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In the early morning hours of Jan. 22, 2012, Joseph Branch, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .307 percent (2½ higher than the .08 percent, the legal definition of intoxication in Louisiana) and driving at a high rate of speed, struck two bicyclists, killing Nathan Crowson and severely injuring his riding companion, Daniel Morris.

Branch, who had a previous DWI conviction in 2006 and was given a six-month suspended sentence, was convicted of vehicular homicide and first degree vehicular negligent injuring and sentenced to 7½ years in prison. http://theadvocate.com/news/11878236-123/baton-rouge-man-joseph-branch

That should be that, right?

Well, no. There remained the issue of whether or not The Bulldog, a bar where Branch had been drinking with two friends just before the accident, might be legally liable for continuing to serve Branch after it was evident that he was intoxicated.

Anytime there is an alcohol-related auto accident involving a fatality, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) investigates whether or not the driver had been served alcohol after it was obvious he was intoxicated. Such customers are supposed to be eighty-sixed, or cut off from being served more alcohol.

So, how are investigations carried out?

Meticulously. Carefully. Thoroughly.

Think again.

The investigation, which would routinely require weeks upon weeks of interviews, document and video review and which normally produce written reports 30 to 40 pages in length, was unusually short in duration and produced a report of a single page.

One page that completely exonerated the bar of any violation. http://www.wbrc.com/story/16903763/bar-cleared-in-fatal-crash

Initially, two ATC agents, neither of whom now work for the agency, began the investigation by requesting a video of the night in question to determine if Branch displayed any obvious signs of intoxication. They also asked owners of The Bulldog, located on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge, for certain other documents and information, including copies of any and all receipts of alcoholic beverages purchased by Branch.

When the bar initially refused to cooperate, the agents who customarily investigate such cases, obtained a subpoena and served it on the bar.

Enter ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert.

This is the same Troy Hebert who allegedly once admonished an agent for not shooting an unarmed man. When an ATC agent attempted to question a man who appeared to be intoxicated in the Tigerland area near the LSU campus where a number of bars and clubs are located, the man dove at the agent’s feet in an attempt to take him down. He was quickly overpowered and handcuffed by agents who reported the incident to Hebert. They said Hebert asked, “Why didn’t you shoot him?”

It is also the same Troy Hebert who another Baton Rouge bar owner says set his establishment up for selling to underage customers.

In December, his bartender refused to sell alcohol to an underage patron working undercover in tandem with an ATC agent. When the bartender refused to sell alcohol to the underage customer, the female ATC agent purchased the drink and gave to the younger girl and then cited the bar for selling alcohol to underage patron.

“That server is taught that they are to remove the drink from the individual who is underage,” Hebert said.

“She slides the beer to the underage girl,” bar owner Andrew Bayard said. “She assumed possession and gives it to the underage girl. I don’t feel that is a fault of my employee.” http://www1.wbrz.com/news/bar-owner-at-odds-with-state-alcohol-agents-claims-his-employee-was-set-up

Hebert officially resigned as commissioner, effective Jan. 10, the day before the new governor, John Bel Edwards, took office. He since has announced he will seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. David Vitter who is not seeking re-election.

But we digress.

In an unprecedented move, Hebert, who had zero experience as an investigator, decided he would be the lead investigator of the Bulldog.

What possible motive would Hebert have in rushing through an investigation and issuing a press release on Feb. 9 absolving the bar of any responsibility? Why would he instruct the lead agent on the case to limit his report to one page?

Why would Hebert watch the video footage for only a few seconds before proclaiming he “saw nothing” there? Why not watch the entire video to see if Branch did, in fact, appear intoxicated?

Even more curious, why would Hebert instruct that same agent to return to The Bulldog and retrieve the subpoena the agent had served on the establishment for video and records, thus freeing the bar of any responsibility to turn over key records?

Is it possible that the answer to each of these questions can consist of two words?

Might those two words be Chris Young?

The New Orleans attorney represents scores of clubs and bars (and convenience stores) before the ATC and his sister, Judy Pontin, is the executive management officer for ATC’s New Orleans office, earning $71,000 per year.

John Young, the brother of Chris Young and Pontin, is the former president of Jefferson Parish and was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in last fall’s statewide elections.

ATC insiders told LouisianaVoice that when an establishment wants to apply for an alcohol permit or whenever the business experiences problems with ATC, Pontin refers them to Chris Young for legal representation.

Chris Young was the legal counsel for The Bulldog prior to and throughout the ATC investigation.

Daniel Morris, who was severely injured in the accident, retained the representation of Lafayette attorney Patrick Daniel who issued his own subpoena to ATC for certain records to bolster his litigation against The Bulldog.

In February 2013, more than a year after the accident which left Morris disabled, Daniel sent a letter to ATC general Counsel Jessica Starns noting that ATC FAILED TO PROVIDE RECORDS TO MORRIS

“Your response is considered incomplete as it does not contain certain items referenced in the produced documents,” he said.

It was not immediately determined if the records were finally produced but it does raise the obvious question of why did ATC not comply with that subpoena in the first place, thus necessitating a follow up letter from the attorney?

Could those records have contained information that conflicted with ATC’s one-page report of Feb. 9, 2012, the report that supposedly cleared The Bulldog?

A lot of questions were left hanging out there and someone deserves some answers.

We’re guessing that would be the families of the two cyclists.

But we may never know those answers.

In June 2014, the First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a Baton Rouge state district court in tossing Morris’s lawsuit on the basis that the responsibility for intoxication lies with the individual, not the establishment.

Thus was added insult to Morris’s considerable injuries.

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If there’s anything dirtier than a rogue cop, it would have to be a rogue judge.

Put the two together and an epic miscarriage of justice is bound to occur.

The two are equally bad for different reasons. The bad cop has a badge and a gun. The judge exists for the sole purpose of seeing that justice prevails for society—that victims are protected and the guilty are punished. When one or both betray that trust, society is the loser.

Recent events up in Monroe have proved that Ronald Thomas and Larry Jefferson belong together—in the same jail cell.

It was bad enough that Thomas, a Louisiana State Police veteran of 18 years routinely went off the grid to go fishing or meeting up with his paramour—all while on the clock. But over a period of two years, Thomas, the evidence custodian for Troop F in Monroe, returned up to $1 million in confiscated drugs to the street by stealing packets of cocaine that he was charged with incinerating. The scheme enriched him by hundreds of thousands of dollars in dirty money. http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/14639945-75/state-police-evidence-scandal-ends-in-modest-prison-term-for-rogue-trooper

Thomas was enabled in carrying out his business venture because the evidence custodian position had few, if any, checks and balances.

In September 2012, for example, he removed two sealed boxes containing nearly 24 pounds of cocaine from the evidence vault. The evidence was scheduled for destruction and Thomas was to have taken it to an incinerator in Alexandria the next day. Hidden cameras in his office even recorded him stuffing cash into a sock and then secreting the money in his waistband before leaving work.

Thomas was charged after a year-long investigation and faced up to 20 years in prison. His attorney, Darrell Hickman said of his client at trial, “This is a man who is probably not going to be in trouble for the rest of his life. He lost his job, he lost his reputation, and he almost lost his family. That’s enough to bring any man back to reality.”

Really, Darrell? That’s your best defense? A real pity all accused felons couldn’t fall back on the “I’ll probably never get in trouble again” defense.

At least Thomas was a little more creative. He blamed his crimes in part on exposure to fumes from confiscated narcotics he handled for years after being removed from patrol to the evidence room.

Yeah, right. And I blame my poor grades in school to the foul odor of cabbage wafting up into my classroom from the school cafeteria.

So, what was his punishment? Did he get the full 20 years?

Nope.

One year in the lockup, plus a $15,000 fine (remember, he raked hundreds of thousands of dollars by forsaking his sworn oath to uphold the law), and 240 community service.

And that’s where Judge Jefferson becomes the topic of our story and picture is ugly, to say the least. Yes, Thomas was a bad cop, but this story is about a disgraceful judge, a judge whose ego knows no bounds and his respect for the law appears miniscule.

First, a little background. A city court judge first, he was removed from the bench by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Jan. 18, 2000 after being formally charged by the Judiciary Commission with four separate counts:

Charge I:  Judge Jefferson abused his authority as a judge with respect to the City Prosecutor for the Monroe City Court and the Clerk of Court for the Monroe City Court by exceeding his contempt power and/or abusing such contempt power, which demonstrates a lack of proper judicial temperament and demeanor. These actions violated Canons 1, 2, 3(A)(1), (2), (3) and 3B(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. art. V, § 25C in that the actions were willful misconduct relating to the judge’s official capacity and were persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought the judicial office into disrepute.  

Charge II:  Judge Jefferson abused and exceeded his authority as a judge when he banned the City Prosecutor from his courtroom and subsequently dismissed 41 cases. His conduct violated Canons 1, 2, and 3A(1), (2), and (3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. Art. V, § 25C in that he engaged in willful misconduct relative to his office and engaged in public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought the judicial office into disrepute.

Charge III:  Judge Jefferson engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of La. R.S. 13:1952, Canons 1, 2, 3A(1) and La. Const. art. V, § 25C, in that he engaged in willful misconduct relating to his official duty and in public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Charge IV:  That Judge Jefferson failed to comply with the order of May 28, 1998, issued by the Louisiana Supreme Court, pursuant to which he was relieved of all administrative duties at Monroe City Court.   This was in violation of Canons 1, 2, 3(A)(1) and 3(B)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. art. V, § 25C, in that he engaged in willful misconduct relating to this official duty and in persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

There’s more.

In Charge I, the Commission charged Judge Jefferson with abusing his authority as a judge by exceeding his contempt power and abusing such contempt power with respect to the city prosecutor and the clerk of court for the Monroe City Court. The Commission found that such acts demonstrated Judge Jefferson’s lack of proper judicial temperament and demeanor under the circumstances. Charge I included three incidents involving Judge Jefferson, the prosecutor, James Rodney Pierre, and the Clerk of Court, Ms. Powell-Lexing, in which the judge held these individuals in contempt of court. http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-supreme-court/1212290.html

“The majority recommends that Judge Jefferson be removed from judicial office,” the January 2000 decision said. “However, this court has previously stated that “[t]he most severe discipline should be reserved for judges who use their office improperly for personal gain; judges who are consistently abusive and insensitive to parties, witnesses, jurors, and attorneys; judges who because of laziness or indifference fail to perform their judicial duties to the best of their ability; and judges who engage in felonious criminal conduct.   Moreover, the removal of a duly elected member of the judiciary is a serious undertaking which should only be borne with the utmost care so as not to unduly disrupt the public’s choice for service in the judiciary.”

Judge Jefferson’s conduct warrants a two year suspension, retroactive to his interim suspension dated October 13, 1998. Effectively, the two-year suspension was in reality a 10-month suspension—to Oct. 13, 2000.

In September 2000, Judge Jefferson was sued by newsman Ken Booth in an effort to prevent his return to the bench. The lawsuit was thrown out because Booth could not prove he was a qualified elector in Ouachita Parish and thus, had no legal standing with the court.

But the court took matters a step further by point out the Supreme Court has no authority set qualifications for seeking office. “Once an individual has been removed from judicial office, he no longer is a judge, and is no longer subject to judicial disciplinary actions,” the ruling by the State High Court said. Because Jefferson’s license to practice law was not revoked, he was therefore eligible to seek another judgeship. http://www.leagle.com/decision/20002014765So2d1249_11742/BOOTH%20v.%20JEFFERSON

http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2484:attorney-larry-d-jefferson-of-monroe-la-il-duce-wannabee-moron-&catid=150:louisiana-attorney-misfits&Itemid=100

Accordingly, in November 2007 he again won election to the Monroe City Court judgeship with 62 percent of the vote.

Then, in November 2014, he ran for judge of the 4th Judicial District Court (Ouachita and Morehouse parishes), capturing 61 percent of the vote.

And so it was in 2016 that a dirty cop came forward to receive justice from a tainted judge who handed down a disgraceful sentence.

Thousands of non-violent offenders occupy cells in state and parish prisons throughout Louisiana for minor transgressions—and they’re serving sentences considerably longer than the cop who ripped off $1 million in cocaine from the State Police evidence room.

And there are judges who will turn a blind eye to such crimes but will berate a city court prosecutor or a city clerk of court for the most minor of offenses.

There is a certain irony that the last names of Thomas and Jefferson would come together to spit in the face of honest cops and judicial integrity.

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Teresa Buchanan, welcome to the club. You’re in good company.

First it was Steven Hatfield. Next was Ivor van Heerden.

Then, in rapid-fire order came Drs. Fred Cerise and Roxanne Townsend followed by Raymond Lamonica and John Lombardi. The message, in no uncertain terms, was toe the line or clean out your desk.

And on Thursday (Jan. 21), The Daily Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, apparently cratered to pressure from a state representative’s wife and killed an insightful column by senior political science major Michael Beyer—all because Beyer has the unmitigated gall to offer up a critical column of State Rep. Neil Abrabson’s torpedoing of Rep. Walt Leger’s election as Speaker of the House. Beyer’s online column may have been figuratively spiked by LSU, but thanks to Lamar White’s CenLamar blog, we’re able to link to it here: http://cenlamar.com/2016/01/20/speaking-truth-to-power-lsu-student-responds-to-state-rep-neil-abramson/

No wonder LSU hired Joe Alleva as athletic director. When the Duke lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape, he promptly suspended the remainder of the lacrosse team’s season before DNA test results were known and fired its coach—after DNA tests came back negative.

This is the same Joe Alleva who was forced to eat crow in the now-he’s-fired, now-he’s-our-coach Les Miles debacle back in November. Washington Post columnist John Feinstein (a Duke alumnus) said Alleva was “a pleasant man whose next original idea would be his first.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/28/AR2007052800929.html

Not to dump on Alleva too much, but his track record at Duke and LSU is pretty much the poster child for the LSU personnel handbook and HR policy. The Duke debacle was so bad that after the three players were cleared and their accuser exposed as a liar, prosecutor Michael Nifong was disbarred for dishonesty and ethics violations related to the case.

Let’s review that honor roll of rolled heads cited earlier.

  • Jesse H. Cutrer and Carl Corbin: LSU Reveille editor Cutrer of Kentwood and assistant editor Corbin were expelled and five others suspended when they refused to knuckle under to U.S. Sen. Huey Long way back in 1934. The issue was a letter to the editor by a sophomore student not even on the Reveille staff. The letter was critical of Long’s naming a star LSU football player to the state senate. Twenty-two other students who were suspended were reinstated and the seven who left LSU were all invited to the prestigious University of Missouri Journalism School, paid for in part by LSU board member J.Y. Fauntleroy of New Orleans. The man who executed the firings was LSU president James Monroe Smith, who later went to prison on corruption charges.
  • Steven J. Hatfill: Hired on July 1, 2002, Hatfill was placed on paid leave a month later after FBI agents conducted a search of his apartment in Frederick, Maryland on live TV—complete with helicopters circling overhead. His crime? He was suspected of being involved in anthrax mailings. Though he was familiar with the effects of anthrax, his area of expertise was Ebola and his job at LSU was training emergency personnel to respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Saying LSU was making no judgment as to Hatfill’s guilt or innocence and that the decision “was not reached quickly or easily,” Chancellor Mark Emmert promptly fired Hatfill before his first day on the job. Hatfill was subsequently found innocent and six years later he was paid $4.6 million by the U.S. Department of Justice as settlement of his lawsuit. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/28/washington/28hatfill.html?_r=0
  • Dominique Homberger: The biology professor wasn’t fired but was removed from teaching in April 2010 for setting too high a standard for her students. She eschewed grading on a curve, insisting instead that her students achieve mastery of the subject matter instead of simply more mastery than the worst students in the class. In short, she refused to dumb down her course material. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/04/15/lsu
  • Ivor van Heerden: van Heerden was fired by LSU in May of 2010 after he had the temerity to criticize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ levee and floodwall construction designs. He also built storm-surge models, one of which predicted major flooding in St. Bernard Parish, eastern New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward. Apparently the LSU administration did not care much for accuracy. He was also stripped of his title as deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/ivor_van_heerden_who_pointed_f.html
  • John Lombardi: The LSU system president was cut loose in April of 2012 because he didn’t go along with Bobby Jindal’s programs, including the privatization of the LSU medical centers. He also publicly opposed other initiatives advanced by Jindal. The firing was done by vote of the LSU Board of Supervisors, all of whom were appointed by Jindal. The board had a reputation of subservience to Jindal as expressed by board member Alvin Kimble of Baton Rouge. “We are laying a lot of blame on the wrong person,” he said. “It needs to be laid at the legislature’s feet and the governor’s feet. You guys (fellow board members) are doing what you have been instructed to do. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/lsu_board_fires_system_preside.html
  • Drs. Fred Cerise and Roxanne Townsend: Two of the LSU Health System’s premier physicians, Cerise and Townsend were axed in September 2012 following a July meeting at which former Secretary of Health and Hospitals Alan Levine pitched a plan to privatize the state’s system of LSU medical centers. Cerise and Townsend made the mistake of expressing reservations about Levine’s proposal. But Bobby Jindal wanted the privatization done and he passed the word down the Board of Supervisors and two of Louisiana’s best doctors were gone. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/08/21/cerise-townsend-firing-came-soon-after-fateful-2012-levine-meeting-with-lsu-officials-to-discuss-lsumc-privatization/
  • Raymond Lamonica: The LSU System general counsel resigned under pressure as chief legal advisor to the university. He also was on the wrong side of Jindal. http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/09/lsu_general_counsel_resigns_wi.html

As, apparently, was Teresa Buchanan. But she is fighting back. Like those Duke lacrosse players, the tenured associate professor of 19 years’ experience is determined to clear her name. She hopes to get her job back as well—and she has some big guns on her side. http://theadvocate.com/news/14637878-123/report-fired-lsu-professor-plans-to-file-lawsuit-against-school-for-violating-free-speech-rights

In her federal lawsuit filed Wednesday (Jan. 20) in U.S. Middle District Court in Baton Rouge, she is represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE, based in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., has been around only since 2014. Already, however, it has negotiated favorable settlements in eight of 11 actions brought on behalf of students and faculty at colleges and universities in several states.

In firing Buchanan last June, LSU claimed her teaching methods violated sexual harassment policy for her occasional use of profanity and sexual language in preparing her students to become effective teachers, FIRE said in its press release Thursday.

“LSU’s policy mirrors the language of the ‘blueprint’ sexual harassment policy propagated by the U.S. Department of Education and Justice in 2013. FIRE and other civil liberties advocates have warned this controversial language threatens the free speech and academic freedom rights of faculty and students.

“FIRE predicted that universities would silence and punish faculty by using the Department of Education’s unconstitutional definition of sexual harassment—and that’s exactly what happened at LSU,” it said. “Now Teresa is fighting back to protect her rights and the rights of her colleagues.”

She was fired despite unanimous support from the LSU faculty senate which approved a resolution urged the university’s administration to reconsider its decision to terminate her. That resolution was ignored. Last September, the American Association of University Professors formally censured the LSU administration.

“You will not find another person who loves LSU more than I do,” she said at her press conference on Thursday. “I come from a line of LSU people on both sides of my family and I received two of my degrees from there.”

She said in firing her, the LSU administration “violated LSU’s promises of free speech and academic freedom for its faculty.

FREE said Buchanan “prepared her student teachers for the real-world rigors of working with children and parents from diverse communities. For this, LSU fired her. The LSU faculty senate and the American Association of University Professors have censured the LSU administration for its action. We think a federal court will likewise find its actions unacceptable.”

 

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As we face the end of eight years of ineptitude, deceit, and whoopee cushion governance, LouisianaVoice is proud to announce our first ever election of John Martin Hays Memorial Boob of the Year.

There are no prizes, just a poll of our readership as to whom the honor should go in our debut survey.

Hays was publisher of a weekly publication called appropriately enough, the Morning Paper in Ruston until his death last year. He relished nothing more than feasting on the carcasses of bloated egos. He single-handedly exposed a major Ponzi scheme in North Louisiana, sending the operator to prison. That got him some major ink in the Atlanta Constitution and the New York Times.

The problem of course, is trying to narrow the field to make the final selection manageable.

The obvious choice for most would be Bobby Jindal, but there are so many other deserving candidates that we caution readers not to make hasty decisions. After all, we wouldn’t want to slight anyone who has worked so hard for the honor.

So, without further ado, here are the nominees, along with a brief synopsis of their accomplishments.

  • Bobby Jindal: Mismanaged the state budget for an unprecedented eight consecutive years. At least there’s something to be said for consistency. In his eight-year reign of error (mostly spent in states other than Louisiana) he managed to cut higher education more than any other state; he robbed public education to reward for-profit charter schools and virtual schools; he gave away the state’s Charity Hospital system (he awarded a contract to the new operators—a contract with 50 blank pages which is now the subject of what is expected to be a prolonged legal battle; he appointed political donors to prestigious boards and commissions, including the LSU Board of Supervisors which, under his direction, fired two distinguished doctors, the school’s president and its legal counsel; He trumped up bogus charges against the director of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) to appease mega-donor Tom Benson and to appoint the husband of his children’s pediatrician to head up the agency; he forced state offices to pay higher rent in order to again accommodate Benson by signing a costly lease agreement with Benson Towers; rather than consider alternative ideas, he simply fired, or teagued, anyone who disagreed with him on any point; he refused Medicaid expansion, thus depriving anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 low-income citizens needed medical care; he tried unsuccessfully to ram through pension reform that would have been devastating to state employees; he insisted on handing out contract after contract to attorney Jimmy Faircloth who is still searching for his first courtroom victory after receiving well more than $1 million in legal fees; he spurned a major federal grant that would have brought high-speed broadband internet to Louisiana’s rural parishes; he stole $4 million from the developmentally disadvantaged citizens so he could give it to the owner of a $75 million Indianapolis-type race track—a family member of another major donor and one of the richest families in the state; he abandoned his duties as governor to seek the Republican presidential nomination, a quest recognized by everyone but him as a fantasy; he ran up millions of dollars in costs of State Police security in such out-of-state locations as Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina; he had the State Police helicopter give rides to his children, and the list goes on.
  • Attorney General Buddy Caldwell: All he did was completely botch the entire CNSI contract mess which today languishes in state district court in Baton Rouge; He consistently turned a blind eye to corruption and violations of various state laws while ringing up what he thought was an impressive record of going after consumer fraud (Hey, Buddy, those credit care scam artists are still calling my phone multiple times a day!); and his concession speech on election night was one for the books—a total and unconditional embarrassment of monumental proportions.
  • Kristy Nichols: What can we say? This is the commissioner of administration who managed to delay complying to our legal public records request for three entire months but managed to comply to an identical request by a friendly legislator within 10 days; We sued her and won and she has chosen to spend more state money (your dollars, by the way) in appealing a meager $800 (plus court costs and legal fees) judgment in our favor; it was her office that came down hard on good and decent employees of the State Land Office who she thought were leaking information to LouisianaVoice (they weren’t); she first reduced premiums for state employee health coverage in order to free up money to help plug a state budget deficit all the while whittling away at a $500 million reserve fund to practically nothing which in turn produced draconian premium increases and coverage cuts for employees and retirees (and during legislative hearings on the fiasco, she ducked out to take her daughter to a boy-band concert in New Orleans where she was allowed to occupy the governor’s private Superdome suite.
  • Troy Hebert: appointed by Jindal to head up ATC which quickly turned in a mass exodus of qualified, dedicated agents; he used state funds to purchase a synthetic drug sniffing dog (hint: there is no such thing as a synthetic drug sniffing dog because synthetic ingredients constantly change; this was just another dog, albeit an expensive one); he launched a racist campaign to rid his agency of black agents; while still a legislator, he was a partner in a firm that negotiated contracts with the state for hurricane debris cleanup.
  • Mike Edmonson: Oh, where do we start? Well, of course there is that retirement pay increase bill amendment back in 2014; there is the complete breakdown of morale, particularly in Troop D; then, there was the promotion of Tommy Lewis to Troop F Commander three years after he sneaked an underage woman into a casino in Vicksburg (he was subsequently fined $600 by the Mississippi Gaming Commission but only after first identifying himself as the executive officer of Troop F and asking if something “could be worked out.”); allowing Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux to take advantage of a lucrative buyout incentive for early retirement (which, in her case, came to $46,000, plus another $13,000 of unused annual leave) only to retire for one day and return the next—at a promotion to Undersecretary. She was subsequently ordered to repay the $56,000 but thanks to friends in high places, the money has never been repaid (maybe incoming Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne would like to revisit that matter); consistent inconsistency in administering discipline to officers who stray—such as attempting unsuccessfully to fire one trooper for assaulting a suspect (even though the suspect never made such a claim) while doing practically nothing to another state trooper who twice had sex with a woman while on duty—once in the back seat of his patrol car.
  • David Vitter: what can we say? The odds-on favorite to walk into the governor’s office, he blew $10 million—and the election. His dalliance with prostitutes, his amateurish spying on a John Bel Edwards supporter, an auto accident with a campaign worker who also headed up the Super PAC that first savaged his Republican opponents in the primary, turning Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle irreversibly against him and driving their supporters to Edwards’s camp. In short, he could write the manual on blowing an election.
  • The entire State Legislature: for passing that idiotic (and most likely illegal) budget on the last day of the session but only after Grover Norquist was consulted about the acceptability of a little tax deception; for allowing Jindal to run roughshod over them on such matters as education reform, hospital privatization, pension reform and financing recurring expenses with one-time money; for being generally spineless in all matters legislative and deferring to an absentee governor with a personal agenda.

Those are our nominees but only after some serious paring down the list.

Go to our comments section to cast your vote in 25 words or less. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 18.

As much as you might like, you are allowed to vote only once.

 

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If you were to seek two cases that stand as glaring testimony to the way in which the Jindal administration employs a double standard in addressing legal and ethical issues, you need look no further than the cases involving Murphy Painter and Jeff Mercer.

Though the men never met and while one was a state employee and the other a private contractor, together, the two represent the composite poster child for victims of political favoritism and corruption. Both fell prey to unethical behavior and of the way political priorities have been set by the Jindal administration for the past eight years.

We have chronicled the manner in which Jindal and his henchmen made Painter a scapegoat by firing him from his post as director of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC). We have shown how, when he refused to knuckle under and bend the rules for the benefit of Anheuser-Busch distributor Southern Eagle, SMG (the Louisiana Superdome management company), the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED) Board, and Tom Benson, Jindal not only fired Painter but even tried (unsuccessfully) to prosecute him in federal district court on bogus criminal charges of computer fraud.

Not only was Painter acquitted of all (there were 42 counts, none of which stuck) charges, but the state then was required to repay Painter’s legal costs of $474,000.

http://louisianavoice.com/2014/10/24/another-embarrassment-for-jindal-ex-atc-commissioner-murphy-painter-wins-defamation-suit-against-his-accuser/

LouisianaVoice was the first—and only—news service to suggest (correctly, it turned out) that Painter, instead of a criminal, was the victim of a political scheme intended to remove him from his position after he refused to approve an incomplete application by SMG for a permit to erect a large tent at Benson’s Champions Square adjacent to Benson Towers across from the Superdome. The tent was to house beer sales by Southern Eagle on Saints game days. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/06/emerging-claims-lawsuits-could-transform-murphy-painter-from-predator-to-all-too-familiar-victim-of-jindal-reprisals/

Jindal executive counsel Stephen Waguespack, now President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), insisted—twice—that the permit be expedited, Painter asked that he put his concerns in writing but Waguespack responded that he was far too busy to reduce his demands to writing (which would’ve left a paper trail, don’t you see).

Instead, Painter was simply fired and SMG got its permit. Of course, it was mere coincidence that the Benson family, SMG, its law firm, Southern Eagle and members of the LSED Board had combined to dump more than $207,000 into Jindal’s campaigns between 2002 and 2012.

Quick as the Jindal crowd was to administer justice (read reprisals) in the Painter case, it was painfully slow in ferreting out reports of corruption in one of the largest agencies in the state—the Department of Transportation and Development—and even slower in addressing those reports with the proper corrective measures. The fact is, nothing was ever done about reports of attempted shakedowns of a DOTD contractor and the subsequent harassment of that same contractor that eventually put him out of business.

It turned out to be an expensive oversight on the state’s part.

On Friday, a 12-person jury returned a unanimous verdict in which it awarded Jeff Mercer of Mangham $20 million, plus eight years (and counting) of judicial interest for allowing DOTD supervisors to condone demands of cash and equipment from Mercer by a DOTD inspector (we call that extortion where I come from; the inspector allegedly threatened Mercer with inspection problems with his work). Moreover, Mercer was able to prove that DOTD deliberately withheld payments for work performed by Mercer as payback for his whistleblowing, first reported by LouisianaVoice in April of 2012. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/04/09/contractor-claims-in-lawsuit-that-dotd-official-attempted-shake-down-for-cash-equipment-during-monroe-work/

http://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/05/story-of-attempted-contractor-shakedown-broken-2-years-ago-by-louisianavoice-results-in-20-million-verdict-against-state/

Mercer had even taken his complaint to the governor’s office, but nothing was ever done. No referral to the Inspector General’s office. The IG, by the way, works directly for and answers only to the governor and was prompt enough to bring charges against Painter three years ago.

So, the question must be asked: why was the governor’s office not front and center in taking appropriate action on reports of extortion, threats of federal prosecution against Mercer, and refusals to pay for work performed by him?

Why was the demand for compliance so urgent in the Painter case and the concern so lacking in the Mercer case?

To paraphrase Jindal: two words.

Campaign contributions.

Benson, SMG, and members of the LSED Board were major Jindal campaign contributors. Mercer was not.

Benson and his associates were friends of Jindal and as such, they possessed massive political power that the governor could not ignore—nor did he wish to.

Mercer was a small contractor from the small North Louisiana town of Mangham, situated about halfway between Winnsboro and Rayville—and smaller than each of those. He was not influential.

He was, they thought, an insignificant little nobody who could be ignored because he had neither the influence nor the political muscle to make himself heard over the rattle of dinner plates at the governor’s mansion or over the lofty, self-serving campaign rhetoric about Jindal’s gold standard of ethics.

The administration, it turns out, committed the worst tactical error possible in warfare and politics: it vastly underestimated the determination of a little man when he is truly pissed and it woefully underestimated the indignation and ire of a 12-person jury upon their hearing of the injustice heaped upon one of their own by an uncaring bureaucracy and of the unscrupulous actions of those within that same bureaucracy.

And boy, does it ever feel good when the underdog wins one!

 

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