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Archive for the ‘Governor’s Office’ Category

OIL*

*(Only in Louisiana).

A man with direct ties to a defunct church-operated home for girls and boys in Bienville Parish—and to the Baptist minister accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls at the facility—has been hired by former Congressman Rodney Alexander as an administrative program manager at the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, LouisianaVoice has learned.

Louisiana Civil Service records indicate that Johnson was given the somewhat vague title and began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs today (Wednesday, April 16) at a salary of $55,016 per year.

No explanation was given as to why his employment started in the middle of the week and only two days before Good Friday, a state holiday.

Timothy Johnson’s hiring is the latest wrinkle in the ongoing saga in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District.

Johnson, of Choudrant in Lincoln Parish, was fired last May as executive vice president at Louisiana College in Pineville after leading an unsuccessful coup against President Joe Aguillard. Johnson had served briefly as acting president of the college and there was speculation at one time that he would be named permanent head of the school.

He filed a lawsuit against Aguillard and Louisiana College little more than a month ago, on March 11. In his suit, he claims his termination last May was in retaliation for his whistleblower complaint alleging misconduct by Aguillard. https://www.thetowntalk.com/assets/pdf/DK219640311.PDF

He claims he followed established policy when he reported to college trustees that Aguillard had misappropriated funds in such a manner that a major donor terminated gifts of about $2 million a year to the school. He further claimed that Aguillard lied to both donors and trustees about the financial matters.

He is married to the daughter of Rev. Mack Ford who ran New Bethany Home for Girls and Boys for several decades south of Arcadia in Bienville Parish and served on the New Bethany board until its closure.

One source said New Bethany was closed in 1996 but the facility was not officially closed until 2001 when the board, on motion of Timothy Johnson, voted to dispose of all of New Bethany property by transferring all physical property and bank accounts to New Bethany Baptist Church. Board records show that both Timothy and Jonathan Johnson attended the June 30, 2001, board meeting.

A support group comprised of female former residents of the New Bethany facility who say they each were physically, mentally and sexually assaulted claims that one girl who was assaulted by Ford managed to record the attack and was subsequently whisked away from the school by Timothy Johnson in an effort to protect his father-in-law. The tape, which the women say was turned over to home officials, subsequently disappeared. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/09/16/neil-riser-campaign-worker-linked-to-defunct-church-girls-home-accusations-of-sexual-abuse-by-father-in-law-minister/

Despite this incident and despite his serving on the board and making the motion to sell the home’s assets at a 1996 board meeting, Tim Johnson is said to have insisted in a conversation with an employee at Louisiana College that he had never heard of New Bethany.

More recently he and his son were active in the unsuccessful campaign of State Sen. Neil Riser to succeed Alexander for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District seat.

The winner of last November’s election, Vance McAllister, has his own problems after a video recording of him kissing a married woman in his office recently surfaced.

Tim Johnson performed volunteer work on behalf of Riser who was endorsed by Alexander after Alexander suddenly retired last fall with a year still left on his term. His son, Jonathan Johnson, Ford’s grandson, worked for about a decade as State Director for Alexander at $75,000 per year and worked as a paid employee of the Riser campaign.

When Alexander announced last August that he would retire in a matter of weeks, Gov. Bobby Jindal immediately announced Alexander’s hiring as head of the State Office of Veterans Affairs at $150,000 per year, a job that will provide a substantial boost (from about $7,500 per year to $82,000 per year) to Alexander’s state retirement over and above his federal retirement and social security benefits.

The state’s entire Republican hierarchy, with the notable exception of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, immediately endorsed Riser as Alexander’s heir apparent and two of Jindal’s top campaign aides actively worked on behalf of Riser’s campaign.

And now we have Alexander, in his new position, appointing the father (Timothy Johnson) of his former state director (Jonathan Johnson)—a son-in-law and a grandson, respectively, tied to a fundamentalist Baptist preacher who is said to have preyed on teenage girls for several decades, both of whom served on the preacher’s board and both of whom worked in Riser’s campaign—to something called an administrative program manager at $55,000 per year right smack dab in the middle of Jindal’s spending freeze.

Folks, you can’t make this kind of stuff up. The only thing needed to make this story complete is for Jimmy Faircloth to serve as Timothy Johnson’s attorney in his litigation against Louisiana College and Aguillard.

OIL.

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As recently as Jan. 16, a headline on NOLA.com proclaimed, “No mid-year budget cuts will be required as Louisiana revenue dips only slightly.”

For the first time in six years, the ensuing story said, “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration will not have to make mid-year budget cuts because of less than projected state revenue.”

Fast forward to last Friday, April 4, (late Friday, that is; the tradition of announcing bad news late on Fridays is known in political circles as “taking out the trash,” according to our friend Bob Mann):

Jindal releases a five-page executive order that, says, among other things:

  • Whereas, to ensure that the State of Louisiana will not suffer a budget deficit…prudent money management practices dictate that the best interests of the citizens of the State of Louisiana will be served by implementing an expenditure freeze throughout the executive branch of state government;
  • Now, therefore, I, Bobby Jindal…do hereby order and direct as follows:
  • “All departments, agencies, and/or budget units of the executive branch…shall freeze expenditures as provided in this executive order;
  • “No department, agency, and/or budget unit of the executive branch…shall make any expenditure of funds related to…travel, operating services, supplies, professional services, other charges, interagency transfers, acquisitions and major repairs.”

There followed, as is the case in all such executive orders, a laundry list of exemptions and escape clauses.

But the bottom line nevertheless is tantamount to mid-year budget cuts; the meaning is the same, no matter how the governor tries to spin it.

Oh, there are those who will, of course, argue that a spending freeze is not a budget cut. Those would be the same people (read: Jindal) who said a couple of years back he would veto a 5-cent per pack cigarette tax renewal because he was opposed to new taxes.

Or, taking to its extreme, the administration could trot out Sen. Elbert Guillory (R-D-R-Opelousas—we never know from one day to the next if the announced candidate for lieutenant governor is Republican or Democrat; he’s been both Republican, Democrat and back again) who so eloquently explained the subtle difference between cockfighting and “chicken boxing” during the current legislative session. And yes, he actually did employ that term in defending the activity that is illegal in every single state, including New Mexico, the last to ban cockfighting.

That’s a quick turnaround: less than three months after Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols assured us that a projected $35 million budgetary shortfall could be made up with extra revenue expected to be generated by the state’s recent tax amnesty program.

Apparently not.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), a member of the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference, blamed Internet shopping for part of the shortfall, saying Louisiana internet shoppers were not submitting sales taxes on their purchases.

Other states—including Arkansas and Alabama who must not have Internet access for their citizens—have experienced increases in sales tax revenues.

All this voodoo economics (to borrow a term from George Bush the First) boils down to one simple yes-or-no question we all should ask of ourselves:

Would we trust this governor or this commissioner of administration to do our taxes?

Here’s the sobering answer to that not-so-rhetorical question: we already are.

Indeed, we have been for the past six years.

 

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Without belaboring the obvious, several things are simultaneously clear—and puzzling—about the sordid little spittle-swapping episode involving Fifth District Congressman Vance McAllister and his married aide Melissa Peacock, wife of one of McAllister’s erstwhile close friends:

    • Elected on Nov. 16 and sworn in on Nov. 21, it took him only a month and two days—Dec. 23—to get busted in his own office by his own security camera. That has to eclipse any record for infidelity by U.S. Sen. David Vitter and shows that McAllister is dumber than a duck.
    • While some deep smooching doesn’t begin to compare to Vitter’s pillow talk with prostitutes, McAllister has pretty much been deep-sixed in his re-election bid while Vitter somehow remains the odds-on favorite to become Louisiana’s next governor. Vitter’s romps were in the abstract, only written about, while McAllister’s indiscretion was caught on video for all to see in its fuzzy, grainy quality—which only served to make the whole affair a little seamier and a bit more distasteful.
    • Because the video of McAllister and Peacock was taken inside McAllister’s Monroe office, this obviously was an inside job.
    • As pointed out by political analyst Bob Mann, the most aggressive Louisiana journalist today (Lamar White) is a college student living in Texas. Shame on the rest of us. http://cenlamar.com/2014/04/08/why-the-real-scandal-isnt-congressman-vance-mcallisters-philandering/

All of which raises several equally obvious questions, to wit:

    • How was it that The Ouachita Citizen was chosen to break the story on its web page? Citizen Publisher Sam Hanna, Jr., said the video was sent anonymously to his office. But why not the much larger-circulation Monroe News-Star where the story would have received much wider circulation?
    • Why did the anonymous video donor wait more than three months to send the package to Hanna?
    • Was this video shot from a surveillance camera or a cellphone positioned for the sole purpose of entrapping McAllister?
    • Were any federal laws broken by the person or persons who made the video and/or removed it from the office of a U.S. congressman?
    • Who would stand to gain the most from shooting the video—and releasing it at this particular point in time?

Taking the last question first, the most obvious answer would be a potential Democrat positioning himself to run against McAllister next fall. But how would such a person have access to McAllister’s office to either plant or remove the video? And how would that person know of the supposed relationship between McAllister and Peacock?

There is some speculation that the fingerprints of Timmy Teepell, the OnMessage guru of Gov. Bobby Jindal, were all over this little operation. Jindal, after all, supported State Sen. Neil Riser to succeed former Congressman Rodney Alexander who was appointed by Jindal to head the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. McAllister has embraced—sort of—the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that must surely have rankled the Jindalites who have been adamantly opposed to Obamacare since day one.

McAllister retained several of Alexander’s staff members, including Alexander’s former Chief of Staff Adam Terry who admitted he was “crushed” and “pained” that his former boss retired halfway through his term and did not anoint him as heir-apparent, choosing instead to endorse State Sen. Neil Riser. Terry is now McAllister’s chief of staff and some observers say he has never taken his eye off the brass ring—the goal of one day occupying Alexander’s old House seat.

Throwing a monkey wrench into all the speculative machinery is McAllister’s minister who points the finger at McAllister’s Monroe District Officer manager Leah Gordon, also a former member of Alexander’s staff.

The minister, Danny Chance, claimed that Gordon said she was going to take the video to State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), a Jindal ally, and to Jonathan Johnson, who previously worked for Alexander. Both men campaigned for Riser and both have denied any involvement with the video’s release. Gordon also has denied Chance’s allegation.

Chance made his claim to the Monroe News-Star. http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20140408/NEWS01/304080023/Pastor-says-McAllister-staffer-leaked-video

It would appear, as reported by White on cenlarmar.com, that the footage was obtained by the strategic placement of a cellphone camera directed at the office’s surveillance video monitor, a tactic that would have required careful planning and forethought. Left unanswered, however, is how the perpetrator knew that McAllister and Peacock would pause at the exact spot where the camera would catch them in their amorous embrace. And knowing that a cellphone can video only for short durations, the timing here for starting the recording is key.

Speaking of which, if one watches the video closely, there are a couple of suggestions of a staged act; as the couple reaches the strategic spot for the video, it appears that it is Peacock who makes the first subtle move toward McAllister, not vice-versa. Not that this in any way excuses McAllister for his stupidity or for his lack of judgment, but it all seems just a bit too contrived to be purely coincidental.

To the question of whether or not any laws were broken, the answer is quite clear: it is a felony to bug a federal office. Period.

As for why the video was leaked to The Ouachita Citizen, suffice it to say that Hanna, in his publication, endorsed Riser in last fall’s election and has made no secret of his opposition to Obamacare and by association, McAllister.

And the timing of its release should be obvious: it’s an election year in Louisiana.

One other question remains: how are the Robertsons over at Duck Dynasty, who actively promote an image of family and church above all else and who endorsed and campaigned for McAllister, going to handle this latest PR gaffe?

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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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Speculated aspirations heretofore steadfastly and repeatedly denied by the man who coyly insisted for six years that “I have the job I want,” have now been officially confirmed: Gov. Bobby Jindal is a candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.

LouisianaVoice has obtained this exclusive photograph that Jindal will begin using in newspaper, television and online advertisements in presidential primaries and caucuses beginning next fall. In choosing the photo, Jindal reportedly told enthusiastic OnMessage campaign consultant Timmy Teepell, “It worked once, so why not use it again?”

For a sneak peek at the photo, click below:

Doc8

(With sincere appreciation to Marion Marks for indispensable assistance in obtaining this photo–and with a tip of the cap to 1988 Democratic candidate for President, Michael Dukakis.)

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Robert Burns of Baton Rouge, a former fraud investigator, has agreed to join LouisianaVoice as an underpaid (read: gratis) researcher and contributing writer. His initial series of stories will chronicle his experiences as a member of the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board. 

—Tom Aswell

 

By Robert Burns

LouisianaVoice writer

Following up on Tom Aswell’s recent posts regarding the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, there is another State Board with an extensive history of questionable activity:  The Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB). The board is comprised of five auctioneers and two at-large “consumer” members.  The board’s actions include turning a blind eye to an illegal practice called “shill bidding,” ignoring the apparent victimization of elderly auction clients, racism and possible travel voucher and payroll fraud.

In early 2008, Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed me and a very good friend, Rev. Freddie Phillips (Louisiana’s first and only African American auctioneer) to the LALB.  Rev. Phillips and I each endured relatively short, tumultuous tenures on the LALB due to our observations of abuse and the fact that we did not (and do not) hold back in voicing our displeasure with that abuse.

In fact, sensing that Louisiana’s then-only auctioneer trade association, the Louisiana Auctioneer’s Association (LAA), seemed to openly encourage these practices (particularly shill bidding), Rev. Phillips decided to form a second association, the Louisiana Association of Professional Auctioneers (LAPA).  Although he invited any auctioneer willing to adhere to LAPA’s strict code of ethics to join only two others, myself and auctioneer JonEric Kramer, did so. Other auctioneers, and especially LALB Members, became furious that LAPA’s website, Rev. Phillips’ brainchild, so readily exposes widespread unethical activity within the auction industry.

My post for today focuses on the issue dearest to me: shill bidding.

LAPA’s first tenet is vigorous opposition to shill bidding, an illegal auction practice in which plants are placed in the audience by the auctioneer or seller for the sole purpose of driving up the bid with no intention to buy the property.  The practice is illegal unless it is divulged to the auction bidders; however, the practice is pandemic in Louisiana’s auction industry. In my opinion, shill bidding is literally destroying the auction industry. The entire auction process hinges on the public being able to rely upon that process for market transparency. When shills are introduced, the transparency is destroyed and the public rapidly becomes cynical and justifiably distrustful of auctioneers.

The issue of shill bidding came to a boil in 2010 when then-Rep. Damon Baldone (D-Houma) asserted that auctioneer Barbara Bonnette, an Alexandria-based auctioneer, tried to artificially inflate his $675,000 bid on an historic home in Thibodaux by falsely representing that a $700,000 bid had arisen when, in reality, it had not.  Rep. Baldone was furious over the attempt to “steal” $55,000 from him (by advancing his bid to $725,000, from $675,000, plus a 10% buyer’s premium associated with that advancement).  As a result, during the 2010 legislative session, he introduced a bill (HB 1439) to make shill bidding a crime and declare it “theft by nonviolent means.” That’s when all hell broke loose in the Louisiana auction industry. I testified in favor of Baldone’s bill,  and overnight became the most hated auctioneer in Louisiana.  LAPA has a webpage to explain shill bidding, and another to  publicize statements made by auctioneers in public forums about shill bidding.  Those public statements include prominent Livingston-based equipment auctioneer Marvin Henderson testifying in strong opposition to the bill, State Rep. John E. “Johnny” Guinn, R\-Jennings (who is himself a Louisiana-licensed auctioneer) stating publicly to the LALB that he was “embarrassed” by my testimony, the formal reading into the House records of the nineteen (19) auctioneers testifying or stating vigorous opposition to the bill, auctioneer Joe Massey relaying he felt I had “stabbed auctioneers in the back,” auctioneer Marvin Henderson trivializing my auction career.  All of this furor over my steadfast resolve that auctioneers ought to obey the laws prohibiting shill bidding (or fully disclosing it to conform with the law).  So, I found myself as a sitting member of the LALB, an agency for which the stated purpose is to “protect the public” (which is precisely what shill bidding laws are designed to do), and I became public enemy number one among Louisiana auctioneers for adhering to the very Oath I took when becoming an LALB Member!

My testimony led to immediate actions by LALB Members and the auctioneer community to have me removed from the LALB.  First, then-LALB Chairman James Kenneth Comer sought to have ethics charges brought against me for my testimony.  Ironically, in the weeks leading up to my testimony, LALB Executive Director Sandy Edmonds was actively recruiting auctioneers via phone, including me, to testify against the bill (she was doing so at the behest of then-Chairman Comer).  Rev. Phillips received a similar phone call, and I confirmed that prominent Kenner-based real estate auctioneer Dave Gilmore had also gotten such a call.  So, Chairman Comer, through Ms. Edmonds, was actively recruiting auctioneers to testify against the bill, a practice which is clearly an ethical violation (to recruit either for or against), yet he would seek to have ethics charges against me for my testimony in favor of the bill. The Ethics Board quickly relayed that I had in no way committed an ethics violation as I was “expressing (my) opinion regarding shill bidding and not those of the LALB.”

Immediately after my testimony in favor of Baldone’s bill, I was approached by several auctioneers in the hallway.  One of the auctioneers, State Rep. John E. “Johnny” Guinn (R-Jennings), used profanity in berating me over my testimony.  The incident got so bad that I filed a police report with Capitol Police.  The officer who took my report relayed that he personally delivered it to then-House Speaker Jim Tucker.  The officer relayed to me that Speaker Tucker was furious over Guinn’s conduct.  Speaker Tucker, in turn, delivered the police report to Jindal’s office, and that was the last I ever heard of it.  However, I have strong reason to believe that my filing clearly infuriated Guinn as evidenced by Guinn mailing this letter to Gov. Jindal seeking my removal from the LALB.  Nine days later, Jindal complied and sought my resignation.  His “Special Assistant,” Jonathan Ringo (who now is an associate attorney with Jimmy Faircloth’s firm), upon my asking him why my resignation was being sought, said only that “things just aren’t working out.”  When I refused to resign, Gov. Jindal terminated my services effective September 10, 2010.

As I’ll demonstrate in my next installment, my shill bidding testimony was likely not the only reason Jindal removed me from the LALB.  I was complaining bitterly to his office regarding my observation of blatant racism on the LALB regarding Rev. Phillips.

 

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Our friend C.B. Forgotston was first to point out an apparent violation when the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hired a legislative liaison and agency advocate/lobbyist. http://forgotston.com/

Now, LouisianaVoice has come upon a recent opinion by the Louisiana Board of Ethics in Absentia which would seem to validate Forgotston’s cynicism. (By way of explanation, the Board of Ethics in Absentia is the agency formerly known simply as the Board of Ethics before Gov. Jindal set the “gold standard of ethics” when he gutted the board’s powers barely a month after taking office in 2008.)

The Baton Rouge Advocate published a brief, five-paragraph story a week ago (March 10) in which it announced that the Department of Children and Family Services had hired a new legislative liaison in the person of Dave Pearce at a salary of $75,000 a year.

Pearce, who previously worked as assistant director of constituent services in Jindal’s office (yes, they’re bailing out over there), moved into the unclassified position where he will serve as “executive lead on all federal and state legislative matters for DCFS,” the Advocate said.

But the most revealing part of the story was contained in the last paragraph in which the newspaper pointed out that documents submitted to Civil Service indicated that the position serves as a lobbyist and advocate on behalf of the DCFS.

Forgotston was quick to point out that Pearson may be in violation of two state laws, assuming the newspaper account is correct. He cited two statutes to support his position:

  • La. R.S. 24:56(F) provides: No state employee in his official capacity or on behalf of his employer shall lobby for or against any matter intended to have the effect of law pending before the legislature or any committee thereof. Nothing herein shall prohibit the dissemination of factual information relative to any such matter or the use of public meeting rooms or meeting facilities available to all citizens to lobby for or against any such matter. (Emphasis Forgotston’s.);
  • La. R.S. 43:31(D) provides:   No branch, department, agency, official, employee, or other entity of state government shall expend funds of, administered by, or under the control of any branch, department, agency, employee, official, or other entity of state government to print material or otherwise to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition on an election ballot nor shall such funds be used to lobby for or against any proposition or matter having the effect of law being considered by the legislature or any local governing authority. This provision shall not prevent the normal dissemination of factual information relative to a proposition on any election ballot or a proposition or matter having the effect of law being considered by the legislature or any local governing authority. (Emphasis Forgotston’s.)

“In other words, no state employee shall lobby nor shall any public funds be used to lobby,” he said.

Jindal, with the sage legal counsel of Jimmy Faircloth, might well respond with the classic line, “I understand the situation but I don’t see the problem.”

Well, we did a little checking of our own and found that even though lobbyists are required to be registered with the Board of Ethics Emeritus, Pearce’s name is nowhere to be found on the lengthy roster of state lobbyists.

And then, we did a little more digging and found a fairly recent opinion of the Bored of Ethics that addresses that very scenario. (We’re being a bit unfair to the Ethics Board because it was Jindal’s legislation in 2008 that removed the board’s enforcement powers, thus reducing its status to that of an advisory board only.)

In a Sept. 24, 2013, two-page letter to Brian Begue, legal counsel for the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry (LSBD), ethics staff attorney Aneatra P. Boykin responded to a number of questions posed by Begue:

  • Are (dentistry) board members considered state employees under state law?
  • Are state employees and public servants considered the same?
  • What is the effect of state statute which defines public employees as board officers and its employee(s)?
  • What is the effect of state statutes which sate that employment does not include appointed officials?
  • May the members approach their own legislators regarding legislation affecting the practice of dentistry or dental hygiene?
  • May (board members) approach their own legislators regarding legislation having nothing to do with the regulation of dentistry or dental hygiene?
  • Must (board members) register as lobbyist(s) if the answer to the questions is in the affirmative?

“The (Ethics) Board concluded and instructed me to advise you that the lobbying laws under the jurisdiction of the Board of Ethics apply to members of the Dentistry Board,” Boykin said. She said state statutes provide “that no state employee in his official capacity or on behalf of his employer shall lobby for or against any matter intended to have the effect of law pending before the legislature or any committee thereof.”

She further said state statute “defines ‘public employee’ to include anyone, whether compensated or not, appointed by an elected official to a post to serve the governmental entity or an agency thereof or anyone performing a government function” and that a section of that same statute “defines public servant as a public employee or elected official.”

Members of the LSBD—and members of any other board appointed by the governor—are state employees under state law.

Accordingly, “Dentistry Board members may not have any direct communication with legislators regarding legislation affecting the practice of dentistry or dental hygiene or any other matter intended to have an effect of law pending before the legislature,” she said.

Nothing prohibits board members from disseminating factual information relative to dentistry or dental hygiene, she added.

So, if those same standards are applied to Pearce, he could have a definite problem in carrying out the duties of his new position.

But Forgotston, never one to leave his flank unprotected, has an answer for that as well, even if his suggestion is offered with tongue planted firmly in cheek:

“In the past, we know that Jindal appointees often believe that they are above the law. Without any repercussions, they have failed to follow laws such as having valid La. driver’s licenses, having Louisiana license plates on their personal vehicles and payment of the Use Tax on vehicles brought into Louisiana from other states.

Solution:

  • A legislator should file and pass legislation during the 2014 Regular Session to repeal the above two provisions of the law.

Problem solved.

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The controversy over that 55,000-acre hunting lodge that straddles three central Louisiana parishes has taken a new and curious twist as the result of a $1.7 million highway resurfacing project that conveniently runs right past the entrance to the lodge that is owned by a major contributor to Gov. Bobby Jindal and to unsuccessful congressional candidate State Sen. Neil Riser.

The overlay of LA. 127, also known locally as the Olla-Sikes Highway, started on Feb. 20 at the Caldwell Parish line and run 5.5 miles east in Winn Parish to LA. 1238, according to an announcement by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD).

The intent of the project is to patch, cold plane and overlay the existing roadway with 3.5 inches of asphaltic concrete and is expected to take about 50 working days to complete.

The project is being financed by state and federal funding, according to an announcement last September by Jindal. He said at the end of each federal fiscal year (Sept. 30 of each year), the U.S. Department of Transportation gathers funds that some states will not spend and reallocates the funding to states that are successful in obligating their full federal highway funding allotment during the fiscal year.

As a result of that, DOTD recently received $34.2 million in additional federal highway funding to use for projects and the Winn Parish project was one of 12 projects totaling $34.2 million announced by Jindal.

Resident Gary L. Hatten said he did not feel LA 127 was in need of repairs nearly as much as LA. 125, the Olla-Winnfield Highway, and he feels the LA. 127 work is nothing more than political payback to Riser, whose state senatorial district includes the hunting lodge, and to Jindal.

A search of political campaign contributions would appear to support that theory. Last Nov. 4, Busbice and his wife, Beth Busbice, each contributed the maximum allowable $2,600 ($5,200 total) to Riser’s campaign for the 5th Congressional District seat won by Vance McAllister.

Jindal also picked up $20,000 from Busbice and from Busbice’s father-in-law Alfred Lippman of Morgan City, the registered agent for Olla Productions, LLC., one of Busbice’s many business enterprises.

Busbice contributed $5,000 to Jindal in April of 2009 and Beth Busbice gave another $5,000 in December of that same year, while Lippman contributed $5,000 in October of 2003, $3,500 in April of 2009 and his firm, Lippman, Malfouz, Tranchina & Thorguson of Morgan City gave another $1,500 in September of 2010.

Additionally, one of Lippman’s law partners, David Thorguson and his wife contributed $1,300 to Jindal, Jindal campaign records show.

LA. 127 runs for 54.7 miles south from a point east of Kitterlin Bay in La Salle Parish to LA. 126 in Winn Parish but the construction project includes only a 10th of that distance and conveniently runs right up to the camp’s entrance and stops at the property of TV reality show Swamp People star Troy “Choot ‘em” Landry, whose campsite is located within the hunting camp, said Hatten, a fact that some residents find particularly convenient and more than a little galling.

Lippman is Landry’s attorney and Landry was king of this year’s Krewe of Hepaestus, the premier Mardi Gras organization in Morgan City of which Lippman is a longtime member. Lippman also was master of ceremonies for former Gov. Mike Foster’s first inaugural party in 1996.

Busbice began purchasing some 55,000 acres in the three parishes, mostly in Winn, after Louisiana-Pacific shut down its operations at Urania in 2002. Louisiana-Pacific initially sold the forest land to Barrs & Glawson Investments of Atlanta, GA, to Roy O. Martin Lumber Co. and to Martin-Urania Corp. for $74 million. Barrs & Glawson re-sold tracts totaling 50,383 acres in Winn, 6,068 acres in LaSalle and 4,800 in Caldwell to Six-C Properties, headed by Busbice.

Since purchasing the land, Busbice has erected eight-foot fencing around the property and constructed a hunting lodge on the land that caters to high rollers who don’t mind ponying up a few thousand dollars for the privilege to hunt deer.

The hunting lodge, a participant in the state’s Dear Management Assistance Program (DMAP), is owned by William “Bill” Busbice of Broussard and has been a bone of contention with property owners in Winn, LaSalle and Caldwell parishes who claim that the Busbice has fenced off the 55,000 acres, thus entrapping deer and other game at the expense of area residents who claim they have been deprived of their hunting rights.

Two residents were arrested for trespassing on hunting camp property and the two, Wyndel Earl Gough and Hatten, promptly filed a wrongful arrest lawsuit against Busbice, hunting camp overseer Terry Carr and wildlife agent Rusty Parry.

Another local resident, Michael Atkins, sued Busbice and his company, Six-C Properties, after Busbice erected a fence completely surrounding 10 acres of land owned by Atkins. His lawsuit, which he won at the trial court level but which was overturned in part on appeal, contended that the fence not only prevented him from hunting but also blocked access to his property.

Names that have surfaced in what has become a conspiracy-laden story include imprisoned former Winn Parish Tax Assessor A.D. “Bodie” Little (now in federal prison for drug possession with intent to distribute), former Gov. Mike Foster and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

An Alexandria Town Talk investigation revealed that several of Little’s friends benefitted from under-assessments. Among those was Six-C, which was the beneficiary of an assessment that was $351,800 low, according to one local resident.

Under the $20 per acre forestland value, Six-C was billed $98,601 on its Winn Parish properties, then consisting of 31,600 acres. Winn Parish resident Grady McFarland, however, said Six-C should have paid taxes based on an $88.90 per acre value, or $450,410.

Landowners, including the Goughs, maintain that Foster hosted Cheney on a hunting trip in 2002 and shortly afterwards a federal grant came through Foster’s administration which was used to purchase the land which eventually came under the control of Busbice and Six-C.

Efforts by LouisianaVoice to confirm that allegation have been unsuccessful, though an entry of more than $87.86 million was included on page 29 in Foster’s fiscal year 2003-2004 executive budget under the column heading of Federal Funds.

Marty Milner, fiscal officer for the Office of Facility Planning and Control, said in a 2008 email to investigator Art Walker that he had found the $87.86 million but some projects were funded through the Department of the Military and the Department of Transportation and Development but his office did not handle the accounting for those departments. Accordingly, he said, he was unable to determine the disposition of the money.

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Suppose for a moment that you work as a technician for a large computer company and in the course of your duties, you discover the company is knowingly marketing computers with faulty hard drives destined to crash within a few months.

Imagine now that when you call the defect to the attention of your company CEO, you are fired, ostracized by your industry and unable to find employment because the word is on the street that you are disloyal and suddenly unreliable despite a stellar work record.

Taking this scenario a step further, you suddenly find yourself prosecuted—and persecuted—by your former company’s board of directors on vague charges of fraud and malfeasance. The board, you learn, will go to any length to defend its CEO—including the destruction of your career. Making matters worse, your accuser is also the prosecutor, the judge and the jury in your trial.

Even worse, when you walk into the courtroom, you are informed that you have already been convicted—without benefit of a trial—of unspecified crimes and that if you pay a fine of $25,000 and sign a consent decree, the matter will go away.

You are innocent of any wrongdoing, so of course you tell your accusers to take a long walk off a short pier.

They in turn inform you that there are other charges that haven’t even been mentioned yet and if you refuse to sign the consent decree and decide to stand and fight, your fine will increase to $100,000 or more—plus the fees of your own attorney and those of the prosecuting attorney—and the costs incurred by the “investigator” who discovered your crimes, costs which also could exceed $100,000.

Finally, you are told by one of the board members that you will never be allowed to work again in your field because of a difference in religious beliefs between you and the board.

Now give that company a name like say, the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, change the product from a computer hard drive to a dental implant and you have a pretty good idea of the plight of Dr. Randall Schaffer.

Schaffer, a 1982 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry with a Doctor of Dental Surgery, went on to two residencies at Charity Hospital and Louisiana State University Dental and Medical Center in New Orleans. Certified in General Dentistry in 1984 and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 1988, he entered into private practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery in 1988 in Marrero and in Corinth, Mississippi.

More than a decade earlier, Dr. John (Jack) Kent, head of the LSU School of Dentistry’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, developed a joint replacement device for temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) sufferers. Kent subsequently entered into an agreement with a Houston company, Vitek, and the company’s principal shareholders, Drs. Charles and Ann Homsy, to manufacture and market the Proplast implant.

It proved to be a lucrative arrangement for Kent who was given stock in Vitek and earned royalties of 2 percent to 4 percent on the sale of Vitek products. He also received monetary compensation for giving written and verbal presentations to oral and maxillofacial surgeons throughout the world, according to a lawsuit filed by Schaffer against Kent, LSU, members of the Dental Board, attorney Brian Begue and board investigator Camp Morrison.

It did not take long for the implants to begin to fail, causing disfigurement, excruciating pain and at least eight suicides, according to a July 29, 2002, story in U.S. News & World Report.

As a resident at LSU, Dr. Schaffer became aware of the negative effects to patients receiving the implants, which Schaffer described as “defective (100 percent) in all patients implanted.”

Schaffer says in his lawsuit that he informed Dr. Kent of the “disastrous results” of the implant but Kent refused to stop placement of the devices and “threatened Dr. Schaffer with dismissal should this information regarding the research and adverse results be made public.”

By 1989, Schaffer was in private practice and was assisting implant victims by offering consultation and corrective procedures at no charge. “As hundreds of cases came forward, Dr. Schaffer began assistant plaintiff attorneys in the cases against Dr. Kent, his associates, and Louisiana State University,” the lawsuit says. “Eventually 675 patients were combined as a class for discovery purposes,” leaving the state exposed to about $1 billion in liability.

In 1992, the first case, that of Mary Elizabeth Leger of Jonesboro, Arkansas, was settled for $1 million.

Today, Schaffer lives in Iowa, Vitek is bankrupt, Dr. Charles Homsy is nowhere to be found (though he did surface long enough to write a scathing indictment of “predatory trial lawyers” for the Cato Institute in September of 2001), and DuPont, which manufactured the raw ingredients used in the implants was protected by the “bulk supplier doctrine,” which is a defense to failure-to-warn claims.

When Schaffer was named as a witness and consultant in the class action cases, the Board of Dentistry immediately launched its investigation of Schaffer who says that in 1995, the board “zealously embarked upon an investigation, prosecution and adjudication of a wide variety of claims.”

On Sept. 5, 2000, a board panel consisting of Drs. H.O. Blackwood, Conrad McVea and Dennis Donald revoked Schaffer’s license and imposed “excessive penalties,” Schaffer’s petition says. “The panel members and (then-board executive director) Barry Ogden, (investigator) Camp Morrison, (board attorney) Brian Begue and Arthur Hickham conspired to deprive me of my due process rights during my hearing.”

Begue openly violated a Louisiana Supreme Court order to cease participating in the proceedings by served as both prosecutor and board general counsel, Schaffer’s petition says. While another attorney was ostensibly brought into the matter by the board following the Supreme Court’s ruling barring Begue’s participation, Begue still participated in the proceedings

Even though his revocation was not permanent, Dr. Blackwood, who acted as chairman of Schaffer’s reconsideration hearings in 2004, 2007 and 2012, said on Dec. 7, 2012 that he had promised himself “from the beginning,” that Schaffer would never get his license reinstated.

As blatant as that comment was, it paled in comparison to Dr. McVea’s declaration that because Schaffer had not received his salvation because he had not accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior he could not be expected to comply with professional standards.

Schaffer is Jewish.

Donald added that Schaffer was “a bad person who had hurt people.”

Even if Schaffer’s revocation had been reversed by the courts, in all likelihood, his case would have been remanded back to the same board and the same panel that originally pulled his license as occurred in another disciplinary matter involving a second dentist whom we shall write about in our next post. In effect, the court would have simply thrown Schaffer back to the same pack of wolves, thus making it futile to pursue his case any further before the same group of people.

He said Kent had about 2,500 malpractice lawsuits against him. “I had one, which I won, and yet the board came after me while doing nothing to Dr. Kent,” Schaffer said. “They went behind me to my patients and told them such things as I had killed a patient and that I was going to (the Louisiana State Penitentiary at) Angola. I have accounts receivable in the millions of dollars because I never turned a patient away because he could not pay,” he said.

Once the board had pulled his license, however, it still kept the pressure on Schaffer with no let up.

Schaffer, after being forced out of his practice, leased his office building to another dentist, David Gerard Millaud.

On Dec. 20, 2000, Ogden sent a two-page letter to Dr. Millaud, saying:

“It has come to our attention that you are practicing in the office of Dr. Randall Schaffer…”

Then, in perhaps an unintentional admission that investigator Morrison was continuing to conduct surveillance on Schaffer, whom the board had already broken, Ogden said, “We have also observed Dr. Schaffer’s spending a great deal of time on the office. As you know, his license has been revoked and he is prohibited from practicing dentistry in any form.

“I also wish to call your attention to (state statute) which states:

The board may refuse to issue or may suspend or revoke any license or permit, or impose probationary or other limits or restrictions on any dental license or permit issued under this chapter for any of the following reasons:

Division of fees or other remuneration or consideration with any person not licensed to practice dentistry in Louisiana or an agreement to divide and share fees received for dental services with any non-dentist in return for referral of patients to the licensed dentists, whether or not the patient or legal representative is aware of the arrangement…”

The letter prompted an immediate response from Schaffer’s attorney Michael Ellis of Metairie, who wrote board attorney Jimmy Faircloth (who substituted for Begue after Begue was forced by the Supreme Court to step aside).

“I find it incredulous that the board would write such a letter under the circumstances of this case,” Ellis said. “I know of no law which prohibits Dr. Schaffer from ‘spending a great deal of time in the office.’ The board has effectively put this man out of business and now wants to harass a young dentist to whom Dr. Schaffer is renting space.

“If the board has any evidence whatsoever that either Dr. Millaud or Dr. Schaffer was in violation of the law, I ask that you notify me immediately. If the board is not in possession of such evidence, (Ogden’s) letter must be considered nothing but a tactic of harassment calculated to prevent Dr. Schaffer from earning a living.”

Millaud, who said he was not sharing fees or paying other remuneration to Dr. Schaffer, nevertheless decided that his best interest would be served by terminating his lease arrangement with Schaffer, Ellis said.

Then-State Sen. Chris Ullo (D-Marrero), who died earlier this year, contacted Gov. Mike Foster to intervene with the board on Schaffer’s behalf but Foster declined to get involved with what some might describe as his rogue board.

Then, following Ogden’s letter to Dr. Millaud, Schaffer himself requested an audience with Foster. On Dec. 27, exactly a week following Ogden’s letter to Millaud, Chris Stelly, writing on behalf of Foster, said the board “is an independent body created and empowered” by state law and that the board had “sole jurisdiction over this matter. Therefore, this office does not have the authority to intervene.

“However, I have taken the liberty of forwarding your letter to Mr. C. Barry Ogden, executive director of the LA State Board of Dentistry, for his information.”

That, readers, is what is known as the classic bureaucratic shuffle.

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LouisianaVoice has learned of an ongoing pattern by at least one state board to indiscriminately impose stiff penalties and fines of tens of thousands of dollars against dental professionals for perceived violations of a dizzying array of confusing and obscure regulations that seem to pop up with no prior warning, no explanation and with little or no due process.

The Louisiana State Board of Dentistry (LSBD) operates with complete autonomy as it serves as prosecutor, judge and jury in bringing charges and then conducts its own hearings and then rules on those charges, often hitting dentists, dental assistants and dental hygienists with five-figure fines.

Many of these charges are the result of apparent entrapment on the part of the LSBD and an investigator under contract to the board, according to its victims.

Moreover, the LSBD, which receives no state funding for its operations, still manages to award lucrative contracts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to attorneys and private investigators, according to state records obtained by LouisianaVoice.

LSBD’s funding comes exclusively from fines levied against dental professionals, giving the board strong incentive to conjure up charges and hand down stiff fines in order to pay for those contracts.

Taking the contract of board of attorney Brian Begue, records show he was awarded a one-year contract of $175,000 in June of 1995. That contract was renewed for the same amount in June of 1996.

In June of 1997, a new three-year, $225,000 contract was given Begue. He again was given three-year contracts in 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012, but the contract amounts for each of the last five contracts was doubled to $450,000.

One source said Begue did not routinely submit time sheets indicating how much time was spent doing legal work for the board. Instead, he would simply give the board a piece of paper with an amount to be paid for his services.

Even as it was bestowing those contracts on Begue, the board was also awarding lucrative contracts on New Orleans private investigator Camp Morrison. Beginning in March of 1997, he received a three-year, $45,000 contract to investigate dentists who might be in violation of some rule or regulation.

In 2000, Morrison’s new contract was for only two years but the contract amount jumped to $150,000, then to $200,000 in 2002, to $240,000 in 2004 where it remained for each two-year term until last year when his contract was renewed for three years—and increased to $340,000.

Even more curious was the disparity between contract begin dates and approval dates. For example, Morrison’s 2002 contract began on Sept. 1 but was not approved until May 19, 2003. His 2008 contract for $240,000 started on Sept. 1 but was not approved until Dec. 28, 2009—almost 15 months after the begin date.

A familiar name surfaced on April 13, 2000, when a two-year, $100,000 contract backdated to Mar. 1 was awarded to Jimmy Faircloth, who would later reveal in open court the board’s ulterior motive in pursuing charges against one dentist.

In that case that progressed to a federal courtroom trial the presiding judge was questioning why Faircloth was so determined to prosecute Dr. Randall Schaffer who had revealed design flaws in a TMJ implant developed by the LSU School Dentistry, Faircloth pointed to then-LSBD executive director Barry Ogden, telling the judge that Ogden had instructed him to get Schaefer “no matter what it cost.”

Faircloth subsequently received a second two-year contract for $50,000, effective Nov. 1, 2010, but not approved until April 19, 2011. That contract was renewed for 20 months and $50,000 in 2012

The board even went so far as to have legislation passed whereby it provides legal representation for Morrison, its contracted investigator, in cases where litigation is brought against Morrison—a practice unprecedented for a state agency. Contracts issued by every other agency contain provisions that the contractor must provide and pay for his own liability coverage and state contracts further stipulate that contractors shall incur their own legal costs while holding the state harmless.

That could be because of Morrison’s practice of hiring unlicensed personnel to conduct investigations and of actions that some say border on entrapment.

The manner in which the board serves as accuser, judge and jury, Begue’s dual function as both the board’s general counsel and as prosecutor may have prompted former State Sen. Max Malone (R-Shreveport) to react to allegations of harassment and extortion by the board by rising on the Senate floor to brand the board and its members as “corrupt.”

The enforcement muscle flexed by the board usually intimidates those accused of wrongdoing to pay fines without resistance because of the costs involved and because they know they will be going up against a stacked deck.

An example of the abuse inflicted by the board is the case of two Shreveport dental hygienists who were accused of fraud by the board and who were presented a consent decree to sign which contained substantial penalties, including 90-day suspensions, fines and legal costs.

The hygienists refused to sign the initial consent decree even in the face of the steep odds that they faced.

The board, however, because of its own vulnerable position, came back with a second consent decree that removed the fraud term, replacing it with failure to provide the acceptable standard of care, fines of $500 each and legal costs of $15,000, and remedial training with no suspensions.

So, why did the board come back with a reduced penalty and why did the two accused sign? First, the hygienists were fully aware of the power of the board to take away their livelihoods by revoking their license.

But the board’s investigator, Morrison, had made the mistake of sending in unlicensed investigators posing as patients to be seen by the hygienists. Additionally, the board allegedly offered one hygienist immunity if she would say that her boss, a Shreveport dentist, ordered her to falsify information obtained by the hygienist in her examination.

In exchange, the hygienists were required to waive any challenge to the complaint against them.

More revealing, however, was the requirement that the hygienists “hereby release and forever discharge the board, its executive director, its investigator and any of the agents, employees, representatives, officers, members, attorneys and investigators of the board, including but not limited to Camp Morrison, Dana Glorioso and Karen Moorhead, from any and all claims, damages, causes of action, or other claims of any nature whatsoever, known or unknown, asserted or unasserted, arising from any set of facts of circumstances existing as of the date of this agreement, including, but not limited to any claims of improper investigation, prosecutorial misconduct, defamation, or invasion of privacy.” (Emphasis added.)

LSBD spokespersons might claim this is standard verbiage but it is nevertheless significant to note that Glorioso and Moorhead were the unlicensed investigators sent into the dentist’s office under the pretense of treatment for dental problems—a practice that appears questionable at best and illegal at worst.

LouisianaVoice will be posting additional stories about the LSBD in the coming days and weeks, including the identities of the LSBD members and political contributions of dental political action committees. We also will be examining various legal cases, some of which are concluded and others that are making their way through the courts, and interviewing dental professionals who have encountered similar difficulties with the LSBD.

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