thinks by washing his hands, he can absolve himself of any blame in the entire matter.

Let’s review.

In early June of 2011, DHH Secretary-designate Bruce Greenstein appeared before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee for his confirmation hearing and things quickly went south as Greenstein and Undersecretary Jerry Phillips became involved in the old irresistible force-immovable object standoff over the identity of the winning contractor to replace a 23-year-old computer system that adjudicated health care claims and case providers.

The contract is scheduled to go into effect in 2014 but that could change now.

Greenstein and Phillips contended that because of a state statute which required the official awarding of the contract by the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees, they were prohibited from divulging the name of the winning contractor.

Then-Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Livonia), who has since retired from the legislature because of term limits, told Greenstein, “One of the questions is about the company you used to work for (CNSI). Who is the company who is going to receive the contract?”

Greenstein and Phillips contended that because of a state statute which required the official awarding of the contract by the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees, they were prohibited from divulging the name of the winning contractor.

Marionneaux argued that the statute “does not say you shall not divulge, just that shall not award the contract. We’re not here to award the contract; we just want to know who the contractor is. So, who is going to receive the contract?”

Greenstein again attempted to invoke the statute but Marionneaux interrupted him. “Are you telling me right now, today, that you’re refusing to tell this committee who’s going to receive that contract?”

“We believe that the law states that we should call on the (joint) committee and then make the announcement to that committee,” Greenstein said.

“I read the statute,” Marionneaux said. “Are you refusing to tell this committee who is going to be recommended by DHH to receive the award? Yes or no.”

“I’m not going to be able to say today,” Greenstein said.

“We’re sitting here trying to decide if you, the leader of DHH, are going to be confirmed and we have a headline in Monday’s paper that you want to keep a secret and a direct question is being asked and you refuse to answer.”

“I just don’t understand why this administration does this,” said Sen. Ed Murray (D-New Orleans). “You are, I suppose, just following directions.”

Sen. Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) then laid the issue at the feet of Jindal when he asked Greenstein who made the decision “not to tell us this information under oath?”

“This was from my department…”

“You are the department,” Amedee interrupted. “Who is the person above you? Who is your boss?”

“The governor,” said Greenstein.

Committee Vice-Chair Karen Carter Peterson said, “You don’t want me to know, but you know. Is this what we call transparency?”

Phillips tried to intervene, saying that once the contractor’s name is made public, “it’s the equivalent of an announcement.”

“Do you make the law?” Peterson asked.

“I interpret the law,” said Phillips, who is an attorney.

“Then you’re not doing a good job. Mr. Secretary (Greenstein), I hope you’re paying attention. How many lawyers do we have on this committee? We make law and yet you choose to follow this gentleman (Phillips).”

Greenstein eventual acquiesced and admitted that his former employer, CNSI, was the winner but he insisted that he had built a “firewall” between himself and the selection process and that he had no contact with anyone from CNSI during the selection.

As the committee wound down its questioning, Peterson said, “I hope the governor is listening because what has been happening is not in the best interest of the people nor is it consistent with his purported policy of transparency.

“This gives the appearance of your wanting to hide something, particularly since we now know the contractor is your former employer and you wanted to keep that from us.”

The subsequently learned, despite Greenstein’s assurances to the contrary, that Greenstein indeed did have some contact with his old employer and in fact, implemented changes in the request for bids that allowed CNSI to submit a proposal—a proposal that actually ranked third among four bidders on the technical merits of its proposal but which won the contract based on the lowest price.

The low bid prompted howls of protests from CNSI competitors who accused the Maryland firm of low-balling its bid in order to win the contract. There was no way the company could perform terms of the contract for the amount it bid, they said.

CNSI bid $184.9 million on the 10-year contract. ACS was second with a $238 million bid and Hewlett Packard ES came in at $394 million. A fourth bidder, Molina Medicaid Solutions did not score high enough on the technical front to warrant consideration.

It turns out that the claims that CNSI low-balled its bid may have had merit. Earlier this month, state officials held up a proposed $40 million change to the contract, which had already increased to $194 million. And now we learn that the FBI has launched an investigation into the manner in which the contract was awarded

But on Thursday, only hours after word that the FBI had served a four-page subpoena on DOA was made public, word came down from the fourth floor of the State Capitol that the CNSI contract was being cancelled.

Actually, the administration has known of this probe into the proposal and the CNSI contract for some time now. The subpoena was served on DOA and signed for by DOA counsel Lesia Batiste Warren on Jan. 7.

That means that our open, transparent and accountable administration has known of this probe for nearly three months and chose to say nothing until March 21 and then only after word leaked out about the investigation.

The subpoena called upon DOA to produce:

• All documents submitted by ACS State Healthcare, Client Network Services, HP Enterprise Services, and Molina Medicaid Solutions;

• All financial information (including but not limited to financial statements, income statements, balance sheets, and statements of profit and loss) submitted by ACS, Client Network Services, HP Enterprise Services and Molina, and

• Documents sufficient to show the date and time at which each response to the proposal was received by the state.

Perhaps Jindal, remembering stories about Earl Long shouting to Leander Perez at the height of legislative debate over desegregation, “Whatcha gonna do now, Leander? The feds have the A-bomb,” realized that he would not be able to invoke his beloved deliberative process exception with the FBI and so decided on Plan B: cancel the contract.

“Based on consultation with the Attorney General’s office, today I am terminating the state’s contract with CNSI, effective immediately, announced Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols. “The state will work with the current contractor, Molina Medicaid Solutions, to provide services during this transition and until a new RFP (request for proposal), overseen by the Division of Administration, is completed,” she said.

“We have zero tolerance for wrongdoing, and we will continue to cooperate fully with any investigation,” she added.

Yeah, that ought to do it. Cancel the contract and everything will be okay.

The only course of action to decide on now is who to throw under the bus—Greenstein or Phillips

But it might be wise to heed the advice of one sage political observer who says to ignore what the administration says and play closer attention to what was not said.

The fact that the contract was cancelled so quickly tells us two things:

• The administration knew this was coming because you can’t simply cancel a contract of this magnitude on the spur of the moment;

• The administration is scared.

“I don’t think this is over,” our unpaid consultant said.

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The Louisiana Attorney General’s office has more than 80 legal opinions posted online that address the state’s open meetings and public records laws but don’t expect James “Buddy” Caldwell’s office to assist if you run up against resistance from a state agency like, oh say, the Louisiana Department of Education when seeking public records.

When LouisianaVoice recently encountered characteristic foot-dragging by State Education Superintendent in complying with our request for records pertaining to the department’s connections to Bill Gates’ Shared Learning Collaborative and Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., we asked for a little help from the attorney general’s office.

That help was not forthcoming so we had to go to our fall back plan—our legal counsel, J. Arthur Smith who loves to take on the bureaucracy.

Instead, we received a telephone call from an assistant attorney general somewhere deep within the bowels of the Livingston Building at 1885 North Third Street in Baton Rouge.

The assistant AG was polite enough as she explained that it was not the function of the attorney general’s office to assist the public in obtaining public records from recalcitrant state agencies.

“But, but, you do help when people are attempting to obtain access to public meetings,” we sputtered in disbelief.

“Yes,” she said, “but we are not involved in disputes over public records.”

“Yet you will get involved in enforcing open meeting laws?”

“Yes, that’s different.”

“Wait. What? Different?”

“Yes.”

“But I thought the attorney general’s office would assist Louisiana citizens gain access to public records. Isn’t that the law?

“Where does it say that? We assist with public meetings.”

“You differentiate between public records and public meetings?”

“Yes. We will help with public meetings but we don’t involve ourselves with public records.”

“What’s the difference?”

“There is a difference.”

“What is it?”

“One issue is public meetings while the other is public records.”

Such is the surreal world one encounters when attempting to navigate the bureaucratic red tape of state government.

Yet, when one does a cursory internet search, it is easy enough to find opinion after opinion that addresses the very issue in question—like the following excerpts from Louisiana Attorney General opinions:

• The Department of Insurance must comply with a public records request made pursuant to LA. R.S. 44.1, et seq.

• Square footage obtained by the assessor in the performance of his or her constitutional and statutorily designated duties falls within the definition of a public record provided by the Public Records Act…

• The Slidell Memorial Hospital Foundation is a quasi-public body, subject to the open meetings laws, public records laws…

• Hand-held scanners may be used in the inspection of public records (we threw this one in because Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office refused us the opportunity several months back to use our hand-held scanner to inspect public records.)

• The nominating committee for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority is subject to the state’s “open meeting” and “public records” laws.

• When employees conduct official business through electronic communications, it becomes part of the public record which an individual may view…

• East Baton Rouge firefighters’ timesheets are a matter of public record…

And so on. You get our drift.

So, while no help can be anticipated from within the Louisiana Department of Justice (because, in the words of the late Richard Pryor, it’s “just US,” or in this case, “just them”), we will nevertheless plod along in our attempt to keep our readership informed—even to the point of employing the considerable persuasive legal talents of J. Arthur Smith who loves his job almost as much as we love ours.

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It’s highly improbable but there is an ever-so-remote possibility that State Superintendent of Education John White could find his job in jeopardy.

Whether he does or not, there is a much greater chance that State Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) could find himself removed from his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary C Committee and/or removed from three other committees on which he now serves.

That’s because Kostelka intimated on Thursday that he intends to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session calling for a constitutional amendment making the state superintendent of education position elective instead of appointive.

The office was previously elective until 1987 when it was changed to appointive but now Kostelka wants to change it back.

His announcement came on the heels of a news story this week by Capitol News Service that linked White and the state Department of Education (DOE) to Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. which was embroiled in the hacking scandal two years ago in which cell phone communications were compromised in Europe.

Emails obtained by CNS revealed plans by DOE to enter sensitive student and teacher information—including names, social security numbers and grades—into a massive electronic data bank being built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of News Corp., as part of a project called the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC) being spearheaded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The CNS story has generated a movement among parents to notify White and DOE that they do not want any information on their children provided to any outside entity.

The proposed collection of data on students has already begun in a few states and has created considerable controversy in places like New York. That state’s contract with News Corp. was first approved, then cancelled, only to be reapproved last August as one of several subcontractors for Public Consulting Group, one of four contractors chosen for the $27 million contract.

Under the proposal, Wireless Generation is supposed to store student test scores, student demographic information, curriculum materials, lesson plans and other information and would presumably perform the same function for Louisiana.

Though no cost estimates have been provided for the program in Louisiana, providers for the New York program will be paid in part based on the number of school districts that choose their data systems.

The Gates Foundation plans to turn over the personal data it collects to another, as yet unnamed corporation headed by Iwan Streichenberger, former marketing director for an Atlanta company that sells whiteboard to schools.

A copy of a 68-page contract between SLC and the New York State Educational Department was provided by a citizens’ watchdog group in that state. The contract said, in part, that there were no guarantees that data would not be susceptible to intrusion or hacking, though “reasonable and appropriate measures” would be taken to protect information.

“I have prepared a bill calling for a constitutional amendment making the Louisiana Superintendent of Education elected and not appointed,” Kostelka said in an email to CNS on Thursday. “It will be difficult to pass, but the people should decide who their superintendent is—not the governor.”

Technically, the state superintendent is not chosen by the governor but by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). The reality, however, is that Gov. Bobby Jindal campaigned for and contributed monetarily to the campaigns of favored BESE candidates in the fall of 2011 after the previous board had held up the appointment of White, Jindal’s choice for the post. Only after several pro-Jindal candidates were elected did BESE eventually formally appoint White upon their taking office in January of 2012.

Kostelka, in authoring such a bill, risks incurring the wrath of Jindal who, in popular Baton Rouge parlance, would likely “teague” Kostelka out of this committee chairmanship and even demote him from his current committee seats to minor committees.

The term “teague” comes from Jindal’s firing of Melody Teague in October of 2009 one day after she testified before the Government Streamlining Committee. She appealed and eventually won her job back.

But six months later, her husband Tommy Teague, was fired as director of the State Office of Group Benefits because he did not endorse the privatization of his agency quickly or enthusiastically enough to please Jindal.

Jindal has a well-established tradition of demoting or firing legislators, state civil service employees and appointees who dare display any independence.

He doesn’t do the actual firing, of course, and even goes to great length to deny any involvement in the decision to fire or demote. Instead, he hands off that task to agency heads or cabinet members do the firing and either Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles) or Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego).

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What at first appeared to be a slam-dunk sexual harassment case against former commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Murphy J. Painter is beginning to look more and more like reprisals on the part of Gov. Bobby Jindal because of Painter’s refusal to acquiesce to administration demands involving several major Jindal campaign contributors.

It wouldn’t be the first time Jindal has fired a subordinate or demoted a legislator because he or she had the temerity to disagree with him, of course. But it would be the first time such tactics were employed in conjunction with criminal charges.

Painter was indicted—somewhat belatedly—on 42 separate counts of computer fraud in connection with his conducting criminal records, background and driver’s license checks on 35 individuals over a three-year period but never on the sexual harassment claims. Nor was he ever indicted on charges that he stalked or conducted surveillance on individuals—even though that claim was given widespread publicity by State Inspector General Stephen Street on May 28, 2012, the day Painter was formally indicted.

That indictment, coincidentally, came down only days after the legislature voted to strip Street’s office of all appropriations for the current fiscal year. Funding for his office was restored only after Street testified before legislators and repeated details of his office’s investigation of Painter as justification of continued funding, Painter says in his motion to dismiss the charges against him.

Painter’s trial on the federal charges is scheduled to begin on April 22. Meanwhile, he has separate civil suits pending against the state and against the woman who accused him of sexual harassment—after she told an OIG investigator that Painter had never harassed her.

We’ll return to the allegations, denials and counter-accusations in due course, but the real issues swirling around Painter appear to be rooted deep in Louisiana politics and back door deals as only a saga of Louisiana political intrigue and corruption can be told.

It was in late summer of 2010 when a series of events in New Orleans and Baton Rouge—unrelated to sexual harassment, computer fraud or surveillance—would culminate in a meeting in the governor’s office which would end Painter’s 34-year career in law enforcement, 14 of which he served as chief criminal deputy under former Ascension Parish Sheriff Harold Tridico.

After losing the 1995 sheriff’s race to current Sheriff Jeff Wiley by fewer than 700 votes, Painter was appointed ATC commissioner by then-Gov. Mike Foster in February of 1996.

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson had purchased the 26-story building once known as Dominion Tower, or CNG Tower, a year earlier in September of 2009. The building is located across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. As part of the deal struck between Benson and the state to keep the Saints from moving to San Antonio, the Jindal administration agreed to a 20-year lease of some 325,000 square feet of office space at $24 a square foot for various state agencies, some of whom were paying as little as $12 a square foot before being forced to move to Benson Tower.

At the outset, the state’s obligation was about $7.7 million a year, $2.6 million more than the $5.1 million the state was paying before the move.

Included in the Benson Tower purchase was a 60,000-square-foot plot encompassing a one-block section of LaSalle Street and part of what once was the New Orleans Centre shopping mall.

Champions Square opened on Aug. 21, 2010, with the Saints hosting a pre-season game against the Houston Texans. The facility provided a tailgate party atmosphere and gave up to 8,000 Saints fans who did not have tickets a place to hang out and party while cheering on the Saints.

Champions Square soon became the catalyst in the struggle that would erupt between Painter’s office, the governor’s office and Mercedes-Benz Superdome management firm SMG (formerly Spectacor Management Group). On the fringes of this growing dispute were parties who had more than a passing interest: Benson, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED), Anheuser-Busch, brewers of Budweiser Beer, and local Anheuser-Busch distributor Southern Eagle Sales & Service.

LSED is a state political subdivision created to oversee operations of the Superdome, the John A. Alario Sr. Event Center, the New Orleans Arena, the Saints training facility, TPC Louisiana, and Zephyr Field, home of the Triple-A baseball team.

Benson, the seven LSED members (each of whom is appointed by the governor) and their families, businesses and business associates, SMG and Southern Eagle combined to contribute more than $203,000 to Jindal campaigns between 2003 and 2012.

In a lawsuit filed against Jindal, the State of Louisiana, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, its former secretary, Cynthia Bridges and Inspector General Street, Painter says that in May of 2010, some three months before Champions Square was officially opened, he met with representatives of SMG and its lobbyist about SMG’s request for a license to serve alcohol in Champions Square on Saints game days.

Budweiser and Southern Eagle stood to be the big winners if the license application was approved.

Painter says in his lawsuit that he informed SMG of several regulatory violations in its proposal and offered suggestions on bringing the proposal into compliance with state laws. SMG’s subsequent license proposal, however, failed to address a number of the problems Painter had outlined in their previous meeting.

When Painter rejected the proposal, SMG arranged a meeting between Painter and SMG attorney, Robert Walmsley, Jr., Painter says in his petition.

Walmsley is a member of the law firm Fishman, Haygood, Phelps, Walmsley, Willis & Swanson of New Orleans which also contributed $5,000 to Jindal’s campaign in October of 2008.

Walmsley, after meeting with Painter, agreed to provide “a written legal opinion to the ATC documenting how SMG’s proposal complied with, or was otherwise exempt from, Louisiana law,” the petition says.

That promised opinion was never provided to ATC, Painter or his counsel, according to the suit.

Within a matter of weeks, Painter was contacted by Jindal executive Counsel Stephen Waguespack, nephew of Ascension Parish Sheriff Wiley. Waguespack asked Painter to cooperate with SMG and to stop using ATC’s legal counsel to address concerns with the Champions Square project being pushed by SMG, Painter says in his petition.

Subsequent to that call, Walmsley sent Painter an email in which he outlined a purported rationale that would allow SMG to qualify for the sought after license but the email, Painter says, did not include Walmsley’s promised written legal opinion. The ATC legal counsel again advised that the SMG proposal did not satisfy legal requirements.

Painter advised Walmsley that the license would not be issued because SMG did not qualify for the proposed exception as had been suggested. Painter also advised SMG “that alternative legal means would be utilized to address any issues related to the forthcoming grand opening of Champions Square if a resolution was not reached,” according to the lawsuit.

Then, on Aug. 11, Waguespack again called Painter and advised that he, as executive counsel for the governor’s office, “saw no problem with issuing the requested license to SMG,” whereupon Painter said he would defer to Waguespack—if Waguespack was willing to issue a legal opinion in writing to the ATC as representing the governor’s position.

“The governor’s executive counsel refused and suggested that issuing such an opinion was not a good use of his time and/or position,” Painter says, adding that he understood from that conversation that he “was being ordered to issue the license requested by SMG in direct contravention of law.”

In more than 15 years as ATC commissioner, Painter said he had never received such a call from the governor’s office.

Painter and ATC again refused to issue the requested license and two days later, on Aug. 13, Painter was summoned to the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol where he met with Waguespack, Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and another member of the governor’s legal staff.

Painter was advised that an unidentified law enforcement agency (later identified as OIG) was investigating him for alleged criminal violations, specifically sexual harassment, and that Jindal was asking for his resignation.

Painter said he asked if Jindal was asking for his resignation because it was his prerogative to do so or because of the criminal investigation and when informed it was because of the investigation, he refused to resign and was fired.

Despite, the manner in which his dismissal came about, it was subsequently reported to the media that he had resigned.

In what Painter described as another means of garnering publicity, an OIG investigator obtained a search warrant to search Painter’s office at ATC even though a previous investigation by the Department of Revenue had already cleared Painter of any wrongdoing.

The administration, through OIG, zeroed in on the sexual harassment charges for Painter’s former administrative assistant Kelli Suire. Suire did contact local news media in July of 2010 with claims of sexual harassment by Painter and on Aug. 6, an email purportedly sent from lindseyjarrrell@rocketmail.com to several media outlets outlined several complaints about Painter and ATC, including the alleged sexual harassment of Suire and that Painter stalked Suire by going to her home on several occasions. The email, Painter learned from his own investigation, originated from the Louisiana State Library near the State Capitol.

Painter also claims that Suire and ATC Deputy Commissioner Brant Thompson were cooperating with each other in efforts to undermine Painter’s authority.

Painter says he took his concerns to Thompson’s father, State Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) on Aug. 12 and the elder Thompson offered assurances that his son would cooperate with Painter in the future.

Painter then asked that Brant Thompson report to his office no later than Monday, Aug. 16, “to discuss his conduct and accept a suspension from his job duties.”

That meeting never occurred because Painter was fired the following day and Brant Thompson was appointed interim commissioner until the appointment of current commissioner Troy Hebert.

Almost a year before Painter’s dismissal, on October 16, 2009, Suire resigned her position at ATC. But three days later, on Oct. 19, Painter, on ATC business in Washington, D.C., received a call from his office informing him that Suire had been in his office for several hours that morning copying files, Painter says in a separate defamation lawsuit against Suire.

That suit was filed in 23rd Judicial District Court in Ascension Parish while his lawsuit against the state for wrongful firing was filed in 19th JDC in Baton Rouge. And while considerable coverage was given his firing and the subsequent charges of sexual harassment, minimal coverage has been given his lawsuits by Baton Rouge area media outlets.

Sometime following his Aug. 13 firing in 2010, Painter learned of a letter dated 11 days earlier, on Aug. 2, to LDR Deputy secretary Earl Millet, Jr. from Barry Kelly, assistant director of Revenue’s Criminal Investigations Division in which Kelly gave the results of his investigation of six accusations against Painter, including sexual harassment and stalking of Suire.

In that letter, Kelly said, an attorney was hired to conduct an investigation into the allegations and when questioned, “Ms. Suire admitted that there was no sexual harassment.”

Prior to that Aug. 2 letter, on March 29, the Department of revenue sent a letter to Suire reporting its findings. That letter said, in part, “The investigator met with yourself, Painter and other ATC employees. Based upon the information gathered during the investigation, LDR has determined Painter’s actions did not violate the LDR’s Anti-Harassment Policy…

“The finding is based upon information secured during your interview wherein you indicated Painter did not make unwelcome sexual advances toward you. You also indicated Painter did not request sexual favors or engage in verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature to you. Additionally, you also stated that your complaint against Painter was not one of sexual harassment.”

Despite that admission, the governor’s office, through OIG, proceeded with its investigation, accusing Painter of accessing the criminal records database 314 times in more than five years between February 25, 2005, and Aug. 13, 2010. Subsequent information obtained by Painter through legal discovery revealed that OIG received 1,063 complaints between June 20, 2009 and June 15, 2011 and determined that not all the complaints constituted a need for a law enforcement data base check.

Yet, during that same two-year period, three OIG investigators combined to access the criminal records database nearly 3,000 times—one of those more than 2,100 times.

Painter’s trial in federal district court in Baton Rouge on the computer fraud charges is scheduled for April 22.

And yet, despite the charges alluded to by Waguespack when he fired Painter, he has never been formally charged with sexual harassment, stalking or surveillance.

And charges of accessing the criminal records data bank 314 times over a period of more than five years—approximately five times per month—to most people would not appear excessive for the head of a law enforcement agency whose job it is to track criminal activity.

…Unless someone was looking for a reason to fire an uncooperative subordinate standing in the way of political expedience and opportunity—and inconveniencing campaign contributors.

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