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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

A former reserve law enforcement officer from southwest Louisiana has filed a formal complaint against a state trooper and his then-captain over an ongoing feud with State Trooper Jimmy Rogers that was the subject of an earlier LouisianaVoice story. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/08/12/the-stark-reality-of-jindal-administrations-double-standards-found-in-discipline-of-state-trooper-for-text-phone-threats/

The latest complaint marks the second time Rogers has become confrontational with individuals in Troop D and yet he has been assigned to work in the Troop D area school systems as a State Police School Resource Officer.

It is the third formal complaint that Dwight Gerst has attempted to file against Rogers and the second against Maj. Chris Guillory after Guillory refused to act on—or even accept—Gerst’s first complaint against Rogers last year. State Police Internal Affairs likewise never followed up on Gerst’s complaint that the state trooper stalked him at his home and at his child’s school in his state police vehicle.

Guillory refused to accept Gerst’s initial attempt at filing the complaint against Rogers, telling Gerst that he had “a problem” with Gerst and would not talk about his complaint until his “problem” was resolved. That “problem” was a festering dispute with Rogers that began in earnest when Gerst picked up two children from school and drove them home. Gerst says he had a reciprocal agreement with a neighbor whereby either parent could pick up the other’s child after school, but one of the children he picked up was Roger’s child.

Rogers, however, would seem to have problems of his own, judging from that heavily redacted nine-page disciplinary letter to him from State Police Commander Col. Mike Edmonson. In that Nov. 19, 2010, letter, Rogers was informed he would receive a 240-hour reduction in pay (a 10 percent reduction for 30 pay periods, which amounted to a $4,845.60 cut in pay) for repeated verbal threats of bodily harm and arrest directed to another man with whom he was feuding.

A court document filed by the mother of Rogers’s child and obtained by LouisianaVoice described Rogers as having “a lengthy history of abuse as well as (a) violent temperament.” The petition further said that Rogers had threatened to kill her and her family. The woman also requested that Rogers be entitled to supervised visitation of the child.

Despite the discipline meted out by Edmonson for the threats against the mother and her family, and despite Gerst’s attempt to file the complaint against him that was refused by Guillory, and never acted upon by State Police hierarchy, Rogers was nevertheless reassigned by Guillory this year as School Resource Officer to work in the Troop D area schools. SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER

Last August, Gerst picked up the neighbor’s nine-year-old child and Rogers’s five-year-old child who was left in the care of the older child. He said he took the children “straight home,” a distance of some 400 yards and then notified Rogers via text. Upon receiving the text, Rogers became infuriated. He subsequently pulled Gerst over at the school and demanded proof that he was authorized to pick up his own son and a niece and nephew. Gerst said Rogers was in uniform and was driving a state police vehicle in which two children were riding at the time.

When Guillory refused to accept Gerst’s formal complaint against Rogers, Gerst took his complaint up the chain of command, to State Police headquarters in Baton Rouge but that complaint was never addressed by Baton Rouge.

A state police spokesperson acknowledged on Monday (Aug. 17), however that Internal Affairs was investigating “some serious allegations” at Troop D Though he did not specify what the nature of those allegations were, they are probably related to Gerst’s latest complaint filed last week.

Following his complaint to State Police headquarters last year, Gerst was arrested and booked on $15,000 bail for two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Though the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office declined to make an arrest, it was made at the behest of the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office. Rogers and Guillory were said to have met with the district attorney representatives to push for the charges against Gerst.

After the prosecution presented its case at Gerst’s trial, the case was apparently so weak that the presiding judge issued a directed verdict of not guilty before Gerst’s attorneys even found it necessary to put on a defense. A directed verdict is an order given when the presiding judge finds that no reasonable jury could reach a decision to the contrary.

In his latest complaint, Gerst said he knew Rogers and the two communicated regularly. He said he picked up his neighbor’s nine-year-old daughter who was with Rogers’s five-year-old. “It was a hot day and I thought that someone was not able to pick the children up because children that young seem too young to walk home without supervision,” he said. “I had authorization from the parents to pick up the nine-year-old from school and they had the same permission for picking up my children. Jimmy was very angry and I told him it would not happen again.” He said after that incident, Rogers began stalking him. “He parked outside my home while off duty in his state police patrol vehicle and in uniform on several occasions.”

Later, he said he was in line to pick up his child at school and Rogers was behind him in his marked unit and in uniform. “He put the nine-year-old and his son in the patrol vehicle,” he said. “He then approached me (and) demanded I get out of my vehicle. He then questioned me about my authority to pick up my niece and nephew from school. The stop was made with two children in his state police vehicle. He left the children in the vehicle while he questioned me about whether I had authorization to be there,” Gerst said.

Gerst said he attempted to file a complaint at Troop D. “I met with Captain Guillory,” he said. “Lt. Cyprien was also present. Before I got the chance to tell Guillory that I wanted to file a complaint, he informed me that if I was there to file a complaint, he would not accept a complaint from me. He said he thought I had problems and he was not doing anything until there was a disposition on my case from the sheriff’s office. He further said that he had a problem with me personally and professionally and he would not accept any complaint I may have.”

After being turned away by Guillory, Gerst said he contacted State Police Internal Affairs. “I attempted to file a formal complaint on Rogers,” he said. “I also attempted to file a complaint on Guillory for refusing to take my complaint. I had to drive to Baton Rouge to file my complaint (and) I have yet to hear the disposition of either complaint.”

Gerst said that after filing the complaint in Baton Rouge, he feels that he has been the victim of retaliation that included the revocation of his law enforcement commission. The worst part of that retaliation, he said, “was the subsequent arrest and prosecution. At trial, the prosecutor informed my defense attorney that he knew the charges were not justified but the state police (were) pushing it. We were not required to put up a defense and the judge issued a directed verdict of not guilty.”

In his latest complaint, Gerst also cited Guillory for his refusal to accept his initial complaint against Rogers last year.

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The combined revenues of $3.5 billion and net profits of $697 million for 2014, America’s two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group clearly illustrate the profit potential in the operation of private prisons.

It’s no wonder. With 2.4 million people incarcerated in this country, America easily leads the civilized world with more than 700 of every 100,000 of its citizens kept behind bars. The Russian Federation is a distant second at 474 per 100,000 imprisoned. Canada has 118 per 100,000 of its population incarcerated. The four Scandinavian countries have the fewest number per 100,000 in prison. The numbers for them are, in order: Denmark (73), Norway (72), Sweden (67) and Finland (58).

If Louisiana were a nation, it would double the U.S. ratio. (At least we’re number one in the world at something.) Latest figures show 1,420 of every 100,000 Louisiana citizens (one of every 86 adults) is housed in a cell, giving Louisiana the distinction of having the highest rate in the world. Nearly two-thirds of those are non-violent offenders. We should be so proud. Louisiana’s rate of incarceration is three times that of Russia, nearly 10 times that of the United Kingdom, 12 times Canada’s rate, and 24 times that of Sweden.

But private prisons are not the only ones benefitting from the glut of prisoners in Louisiana. There are the prison telephone systems which charge exorbitant rates to prisoners’ families for collect calls home. The phone companies are protected by state contracts, making their operations a literal monopoly.

And then there are the privately-run prison work release, or “transitional work program” companies and that’s where the waters really get murky.

Most work release programs are supervised by parish sheriffs and some are kept in-house by the sheriffs. The one common thread is that all of them use the profits from inmate labor to underwrite other operations of the sheriffs’ departments. There have been private work release companies to spring up, operate for a while and then disappear, notably Northside Workforce in St. Tammany Parish as well as privately-run programs in Lafayette and Iberia parishes.

One such company isn’t likely to face the operational pitfalls experienced by the others, however. That is because of its connections to the top brass at the Louisiana Department of Corrections and Louisiana State Prison at Angola, connections that likely even extend into the governor’s office.

Louisiana Workforce, LLC (no connection with the Louisiana Workforce Commission) has been around for 10 years since it was founded on Feb. 4, 2005 by Paul Perkins. Both Perkins and Louisiana Workforce have been active in writing campaign checks to sheriffs, key legislators and Jindal since 2009.

It was not until 2014, however that Louisiana Workforce really burst onto the scene in a big way. Following an inmate’s escape from a Northside Workforce jobsite in St. Tammany that same year, Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary James LeBlanc mandated that local sheriffs not be approved for outsourcing work-release programs without first going through a competitive bid process.

The only problem was, the process turned out to be not so competitive.

That’s not unusual if you take the trouble to talk to business owners who find themselves shut out of the state contract bid process. If they are completely candid, they will tell you that if a state agency prefers a given vendor, the specifications can be—and often as not, they are—written in such a manner as to eliminate all but the preferred vendor.

The practice is similar to, though not quite as blatant as, the north Louisiana parish police jury which, way back in the 1970s when I was a young reporter, decided to purchase a used bulldozer. When the advertisement for bids was published in the parish’s official journal (the local newspaper), the specifications included the serial number of the ‘dozer which quite understandably narrowed the field of eligible bidders somewhat.

It turned out that even though six private providers, along with a representative from the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office, attended a pre-bid conference, Louisiana Workforce, LLC, in partnership with the Beauregard sheriff’s office, submitted the only bid.

Perkins is a former assistant warden at Louisiana State Prison at Angola who was earning $75,000 a year until his retirement in 2001. He also is a former business partner of both LeBlanc and Angola Warden Burl Cain. All that may or may not have played a part in the apparent easy manner in which Louisiana Workforce got the contract by default, but one competitor suggested that it may not have hurt.

It also may not have hurt that Perkins and Louisiana Workforce combined to pour nearly $40,000 into the political campaigns of five of the six sheriffs with whom Louisiana Workforce has contracts, or that another $15,000 was contributed to Bobby Jindal, or that thousands more to members of the legislature who sit on key committees like House Appropriations, House Criminal Justice or one of the three Senate judiciary committees.

Perhaps it is only a coincidence that Burl Cain asked for and received a favorable ruling from the State Board of Ethics in 2012 permitting him to be compensated for providing consulting services on a part-time basis to Louisiana Workforce—and even allowing him to have a “small minority ownership” in the company. It is not known whether or not Burl Cain actually performs any consulting work or receives any monetary recompense because while he, like all administrative personnel, is required to file a financial disclosure form with the state, he is not required to fill out a complete disclosure.

Even LeBlanc in 2006 received Ethics Board approval to offer consulting services or even own an interested in an unspecified work-release program.

Perkins said that while he feels Cain would be a valuable addition to his company and even though the Ethics Board approved such an arrangement, he felt that it would be a mistake for Cain to work for him while also serving as Angola warden.

But that does not by any measure preclude the presence of Cain influence on operations at Louisiana Workforce. The Louisiana prison system over the years has indisputably become a Cain family fiefdom.

DOC has something called Prison Enterprises which, on the surface, is a good thing in that it allows prisoners to learn marketable skills while at the same time providing a source of income to help fund prison operations. But Prison Enterprises is more than simply a means to sell soybeans, corn and cotton grown on the sprawling Angola farm; it is also a means of enrichment for enterprising (forgive the pun) entrepreneurs.

DOC’s own web page touts its Transitional Work Program (formerly work release) which certain eligible offenders may enter from one to three years prior to their release, “depending on the offense of conviction.” Participants “are required to work at an approved job and, when not working, they must return to the structured environment of the assigned facility,” the web page’s description of the program says. The “assigned facility,” of course, refers to the housing provided by private companies like Louisiana Workforce.

“Probation and Parole Officers are assigned monitoring responsibilities for contract transitional work programs,” it said. Claiming that transitional work programs are successful in assisting in the transition from prison back into the work force, the web page claims that 10 to 20 percent of offenders “remain with their employer upon release.”

Additionally, the two-paragraph description says, a second program called the Rehabilitation and Workforce Development Program, allows prisoners who have become skilled craftsmen to be placed in higher paying jobs where they “are able to make wages to maintain self-sufficiency.”

But then a peculiar thing occurs when readers are instructed to “click here” to see a list of transitional work programs throughout the state. Thinking we would find other companies similar to Louisiana Workforce, we clicked and presto! We were returned to DOC’s main page.

So, with Prison Enterprises overseeing the operations of DOC’s Transitional Work Program, who do you suppose presides over Prison Enterprises?

That would be Michael Moore, who earns $128,500 per year as Prison Enterprise Director. But serving right under him is none other than Marshall Cain, one of Burl Cain’s two sons who holds the title of DOC Prison Enterprise Regional Manager at $63,500 per year. Cain’s other sun, Nathan Cain, earns $109,000 per year as Warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center. (The elder Cain pulls down $167,200 as Angola Warden.)

But the key person in all this is Seth Smith, Burl Cain’s son-in-law, who earns $150,000 per year as a DOC Confidential Assistant. That’s more than his boss, LeBlanc, who makes $136,700 as DOC Secretary. So what does a confidential assistant do for that salary? Well, for openers, he assigns which prisoners go into the Transitional Work Program for parish sheriffs and private operators like Louisiana Workforce.

And since Louisiana Workforce gets to keep 62 percent of each prisoner’s earnings, plus $5 per day for each inmate it houses, it certainly would be to the company’s benefit to receive the most skilled workers for placement in the Transitional Work Program. After all, 62 percent of say, $15 per hour for skilled labor is considerable more than 62 percent of a minimum wage job like flipping hamburgers, for example.

One employer who hired an inmate through the program, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate last November that the system was rigged against the inmate. He cited an example of an inmate earning $200 per week. After the 62 percent is held out, he would be left with $76 before taxes and Social Security, leaving him only about $36 for a week’s work.

Then, he said, the program runs a commissary where inmates are charged “inflated prices” for necessities such as soap, toothpaste, deodorant, etc., leaving them with “virtually nothing to start a new life.” http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/10768344-123/letter-inmates-left-with-pittance#comments

There are two sides of this scenario, of course. There is the argument that they are in prison because they committed a crime and therefore, should not be afforded favorable treatment. The other argument is that by working at below-market wages, they are keeping honest, law-abiding people from jobs they need to support their families.

But lost in both those arguments is the windfall profits reaped by the private vendors who are fortunate enough to have an inside track to the decision-makers at DOC and the sheriffs who run their own prisons.

Perkins and his company, Louisiana Workforce, LLC, have combined to contribute to five of the sheriffs with whom his company has contracts:

  • East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux: $15,000;
  • Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard: $4,500;
  • Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal: $7,000;
  • Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter: $4,340;
  • West Feliciana Parish Sheriff Austin Daniel: $6,850.

But the combined $37,690 to those five sheriffs doesn’t end there; he and his company have also contributed $15,000 to Jindal and thousands more to members of key legislative committees.

Small wonder.

An article in the New Orleans Advocate on Oct. 13, 2014, noted among other things that with Louisiana Workforce’s acquisition of the Phelps Correction Center in DeRidder, the company had about 1,200 inmates working in its work-release program. At an average of say, 62 percent of an average of only $10 per hour, plus another $5 per day for housing each inmate, Louisiana Workforce would receive nearly $17 million a year. At an average of $12 per hour, the paper said, the income would approach $20 million annually. http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/features/music/10477753-171/work-release-operator-with-ties-to

It’s a system open for abuse with only minimal oversight. On Sunday, Associated Press moved a story in which inmates at a privately-run Nashville, TN., jail operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison operation in the U.S., say they worked without pay to build commemorative games, bird houses, dog beds, and plaques which prison officials then sold online and at a flea market. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/inmates-say-they-worked-for-free-for-jail-officials/ar-BBlNdCG?ocid=iehp

To back up their claim, two of the prisoners said they concealed their names and the number of the Tennessee statute that makes it illegal for prison officials to profit off inmate labor beneath pieces of wood nailed to the backs of the items.

In 2010, the Louisiana Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that said Louisiana Workforce employees forged or altered several dozen employer work-release forms and inmate authorization forms upon learning that DOC was going to make a site visit to its East Baton Rouge Parish facility. One employee, an assistant warden, admitted to forging at least 26 such forms and the OIG report said that higher-ups at Louisiana Workforce knew of the actions.

LeBlanc, in his response to the report, said that DOC had “no jurisdiction” to discipline the Louisiana Workforce staff, in effect saying that Louisiana Workforce is left to discipline itself.

And in 2013, the Legislative Auditor’s Office issued a report that challenged the use of inmate labor by then-Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Vernon Bourgeois to renovate a building used by Louisiana Workforce’s program. The audit said the cost of that labor was about $350,000 and the auditor’s office said the use of free inmate labor for the project may have been in violation of the Louisiana Constitution

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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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