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State Treasurer John Kennedy told fellow members of the State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) Wednesday that he wants answers to a laundry list of questions pertaining to legislative passage of an amendment to an otherwise minor senate bill that increased State Police Commander Mike Edmonson’s retirement benefits by $30,000 per year.

http://www.auctioneer-la.org/Kennedy_LSP.htm

In asking for a thorough investigation of the amendment that was slipped on Senate Bill 294 on the final day of the legislative session, Kennedy said his main concern was with New York bond rating agencies, though he also questioned the fairness of the amendment’s applying only to Edmonson and one other Master Trooper from Houma.

“I was in New York when this story first broke (LouisianaVoice ran the first story about the amendment last Friday) and we had discussions about the $19 billion unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of the state’s four retirement systems,” he said. “These rating agencies read our newspapers and our blogs and they know more about Louisiana than we do.”

As State Treasurer, Kennedy sits on some 30 different state boards, including the State Police Retirement System Board but he said his interest in attending Wednesday’s meeting was in protecting the state’s bond rating. “If our rating goes down, our interest rates go up,” he said. “I spent 12 or 13 hours with them and they are worried about our Medicaid situation, our use of non-recurring revenue and our retirement systems’ UAL.”

Another state official, an attorney, told LouisianaVoice that he had another constitutional violation to add to C.B. Forgotston’s list of five constitutional violations of the amendment: “The amendment impedes an existing contract,” he said. Col. Edmonson entered into a binding contract when he entered DROP and that is irrevocable. We have had a constant parade of state employees who wanted out of DROP and every single one has been denied.”

Kennedy said there are two sides to every story. “I’d like to talk to Charles Hall (of Hall Actuaries, which did a study for the legislature earlier this year). I’d like Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) who authored the original bill to come speak to us.”

Kennedy said the two men benefitting from the amendment also have a right to address the board. “They have every right to due process,” he said.

Other answers he said he would like include:

  • How many people are impacted by this amendment?
  • Who are they? (The identities of the beneficiaries of the amendment);
  • Who sponsored the amendment in committee? (so they might come before the board and explain their motives);
  • What is the total cost of the amendment? (so he can report back to the rating agencies);
  • What are the remedies, litigation or legislative relief, allege the bill is illegal or simply refuse to comply?
  • What are the legalities of the bill? (Can an amendment be done dealing with retirement issues that is supposed to be advertised?);
  • Has special treatment been given?

“Years ago, we had anywhere from 10 to 15 bills introduced each year to give special treatment to one, two or three individuals without appropriating any money,” he said. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

“Gov. (Mike) Foster finally said ‘Enough, we will do this no more.’ And now here we are again. The rating agencies are appalled at that.”

Kennedy, in a private interview after the meeting, said he was concerned with everyone being treated equally. “I don’t believe in special treatment for those who have the political power or (who) know the right people. I think it’s stupid economically and it is what has contributed to the UAL. This amendment has implications far beyond the two men affected. I want to see how much it would cost to give everyone the same treatment.

“We have the sixth worst-funded retirement systems in America and the rating agencies have told us over the past two years to get our business straight or they will downgrade us. If that happens, we’ll be paying higher interest on our bonded indebtedness.”

Kennedy saved his harshest criticism for the legislature when he said, “Someone didn’t read this bill or they’re not being candid. They should be doing these amendments in a more transparent way. These last minute amendments are done and no one know what they’re adding and suddenly, it’s an up or down vote.

Kennedy asked LSPRS Executive Director Irwin Felps, Jr. if the board could meet before the next scheduled meeting on the third Wednesday of September. “It’s important that we address this issue,” he said.

“There’s no excuse for this. This amendment didn’t just fall from heaven. Somebody has a lot of explaining to do and if I find preferential treatment, I will vote to rescind the amendment.”

Kennedy’s claim of a lack of transparency and the sudden “up or down vote” was illustrated when Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans) explained the amendment on the floor of the House during the final hectic hours when lawmakers were hurrying to wrap up business:

“The new language to the bill applies to those paying more into the system since 2009 for benefits they cannot use,” he said. “It makes people whole but does not give them a larger benefit.”

Don’t believe us? Watch and listen for yourself as Arnold explains the new legislation in all of 15 seconds.

Then you can decide for yourself if the amendment’s sponsors were being completely up front with their colleagues—and with Louisiana taxpayers.

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The way Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Director Troy Hebert runs his shop, it was inevitable that one or more of his employees would end up taking legal action against him.

And when you strip grown men of their dignity by making them write lines like some school kid, that borders on the sadistic.  Such petty behavior is just asking for trouble and trouble is certain to oblige.

In fact, he already has settled a couple of discrimination claims and now three more former employees have filed suit in federal court.

Three former ATC supervisors, all black, have filed a federal lawsuit in the Baton Rouge’s Middle District claiming a multitude of actions they say Hebert took in a deliberate attempt to force the three to resign or take early retirement and in fact, conducted a purge of virtually all black employees of ATC.

Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith, III filed the lawsuit on behalf of Charles Gilmore of Baton Rouge, Daimian T. McDowell of Bossier Parish, and Larry J. Hingle of Jefferson Parish.

The lawsuit claims a pattern of racial discrimination, race-based harassment and retaliation, including the “systematic elimination of all African-American employees” of the agency.

When Hebert took over the office in November of 2010, “there were five African-American supervisors within the ATC Enforcement Division,” the suit says. Today, there are none.

One of the more egregious acts attributed to Hebert and reported earlier by LouisianaVoice was his ordering two of the plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit, Gilmore and McDowell, to go undercover to investigate a New Orleans bar where each had previously investigated in full uniform. Both men, fearing for their safety should they be recognized, requested that Hebert send other undercover agents, but he refused and told the two “to handle it,” the petition says.

http://louisianavoice.com/2012/12/20/atcs-troy-hebert-throws-subordinates-under-the-bus-to-deflect-from-his-own-inadequacies-inept-mismanagement/

On Feb. 6, 2012, Hebert relocated Gilmore from Baton Rouge to north Louisiana permanently with no prior notice and later informed agent Brette Tingle that he had reassigned Gilmore in the hope he would retire early or resign. Tingle, the petition says, advised McDowell and Gilmore on Aug. 23, 2012, that Hebert had confided in him that he intended to break up the “black trio,” a reference to McDowell, Gilmore and another agent, Bennie Walters. Walters was subsequently terminated two weeks later, on Sept. 7.

On Sept. 6, 2012, the day after Hebert demoted McDowell from Agent 3 to Agent 2 (the demotion was later rescinded), Hebert conducted an internal investigation of five agents and seized computers, iPads and cell phones and then ordered each agent to write four essays regarding ATC.

Another claim cited in the lawsuit concerns an email sent by one of the supervisor’s subordinates in which the agent failed to address Hebert as “Commissioner” or “Sir.”

Hebert, who requires that all ATC personnel rise from their seats and address him with a cheery “Good morning, Commissioner” whenever he walks into a room, responded by asking Human Resources Director Joan Ward “what type of disciplinary action” he could take “to get Hingle’s attention” to ensure his agents showed Hebert the “proper respect,” the petition says.

Hingle also claims that Hebert referred to him as “incompetent” and a “zero” in the presence of Hingle’s subordinate agents and that he confided to agent Brette Tingle that he was planning to “go after” Hingle.

On Dec. 27, 2012, Hingle said Hebert sent him a letter proposing his dismissal. He later rescinded the letter but sent a second proposal of dismissal on Jan. 22 and six days later was demoted from ATC Agent 5 to ATC Agent 3.

The lawsuit said that all three plaintiffs have received the requisite “right to sue” notice from the U.S. Department of Justice pursuant to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints.

The three men claim that Hebert, ATC and the Louisiana Department of Revenue are liable for compensatory damages, including economic and emotional losses, loss of retirement benefits and damages to their reputations.

They are asking for a jury trial and are seeking lost wages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

 

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In March of 1948 Jules Dassin’s classic film The Naked City ended with the now classic line, “There eight million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.”

Louisiana, with 4.5 million residents, has only a little more than half of New York City’s 8.4 million population and granted, there are far fewer of our stories which are considerably less dramatic given the fact that our 4.5 million are spread out over a much larger geographic area and not packed together like so many sardines in a can.

And not all of our stories are of the voyeuristic quality of the childish soap opera being played out between Gov. Bobby Jindal and his hand-picked Superintendent of Education John White over the Common Core curriculum.

When there is an especially well-played game between two deserving teams, you can count on the sports commentators lamenting the fact that one team must lose. In this case, it’s a shame that either Jindal or White must win this sorry struggle of egos. They both deserve to lose.

But as we said, there are other stories out there that are just as important to the principals involved even if the outcome doesn’t necessary affect the rest of us.

Take the case of Rapides Parish attorney Wilbert J. Saucier, Jr. vs. the heirs of Simon and Clara Harrell.

Harrell, a black man, purchased 61.67 acres of land on the Grant-Rapides parish line in rural Pineville in 1929 for $800. He farmed the property on which he and his wife reared 16 children. On Nov. 8, 1973, the family purchased a private road crossing from the Louisiana & Arkansas Railway Co. in order to gain access to his landlocked property from River Road, the only access to his land.

Article 741 of Louisiana state statutes says that whenever prescriptive right of way is used by property owners for 20 years “without force, without secrecy and without the oral or written consent of the servient land owner (the land owner whose property is being crossed),” the right of way automatically becomes the right of way of the person using it, especially when that right of way is the only way to enter and exit the property.

The Harrell family had use of this right of way for more than 80 years but a new federal law that went into effect on Dec. 1, 2009, which we will examine later, changed all that.

Everything was fine for Harrell and his descendants until Sept. 2, 1994. That’s when Saucier purchased 2,200 acres of the Erris-Omega Plantation. The Erris-Omega Plantation completely surrounds the Harrell property on all four sides.

Erris-Omega Plantation, Inc., it should be noted, is listed by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office as “not in good standing for failure to file annual report.” The last annual report filed by Erris-Omega was on July 28, 2011, records show.

When Saucier decided he wanted to stock his land with axis deer, indigenous to India and considered by many to be more desirable than domestic deer, he filed a lawsuit in 9th Judicial District Court in Alexandria, accusing the family of trespassing onto his property and of dumping trash on their own family property which subsequently was carried onto the Saucier property by flood waters.

The problem with the garbage theory was that the Harrells by that time lived in Alexandria where they had municipal garbage pickup, so why would they carry garbage 13 miles to dump onto one’s own property? That made no sense whatsoever.

The trespassing issue arose over the Harrell family’s placing deer stands along the fence row even though Saucier also had deer stands along that same fence row.

When the case was assigned by random drawing to Judge Donald Johnson, a black judge, Saucier quickly had the case dismissed without prejudice—meaning it could be reinstated at a later date (dismissing with prejudice means the case is over and done with forever)—and re-filed in Pineville City Court where it would be heard by Saucier’s friend, Pineville City Judge Phillip Terrell.

Normally, when a case is dismissed without prejudice, it is because the plaintiff feels his case may be weak and he can’t win, or if there is a settlement. The use of such tactics for the purpose of judge shopping is generally frowned upon.

Judge Terrell, who is running this year for Rapides Parish District Attorney, has his detractors and even got his ears pinned back by our old friend Jimmy Faircloth in a case involving Pineville police officers’ attempt at forming a union. The city, represented then by Terrell, was ordered by the courts to cease its harassment practices against union organizers.

And now that Terrell is retiring from the bench to run for district attorney, Saucier’s daughter Lauren Elizabeth Saucier, who serves as Vice President and Director of Erris-Omega Plantation, Inc., is running for Terrell’s city judgeship, leading some observers to conclude that the political parts at this level are interchangeable.

http://wesawthat.blogspot.com/2010/04/pineville-city-court-judge-phillip.html

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-court-of-appeal/1271522.html

Harrell family member Robert Washington, a retired nurse and grandson of Simon Harrell, chosen to speak for the family, said he took Judge Terrell to the site and explained that no one in the Harrell family drank alcohol (there were beer and liquor bottles) and that there were no infants at the Harrell camp house (there were baby diapers and other baby paraphernalia).

Still, Terrell ruled against the Harrells and ordered them to pay Saucier $17,000. But when the Harrells attempted to pay Saucier, he refused the money and attempted to place a lien on the Harrell property, raising immediate suspicions as to the real motive for his lawsuit against the Harrells.

The Harrells filed their own suit in 9th JDC and again, the case fell to Judge Johnson who, telling Saucier he couldn’t “have his cake and eat it, too,” ordered him to accept the money because the Harrells had met their legal obligations, such as they were. Johnson added that he did not know how things were done in Pineville, but that the case looked suspicious to him but he was helpless under the law to remedy the situation.

If there was ever any doubt that Saucier wanted the Harrell’s land, in the fall of 2004, he erected a 10-foot fence around the Harrell property and installed a cattle gap and two padlocked gates, blocking access to their 61 acres.

When Washington filed a second lawsuit suit in 9th JDC to force Saucier to remove the gates, that case was assigned to Judge Harry Randow.  The Harrell family’s attorney, Gerald Torry of Baton Rouge, requested a continuance but instead Randow set a trial date without informing Torry or the Harrells and subsequently ruled against them.

Ignoring Article 741, Randow attempted to force the Harrells to pay Saucier for the right of way they had been using since 1929. His judgment was signed on Dec. 1, 2009.

That date is not a coincidence. It’s the same date that the federal Land and Coveyancing Law Reform Act became law. That law directly affected rights of way and easements.

The new law says that those with unregistered rights of way had from Dec. 1, 2009, until Dec. 1, 2012, to register their rights in the federal land registry. If they failed to do so, their right of way may be extinguished and the time period for re-acquiring that right legally starts from Dec. 1, 2009, with previous use being considered irrelevant. The result could be the complete loss of the right of way.

http://www.pierse.ie/new-act-may-extinguish-existing-rights-of-way/

Did Saucier and Judge Randow know this? Was there some kind of “agreement” as to the date the ruling would be handed down? Were the Harrells deliberately kept in the dark about an obscure federal law about which they had no knowledge or a way or reason to know but which could adversely affect their land rights?

That would be impossible to prove, but given Saucier’s attempt at on overt land grab (moving the case from being heard by a black judge to a city judge with whom he was friends, refusing a court-ordered payment in lieu of seeking a lien against the property and then subsequently fencing off the Harrell property), it does raise eyebrows.

Should the land owner refuse to confirm a right of way, the blocked family may be required to obtain a court order. To do that, it must be proved that the blocked person or persons have been using the road in question for the relevant period of time.

Saucier, in an April 15, 2013 letter to the Harrells, said the case “is now fully and finally over” and that the Harrells no longer “may obtain a legal servitude across my property. In a pseudo-magnanimous gesture, he offered to allow the Harrells to remove their belongings from the property.

The Harrells may yet have an out, however.

The law pertaining to situations in which there is only one access point remains unchanged. This is referred to as a right of way of necessity i.e., when there is only one access road to the property. The law does not allow the road owner to deny the property owner access to his land if it is the only access available.

That should be the Harrells next legal step.

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There’s a new fight brewing between Gov. Bobby Jindal and Chas Roemer over the simmering Common Core standoff between the governor’s office and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

And if it were done right, it would be a memorable encounter. Sadly, it shapes up to be just another faceoff between lawyers.

BESE will consider retaining a special legal counsel in its efforts move forward with the Common Core test plans, according to BESE’s revised agenda released on Friday.

http://theadvocate.com/home/9577083-125/possible-legal-action-on-revised

Such a legal battle would pit BESE against the governor’s office after Jindal issued an executive order to discontinue Common Core tests being prepared by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

Jindal, in his best imitation of John Kerry, was for Common Core before he was against it and now sniffs he will never let that big bully, aka Washington, D.C., dictate to Louisiana which, by golly, will devise and administer its own tests. That prompted former State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek (before he was shoved out the door by Jindal who wanted current Superintendent John White who he now opposes on the Common Core issue) to rebuke his former boss when he proclaimed that the feds have nothing to do with setting Common Core standards. That point remains debatable.

Got that? Didn’t think so. Neither do we.

Jindal ordered BESE (an independently elected, autonomous board, by the way) to initiate a competitive bid process for a new assessment process so the state can come up with its own academic standards. He also suspended a contract between the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) and PARCC.

In a real test of wills, Jindal’s office also has demanded that DOE produce volumes of test-related documents by Monday.

We at LouisianaVoice can offer our own experience with that seemingly innocuous request for public records.

On Monday, June 23, I submitted a request for “all itemized invoices and records of payments” to a DOE vendor. What I got in return was simply a list of payments. No invoices at all, let alone itemized invoices.

My patience already stretched to the breaking point with recurring delays by DOE on other public records requests, I snapped. I sent White a second demand which said, in part:

“The information you provided me is insufficient. I specifically requested itemized invoices from (vendor name). The vendor history you provided me does not list what the charges were for nor the dates incurred.

“I want every specific invoice submitted with itemized listing of what each and every expenditure was for, i.e. supplies, utilities, rent, salaries, travel, etc.

“John White, I don’t know what kind of game you are playing but I know you possess (or at least should possess) sufficient intelligence to know what I asked for and that what your office provided does not come close to a sufficient response. What do you think the term “itemized invoice” below (highlighted) implies? What part of “itemized invoice” don’t you understand?

“If you want to play games, we will let a judge be the referee. I am weary of your stalling, delaying, and playing ignorant. You have until noon Friday or you will be served with a lawsuit Monday. Itemized invoices, John,….ITEMIZED.

I received a call around noon Friday informing me the requested documents were ready for our inspection.

The revised agenda released by BESE includes an executive session but Roemer says that may not be necessary. “I anticipate there may be given potential legal questions and that is why the executive session must be on the agenda,” he said.

It could be Jimmy Faircloth vs. ATBA (attorney to be announced) if it comes down to a fight between proxies—as it probably would.

But wouldn’t it be better if we just put Jindal and Roemer in a ring together and let them duke it out?

That would be an epic battle worthy of Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory vs. Niles of Frasier.

Forget about the Rumble in the Jungle (Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman) or the Thrilla in Manila (Ali vs. Joe Frazier). Those were just preliminary bouts for what would truly be a battle of the ages.

Jindal vs. Roemer. Sheldon vs. Niles. Collision in the Classroom. Clown Clash. Common Core Conflagration. Capital City Smack Down. Brouhaha in Baton Rouge. Call it what you will, that’s something Louisianians would pay top dollar to watch.

No matter what you would call it, if it could be arranged, I would take whatever steps necessary to obtain the legal rights to telecast the bout over statewide closed circuit television or Pay Per View.

We’ll hype it as Brawl on the Bayou.

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“The signing of SB 469 is a huge victory for the oil and gas industry as well as the economy for the state of Louisiana…” 

—Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, commenting on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing of SB 469 which effective kills the lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies.

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1974 Louisiana Constitution-Declaration of Rights

§22. Access to Courts

Section 22. “All courts shall be open, and every person shall have an adequate remedy by due process of law and justice, administered without denial, partiality, or unreasonable delay, for injury to him in his person, property, reputation, or other rights.”

(Special thanks to Tony Guarisco for researching this provision of the State Constitution.)

 

 

This is about yet two more examples of how Gov. Bobby Jindal conveniently manages to look the other way instead of being up front when confronted with issues that most might believe could present a conflict of interest

When Jindal signed SB 469 into law on Friday he not only killed the pending lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) but he also placed in extreme jeopardy the claims by dozens of South Louisiana municipalities and parish governments from the disastrous 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill that killed 11 men and discharged 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, spoiling beaches and killing fish and wildlife.

By now, most people who have followed the bill authored by Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) but inspired by Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) know that big oil poured money and thousands of lobbying man hours into efforts to pass the bill with its accompanying amendment that makes the prohibition against such lawsuits retroactive to ensure that the SLPFA-E effort was thwarted.

Most followers of the legislature and of the lawsuit also know that up to 70 legal scholars, along with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, strongly advised Jindal to veto the law because of the threat to the pending BP litigation.

Altogether, the 144 current legislators received more than $5 million and Jindal himself received more than $1 million from oil and gas interests. Allain received $30,000 from the oil lobby and Adley an eye-popping $600,000.

So, when BP lobbyists began swarming around the Capitol like blow flies buzzing around a bloated carcass, the assumption was that BP somehow had a stake in the passage of SB 469 and that infamous amendment making the bill retroactive.

John Barry, a former SLFPA-E who was given the Jindal Teague Treatment but who stuck around to pursue the lawsuit, said, “During the last few days of the session, we were very well aware that the BP lobbyists were extraordinarily active. They were all over the place. We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

Russel Honore said it another way, observing wryly that the Exxon flag still flies over the State Capitol.

Blogger Lamar White, Jr. observed that former Gov. Edwin Edwards spent eight years in a federal prison for accepting payments from hopeful casino operators for his assistance in obtaining licenses—all after he left office. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was similarly convicted of using his position to steer business to a family-owned company and taking free vacations meals and cell phones from people attempting to score contracts or incentives from the city.

So what is the difference between what they did and the ton of contributions received by Adley and Jindal? To paraphrase my favorite playwright Billy Wayne Shakespeare, a payoff by any other name smells just as rank.

And while big oil money flowed like liquor at the State Capitol (figuratively of course; it’s illegal to make or accept campaign contributions during the legislative session), what many may not know is that Jindal may have had an ulterior motive when he signed the bill into law against sound legal advice not to do so, thus protecting the interests of big oil over the welfare of Louisiana citizens who have seen frightening erosion of the state’s shoreline and freshwater marshes.

The Washington, D.C., law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is one of the firms that represented BP in negotiating a $4.5 billion settlement that ended criminal charges against the company. Included in that settlement amount was a $1.26 billion criminal fine to be paid over five years.

An associate of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who has defended clients in government audit cases and in several whistleblower cases is one Nikesh Jindal.

He also is assigned to the division handling the BP case.

Nikesh Jindal is the younger brother of Gov. Piyush, aka Bobby Jindal.

Suddenly, John Barry’s words take on a little more significance: “We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

And that’s not the only instance in which Jindal neglected to be completely candid about connections between him and his brother.

In yet another of his increasingly frequent op-ed columns, this one for the Washington Examiner, prolific writer and part time governor Jindal staked out his position of support of for-profit colleges in their battle against the Obama administration.

A 2012 report by the Senate Committee on Health, Labor and Pensions said that between 2008 and 2009, more than a million students attended schools owned by for-profit companies and by 2010, 54 percent of those had left school without a degree or certificate.

The committee also found that associate degree and certificate programs cost an average of four times the cost of degree program at comparable community colleges. Moreover, bachelor’s degree programs at for-profit colleges cost 20 percent more than flagship public universities.

Jindal disputed proposed U.S. Department of Education “gainful employment” rules that would tie federal aid at for-profit and public and private vocational and certificate programs to their success in preparing students for gainful employment.

“The message from this administration couldn’t be clearer,” Jindal wrote in suggesting that the Obama administration policies are tantamount to “redlining educational opportunities” for low-income and minority youths. “If you want to attend an elite professional school you could end up having tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt forgiven by your school and the federal government. But if you’re a struggling African-American single mother relying on a certificate program at a for-profit school or a community college and you like your current education plan—under this administration, you have about as much chance of keeping it as you do your health plan.”

Critics of the for-profit institutions, however, claim that the schools recruit vulnerable students, some of whom do not even possess a high school diploma, charge exorbitant tuition and encourage students to take out huge student loans they will never be able to repay.

Once again, it was what went unsaid that is significant.

Nikesh Jindal, it turns out, has represented the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), in an earlier legal battle with the Obama administration.

Nikesh Jindal “historically has been part of the team representing APSCU in litigation,” said Noah Black, APSCU spokesman, and was listed as one of the attorneys for the association in its successful challenge to a Department of Education rule that colleges must become certified in each state in which they enroll students.

For a man of repeated claims of transparency, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lack of candor is awfully opaque.

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“Loyalty to Joe Aguillard apparently would include a requirement to ignore unlawful and unethical behavior…”

“The reports by Timothy Johnson to Louisiana College obviously had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with personal and institutional integrity and honesty.”

—Statements by Tim Johnson in his Mar. 11 lawsuit against Louisiana College and college President Joe Aguillard. Tim Johnson, son-in-law of Rev. Mack Ford, is said to have removed a girl from the New Bethany Home for Girls after she recorded Ford’s sexual assault of her more than 30 years ago. Johnson, whose son served for a decade as State Director for former Congressman Rodney Alexander, was appointed Wednesday to a $55,000-a-year job with the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs which Alexander heads.

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Apparently lost in all the jibber jabber about Vance in his pants McAllister and the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation he and aide Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock recently administered to each other is why on earth Monroe’s Christian Life Church pastor Danny Chance inserted himself into this steamy little affair—without, we might add, having been invited to the party.

Chance, in case you’ve been on vacation in the Ukraine, took it upon himself to reveal to the world (at least that part of the world that really gives a hoot in hell) that it was McAllister’s Monroe District Office manager Leah Gordon who leaked the video of McAllister and Peacock engaged in lascivious lip locking.

Chance apparently violated a ministerial duty of confidentiality when he shared with us a purported statement by Gordon that she was taking the video to State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe) and Jonathan Johnson, former aide to retired Congressman Rodney Alexander and who worked in the campaign of McAllister’s opponent, State Sen. Neil Riser. Both men, by the way, have denied any involvement in receiving or circulating the video.

“I just feel like there is a conspiracy to bring Vance down and destroy him,” the good reverend said. “For someone on his staff to do that is wrong.”

And speaking of wrong, how about a minister violating an apparent confidence by going public with something like a confession, as it were, that an individual (Gordon) planned to forward the video to political operatives? Is that not equally egregious?

Someone recently, perhaps only half joking, suggested that Heath Peacock, erstwhile best friend of Congressman Vance McAllister and husband of McAllister’s paramour/legislative aide, might want to consider running against his former friend this fall for the Fifth District congressional seat.

That would be fun to watch, but we don’t feel it goes quite far enough. We have an idea to extend it to its logical conclusion.

How about if McAllister resigns his congressional seat (there is already pressure from that moral standard bearer, the Republican Party, that he do so), thus opening the door for Peacock’s congressional candidacy? McAllister, naturally would then run for governor next year against…..David Vitter.

Now that would be a match made in hell and could conceivably even launch a new reality show: Duck Dynasty Dilemma.

There would be no debates between the candidates, of course: only the congenial sharing of notes and frat boy exchanges of stories of romantic conquests.

To keep viewers’ interest alive during lulls in the dialogue, lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas) could promote three-round chicken boxing matches. That would allow bookies to handicap both the governor’s race and sporting events simultaneously.

But the scenario gets better—or worse, depending upon your tastes—and considerably more muddled. To keep up, you may need a pen and paper and perhaps even an abacus and a few highlighters for purposes of color coding. A chart of some type might also help.

Obviously we couldn’t allow Heath Peacock to waltz into Congress unopposed as representative of the good people of Louisiana’s 5th District. He must earn his stripes. For that reason, we have tapped the Hon. Chet Traylor of Monroe as his most worthy opponent.

Remember Chet Traylor?

Way back in 1996, Trayor, then living in Winnsboro, defeated incumbent Ruston’s Joe Bleich to win a 10-year term on the Louisiana Supreme Court. While serving on the state’s high court, he would have occasion in 2000 to write the majority opinion upholding the constitutionality Louisiana’s anti-sodomy laws, thus validating a morals code for everyone to follow.

Traylor, following a divorce from his first wife, married Peggy Marie McDowell Ellington, who was previously married to Noble Ellington, II, of Winnsboro, then a state representative but since retired and subsequently appointed as second in command of the State Insurance Department at a six-figure salary.

The Ellingtons had two sons, Noble Ellington, III, and Ryan Ellington, both of Winnsboro.

The senior Ellington has been quoted as saying that Traylor was “significantly involved” in his divorce.

We may never know the details of the history between Traylor and Peggy Ellington because not long after her marriage to Traylor, she died.

Soon after her death, Traylor, the good Methodist that he is, began yet another relationship—this one with Denise Lively, estranged wife of his stepson, Ryan Ellington.

Now that’s a family man to the core.

And bringing this entire saga full-circle, we have Traylor receiving less than 10 percent of the votes in his 2010 U.S. Senate election campaign against….David Vitter.

All of which goes to prove two points:

  • Politics, especially in Louisiana, does make for strange bedfellows, and
  • If you followed all this, you have far too much time on your hands.

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Here’s the political shocker of the year: Gov. Bobby Jindal says that the Republican Party would be better off selecting a governor as its 2016 presidential nominee.

Wow. Who saw that coming?

Jindal might wish to ask former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney how that scenario worked out for him.

Wonder how Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida feel about that little snub?

Better yet, wonder who he had in mind? Gosh, there are so many: Chris Christie of New Jersey, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich and Rick Perry of Texas whom Jindal was quick to endorse a couple of years ago before Perry’s political machine sputtered and died on some lonely back road. Then there are those former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of neighboring Arkansas, and Sarah what’s-her-name up there in Alaska.

Oh, right. We almost forgot because well…he’s just so forgettable, but there’s also Jindal who recently placed about 12th in a 10-person straw poll at that wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

But he’s running. You betcha (sorry, Palin, we couldn’t resist). He is so intent in his as yet unannounced candidacy that he has already drafted his own plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Presidential candidates are usually expected to exhibit voter empathy and to be spellbinding orators who are capable of mesmerizing of voters en masse. John Kennedy comes immediately to mind. So do Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. I mean, after Clinton took two steps toward that audience member in his debate against President Bush the First in 1992 and said, “I feel your pain,” Bush never had a chance. Clinton looked that voter dead in the eye and spoke one-on-one as Bush was checking his watch.

Jindal has all the empathy of Don Rickles, but without the charisma.

As for oratory skills, to borrow a line from a recent Dilbert comic strip, he should be called the plant killer: when he speaks, every plant in the room dies from sheer boredom.

So much for his strong points: let’s discuss his shortcomings.

Jindal believes—is convinced—he is presidential timber. The truth is he has been a dismal failure at running a state for the past six years and he’s already written off the final two as he ramps up his campaign for POTUS.

Yes, we’ve been beset by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav. Yes, we had the BP spill. All of those provided Jindal valuable face time on national TV and still he trails the pack and when you’re not the lead dog in the race, the view never changes.

Because of those catastrophes, the state has been the recipient of billions of federal dollars for recovery. Nine years later, Jindal cronies still hold multi-million contracts (funded by FEMA) to oversee “recovery” that is painfully slow. The state received hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild schools in New Orleans. Construction on many of those schools has yet to commence. The money is there but there are no schools. (Correction: Largely white Catholic schools have received state funding and those facilities are up and running.)

Jindal tried to restructure the state’s retirement system—and failed. Yes, the retirement systems have huge unfunded liabilities but Jindal’s solution was to pull the rug from under hard-working civil servants (who by and large, do make less than their counterparts in the private sector: you can look it up, in the words of Casey Stengel). As an example, one person whom we know was planning to retire after 30 years. At her present salary, if she never gets another raise over the final eight years she plans to work, her retirement would be $39,000 per year.

Under Jindal’s proposed plan, if she retired after 30 years, her retirement would have been $6,000—a $33,000-a-year hit. And state employees do not receive social security.

Never mind that state employees have what in essence is a contract: he was going to ram it down their throats anyway—until the courts told him he was going to do no such thing.

He has gutted higher education and his support of the repeal of the Stelly Plan immediately after taking office has cost the state a minimum of $300 million a year—$1.8 billion during his first six years in office.

He even vetoed a renewal of a 5-cent per pack cigarette tax because he opposed any new taxes (try following that logic). The legislature, after failing to override his veto, was forced to pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent. Voters easily approved the amendment.

Then there was the matter of the Minimum Foundation Program, the funding formula for public schools. Funds were going to be taken from the MFP to fund school vouchers until the courts said uh-uh, you ain’t doing that either.

Jindal’s puppets, the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, fired the school’s president and two outstanding and widely admired doctors—all because they didn’t jump on board Jindal’s and the board’s LSU hospital privatization plan. Then the stuporvisors voted to turn two LSU medical facilities in Shreveport and Monroe over to a foundation run by a member of the stuporvisors—and the member cast a vote on the decision. No conflict of interest there.

Six months after the transition, the Center for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) has yet to approve the transition and if it ultimately does not approve it, there will be gnashing of hands and wringing of teeth in Baton Rouge (That’s right: the administration won’t be able to do that correctly, either) because of the millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding that the state will not get or will have to repay. Jindal will, of course, label such decision as “wrong-headed,” which is an intellectual term he learned as a Rhodes Scholar.

And from what we hear, his little experiment at privatizing Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SELH) in Mandeville by bringing in Magellan to run the facility isn’t fairing too well, either.

By the way, has anyone seen Jindal at even one of those north Louisiana Protestant churches since his re-election? Didn’t think so.

For some reason, the word repulsive keeps coming to mind as this is being written.

Jindal’s firings and demotions are too many to rehash here but if you want to refresh your memory, go to this link: http://louisianavoice.com/category/teague/

The LSU Board of Stuporvisors, by the way, even attempted to prevent a release of a list of potential candidates for the LSU presidency. One might expect that member Rolf McCollister, a publisher (Baton Rouge Business Report), would stand up for freedom of the press, for freedom of information and for transparency. One would be wrong. He joined the rest of the board to unanimously try to block release. Again, led as usual by legal counsel Jimmy Faircloth who has been paid more than $1 million to defend these dogs (dogs being the name given to terrible, indefensible legal cases), Jindal was shot down in flames by the courts and the Board of Stuporvisors is currently on the hook for some $50,000 in legally mandated penalties for failing to comply with the state’s public records laws.

It would be bad enough if the administration’s legal woes were limited to the cases already mentioned. But there is another that while less costly, is far more embarrassing to Jindal if indeed, he is even capable of embarrassment at this point (which he probably is not because it’s so hard to be humble when you’re right all the time).

In a story we broke more than a year ago, former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control commissioner Murphy Painter refused to knuckle under to Tom Benson and Jindal when Benson’s application for a liquor license for Champions Square was incomplete both times it was submitted. Budweiser even offered an enticement for gaining approval of a large tent and signage it wanted to erect in Champions Square for Saints tailgate parties: a $300,000 “contribution” to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome), whose board is heavily stacked with Jindal campaign contributors.

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

And:

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

Jindal fired Painter. Because firing him for doing his job might be bad press, more solid grounds were sought and Painter was subsequently arrested for sexual harassment of a female employee and of using a state computer database to look up personal information on people not tied to any criminal investigation (something his successor Troy Hebert ordered done on LouisianaVoice Publisher Tom Aswell).

The female employee recanted but Painter nevertheless was put on trial and once more the Jindalites were embarrassed when Painter was acquitted on all 29 counts. Unanimously.

But wait. When a public official is tried—and acquitted—for offenses allegedly committed during the scope of his duties (the Latin phrase is “in copum official actuum”) then Louisiana law permits that official to be reimbursed for legal expenses.

In this case, Jindal’s attempt to throw a state official under the bus for the benefit of a major campaign donor (Benson and various family members), will wind up costing the state $474,000 for Painter’s legal fees and expenses, plus any outstanding bills for which he has yet to be invoiced.

So, after all is said and done, Jindal still believes he is qualified for the highest office in the land. He is convinced he should be elevated to the most powerful position in the world. If he has his way, it won’t be an inauguration; it’ll be a coronation.

So intoxicated by the very thought of occupying the White House is he that he has presumed to author a 26-page white paper that not only critiques Obamacare but apparently details his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Could that qualify as another exorcism on his part?

His epiphany, however, appears to be more akin to the Goldfinch that regurgitates food for its young nestlings than anything really new; it’s just a rehash of old ideas, it turns out.

During his entire administration—and even when he served as Gov. Mike Foster’s Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals—he devoted every waking moment to cutting Medicaid and depriving Louisiana’s poor citizens of health care. Even as head of DHH, according to campaign ads aired on the eve of the 2003 gubernatorial election, he made a decision which proved fatal to a Medicaid patient. That one campaign ad was aired so close to the election date that he was unable to respond and it no doubt contributed to his losing the election to then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco but he won four years later.

Nevertheless, his sudden interest in national health care prompts the obvious question: where the hell has he been for six years?

Not that we would for a moment believe that his newfound concern for healthcare is for political expedience but he apparently isn’t stopping there as he sets out to save the nation.

“This (health care plan) is the first in a series of policies I will offer through America Next (his newly established web page he expects to catapult him into the White House) over the course of this year,” he said.

We can hardly wait.

 

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An interesting civil trial is transpiring at the 19th Judicial District Court. Though estimates vary, if the plaintiffs prevail, about one taxpayer in five in the Greater Baton Rouge area may eventually wind up with a surprise check in the mail.

The trial involves a group of taxpayers, now represented as a class, who have sued the Amite River Basin Commission (ARBC) over what they claim are vastly overpaid property taxes covering construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal. The project was originally envisioned after the massive 1983 flood which resulted in significant backwater flooding long after rains had stopped. The concept behind the project involves providing a sort of relief valve (the Canal) to divert water from the Comite River into the Mississippi River. By lowering the water level of the Comite River, water levels would also be lowered in the Amite River basin in flood-prone areas such as Port Vincent and French Settlement.

What is in dispute is the amount of funding for which the ARBC (through local property owners) is responsible. The original estimate of the project’s construction costs was approximately $120 million (the current estimate is $199 million). Of that $120 million, the Army Corps of Engineers (through the Federal government) was to be responsible for 70% of the construction costs, or $84 million. The remaining $36 million cost was originally designated to be $30 million to the State of Louisiana, and $6 million to the ARBC.

A sidebar to the whole affair is how a Baton Rouge lawyer is legally or ethically able to represent ARBC when he also served as the plaintiff attorney in litigation against the state that could ultimately cost the state from $60 million to $70 million.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have indicated that $6 million was the full extent of the construction costs for which the ARBC was responsible. To date, by way of a 3-mill property tax approved by voters in the District in 2000, combined with a renewal (at 2.65 mills) of that tax in 2010, plaintiff attorneys say about $24.5 million has been collected to date. The suit seeks a refund of the alleged $18.5 million overpayment.

At various stages in the trial, plaintiff attorneys have accused ARBC Executive Director Deitmar Rietschier of financial mismanagement and voter deception in order to “keep a project alive that is on life support.”

The attorneys have argued that Rietschier has an ulterior motive for over-collecting on the tax in order to fund his own $93,000+ annual salary along with his executive secretary’s $38,000 salary.  The board’s executive secretary, Toni Guitrau, also happens to be the Mayor of the Livingston Parish Village of French Settlement.

So, basically, the trial boils down to the claim that taxpayers of the district have been tricked into paying around $1.1 million in salaries for Rietschier and Guitrau during a period for which no funding has been appropriated for the project’s continued construction.

Plaintiff attorney Steve Irving argued that it is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the final cost of the project or if, it may even be completed.

Defense attorney Larry Bankston says there never was any intent to cap the ARBC’s contribution to construction costs at $6 million. He argues that the Canal project remains viable and is fully ongoing. He indicated that he has eight more witnesses to call.

Bankston’s roles as both plaintiff and defense attorney in cases involving the state would appear to pose a conflict of interests. Currently, he is:

  • Legal counsel to the State Auctioneer Licensing Board under a $25,000 contract;
  • Defense attorney for ARBC in its ongoing litigation over the overpayment of taxes to that board;
  • Plaintiff attorney in ongoing litigation against the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, and the state’s Rice Promotion Board and Rice Research Board over claims of excessive assessments against the state’s rice farmers.

Employing the doctrine that “the state is the state is the state,” it would appear that Bankston may have a conflict of interests under the code of ethics which governs attorney representation.

But as we discovered years ago, nothing is ever cut and dried in the legal world. And it’s obvious those in charge of attorney ethics or either ignorant of the subject or protective of their peers—or both.

And so it is with this question. We contacted a number of organizations, including the Attorney Disciplinary Board, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, and the State Bar Ethics Council and each one punted. Eric K. Barefield of the State Bar Association’s Ethics Council did finally respond to our email question about the propriety of working both sides of Litigation Street but his answer did little to shed light on the issue:

“Thank you for your inquiry. The Louisiana State Bar Association’s Ethics Advisory Service is designed to provide eligible Louisiana-licensed lawyers with informal, non-binding advice regarding their own prospective conduct and/or ethical dilemmas under the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct (the “LRPC”).  According to limitations set by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, we are not permitted to evaluate contemplated disciplinary complaints, to serve as the catalyst for potential complaints or even to comment on the conduct of lawyers other than that of the requesting lawyer. 

“As such, regrettably, we are not permitted to help you evaluate whether the lawyer in your scenario has or may be violating the LRPC nor are we permitted to give you legal advice on matters such as those contained in your e-mail. 

“In addition to the foregoing, if you are concerned about protecting and/or asserting your rights and interests in this matter, perhaps you should strongly consider consulting another lawyer as soon as possible with regard to getting an evaluation of your facts and a legal opinion about your rights, interests and options.  Regrettably, no one on the staff at the LSBA is permitted to offer legal assistance and/or legal advice.”

That rendition of the Bureaucratic Shuffle would easily get a “10” rating on Dancing with the Stars.

Bankston, you may remember, is a former staff attorney for the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, was assistant parish attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish and a member of the Baton Rouge City-Parish Commission before his 1987 election to the Louisiana State Senate.

In 1994, while serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bankston met in his law office with Fred Goodson, owner of a Slidell video poker truck stop. The FBI later said Bankston and Goodson discussed a plan to manipulate the legislative process in order to protect the interests of video poker companies in exchange for providing key legislators secret financial interests in video poker truck stops.

Bankston was subsequently indicted and convicted on two racketeering counts, one of which was a scheme whereby Goodson would pay Bankston “rent” of $1,555 per month for “non-use” of Bankston’s beachfront condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama—a bribe, according to prosecutors.

Bankston was sentenced to 41 months in prison in 1997 and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

Released on Nov. 6, 2000, Bankston was subsequently disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Mar. 9, 2002, retroactive to Nov. 19, 1997, but was re-admitted to practice law on Feb. 5, 2004.

So, now he represents two state boards and is suing two others and a state agency.

And there apparently is no one who can—or will—call a foul in this game.

 

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