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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Troy didn’t want me there and, as if it might be his rights instead of a subordinate’s that were being violated. “Are the media allowed in here?” he asked, almost pleading.

Assured by the hearing referee that I could stay, he was reminded that it was a public hearing and anyone could attend, including the media.

The referee was presiding over a civil service appeal of the firing of one of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) agents by agency director Troy Hebert and Hebert clearly did not want the proceedings to become public.

Hell, yes, the media are allowed Troy and you can expect to see a lot of me at the various civil service hearings, EEOC hearings, and court trials currently pending against you. But Troy, I can understand your reluctance to operate in the open and in plain sight.

You probably learned that paranoia from your boss, Bobby Jindal. You know, the two of you are a lot alike in that regard; Bobby likes the furtive style of governing and he likes to fire anyone who doesn’t buy whole hog into his B.S. The problem is, Troy, Bobby (and it really hurts to say this) is a little smarter than you.

And it almost seemed there were as many lawyers as witnesses in the crowded hearing room. But this wasn’t like the O.J. Simson trial, it was a civil service hearing. Nevertheless, Hebert strolled into the hearing room in the W.C.C. Claiborne Building across the scenic but polluted Lake from the towering State Capitol accompanied by not one, not two, not three, not four, but (count ‘em) five attorneys—all paid for not by Hebert but by the good citizens of Louisiana. If I didn’t know better, I’d call that a classic case of overkill.

One of those attorneys was Jessica Starnes, officially Hebert’s “counsel of record.” Starnes served as legal counsel for ATC, a civil service classified position, but on March 30, was appointed to the unclassified position of “advisor,” assigned to the Executive Office (governor), all of which raises the question of how she can be an advisor to the governor and defense attorney for Hebert.

Oh, wait. I forgot. Hebert is the governor’s “legislative liaison,” so everything is tied up in a neat little incestuous knot; Bobby Jindal is apparently joined at the hip by Starnes on one side and Hebert on the other in this sordid mess, interchangeable parts, if you will. Remember the image of a beaming Starnes standing behind Bobby at his announcement for the Republican presidential candidacy? http://louisianavoice.com/2015/06/26/just-when-it-seems-jindal-cannot-get-creepier-viral-video-shows-willingness-to-exploit-his-children-for-political-gain/

But an even more pressing question: now that Starnes is no longer legal counsel for ATC but is the “counsel of record” for Hebert’s defense, will her work be billed to ATC along with the other four attorneys? Or was she on the clock, drawing a salary as the governor’s “advisor,” while arguing on behalf of her former boss in a matter seemingly unrelated to day to day activities in the governor’s office? Did she take leave from her current position to represent Hebert?

There wasn’t much at stake at the hearing, just the career and livelihood of former agent Brett Tingle of Prairieville, fired by Hebert in February—a dismissal carried out by letter delivered to Hingle’s home while he was convalescing from a heart attack.

The reasons for the firing were answered in detail in an 11-page letter from J. Arthur Smith, Tingle’s attorney, on March 10, which indicated the basis of the firing appears to stem from Hingle’s support of several black agents either disciplined or fired by Hebert. To learn more about Hingle’s firing and the response by his attorney, go here: http://louisianavoice.com/2015/03/13/atc-director-troy-hebert-rivals-his-boss-in-cold-hearted-demeanor-fires-agent-who-is-recovering-from-heart-attack/

There isn’t much to report about Friday’s proceedings. Settlement negotiations which were initiated by the referee before the scheduled hearing and which lasted about two hours, were done behind closed doors as is proper. When we were admitted back into the room and the hearing resumed, the referee simply informed us that the hearing was continued until Sept. 1-4.

The fact that no settlement was reached between the two parties could be interpreted as bad news for Troy because he is staring down the barrel of that federal EEOC racial discrimination complaint by three black agents filed almost exactly a year ago after two were fired and a third was transferred from Baton Rouge to Shreveport with no prior notice. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/14/forcing-grown-men-to-write-lines-overnight-transfers-other-bizarre-actions-by-troy-hebert-culminate-in-federal-lawsuit/

Hebert, known to require agents to stand and greet him with “Good morning, Commissioner” when he enters a room, who in the past has required agents—grown men and women—to write lines, and who once ordered a female agent to patrol dangerous New Orleans bars in uniform after she had already worked narcotics detail in the same bars in plain clothes, cannot easily afford an adverse civil service ruling prior to the EEOC hearing. That just would not bode well for him.

Hebert, who succeeded Murphy Painter who was fired after being set up by Team Jindal on bogus charges, ostensibly for accessing information on individuals on his state computer, ordered one of his agents to conduct a warrantless background check on me (it turns out I was found to be somewhat boring). Hebert also once boasted to another agent that he could easily have his IT people hack into my computer. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/03/25/hebert-like-bobby-jindal-stumbles-from-one-ill-fated-fiasco-to-another-in-oblivion-and-without-a-trace-of-embarrassment/

So what happened to Hebert after those two little episodes were revealed? Well, he was promoted to Jindal’s legislative liaison, whatever that may entail. We see it as simply a synonym for lap dog. Oh, and he also held a state contract for debris cleanup after Hurricane Katrina—while simultaneously serving in the Louisiana Legislature. No conflict there.

Witnesses were admonished not to discuss the pending Tingle matter with each other or anyone else, including the media. A violation of that dictum, the referee said, could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal from their jobs.

Well, folks, I’m not among the subpoenaed witnesses, I’m already retired, and I can’t be fired.

As the popular ’60s song goes, see you in September, Troy.

 

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JINDAL'S CANDID CAMERA BOMB(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

The unfolding tragi-comedy known as the Bobby Jindal campaign just keeps getting weirder but it’s hard to imagine it getting any creepier than his crude re-creation of America’s Funniest Videos episode in which he attempts to exploit his children—except it wasn’t really funny.

Apparently it was some kind of desperate, pathetic stunt designed to project his image as a family values candidate. Instead, it served up a sure-to-become-viral video that rivals his pitiful performance in that abysmal Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmNM0oj79t8

It’s almost enough to make us forget that exorcism he performed on “Susan” during his years as a student at Brown University. http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=1294-jindal

We’re talking, of course, about that cozy family gathering around a patio table, apparently at the governor’s mansion, during which he breaks the news in the most contrived, stilted manner possible that “mommy and daddy” are running for president—complete with the amateurishly scripted promise of a puppy “if we move into the White House.”

That his wife, Supriya, would be a part of such a blatantly manipulative display is in itself worthy of analysis by parenting experts but we will leave that argument for others. https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/inside-bobby-jindals-bizarre-trick-on-his-kids-122433837582.html

The performance drew such negative reaction that the video, which had been featured at the top of the web page announcing his candidacy, was removed altogether within hours of its posting.

But it did prompt some creative voiceover editing by a web site called Funny or Die, which resulted in this parody of the family discussion of his candidacy: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/fc8ad653ff/bobby-jindal-campaign-announcement-video-i-m-going-to-do-a-bad-job?_cc=__d___&_ccid=87jc4s.nqjwjn

Even Jon Stewart took the opportunity to lampoon the Jindal clan’s confab on the Daily Show:

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/2n06t0/jindal-all-the-way

All of which brings us to his formal announcement in Kenner on Wednesday.

What first was one of those aha! moments about the possible violation of state ethics and civil service rules quickly evaporated but at the same time raised new questions about the crowd attending that announcement.

There she was, smiling in her red dress as she stood in the crowd behind Bobby Jindal as he declared that he was officially a candidate for the Republican nomination for President.

Article X Section 9, parts A and C of the Louisiana State Constitution spell it out in clear and unmistakable terms:

  • No member of …the classified service shall participate or engage in political activity; be a candidate for nomination or election to public office …or take active part in …any political campaign, except to exercise his right as a citizen to express his opinion privately, to serve as a commissioner or official watcher at the polls, and to cast his vote as he desires.
  • Political Activity Defined. As used in this Part, “political activity” means an effort to support or oppose the election of a candidate for political office or to support a particular political party in an election.

 

Yep, there she was, blonde hair, red dress, beaming, and standing directly behind the lady holding the red “Geaux Bobby” sign. JESSICA STARMS

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

But wait.

Jessica Starns, formerly legal counsel for Troy Hebert’s Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, and until recently, a state classified (civil service) employee, attended Jindal’s big coming out party, and was even allowed (or perhaps required?) to actually share the stage with him and his family when he announced that he would do for the U.S. what he’s done for Louisiana.

It was more than a photo-op; this was an extended live, made-for-television event on national display in its finest pageantry. You’d probably call it a warm fuzzy for lack of a better term.

But a state classified employee attending, nay, participating in a political campaign event is strictly verboten under the Louisiana Constitution which Jindal was sworn to uphold.

Except that upon checking with Civil Service, we found that Starns is no longer a classified employee. Nor is she still at ATC.

It turns out that as of March 30 of this yer, she has a brand new title and classification. She is now an unclassified (appointed) $96,750 per year “advisor,” assigned to the Executive Office (governor). That means, of course, that her attendance at the event was legal after all.

While that quickly became a non-story, it did raise this question:

  • How many other state unclassified employees attended either by choice or mandatory dictate to show their enthusiastic support of Jindal? Or more accurately, to pack the crowd to make it appear Jindal had a groundswell of popular support? Unclassified employees, after all, serve at the pleasure of the governor. (And to tell the unvarnished truth, some of the ones in the photo looked for the world like they would’ve preferred being somewhere—anywhere—else.)

Not that Jindal or his handlers would ever participate in such a crass exercise as a tightly-controlled event like say, a scripted family meeting on the patio of the governor’s mansion.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You have to hand it to Inspector General Stephen Street. When he finds Bobby Jindal in violation of the law, he comes down hard. With all the force of a powder puff.

Reacting to a complaint from C.B. Forgotston over Jindal’s use of his office’s taxpayer-funded web page and public salaried employees of the governor’s office to issue a press release critical of Republican presidential nomination candidate Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday, Street took all of two days is issue a less than scathing report on the matter. Statement from Inspector General 5-29-2015

Jindal, who is expected to announce his candidacy next month, issued the press release that said Rand was “unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief” for saying American foreign policy was instrumental in the creation of ISIS.

Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk called for an investigation by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Forgotston filed a complaint with Street’s office.

Jindal, for his part, defended the release through mouthpiece Mike Reed who offered one of the lamest of the lame in defenses in saying, “Matters of national security are very important to Louisianians, and Louisiana is home to many American soldiers. The suggestion that the governor of Louisiana cannot or should not comment on matters of national security is without merit.”

What? Mudslides, drought, forest fires and earthquakes are important to the folks in California. Floods are important to those unfortunate people in Texas and Oklahoma and at least a dozen states have been plagued with tornadoes. Why doesn’t he issue a press release criticizing nature?

It wasn’t the first time Bobby defended a really bad idea. Remember those $250 million berms he insisted on building in the Gulf to catch all that oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster? Despite advice from all the experts that the idea was a bad one, he plunged ahead (no pun intended) and what happened? The berms and the bulldozers hauled in to build them up simply disappeared into the depths of the Gulf waters. And even after all that, he continued to insist the berms were a good idea.

Too bad Jindal has not been as tuned in to the matters of fiscal insecurity that are also important to Louisianians. If he were, perhaps the state wouldn’t be finding it necessary to slash higher education and health care budgets. Health care, after all, is pretty important to Louisianians, too—especially to those who don’t have it because of Bobby Jindal. So are our roads and bridges and coastal erosion—things a sitting governor should be devoting his attention to instead of remarks by a potential political rival.

Forgotston, prior to Street’s crushing blow to Jindal, wrote, “While you are working on the response to my complaint about the governor violating the state constitution, please include your position on his violation of this felony statute:

  • R.S. 18:1465.  Prohibited use of public funds
  • A.  No public funds shall be used to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated to a candidate or political organization.  This provision shall not prohibit the use of public funds for dissemination of factual information relative to a proposition appearing on an election ballot.
  • B.  Whoever violates any provision of this Section shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or be imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than two years, or both.

Street, for his part, showed all the backbone of a jellyfish in his Friday release that followed his thorough, two-day investigation of Jindal’s taxpayer-funded campaign release tirade.

After reprinting Jindal’s statement, Street went on to say, “It is a matter of record that Senator Rand Paul has announced his candidacy for President of the United States and has a website…through which he is raising money to support his campaign. However, as qualifying for the Louisiana Presidential Primary will not take place until December of 2015, it is unclear at this time whether Senator Paul is a “candidate” as contemplated by …the Louisiana Constitution.

“Louisiana Revised Statute 18:451 reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

  • A person who meets the qualifications for the office he seeks may become a candidate and be voted on in a primary or general election if he qualifies as a candidate in the election.

He also cited a statute which, while defining the word candidate, “specifically excludes those seeking the Presidency of the United States from the definition.” He said inasmuch as that provision is in the chapter dealing with campaign finance, it is unclear how broadly it applies to the Louisiana Constitution).

Street, while dancing around the issue, did acknowledge that the applicable section of constitution “is intended to protect public funds and therefore raises questions about the use of public funds in this instance that resulted in the complaints filed with this office. The governor’s office could have easily avoided such questions by issuing the statement through means that did not involve the use of public funds or employees,” he said, adding that his office “recommends that in order to avoid confusion and any appearance of impropriety in the future, any such statements by the governor be issued through non-publicly funded means rather than through his publicly funded and maintained state website.”

Wow. Jindal must feel like Street jerked a half-hitch in his neck with that devastating report.

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No sooner did we call U.S. Sen. David Vitter out for potential improprieties for using his Senate franking privileges to gain an edge over his three opponents in this year’s gubernatorial election than our old friend C.B. Forgotston send us evidence of an even more flagrant misuse of his office for similar reasons.

It’s enough to make you wonder what the hell goes through these politicians’ minds except that we already know: they are so convinced they are above the law that they couldn’t care less what the great unwashed think about their flaunting of the rules.

We’ve previously reported Jindal’s acceptance of tainted campaign contributions from the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (non-profits are prohibited from making campaign contributions), laundered money from a St. Tammany Parish bank board of directors (without the 11 directors’ awareness they were “contributing” $5,000 each to Jindal) and the head of Florida’s largest-ever Ponzi scheme who funneled $30,000 in contributions to Jindal from himself, his wife and his law firm.

Within an hour of posting the story about Vitter’s use of franking privileges to promote his gubernatorial campaign, LouisianaVoice’s email exploded with messages about Jindal’s latest post on the governor’s web page, paid for by Louisiana taxpayer dollars.

The first email was from Forgotston, who has fired off a letter to Inspector General Stephen Street demanding an answer to his inquiry as to the legality of Jindal’s “press release” on Tuesday.

So what, exactly, is all the fuss about?

Quite simply, Jindal used the state computer and web page (and presumably a state employee) to gin out a “press release” personally attacking one of Jindal’s probable opponents for the Republican nomination for president under the headline “Gov. Jindal: Senator Paul unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief.” http://www.gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=4965

Paul, a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, is an announced candidate for the Republican nomination. https://randpaul.com/

And what did Paul do or say that prompted Jindal to ignore legal constraints on the use of state web pages? Apparently, Paul said something to the effect that ISIS exists because of the U.S. hawkish foreign policy—a claim, by the way, that we cannot entirely disagree with.

“This is a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief,” Jindal whined.

Except he did his whining on a state-funded web page and that immediately invoked the wrath of a number of readers and Forgotston, who once worked as a legal counsel for the legislature, is not the one you want to tick off when it comes to matters concerning the state constitution.

In his email to Street, Forgotston began by describing the Jindal press release as “a violation of Louisiana Constitution, Article XI, 4.”

In case you don’t want to take the time to open the link, it says that while there is no prohibition against the use of public funds to disseminate factual information about a proposition appearing on an election ballot, “no public funds shall be used to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated to a candidate or political organization.”

“It (the press release) clearly urges a vote against U.S. Senator Rand Paul for President of the United States,” he said. “The press release was issued by state employees (the release contained the names of Shannon Bates Dirmann and Shannon, Deputy Communications Director for the Governor’s Office) and has no disclaimer that public funds were not used.

“If this is not a violation of the law, please advise why it isn’t,” Forgotston said. He ended his email by writing, in all caps, “A RESPONSE IS REQUESTED,” which he said “is not directed to any recipients of his email other than the State Inspector General.”

In case any of our readers also would like to submit a similar question to the OIG, here is Street’s email address: stephen.street@la.gov.

Forgotston said he will also share his concerns with Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

As Forgotston himself is fond of saying: you can’t make this stuff up.

 

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