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PLEASE MOVE TO THE END OF THE LINE(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

On the eve of Bobby Jindal’s anticipated earth shaking announcement that he is squeezing himself into the clown car of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, I thought we should let our readers know that I am still on the job, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

As we wait with collective bated breath for word that Bobby is not only available but more than willing to do for the nation what he has done for Louisiana (God help us all, Tiny Tim), I remain cloistered in my cluttered home office, working diligently on my book, as yet untitled, in which I intend to fully document precisely what he has done for to Louisiana.

Among the topics to be covered are public education, higher education, health care, the state budget, campaign contributions, political appointments, ethics, privatization, his ALEC connections, the explosion in corporate tax breaks during his two terms, the lack of progress as reflected in myriad state rankings and surveys throughout his eight years as our largely absentee governor, the lack of transparency, his thinly veiled use of foundations and non-profit organizations to advance his political career, his intolerance for dissent (teaguing), his actual performance as compared to campaign promises as candidate Bobby, and his general incompetence.

I was asked on a local radio show if I could be fair to Jindal, given my personal feelings about his abilities as reflected in more than a thousand posts on this site. The short answer is: probably not. The long answer is I can—and will—be as fair to him as he has been to the state I love and call home. Because I do not claim to be objective (as opposed to the paid media who cling to that word as if it were some kind of Holy Grail), I am not bound by any rules that place limits on the expression of my opinions. I see what he has done, I understand the adverse effect his actions have had on this state, and I will offer my take on them for the reader to either accept or reject. If that is not fair, then so be it.

I have written about 60,000 words of an anticipated 100,000-word manuscript thus far. A couple of other writers have volunteered to contribute chapters, which should add another 20,000 words. I have a self-imposed deadline of July 1—give or take a few days—in which to have the rough draft completed. I also have several very capable editors poring over the chapters as they are completed. Their corrections, deletions, additions and suggestions will be incorporated into the final manuscript which is to be submitted to the publisher by late August.

The publisher originally gave me a publication target date of next Spring but recently moved the anticipated publication date up to January, with an e-book to be released possibly as early as this Fall.

That would coincide nicely with Jindal’s second ghost-written book, scheduled out in September.

There will be one major difference in our books: Mine will be based on his record while the source of his claims of balanced budgets and other wild, unsubstantiated assertions are certain to remain a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (with apologies to Winston Churchill).

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DOT.CON(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Bob Mann has done an excellent piece on this:  http://bobmannblog.com/2015/06/02/shell-game-shouldnt-higher-education-leaders-have-more-integrity-than-bobby-jindal/#more-5553

Many news stories have been written about it.  I don’t have to tell you what it does – nothing, except appease Grover Norquist and, by association, our governor.

Oh, wait, it does actually do something else – It adds to the plethora of recent stories about our state and governor that keep us the laughingstock of the nation.  If the national media starts playing this up, it really is going to seem like they are reprinting a story from The Onion. The name, itself, is a joke – on many levels:  Student Assessment for a Valuable Education – Think about it.

How this utterly ridiculous bill can be treated as the salvation for higher education makes a mockery of the value we allegedly place on higher education.  It is beyond a shell game.  It is so stupid, in concept and premise, as to make it hard to treat seriously.  I get angry just thinking that such a thing could be introduced, much less actually passed.  It is difficult to give the bill enough credibility to even read it – and reading it doesn’t help much.

Create a fee.  Don’t collect the fee, but give a tax credit for it as if it had been paid.  Send the money that would have been collected had the fee been paid to the Board of Regents to be distributed to colleges and universities.

If there is really no fee, where is the SAVE money coming from?  The fiscal note shows no numbers.  Is the money going to magically appear out of nowhere, be printed by the state treasury, or what?  If there is no money, how can this possibly help higher education?  If there is to actually be money in the fund, where will it come from?

After you create a fund that has no source, you pretend this non-existent tax credit offsets the same amount in unrelated tax increases.

Grover Norquist must be about the most powerful person in the United States.  He gets thousands of politicians to sign a {non- legally binding} pledge to not raise taxes no matter what happens.  No matter how stupid or irresponsible it makes them look, these people, including our governor , treat the pledge as if lightening will strike them dead if they don’t.  And the legislature follows suit.

Or at least John Alario does. The Senate President (R-Westwego) has vowed to overcome defeat of the measure by the House by inserting the SAVE bill in every piece of legislation passed by the House in order to force passage.

How can this be?  In local politics, we would assume anybody with that much power must have a video of the person he controls doing something Bobby Jindal would consider a mortal sin (like subscribing to the theory of climate change, endorsing the metric system or worse, equal pay for women).  So, is it possible Grover has a video vault with thousands of pornos of every politician who has signed his pledge?  That makes almost as much sense as SAVE.

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

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

HB 30 FISCAL NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Forty years ago, actress Tippi Hedren offered a program for 20 Vietnamese women to learn the profession of being manicurists. The result was a complete revolution of the nail salon industry. The industry is now an $8 billion powerhouse which is dominated by Vietnamese operators. According to Nails, a publication devoted to the nail salon industry, 51 percent of nail salon operators nationwide are Vietnamese. Moreover, in Louisiana, despite the fact that Louisiana Cosmetology Board (LCB) Executive Director Steve Young said that the vast majority of nail salon operators are Vietnamese, his only explanation for why the LCB has no Vietnamese representation is that “it just has not reached that point.”

Vietnamese operators routinely undercut the competition’s price by 30-50 percent. They are recognized by Nails to have a stellar reputation for high-quality work, and they often support relatives in Vietnam. Numerous Vietnamese nail salon operators told Louisiana Voice that the LBC has targeted them for harassment and discriminatory inspections designed to drive them out of business. Their claims are detailed in a class action lawsuit filed by former U. S. Congressman Joseph Cao on February 6, 2014.

The suit alleges the LCB, its Executive Director, one of its attorneys, Celia Cangelosi (who is named personally as a defendant), and at least two of its inspectors, Sherrie Stockstill and Margaret Keller (also both named as defendants) have subjected the Vietnamese operators to being “harassed, intimidated, falsely imprisoned, and arbitrarily discriminated against.”

The lawsuit alleges that Thoa Thi Nguyen’s Exotic Nails was visited by LCB inspectors, including Stockstill, on Friday, July 19, 2013, at a time when the salon was “packed with patrons.” After several minutes of loitering and communicating facts of the salon’s operations, Stockstill shouted, “Everyone keep still.  Don’t move!” The suit alleges Stockstill and the other inspector, despite producing no identifications or search warrant, began opening drawers, sorting through files, and, for two hours, and demanded that Nguyen not leave the premises. Nguyen contends that LBC’s actions resulted in a loss of confidence among some of her patrons who witnessed the scene and that her business has suffered from the episode.

The lawsuit details several other similar incidents including operators being subjected to repeated “inspections” and forcing some operators to sell their businesses to escape the relentless attacks.  Meanwhile, the plaintiffs allege that non-Vietnamese operators are rarely, if ever, subjected to any inspection whatsoever. The lawsuit provides exhibits which show virtually all of the hearings for the LCB entail Vietnamese nail salon operators.

LCB meetings appear to be a vehicle for impeding competition and creating a self-generating source of revenue to provide fees for attorneys who serve under contract and to pay the board’s salaried staff. While the “inspectors” of the LBC earn average salaries of around $27,000, which perhaps explains their fundamental lack of knowledge or training regarding requirements to conduct searches, the LBC payroll approaches a staggering $1 million a year!  That doesn’t even include the $200,000 or so per year it generates for its two contract attorneys:  Cangelosi and Sherri Morris. Meanwhile, Vietnamese operators, who supply much of the funds through which they are harassed, are forced to literally beg the board for permission to work as evidenced by this applicant’s husband’s plea to the board after they moved from Texas and she sought a Louisiana license through reciprocity. Instead, the LCB proceeded to grill her on questions about her Vietnamese high school diploma and decide if the transcript translator should be “approved.”

Vietnamese citizens often immigrate to California and practice as manicurists before relocating to Louisiana, and one salon operator said he personally knows of 15 manicurists planning to relocate to Louisiana within weeks.

These operators were understandably concerned about the April agenda item on “California reciprocity.” At that meeting, Young sought to suspend California reciprocity based on its licensing authorities informing them they were “removing their seal from their documents.”  It was also claimed that it was difficult getting anyone on the phone from California.

Louisiana Voice contacted California licensing authorities, and we had no difficulty getting them on the phone. Moreover, we were told that Young’s statement was false and that they’d experienced a temporary machine failure but that a new color-printed seal was being incorporated into their documents. Accordingly, Louisiana Voice made a public records request for whatever documentation Young referenced in the previous video clip indicating California was removing its seal. What we got was this this email which confirmed what California licensing authorities said to us. It’s not clear whether the LBC is going to accept the new color seal, but what is clear is that Young came across as being determined to suspend California reciprocity and slow the expansion of Vietnamese nail salon operators in Louisiana. Though it’s not clear what an acceptable seal now is, Young and the LBC agreed to back off of reciprocity suspension and merely return as “rejected” any California documents with “no seal.”

Another common complaint among Vietnamese operators is that the LCB itself can’t decide what is legal and what isn’t. Inconsistency appears to rule the day. One operator indicated he was licensed by an LCB official only to be informed by a subsequent inspector that he failed to have proper equipment nor adequate space for conducting his operations. Another operator appeared to suffer a similar plight as evidenced by this video clip from the April 2015 LCB meeting during which one LBC attorney, Sherrie Morris, had to explain to another LBC attorney, Cangelosi, as to the fact that nails can’t be done in an esthetic salon. Cangelosi says “somebody” told them they could but she says it was “not someone from the Board.” Louisiana Voice has been told by several operators that it was LCB officials who told them they could operate. Cangelosi even admits, “Somebody licensed them.” In yet another instance at the same meeting, the LCB demonstrated that its inability to provide guidance to its licensees on acceptable “cheese graders.”

Still another nail salon operator said his salon was cited for violations and, when he informed the inspector that a beauty salon nearby operated in the same manner as he with the same equipment and space allocation, the investigator told him, “There are different rules for you guys.” When he complained to the investigator that he may challenge an administrative hearing on the issue, she said, “You may as well pay the $1,200 fine now.  If you challenge it, they’re just going to add $550 administrative costs and there is no way you can win!” When he inquired how that could be possible for his operation to be treated so differently than the nearby beauty salon, the investigator responded, “They can do whatever they want!”

Yet another complaint of Vietnamese operators is the haphazard manner in which Young is “notified” of violations. Many Vietnamese salon operators said inspectors were shifted to their districts to concentrate on them and that they make it a point of showing up on Saturdays to provide the maximum negative impact to their salon’s operations.

Young said that unlicensed salon operators have “no skill” and “aren’t educated.” Vietnamese manicurists and salon operators said his statement was as an insult and indicated Vietnamese families train relatives to perform the service with safety at the forefront.

Recently, President Obama proposed his FY ’16 budget containing $15 billion for states to explore abolishing many boards and commissions which restrict job opportunities. Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy supports such action in Louisiana.

In an interview with Louisiana Voice, Young indicated the Federal discrimination lawsuit is “about over with,” a curious claim given that Federal Judge Brian Jackson has denied every state effort to toss the suit. In his rulings of March 20, Jackson denied the state’s motions to dismiss the complaint against inspector Stockstill both for racial discrimination and false imprisonment. Jackson dismissed the false imprisonment complaint against Keller but refused to dismiss the discrimination claim. The trial is estimated to commence on January 17, 2017 and last for seven days.

According to records available through LaTrac, the state has authorized spending of close to $300,000 so far in defending the racial discrimination lawsuit. Louisiana Voice made a public records request directly to the law firm providing the defense, Shows Cali. Readers may recall that Shows serves as Buddy Caldwell’s campaign treasurer for this fall’s attorney general race.  Further, in an investigative report by WWL in New Orleans, Shows was identified as a huge beneficiary of Caldwell’s propensity to award lucrative multi-million-dollar contracts to his close friends and associates.

Mississippi, also has considerable problems with its Cosmetology Board as evidenced by this rant by Mississippi State Representative Steven Holland in February of 2015. Unlike Louisiana, however, Mississippi requires all funds collected by boards and commissions to be placed in the state’s general fund and then individual boards and commissions must make application for funds for that year. Holland says the Mississippi Cosmetology Board’s funds need to be a “big goose egg.”

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It’s curious how a judge can look directly at a clear violation of a law, yet somehow concoct a ruling favorable to the violator and completely disregard the rights of more than 4 million citizens of Louisiana.

That, in our humble (but admittedly biased) opinion was what occurred in the Baton Rouge courtroom of 19th Judicial District Judge Mike Caldwell on Monday.

At the risk of sounding like Bobby Jindal in calling a ruling that went against him “wrong-headed,” we will at least attempt to lay out the details of the case along with the reasons for Caldwell’s ruling so you may decide for yourself if justice was done.

Our lawsuit against the Division of Administration (DOA) and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols was based on four separate public records requests with which DOA took its sweet time in complying—and, in the case of the most egregious violation, did not comply for three full months and then only after we filed our lawsuit.

Caldwell did throw us a bone which, to our satisfaction, had a little meat on it. He held in our favor on one of the four requests, assessed $800 in fines plus court costs and (best of all) held Nichols personally liable.

So, unless there is an appeal, Nichols, and not the state, will be required to write a personal check and the money will not come out of the taxpayers’ pockets (of course the salary of DOA’s staff attorney is picked up by John Q. Public).

But back to the one that sticks in our craw and leaves us perplexed and angry at the manner in which Caldwell bent over backwards to let the state off the hook for the most flagrant violation, one that had he ruled differently, could have cost Nichols thousands more in fines.

In that case, we submitted a rather detailed request for public records on Oct. 14, 2014 relative to the state’s $500 million contract with a California outfit called MedImpact, which is contracted to administer the Office of Group Benefits’ pharmaceutical program.

At the same time, we had a legislator to make a nearly identical though somewhat less detailed request through the House Legislative Services Office (HLSO).

HLSO received an email at 3:15 p.m. on Oct 23 to the effect its records were already downloaded to a CD and would be delivered by DOA. Here is the content of that email:

“You requested the MedImpact contract, Notice of Intent to Contract, ratings, and recommendations for awarding the contract. Please note the contract contains some proprietary and/or confidential information that has been redacted under La. R.S. 44:3.1. We have scanned these records. They are too large to email, so I can bring a CD over. I heard you’re out of the office. Do you want me to drop it off for you or wait until you get back?”

The records were actually delivered to the House offices on Oct. 24, 2014.

For our part, we found it necessary to send a second request on Oct. 19 because DOA had failed to respond to our initial request as required by law. Here is that section of the law, courtesy of the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR):

  • “If not in “active use” when requested, the record must be “immediately presented.” The custodian is required to delete the confidential portion of a record and make the remainder available. If it is unreasonably burdensome or expensive for the custodian to separate the public portion of the record from the confidential portion, the custodian must provide a written statement explaining why. If the record is in “active use,” the agency must “promptly certify this in writing” and set a day and an hour within three working days from receipt of the request when the record will be available.” http://www.parlouisiana.com/citizensrightscard.cfm#exempted

 

Remember that part about “unreasonably burdensome and the requirement for a written statement from the custodian of the record. We will be referring back to that part because Judge Caldwell took it upon himself to determine the unreasonableness of our request even though the state never made that argument. Thus, Judge Caldwell made the state’s argument for them.

When I made my second request, I received a response on Oct. 21 estimating the records would be available “on or before October 31, 2014.” Here is a copy of that email:

  • From: Tameika Richard
  • Sent: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 12:21 PM To: ‘azspeak@cox.net’
  • Subject: PRR re: Pharmacy Benefit Management RFP

“Mr. Aswell,

Pursuant to your public records request, we are still searching for records and/or reviewing them for exemptions and privileges. Once finished with the review process, all non-exempt records will be made available to you. It is estimated the records will be available on or before October 31, 2014.

Public Records Requests

Division of Administration

State of Louisiana

Email: doapublicrecords@la.gov

 

We still had not received the records by the time we filed our lawsuit on Jan. 16, 2015, but almost miraculously, they were delivered to our attorney’s office on Jan. 23, precisely one week after the lawsuit was filed.

So, taking DOA’s promised delivery date of Oct. 31, 2014, and projecting it out to Jan. 23, 2015, discounting about 10 holidays and several weekends (which don’t count), DOA still should have been looking at penalties of upwards of $5,000 on just that one request.

But, Caldwell mused, our request was “broad,” making it difficult for DOA to comply in a timely manner. “I’ve had experience in other cases involving voluminous requests for information where much redaction had to be done (nothing was redacted from the records we received), so I know how difficult it can be for the state to drop everything and meet your demand,” he volunteered. Accordingly, he disallowed our request for damages—again, despite the state’s never having put forward the burdensome argument. But then, why should they when an obliging judge will do it for them?

Moreover, the $800 fine he did assess against Nichols was far less than it should have been for that one violation. The records in that case (travel records for OGB personnel) were first made on October 4, 2014, and we were told the records did not exist. We re-submitted our request in December, but the records were not made available until Feb. 18, 2015.

That fine should have been in excess of $3,000, not $800.

There are several conclusion we can draw from this:

  • Judge Caldwell completely missed—or ignored—the part where DOA promised the records “on or before October 31, 2014;”
  • His honor overrated the difficulty in producing records that already existed and were in the possession of DOA;
  • The judge has little concern for the public’s right to know what its government does, nor he have any sympathy for those who work to report those actions;
  • He simply could not bring himself to impose such a heavy fine against Nichols personally despite the clear intent of the law—so he arbitrarily set a low fine for the one request and simply denied the others.

At this point, we don’t know if the state will appeal Caldwell’s judgment. We can’t imagine Nichols rolling over so easily and writing a check for $800, plus costs and attorney fees. After all, the attorneys work for the state, not her, so what does she have to lose with an appeal?

As for us, we still must meet with our attorneys to decide how to proceed with a partial victory coupled with a stinging loss.

But the question here is just what will it take to get the courts to pay attention to what the state is doing and use the power of the bench to force compliance with the law? How long will the courts simply look the other way to the detriment of the citizenry’s right to know?

We’re told that Judge Caldwell is a good judge and a fair man but we certainly don’t feel as though we received fair treatment before him.

No, we didn’t go to law school and we don’t hold a law license. But we can read and the law is quite clear on the demands placed on governmental agencies to comply with public records laws. There is no ambiguity on that point.

And one other thing: If Kristy Nichols thinks we’re going to fold our tent and skulk away, she’s in for a rude awakening. We’re not going anywhere. There will be other requests and in cases of non-compliance, there will be more litigation.

That’s a solemn promise.

 

 

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