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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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A 22-year employee of the E.I. DuPont de Nemours (DuPont) plant in Burnside in Ascension Parish has filed a confidential lawsuit in Middle District Federal Court in Baton Rouge that claims the plant has consistently been experiencing toxic gas leaks on almost a daily basis for more than two years without reporting the leaks as required by a 151-year-old federal law.

Jeffrey M. Simoneaux, an Ascension Parish native who served for 14 years as chairman of the plant’s Safety, Health and Environmental Committee, also claims he was harassed, intimidated and denied promotions after he said he complied with DuPont’s own internal procedures for reporting a leak of sulfur trioxide (SO3) gas, a known carcinogen which is regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 and was reprimanded for doing so.

DuPont, headquartered in Wilmington, Del., was ranked 72nd on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and reported 2012 profits of nearly $2.8 billion, down more than 19 percent from 2011, according to a report by CNN Money.

Despite profits from its worldwide operations which employ 60,000 people, DuPont has for years avoided paying any federal income taxes.

The company has contributed more than $21,000 to various state politicians since 2003, including $4,500 to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Its plants in Burnside and in St. John the Baptist Parish have been granted more than $21 million in various tax credits and exemptions by the state.

Those included, in order, the project, the year, parish, total investment, tax exemption and number of new jobs created:

  • Plant expansion, 2010, St. John the Baptist, $93 million, $1.4 million five-year tax credit, 11 new jobs;
  • Plant expansion, 2008, St. John the Baptist, $58.8 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $10.9 million, five new jobs;
  • Retrofit project, 2010, Ascension, $72.2 million, five-year property tax credit of $541,000, three new jobs;
  • Miscellaneous capital addition, 2010, St. John the Baptist, $1.3 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $232,000, no new jobs;
  • Plant addition, 2009, St. John the Baptist, $6.7 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $1.2 million, no new jobs;
  • Plant addition, 2009, Ascension, $45 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $6.9 million, no new jobs.

The case has been referred to Federal District Judge Shelly Dick and Magistrate Judge Stephen Riedlinger, according to court documents.

Simoneaux terminated his employment with DuPont on Aug. 13, 2012, he said.

The most recent filing is a Feb. 21, 2014 Response to State of Uncontested Facts submitted by Simoneaux who is represented by Baton Rouge attorneys Jane Barney and J. Arthur Smith, III.

In that filing, Simoneaux claims that DuPont failed to inform the Environmental Protection Agency of the numerous SO3 leaks by the plant despite its proximity and potential threat to an elementary school, Sorrento Primary School, a residential subdivision and the Mississippi River.

He filed his suit under the 151-year-old False Claims Act (FCA), passed by Congress in 1863 because of concerns that suppliers of goods to the Union Army during the Civil War were defrauding the Army.

Under FCA, DuPont should be subjected to mandatory fines of $25,000 per violation per day plus “recovery of three times the amount of damages sustained by the U.S., and an award of attorney’s fees.”

Simoneaux claims that plant manager Tom Miller became irate when Simoneaux attempted to slow the plant production rate so as to reduce the leakage on Feb. 1, 2012. Miller, he said, overrode his decision and said he wished to speak to Simoneaux alone.

Simoneaux said he would prefer to have another operator present during his conversation with Miller, but the plant manager would not allow it.

Miller subsequently berated Simoneaux for sending an email to his supervisor, Elizabeth Cromwell, and directed him “not to send any more written communications about leaks or stack capacity.” Simoneaux said that Miller “clearly advised” him that should he send future emails to Miller about any offsite release, he would “get in trouble.”

He said he advised Miller that the leak was going offsite as they were speaking but that Miller three separate times refused to ride with Simoneaux to the rear of the plant so that Miller could see for himself the gas, visible as a light blue mist, “flowing over the fence line.”

He said he asked Miller where he thought the gas was going and Miller “looked out the door and said, ‘Who is the plant manager, me or you? I’m telling you I don’t see any gas going off the site.’”

Simoneaux said to properly repair the leaks, the plant should be completely shut down so repairs could be made. Instead, temporary stop-gap measures were attempted utilizing a rubber suction hose that deteriorated quickly because of the acid contained in the lines.

On April 11, 2012, Simoneaux again observed a cloud of leaking SO3 and entered the information in a log book, again provoking Miller’s anger. “The plant manager said he did not want someone ‘coming in her to do an environmental audit and coming across this stuff written in this log book, reading it and getting the wrong idea.”

Simoneaux also said that Miller, during an employee meeting, verbally discouraged employees from calling authorities about the gas leak. He also said an investigation was conducted by management and their report “states that there was no on-site impact and no off-site impact, giving a score of zero to both issues” despite the fact that one employee was treated for eye and throat irritation after being exposed to one leak.

A contract worker also was burned when acid dropped onto him from the rubber hose, the petition says.

A Material Safety Data Sheet was submitted as an exhibit by Simoneaux’s attorneys and provides information under both potential acute and chronic health effects of exposure to SO3.

Potential Acute Health Effects:

  • Very hazardous in case of skin contact, eye contact, ingestion or inhalation. Liquid or spray mist may produce tissue damage, particularly on mucous membranes, of eyes, mouth and respiratory tract. Skin contact may produce burns. Inhalation of the spray mist may produce severe irritation of respiratory tract, characterized by coughing, choking or shortness of breath. Severe over-exposure can result in death. Inflammation of the eye(s) is characterized by redness, watering and itching. Skin inflammation is characterized by itching, scaling, reddening, or occasionally, blistering.

Potential Chronic Health Effects:

  • Carcinogenic Effects: Classified 1 (proven for human). The substance may be tozic to mucous membranes, skin, eyes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. Repeated or prolonged contact with spray mist may produce chronic eye irritation and severe skin irritation. Repeated or prolonged exposure to spray mist may produce respiratory tract irritation leading to frequent attacks of bronchial infection. Repeated exposure to a highly toxic material may produce general deterioration of health by an accumulation in one or many human organs.

DuPont, as might be expected, denied Simoneaux’s claims but in its response to Simoneaux’s first set of requests for production of documents, standard procedure in any civil litigation under the rules of discovery, the company made several glaring admissions that tend to substantiate Simoneaux’s claims and deposition testimony of several of Simoneaux’s former co-workers at DuPont’s Burnside plant:

  • Asked to produce all TSCA notifications, the company admitted it “has no responsive documents.
  • Asked to produce “every unedited ‘First Report’ pertaining to gas leaks prepared since December of 2011,” DuPont “objects to the term “unedited” as vague (and) calls for speculation and assumes facts not in evidence.”
  • Asked to produce all documents subsequent to Nov. 1, 2011 exchanged with or concerning any governmental agency, or authority, including school, police, fire, any insurance company or environmental authorities or agencies pertaining to an actual or potential gas leak, DuPont indicated it believed there were no such documents.
  • Asked to produce all documents reflecting impacts to employees or others from a gas leak at the Burnside plant, DuPont objected on the grounds that it seeks privileged medical information.
  • Asked to produce all documents reflecting complaints of gas leaks from the Burnside plant since Dec. 1, 2011, DuPont objected, claiming that the word “complaint” was not defined and is vague.
  • Asked to produce documents pertaining to communications from Dec. 2, 2011 to the present involving DuPont personnel regarding whether or not to report a gas leak to governing authorities, the need for a plant shutdown and/or precautions or responsive measures to be taken in light of gas leaks, DuPont cited attorney-client privilege.
  • Asked to produce all emails exchanged between Miller and ‘DuPont corporate’ and/or any of Miller’s DuPont superiors concerning leaks, environmental conditions and/or safety conditions at the Burnside facility from Dec. 1, 2011 to present, DuPont claimed the request was “overly broad, unduly burdensome, and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”
  • Asked to produce all documents pertaining to health effects, risks, studies, tests or hazards associated with SO3 and/or SO2 gas, DuPont claimed the request was “overly broad and unduly burdensome.”
  • Asked to produce the log book maintained by operators from Dec. 1, 2011 to present and to produce the “Safety Zone-Burnside Transfer Facility Security Plan” reported prepared by Simoneaux on Mar. 18, 2012, the company claimed the request were “overly broad and unduly burdensome.”
  • Asked to produce all documents provided to or received from OSHA concerning gas leaks and/or employee exposure or potential exposure from Dec. 1, 2011, to present, DuPont said it “has no such documents responsive to this request.”
  • Asked to produce all documents, including emails, concerning the facts set forth in (Simoneaux’s) complaint, DuPont again invoked the “overly broad and unduly burdensome” claim.

Lonnie Blanchard, a contract worker at the DuPont Burnside facility, testified in his deposition that there were up to two dozen SO3 leaks. He described the leaks as “a real problem” and said on several occasions he could see the cloud of gas escaping from the plant from the Sunshine Bridge that connects the east and west banks of Ascension which is split by the Mississippi River.

Another employee, Percy Bell, testified in his deposition that plant management had issued a policy saying employees were prohibited from taking photographs of the mist clouds.

In his deposition, he was asked, “In the last two years, has there ever been a time when you were working (at the plant) and there hasn’t been a leak?”

“No, I haven’t,” he answered.

Simoneaux said DuPont identified gas leaks to which it will respond “only by visible assessment and (it) has no monitors at equipment sites.”

He added that the stop-gap measure used “is appropriate only for temporary use until permanent repairs can be made” because it is not made of material designed for that purpose and is “known to fail without warning.”

Employees and contractors work in proximity to the leaks on a daily basis with no warning given before there is a visible gas leak. Employees, he said, must watch a windsock at the plant in attempts to stay upwind of any gas leaks in efforts to avoid exposure.

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Even as Bobby Jindal continues to bombard us with glowing reports about the best this and most favorable that—surveys by all the right organizations, at least from the administration’s perspective—which advance the governor’s agenda, other reports don’t paint such a rosy picture.

For every claim of a favorable business climate, there is a one that reflects one of the highest pay disparities between men and women in the nation. For each boast of low taxes, national comparisons point to one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. For all the laudatory praise of the state’s recreational facilities, we still have the second highest obesity rate in the country. In the face of the administration’s trumpeting of all those surveys rating Louisiana as having a favorable business climate, there is no escaping the fact that we are near the top in the number of citizens without health insurance. Yes, we have a deep labor pool, one survey cheerily reports even as another chides Louisiana for its dearth of skilled labor.

Of course if one listens to Jindal or reads his news releases, you hear only that the glass if half full, never than it’s half empty. Balance in reporting is not in the governor’s vocabulary.

All the so-called good news from the conservative think tanks that have the same political philosophy as Jindal and obediently do all in their power to put his best face forward does little to offset the reality of a state beset by problems too many to enumerate.

The latest bit of adverse news comes in the form of credit ratings for the individual states that show to virtually no one’s surprise, with the possible exception of Jindal and his Secretary of Economic Development Steven Moret (and probably Rolfe McCollister, a member of Jindal’s very own LSU Board of Stuporvisors and one of Jindal’s most vocal cheerleaders), that Louisiana is second only to Mississippi (a familiar position in most other negative surveys, as well) as having the worst credit rating of the 50 states.

http://money.msn.com/credit-rating/10-states-with-the-lowest-credit-scores

Southern states in general have the lowest credit ratings, according to the credit bureau Experian. And while living in one of the states with low credit scores does not mean individuals have low credit scorea but the credit scores are employed as one means of evaluating the risks in extending consumer credit and to determine how much interest to charge borrowers, the report says.

The latest credit rating is for the last quarter of 2013 and the 10 lowest scores ranged from a low of 707 for Mississippi to a high of 729 for New Mexico—well below the national average of 748 for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The survey reveals that southern states have some of the lowest credit scores in the nation, according to calculations from the credit bureau Experian.

The ratings are designed to reflect applicants’ ability to repay debt and lenders use credit scores to assess the risks in extending consumer credit and to determine what interest rates to charge borrowers which means that the state ratings have a direct bearing on consumer credit.

In Mississippi, recently named as the poorest state in the nation, Gov. Phil Bryant has proclaimed that 2014 would be a breakout year for the state’s “Creative Economy,” noting that somehow the state’s claim to be the birthplace of blues might be the springboard for the state that has an unemployment rate in excess of 10 percent. We suppose the thinking could be that as the nation’s economic anchor, there is only one direction to go: up.

Louisiana, with a credit rating of 720, wasn’t much better. Like its poorer neighbor to the east, the state was hit hard by the double whammy of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

Still, the administration, in grasping at any straw to enhance its image, leans heavily on a report by the Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program that said both Baton Rouge and New Orleans have made great strides in recovering from those twin disasters and the New Orleans ranks as “one of the best cities in the nation for business development and economic growth.”

Overlooked (deliberately, perhaps?) in that optimistic report is the fact that the Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program is part of the Louisiana Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit—a creation of the administration.

No conflict of interest there.

Other bottom 10 states in credit rating and their scores are, in order, Georgia (721), Nevada and Texas (722), Arkansas (725), Oklahoma and Alabama (727), South Carolina (728), and New Mexico (729).

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It’s small wonder that Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted to get out of town quickly—he departed the state for an extended trip to Asia to recruit business and industry investment in Louisiana—given the flak he is receiving from the legislature and radio talk show hosts over his hiring of a consulting firm at a cost of $4.2 million to somehow magically find $500 million in state government savings. http://theadvocate.com/csp/mediapool/sites/dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls?STREAMOID=sZuDzNJoJK2fudmeRm9FJpM5tm0Zxrvol3sywaAHBAlauzovnqN0Cbyo1UqyDJ6gE0$uXvBjavsllACLNr6VhLEUIm2tympBeeq1Fwi7sIigrCfKm_F3DhYfWov3omce$8CAqP1xDAFoSAgEcS6kSQ–&CONTENTTYPE=application/pdf&CONTENTDISPOSITION=Alvarez%20Marsal%20Government%20Savings%20Contract.pdfhttp://theadvocate.com/news/8045923-123/vitter-super-pac-raises-15

And that contract doesn’t even take into account Pre-Jindal recommendations by the firm that may ultimately end up costing taxpayers $1.5 billion which, of course, would more than offset any $500 million savings it might conjure up that the Legislative Fiscal Officer, the State Treasurer, the administration, the legislature and the Legislative Auditor have been unable to do, largely because of a time honored political tradition affectionately known as turf protection.

One might even ask, for example, why representatives of the consulting firm, Alvarez & Marsal, who somewhat smugly call themselves “efficiency engineers,” were wasting their time Friday at the gutted Office of Risk Management. Isn’t there already a promise of $20 million in savings on the table as a result of Jindal’s privatization of that agency four years ago? For just that one small agency, that’s 4 percent of the entire $500 million in savings Jindal is seeking through the $4 million contract. (The elusive $500 million savings, for the real political junkies, represents only 2 percent of the state budget.)

The Baton Rouge Advocate also got in on the act on Saturday with Michelle Millhollon’s excellent story that  noted that the actual contract contains no mention of a $500 million savings. http://theadvocate.com/home/8131113-125/vaunted-savings-not-included-in

That revelation which is certain to further antagonize legislators, including Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) whom Jindal will now probably try to teague for his criticism of the governor’s penchant for secrecy.

Hey guys, your contract is only for four months, so why waste your time in an agency that supposedly is on the cusp of a $20 million savings? That ain’t very efficient, if you ask us.

Legislators immediately voiced their displeasure at the contract. “There’s a lot of people who don’t like it,” said Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington), a one-time staunch Jindal ally.

Rep. Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee (if he hasn’t been teagued by now), said when the dust settles any cost cutting will ultimately be the responsibility of state officials. “Even the best PowerPoint presentation isn’t going to cut government,” he said. “The trick is to make the political choices.”

The contract raises immediate questions how Jindal, now entering his seventh year in office, could justify the move in light of his many boasts of efficiencies his administration has supposedly initiated.

Ruth Johnson, who is overseeing the contract for the Division of Administration, defended the deal with the simplistic and less than satisfactory logic that “Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.”

And while Jindal has indicated he wants a final set of recommendations in April, the contract runs through 2016, meaning the final cost could far exceed the $4.2 million Alvarez & Marsal is scheduled to receive for its review.

Jim Engster, host of a talk show on public radio in Baton Rouge, on Friday predicted during an interview with State Treasurer John Kennedy that Alvarez & Marsal’s final report will most likely bear an uncanny resemblance to the 400-plus-page interim report of Dec. 18, 2009, by the infamous Commission on Streamlining Government.

The hearings by that commission, you may remember, gave birth to the term teaguing, a favorite tactic employed by the Jindal administration when a state employee or legislator refuses to toe the line. A state employee named Melody Teague testified before that commission and was summarily fired the following day. Six months later her husband, Tommy Teague, was fired as head of the Office of Group Benefits when he was slow in getting on board the Jindal Privatization Express. Mrs. Teague appealed and was reinstated but her husband took employment elsewhere in a less volatile environment.

The Alvarez & and Marsal representatives have pleaded ignorant to questions of whether their report will draw heavily from the four-year-old commission report and even professed to not know of its existence.

A curious denial indeed, given that Johnson was also the ramrod over the streamlining commission during Jindal’s second year in office. Does she not share this information with the firm or was all that commission work for naught? Or part of Jindal’s infamous deliberative process? Curious also in that Alvarez & Marsal is specifically cited—by name—no fewer than six times in the report’s first 51 pages, each of which is in the context of privatizing the state’s charity hospital system. The report quoted the firm as recommending that:

  • “The governor and the legislature authorize and direct the LSU Health System to adopt the recommendations of Alvarez and Marsal for the operation of the interim Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The governor and legislature direct every other charity hospital in Louisiana to contract for a similar financial and operational assessment with a third party private sector consulting firm, such as but not necessarily Alvarez and Marsal, that specializes and has a proven track record in turnaround management, corporate restructuring and performance improvement for institutions and their stakeholders.”

That’s right. That is where the seed was apparently first planted for the planned privatization of the LSU Hospital system, even to the point of directing the LSU Board of Stuporvisors to vote to allow a Shreveport foundation run by one of the LSU stuporvisors to take over the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe. Alvarez & Kelly performed that bit of work under a $1.7 million contract that ran for nine months in 2009, from Jan. 5 to Sept. 30 (almost $200,000 per month).

Alvarez & Marsal also received a $250,000, contract of a much shorter duration (10 days) from Jindal on April 9, 2013, to develop Jindal’s proposal to eliminate the state income taxes in favor of other tax increases. That quickie, ill-conceived plan was dead on arrival during the legislative session and Jindal quickly punted before a single legislative vote could be taken

But Alvarez & Marsal’s cozy if disastrous relationship with state government goes back further than Jindal, even. http://www.alvarezandmarsal.com/case-study-new-orleans-public-schools It’s a relationship that could become one of the most costly in state history—unless of course, the state chooses to ignore a court judgment in the same manner as it has ignored a $100 million-plus award (now in the neighborhood of a quarter-billion dollars—with judicial interest) stemming from a 1983 class-action flood case in Tangipahoa Parish.

In fact, the state probably has no choice but to ignore the judgment as an alternative to bankrupting the state but that does little to remove the stigma attached to a horrendous decision to accept the recommendation of Alvarez and Marsal which subsequently was rewarded with a $29.1 million three-year state contract from April 4, 2006 to April 3, 2009 to “develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated disaster recovery plan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

In December of 2005, the Orleans Parish School Board adopted Resolution 59-05 on the advice of the crack consulting firm that Jindal somehow thinks is going to be the state’s financial salvation.

That resolution, passed in the aftermath of disastrous Hurricane Katrina was specifically cited in the ruling earlier this week by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal that upheld a lower court decision the school board was wrong to fire 7,500 teachers, effective Jan. 31, 2006. The wording contained in the ruling said:

  • “In December 2005, the OPSB passed Resolution No. 59-05 upon the advice and recommendation of its state-selected and controlled financial consultants, the New York-based firm of Alvarez & Marsal. The Resolution called for the termination of all New Orleans Public School employees placed on unpaid “Disaster Leave” after Hurricane Katrina, to take effect on January 31, 2006.1 On the day that the mass terminations were scheduled to take place, Plaintiffs amended their petition to seek a temporary restraining order preventing the OPSB from terminating all of its estimated 7,500 current employees at the close of business on that day. The trial court granted the TRO and this Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court denied writs on the issue. The TRO was later converted into a preliminary injunction that restrained, enjoined and prohibited the OPSB, et al, from “terminating the employment of Plaintiffs and other New Orleans Public School employees until they are afforded the due process safeguards provided in the Orleans Parish School Board’s Reduction in Force Policy 4118.4.” Nevertheless, Plaintiffs and thousands of other employees were terminated on March 24, 2006, after form letters were mailed to the last known address of all employees of record as of August 29, 2005.”

The appellate court upheld the award of more than $1 million to seven lead plaintiffs in the case of Oliver v. Orleans Parish School Board but adjusted the lower court’s damage award, ordering the school board and the Louisiana Department of Education to pay two years of back pay and benefits and an additional year of back pay and benefits to teachers who meet certain unspecified requirements.

Immediately following Katrina, state-appointed Alvarez and Marsal set up a call center to collect post-Katrina addresses for a majority of staff members in time for the anticipated layoffs. But when the state began the hiring process for schools that had been taken over, the terminated employees were never called, prompting plaintiff attorneys to charge that the entire procedure was intentional and part of the state’s plan to take over the Orleans Parish school system.

Plaintiffs said that then-State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard chose Alvarez & Marsal to prevail upon the school board to replace acting parish Superintendent Ora Watson with an Alvarez & Marsal consultant.

So, Watson was replaced, 7,500 teachers were fired, and the teachers sued and won, leaving the Orleans School Board and the state liable for a billion-five and the firm that started it all is hired by Jindal to find savings of an unspecified amount. What could possibly go wrong?

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Gov. Bobby Jindal has this cool web page on which he is conscientious about posting the latest updates about all the wonderful things going on in Louisiana, thanks in large part to his diligent work on behalf of the state.

The web page, of course, has the requisite “donate” button on which to click to make contributions—ostensibly for his long-anticipated presidential campaign since his last run for governor was more than two years ago and he’s term limited from running again.

The web page is paid for by Friends of Bobby Jindal, Inc., AKA the Committee to Re-Elect Bobby Jindal, Inc. Records filed with the Secretary of State indicate the agent for the organization is David Woolridge of the law firm Roedel, Parsons, Koch, Blanche, Balhoff, and McCollister. Officers include Alexandra “Allee” Bautsch, finance director (also Jindal’s campaign finance director), deputy finance director Erin Riecke, and Melvin Kendal.

Strangely enough, even though Friends of Bobby Jindal solicits contributions through the web page, there apparently have been no campaign finance reports filed with the Louisiana Ethics Commissions. All contributions and expenditures are listed in Jindal’s name individually and not in Friends of Bobby Jindal or the Committee to Re-Elect Bobby Jindal.

You can check out his page right here  http://www.bobbyjindal.com/ to see glowing reports on the following projects:

  • The South African energy company Sasol’s integrated gas-to-liquids and chemicals project n Louisiana was named Foreign Direct Investment Deal of the Year (no mention of how many jobs that would actually produce for the state).
  • Industrial Valve Production Co. Cortec will build a new distribution facility in Louisiana which will create a whopping 70 jobs.
  • A New York Post editorial has praised Jindal for his efforts to crack down on abuse in the state’s food stamp program (abuse, by the way, which pales in comparisons to the costs of that CNSI contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals, corporate tax breaks and legislators recently exposed for using campaign funds to pay for private vehicles, auto insurance, and LSU football tickets).

And while we certainly appreciate his dedication to keeping us informed, we can’t help but notice that he missed a couple of recent developments. And because we’re here to help, we are more than happy to fill in the blanks so that you, the reader, may remain informed about our state.

  • Speaking of CNSI, writer Michael Volpe penned an interesting story on Friday, Nov. 22 when he wrote that CNSI, one of the subcontractors working on the Obamacare website, is currently under investigation by the FBI in Louisiana and is currently embroiled in legal disputes over services provided to the states of South Dakota, Illinois and Michigan. Jindal’s former DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein was formerly employed by CNSI and it has been revealed that he was in constant contact with company officials in the days leading up to its selection for the $800 million contract. http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/22/subcontractor-working-on-obamacare-site-under-fbi-investigation/
  • While Mississippi was chosen as assembly sites for Airbus Aircraft and Nissan and Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai have built assembly plants in Alabama, the five facilities employing thousands (compared to 70 for Industrial Valve Production Co. Cortec), GM closed its Shreveport truck assembly plant.
  • For anyone who has ever wondered what the job of the Louisiana Attorney General is, consider this: the Evangeline Parish Police Jury, obviously with little to do about road maintenance in Evangeline, has asked the AG’s office for a legal opinion as to whether or not a rooster is a chicken (brings to mind the story about the child asking his mother if chickens are born. “No, chickens are hatched from an egg,” his mother said. “Was I hatched from an egg?” “No, you were born.” “Are eggs born?” “No, eggs are laid.” “Are people laid?” “Some are; others are chicken.”). State law, it seems, prohibits staging fights between “any bird which is of the species Gallus gallus. Proponents of cockfighting maintain their birds are of a species other than Gallus gallus and the AG has been asked to weigh in on the matter. (Sigh.).
  • That sink hole in Assumption Parish continues to expand with no indication from the fourth floor of the State Capitol that there is any concern on the part of the governor for the plight of all those displaced residents.
  • Our friend Don Whittinghill, who provided us the information on the auto assembly plants in Mississippi and Alabama, also provided another interest tidbit missing from Jindal’s web page: Last year, 91,215 people moved to Louisiana while 95,958 left for greener pastures—a net loss of 4,741 people. This could be related to Louisiana’s construction job growth of 8.3 percent compared to a 19.1 percent gain by Mississippi.
  • Louisiana is ranked as the seventh-worst governed state in the nation, according to the financial news site 24/7 Wall Street. The survey’s results are based on financial data, services provided by the state and residents’ standard of living. The state’s budget deficit of 25.1 percent was the fourth largest in the nation, ranking behind (in order) New Jersey (37.5 percent), Nevada (37 percent), and California (27.8 percent). The national average budget gap was 15.5 percent. The percentage of citizens living below the poverty line (19.9 percent) was third highest, surpassed only by Mississippi (24.2 percent) and New Mexico (20.8 percent), and the state’s median household income of $42,944 was eighth lowest in the nation. Moreover, nearly 500 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012 made Louisiana one of the most dangerous states in which to live.

So, Governor, we know you are a busy man, flitting all over the country to appear on CNN and Faux News, writing all those provocative op-eds in the Washington Post about how all the other Republicans (except you, of course) are a bunch of children whose hand you feel compelled to hold while leading them out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land.

We know you have all you can do in your efforts to climb from the bottom of the pile of potential GOP presidential contenders and that your sending Timmy Teepell to help get Neil Riser elected to Congress kind of blew up in your face—like that governor’s race in Virginia.

So, we want you to know, we’ve got your back.

We promise to keep a dutiful watch on your web blog and when we discover an omission in your superb coverage of all that’s good and wonderful in this state, we’ll be sure and jump in and fill the gap.

That’s the least we can do.

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It’s easy to sit back and take pot shots at those in charge so when I recently said Gov. Bobby Jindal was out of touch, perhaps I was remiss in not offering solutions as to how he could regain the connection with the average working people of the state he purports to govern, often from the New York studios of Faux News or the latest conclave of Republican governors.

You know the people I’m talking about: those who congregate each Sunday in the Protestant churches of north Louisiana—those same churches that Jindal used to visit during his first term of office but hasn’t since—and who returned to the drudgery of their workaday jobs on Monday morning while Jindal basked in the glowing praise of the usual cast of sycophants.

My neglect in offering suggestions for Jindal and Co. to overcome their respective psychopathic behavior was brought home to me by Robert Mann in his recent blog Something Like the Truth about Jindal’s “Poverty of Compassion,” in which he said he has often wondered why Jindal “is so apathetic about the plight of the working poor.”

Mann said Jindal, speaking at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) during its “American Comeback” project, said when he was born his dad had no medical insurance and paid for little Bobby’s delivery on the installment plan. “And the doctor was willing to do that,” he said in explaining why Daddy did not need health insurance. “He didn’t want help from the government,” he told his fellow GOP governors, to what almost certainly was enthusiastic applause.

So the obvious lesson here is if you need a heart, lung, or kidney transplant or if neurosurgery is necessary, you don’t need insurance. All you need is an understanding surgeon, team of nurses, anesthesiologist and other OR personnel who are willing to tote the note for a few decades—or longer.

Well, that little episode certainly sheds a glaring light on Jindal’s psyche. Perhaps he was taking his cue from Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman’s aide Donny Ferguson, who in June boasted that he took the challenge of trying to feed himself on the $31.50 per week level of SNAP food stamp benefits under the Farm Bill—and actually got by on $27.58.

Anyone can pull that off—for one week, as this clown did. A gallon of milk, peanut butter, crackers a few canned biscuits, sardines, bologna and bread, and anyone can get by for a week.

But why doesn’t Ferguson try that little ploy for a year or longer? Why doesn’t he do it permanently, the way the real people on SNAP do? The Spam might lose some of its appeal as a publicity stunt. He might switch the peanut butter for a package of those Kraft American Cheese slices—you know the ones that used to advertise five ounces of milk in ever two-thirds-ounce slice (I actually called the Kraft advertising agency once to ask how they did that. There was a long pause on the other end of the line before the Madison Avenue shill declared, “Oh, you want American; I’m in cheddar.”). But even those cheese slices will get old before too long.

So, after making that suggestion to Ferguson, I’ve decided to offer the same solution to Jindal and his minions. All he and his cadre of confidants have to do is get back to the roots they never knew: the hardscrabble life of long hours and low pay of 19.9 percent of Louisiana citizens living in poverty (second highest in the nation), many of whom do work but at minimum wage jobs with no benefits.

Here are some choice jobs I’ve found for Jindal and select members of his cabinet:

  • Superintendent of Education John White: Since Wal-Mart is out front in bankrolling pseudo education reform, White seems the ideal candidate for a Wal-Mart greeter as he forgoes his $275,000-a-year salary;
  • Jindal’s Assistant Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin: Pizza delivery boy for Domino’s because he already carries Jindal’s water for him and the Domino’s pay would be closer to his actual worth instead of the $110,000 he now makes;
  • Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols: Her $162,700 salary is completely disproportionate to her actual worth at her new job as a hostess for a Cracker Barrel Restaurant.
  • Dr. Christopher Rich approves workers compensation claims at a pathetically low rate of 14 percent—at $225,000 per year. He appears more qualified to transport claimants as a passenger van driver for a cut-rate chiropractor’s office;
  • Jimmy Faircloth has raked in more than a million dollars while losing court cases for the state, making him more realistically suited to run cheesy TV ads as a personal injury lawyer in Paincourtville (that’s a real town in Assumption Parish, by the way—and aptly named);
  • Jan Kosofsky, Executive Director and Deputy Director Carol Nacoste of the Capital Area Human Services District have received raises of $21,000 and $15,000, to bump their salaries up to $189,500 and $142,000, respectively, since 2011 while the remaining 200 agency employees received no salary increases. For that little indiscretion, they are infinitely more qualified to work as worm counters in a bait stand on Bayou Corne (site of that expanding sinkhole in Assumption Parish). My first job as a 12-year-old growing up in Ruston, LA., was counting worms at a bait stand out on Cooktown Road. Clarence Cooley paid me five cents per each 100-count carton filled (He sold them for 50 cents each) and my standing instructions were to always throw in a few extra to keep the customers happy. I generally made about $5 per Saturday;
  • Public Service Commission (PSC) member Scott Angelle, who resigned his $129,000-a-year job as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the wake of that sinkhole at Bayou Corne to run for the PSC rather than stay and address the problem. He is hereby reassigned to clean porta-potties at construction sites around Baton Rouge;
  • Joe Namath once called sportswriters “$125 a week jerks.” That seems a tad inflated for Timmy Teepell, but he can be the sports editor of the Grand Coteau Weekly World News Guardian Tribune Shopper.
  • And saving the best for last, Gov. Bobby Jindal hereby relinquishes his $130,000-a-year job in favor of plucking chickens at that Foster Farms poultry processing plant in Farmerville in Union Parish—the one for whom Jindal orchestrated a $50 million infusion of state money as repayment for a generous campaign contribution so that 65 percent of the plant’s 950 employees can drive the few miles from Arkansas to Farmerville to work in the Louisiana taxpayer-supported plant.

I haven’t attempted to assign all of Jindal’s cabinet members with special employment because jobs are scarce and not everyone can find employment. Accordingly, those who are not assigned jobs are going to have to accept meager unemployment benefits—and apply for food stamps.

These new assignments should put officials of this administration in touch with those who put them in office—the people who thought Jindal represented a new day in Louisiana politics only to find that the man they elected cares first and foremost for his own political fortunes and little for those who elected him.

Jindal has forgotten those who believed in him—if he ever thought of them in the first place. Perhaps living their lives—for more than a week the way Donny Ferguson did—might make him more appreciative of the great unwashed.

Or perhaps not.

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BATON ROUGE (CNS)—The Walton Family Foundation, already the largest single donor to Teach for America (TFA), recently committed an additional $20 million to recruit, train and place an another 4,000 unqualified teachers in America’s classrooms.

That includes $3 million to the New Orleans region, administered by one Kira Orange Jones who sits on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) which just happens to be the agency that contracts with TFA for those novice teachers.

In case you live in a cave, the Walton Family Foundation is the benevolent offshoot of Wal-Mart, one of the most successful retail businesses in American history but which is alone responsible for the demise of more neighborhood mom and pop stores than any one factor since the Great Depression—all while enjoying the benefit of almost $100 million in various tax breaks in 19 Louisiana cities, according to incomplete figures that do not include newer state stores.

More on that later.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics, apparently kept in the dark as to Jones’ title of Executive Director of the New Orleans TFA regional office, ruled that her serving on BESE was not a conflict because her salary was not affected by the contracts with the state.

The ethics board member—its vice chairman—who lulled the board into believing she was a mere rank and file employee of TFA, has since resigned after it was revealed that he had his own conflict as a legal counsel for Tulane University which also had a contract with TFA.

LouisianaVoice recently obtained through a public records request of the Department of Education (DOE) copies of three separate contracts between DOE’s Recovery School District (RSD) and TFA. Two of those contracts, dated in September of 2009 and 2011, were signed by Kira Orange Jones, complete with the notation beneath her signature identifying her as “Executive Director.”

Exercising a bit more caution in 2012, the contract was signed by Michael Tipton, Jones’ boss.

Those contracts, by the way, called for the state to pay TFA up to $5,000 per teacher provided for RSD—up to 40 teachers—and RSD would then be required to pay their salaries.

TFA alumnus Jack Carey, vice president of the greater New Orleans program said the money would fund more than 500 positions in the 2013 to 2015 school years, though with the state paying that generous “finder’s fee,” and local school boards paying the salaries, it’s rather difficult to imagine why an additional $3 million is needed other than to surmise the whole TFA thing is one gigantic scam designed to line someone’s pockets. That “someone” would be someone other than Louisiana teachers who have invested thousands of dollars on bachelor’s, master’s, and plus-30s and even Ph.Ds., but suddenly find themselves taking a back seat to those who train for five weeks over the summer to become teachers.

But it’s not only established teachers who take a dim view of TFA. Many of TFA’s own alumni are critical of the organization to which they once pledged their loyalty.

http://truth-out.org/articles/item/17750-teach-for-america-apostates-a-primer-of-alumni-resistance

One former TFA teacher now says that the organization glosses over issues of race and inequality but “fits very nicely into an overall strategy of privatizing education and diminishing critical thinking.”

Whenever a TFA teacher begins to questions the motives and intent of the program, “The staff would get together and talk about how to handle these people,” another former TFA member says. “They’d plunk him down with groups of ‘stronger corps members’ to improve his attitude” by “trying to further indoctrinate others and myself.”

Yet another dissident said he no longer recognized TFA. “All I see is a bunch of liars who are getting themselves rich and powerful. They just can’t stop lying.” He added that TFA refuses to recognize established evidence that a child’s socioeconomic level at birth better predicts his future tax bracket and educational attainment than how well her teachers prepare him for standardized tests.

“We really get to know what schools across our community need in the way of high-quality teachers,” Carey said, “and we work with them over the course of a year to understand their needs and help make great matches.”

Wow. How noble.

But perhaps Mr. Carey has not taken a trip down to the Ninth Ward to George Washington Carver High School.

I have.

Has Kira Orange Jones toured Carver High?

I have.

Washington Carver High School is the alma mater of Marshall Faulk, Heisman Trophy runner-up at San Diego State and all-pro running back for the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams (where he won a Super Bowl).

But you’d never know it.

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the entire Ninth Ward, the school still has not been rebuilt. Today, it consists entirely of T-buildings. Superintendent of Education John White’s annual report, released last February, lists Carver as among the schools scheduled for new construction. Even though the proposed construction is to be funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), no steps have actually been taken to start construction other than the naming of two architectural firms. No contractor, though, eight years post-Katrina.

The football weight room is pathetic, consisting of three or four weight benches any other school would have thrown out years ago. There is no cover for the foam padding on the benches—padding that is crumbling. And the players’ lockers consist of plastic bins scattered across the floor—easy pickings for anyone who wanted to steal a watch or an i-Pod.

No one visiting the T-building weight room would ever believe that an NFL Super Bowl player once escaped the Desire Housing Project by playing his high school ball here.

Despite these conditions, George Washington Carver made it to the quarter-final round of the state high school football playoffs last year.

But far worse than the deplorable athletic facilities eight years post-Katrina is the fact that incredulous as it may sound, the school has no library.

Let that sink in. There is a public high school in Louisiana today that does not have a library.

Yet John White and Bobby Jindal and BESE President Chas Roemer would have us believe they’re all about education.

Gov. Jindal, Superintendent White, Chas Roemer, BESE member/TFA Director Kira Jones: what say you to the revelation that a public high school has allowed to exist under your watch that has no library? A school comprised exclusively of T-buildings? We’d love to hear your take on this. But please don’t hide behind Kyle Plotkin or your respective public relations sycophants in your response. (Surely is quiet; are those crickets we hear chirping?)

And so the Walton Family Foundation goes about with its press releases that glorify its generosity on behalf of education.

In truth, the Walton Family Foundation is all about the Waltons. TFA is simply the vehicle by which the Waltons try to put on their civic face. They are probably among the least civic minded of all.

Remember those patriotic television ads of a few years back when Wal-Mart was all about “American made” products? How long has it been since you’ve seen one of those ads? But we do hear about Bangladesh sweat shops collapsing on workers even as they turn out products for Wal-Mart.

And we hear plenty about how Wal-Mart exploits its U.S. workers with low wages and no benefits—all so it can keep corporate earnings up and competition out.

Wal-Mart is all about tax credits and making money. Here are 20 examples of economic development subsidies in 19 Louisiana cities, subsidies that total $96.5 million (the figures are probably higher because it’s virtually impossible to get updated figures from the Louisiana Department of Economic Development):

  • Abbeville: $1.665 million;
  • Alexandria: $2.5 million;
  • Bossier City: $1.7 million;
  • East Baton Rouge: $1.385 million;
  • Hammond: $1.365 million;
  • Monroe (Supercenter): $840,000;
  • Monroe (former discount store) $3.09 million;
  • Natchitoches: $1.5 million;
  • New Orleans: $7 million (estimate);
  • Opelousas (distribution center): $33 million;
  • Port Allen: $1 million;
  • Robert (distribution center): more than $21 million;
  • Ruston: more than $947,000;
  • Shreveport: $6.3 million;
  • St. Martinville: $3.725 million;
  • Sulphur: $1.8 million;
  • Vidalia: up to $1.65 million.

Wal-Mart’s expansion has been made possible to a large extent by the generous use of public money. This includes more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing and outright grants from state and local governments, though the precise figures aren’t always available.

That’s because in Ruston, for example, the total subsidy was more than $947,000. That included a $647,000 enterprise zone tax break, plus $300,000 from the city in infrastructure improvements around the site through a state grant. But the city also made $12 million in road improvements throughout the area through a sales tax increment financing district. But since the district includes neighboring developments and because other area businesses benefitted from the road improvements, the benefits to Wal-Mart were impossible to quantify.

In addition, Louisiana Wal-Mart stores also receive about $5.4 million a year from a state policy that allows stories to keep a portion of the sales tax they collect from customers.

So, while the Walton Family Foundation gives itself a metaphoric pat on the back with its news release trumpeting its $20 million gift to TFA ($3 million allocated to Louisiana), it conveniently ignores how it has managed more than a billion dollars in tax dodges (nearly $100 million in Louisiana)—money that could have been used to support education.

Like perhaps permanent buildings, including a library, at George Washington Carver High School.

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For eight months, from Oct. 16, 2012, until June 28, Gov. Bobby Jindal had a director of his re-election committee on the state payroll overseeing state boards and commissions, according to state records.

The duties of Kendal Melvin, director of the Department of Boards and Commissions, was reassigned to Kyle Plotkin, communications director for the governor’s office, according to an announcement by Jindal on Friday, June 28. Plotkin was promoted by Jindal to Assistant Chief of Staff at that time and was given the supervision of state boards and commissions.

Plotkin was given a pay increase, from $90,000 to $110,000 to assume the additional duties, according to Jindal press secretary Sean Lansing.

Melvin, a Vermont native, was initially hired as Director of the Department of Boards and Commissions on Oct. 16, 2012, at a salary of $70,000 per year.

But records provided by the Secretary of State show that she was simultaneously serving as a director of the Committee to Re-elect Bobby Jindal.

Before becoming a state employee, she was on Jindal’s campaign payroll at annual salary of $44,578, according to Jindal’s campaign expenditure report. Her last paycheck from the campaign was for $1,711.86 on Oct. 15, 2012, the day before she went onto the state payroll, records show.

Each of her 46 checks from Jindal’s campaign between Jan. 14, 2011 and Oct. 15, 2012 was issued to her home address in Barre, Vermont, records show, a possible indication that she never moved her legal address to Louisiana even though she was working here.

Her hiring would again raise the question of why, if Jindal really wants to keep Louisiana’s best and brightest in the state as he says, does he continue to go out of state to hire many of his top appointees? Plotkin, for example, is from New Jersey and Jindal policy director Stafford Palmieri is from New York.

Jindal was re-elected in October of 2011 but his committee has continued to function, even filing an annual report on Jan. 10 of this year that showed Melvin was still a committee director.

All campaign expenditures however, are listed in the State Ethics Commission’s campaign finance records in Jindal’s name but no expenditures are listed for either the Committee to Re-elect Bobby Jindal or Friends of Bobby Jindal, the committee’s original name when it was first incorporated in January of 2004.

Jindal entered the 2011 election with nearly $9 million in his campaign treasury and facing only token opposition, so it naturally generates questions as to why his campaign committee remains active, even to the point of filing an annual report in January, instead of disbanding.

Since his re-election, Jindal has continued to collect more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions, leading to renewed speculation about his intentions to seek national office. He is presently 18 months into his second term and is constitutionally prohibited from seeking re-election.

What other reason could explain the need to continue fund raising, especially the $35,000 he raised in New York on a single day—Oct. 25, 2012? His 2012 inauguration, for example, only cost his campaign $156,000.

But an even bigger question is why an active director of Jindal’s campaign committee would be allowed to simultaneously draw a state paycheck for eight months.

State Civil Service rules generally prohibit state classified employees from engaging in political activity. Unclassified employees, however, may participate in political activities so long as such activity is carried out on the employee’s own time. (emphasis ours.)

Melvin was an unclassified, or appointed, employee.

A second question would be how Plotkin could assume assistant chief of staff duties and the directorship of Melvin’s department at an additional salary of only $20,000 compared to the $70,000 paid Melvin for a single function.

Put another way, how is it that Melvin required $70,000 to perform her job and Plotkin was able to absorb that and the assistant chief of staff’s duties for $50,000 less than her former salary for her one job?

Those questions were submitted via email to Plotkin but an automated response said he was out of the office until Monday, July 8. The automated response directed all questions to Sean Lansing of the governor’s office.

Accordingly, the questions were then directed to Lansing, who never responded.

What exactly is the Department of Boards and Commissions anyway, other than an obscure agency tucked away within the Executive Branch?

Basically, it is charged with the responsibility of processing and retaining records of all appointments made by the governor. The St. Peter of Louisiana boards and commissions, if you will.

So the department director is essentially the gatekeeper for all the boards and commissions (and there are many of them) to which the governor may appoint favored campaign contributors—which may go a long way in answering the second question because the job’s duties otherwise appear to be quite mundane.

Who better then to head up the department than a director of his re-election campaign? Such an individual theoretically would know who to reach out and touch for contributions and to not-so-subtly remind them to whom they owe their appointments to prestigious state boards and commissions.

During her tenure at the department, which began a full year after Jindal’s re-election, Jindal received more than $585,000 in campaign contributions, at least $42,000 of that from nine of his appointees to state boards and commissions. Those include:

• Tony Clayton, Southern University Board of Supervisors: $5,000;

• Charlotte Bollinger, State Board of Regents: $5,000;

• Carl Shetler, University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors: $5,000;

• William J. Dore, Sr., Southern States Energy Board: $5,000;

• Dave Roberts, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Super Dome) Board: $5,000;

• Hank Danos, LSU Board of Supervisors: $5,000;

• Lee Mallett, LSU Board of Supervisors: $5,000;

• Blake Chatelain, LSU Board of Supervisors: two contributions totaling $2,000;

• Moore Investments (James Moore), LSU Board of Supervisors: $5,000.

Between Jindal’s re-election in October of 2011 and Melvin’s appointment to her state position in October of 2012, Jindal raked in a little more than $1 million, including $76,500 from eight appointees to boards and commissions. The bulk of that $76,500 came from $50,000 in 10 separate contributions from Board of Commerce and Industry member Bryan Bossier of Alexandria, family members and assorted businesses run by him.

The web page for the department features a question and answer section about the procedure for applying for appointment to a board or commission. Call us cynical, but we have taken the liberty of adding our own tongue-in-cheek answers (in parentheses and italics) to those provided by the department:

• (Q): How do I apply for a position on a board of commission?

• (A): Submit an official application, along with a letter stating why you are qualified or experienced in the area of the board’s activity. (read: Submit an official application, along with a letter stating your net worth and how much, in terms of contributions, you are willing to give);

• (Q): What happens after I submit an application to the Governor’s office?

• (A): When it is time for the Governor to make an appointment, an analysis is presented that includes the statutory restrictions and information on professional or personal experience either necessary or preferable to the board’s function. The analysis is reviewed and applicants screened. The Governor then makes his selections. (read: When it is time for the Governor to make an appointment, all political contributions are taken into consideration along with those of other applicants. The comparisons are reviewed and the Governor makes his selection based on the amount contributed by each applicant);

• (Q): How do I know if I am eligible to be appointed?

• (A): Most of the seats on the boards and commissions are restricted by statutes. You can research boards and commissions and the laws that govern them on the Internet. You may apply for any boards or commissions that interest you. Please specify your first and second choices. (read: Most of the seats on the boards and commissions are doled out on the basis of the applicant’s financial stability and willingness to contribute to the Governor’s campaign and on the applicant’s willingness to vote in the manner dictated by the Governor, with no questions asked or by asking only those questions approved in advanced and passed on to the member by the Governor’s staff).

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Copyright Tom Aswell 2013

It’s interesting to watch legislators beat their breasts over pay raises that some state agencies awarded to classified (civil service) employees in light of their past ambivalence when the Jindal administration pumped up the payroll with highly-paid unclassified political appointees.

Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon and Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain, for example, gave 4 percent raises to their rank and file classified employees—$540,000 in raises in the case of the Insurance Department that Donelon said came from self-generated funds from his office.

Strain and Donelon said they gave the raises because he had the money in his budget and that he was required to either give the raises or sign a civil service letter certifying that there were no funds available.

That didn’t stop Reps. Simone Champagne (R-Erath) and John Schroder (R-Covington) from criticizing the pay bumps because there have been no across the board merit increases in state government for more than four years now. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/03/la_statewide_elected_officials.html

But where have they been the past couple of years as Jindal appointed one washed-up legislator after another to six-figure deadhead jobs in state agencies like Insurance, Revenue, Veterans Affairs, Home Security and others while rank and file employees—the ones who do the work— continue into their fifth year with no raise at an average salary of a little under $40,000? http://louisianavoice.com/2012/02/

For that matter, where have any of the legislators been as the Department of Education has continued unabated in its relentless drive to pad its payroll with six-figure sycophants?

Are Gov. Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White so arrogant or so out of touch that they feel they can continue to load the state payroll with top-heavy, largely out-of-state political appointees—many of whom, it turns out don’t even bother to register to vote in Louisiana or comply with state law that requires that they change their vehicle registrations within certain specified deadlines—without the public or media noticing?

A quick peek indicates that some of the unclassified salaries seem to proliferate in the Department of Education:

• John White, Superintendent: $275,000;

• Michael Rounds, Deputy Superintendent: $170,000;

• Howard Drake and Gayle Sloan, Liaison Officers: $160,000 each;

• Kerry Laster, Executive Officer: $155,000;

• David Lefkowith, precise title still a mystery: $146,000;

• Kunjan Narechania, Chief of Staff to John White: $145,000;

• Gary Jones, Executive Officer: $145,000;

• Deirdre Finn, part time PR Director (working from home in Tallahassee, FL.): $144,000;

• James P. Wilson, Director (of what?): $142,000;

• Melissa Stilley, Liaison Officer: $135,000;

• Elizabeth Scioneaux, Deputy Superintendent: $132,800;

• Debra Schum, Executive Officer: $132,000;

• Hannah Dietsch, Assistant Superintendent (someone please explain the difference between an assistant superintendent and a deputy superintendent.): $130,000;

• Nicholas Bolt, Deputy Chief of Staff (as opposed to assistant chief of staff): $105,000.

Perhaps you may have noticed in that lengthy laundry list of high-paying position, there was not a single name followed by the title “Instructor” or any other title that would indicate classroom experience.

But even with all the featherbedding at DOE, there’s one appointment in particular in the Division of Administration (DOA) that stands out as the poster child for Jindal cronyism.

Last Dec. 3, Jan Cassidy was hired by DOA as Assistant Commissioner in Procurement and Technology at an annual salary of $150,000. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jan-cassidy/6/4aa/703

It was not immediately clear what she is supposed to procure since a statewide expenditure freeze was in place at the time of her hiring. Moreover, technology, in theory at least, is handled by the Office of Computing Services.

The fact that Cassidy is the sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy is enough to raise eyebrows in some quarters. Bill Cassidy last year hired Jindal aide and former campaign manager Tim Teepell and his company, OnMessage, for his re-election campaign. Teepell was hired by the Washington-area political consulting firm to head up its Southern Office which Teepell appears to run out of the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. Cassidy later terminated his relationship with Teepell and OnMessage. No explanation was given.

Jan Cassidy worked for Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for 20 months, from June 2009 to January 2011 and for 23 months, from January 2011 to November 2012 for Xerox after Xerox purchased ACS.

As Xerox Vice President—State of Louisiana Client Executive, her tenure was during a time that the company held two large contracts with the state.

The first was a $20 million contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) that ran from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011. That contract called for Xerox to provide “assessment, reassessment and care planning to individuals seeking and receiving long term personal care services.” The contract, which paid Xerox $834,000 per month, also required the company to disseminate “appropriate notices to recipients relative to these aforementioned services.

The contract was funded 50 percent by the state and 50 percent from federal funds—despite Jindal’s professed disdain for federal funds.

The second contract of $74.5 million, 100 percent of which was funded by a federal community development block grant and which ran from March 27, 2009 to March 26, 2012,, required ACS/Xerox to administer a small rental property program to help hurricane damaged parishes recover rental units.

Cassidy’s responsibilities while at Xerox called for her to “facilitate development and progress of ‘Louisiana Model’ into other states,” according to information contained in her internet biography.

During her 20 months with ACS, from June 2009 to January 2011, she was Regional Vice President of Business Development. Her web page says that while at ACS, she “generated new business in state governments within the central region of the United States.”

A search of the state contract data base by LouisianaVoice turned up four contracts with ACS totaling $45.55 million and campaign finance reports revealed ACS political contributions of $17,500 to Louisiana candidates, including three contributions totaling $10,000 to Jindal.

One of those contracts, which expired on Dec. 31, 2012, called for ACS to provide actuary and consulting services to the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and Buck Consultants during the administration’s efforts to privatize OGB at a contract cost of $2 million. That is in addition to what the state paid Buck for its work which in the final analysis, did not support the administration’s efforts which were nevertheless successful.

Current state contracts with ACS/Xerox include:

$600,000 with between DOA and ACS Human Resources Solutions and Buck Consultants to assist in advising DOA with regard to public retirement systems and insurance benefits for public employees (June 1, 2011 to June 1, 2013);

$13.95 million with the Department of Social Services to provide electronic benefits transfer system (July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2009);

$28.9 million with DHH to provide information and referral services to people seeking long term care services (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014; 50 percent federal, 50% state funding).

But while Jan Cassidy’s work for a company with more than $120 million in state contracts and her relationship as Bill Cassidy’s sister-in-law might be enough to raise eyebrows among observers of Louisiana politics, the track record of ACS in other governmental contracts beyond the state’s borders should certainly prompt hard questions:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a vocal critic of Obamacare as a “failed program,” had his Health and Human Services Commission contract with ACS for that state’s Medicaid dental program. That contract quadrupled to $1.4 billion as Texas Medicaid spent more on braces in 2010 ($184 million) than did the other 49 states combined. But an audit found that 90 percent of reimbursement requests involved procedures not covered by Medicaid, which does not fund cosmetic dentistry. The Wall Street Journal said statewide fraud reached hundreds of millions of dollars. ACS spent more than $6.9 million in lobbying Texas politicians from 2002 to 2012 and contributed $150,000 to Perry. Because ACS contracts to process Medicaid claims for several states, including Louisiana, one investigator indicated the problem may run much deeper than that found in Texas. http://info.tpj.org/Lobby_Watch/pdf/MedicaidDentalFraud.pdf
http://www.wfaa.com/news/investigates/Texas-Medicaid-Problems-May-Apply-To-Country–133719543.html

In Alabama, Carol Steckel, then the director of the state Medicaid agency, awarded a $3.7 million contract to ACS in 2007 even though the ACS bid was $500,000 more than the next bid. ACS, however, had a decided edge: it hired Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s former chief of staff Toby Roth. And Carol Steckel? She now works as chief of Louisiana’s DHH Center for Health Care Innovation and Technology. http://www.ihealthbeat.org/articles/2007/8/22/Alabama-Contract-for-Medicaid-Database-Sparks-Controversy.aspx
http://harpers.org/blog/2007/09/the-inside-track-to-contracts-in-alabama/

In Washington, D.C., the Department of Motor Vehicles reimbursed $17.8 million to persons wrongly given parking tickets. The contractor that operated the District’s ticket processing? ACS. http://www.questia.com/library/1G1-86379580/overbilled-drivers-to-get-cash-back-dmv-plans-to

In June of 2007, ACS agreed to pay the federal government $2.6 million to settle allegations that it had submitted inflated charges for services provided through the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Labor, and Health and Human Services. ACS admitted that it had submitted inflated claims to a local agency that delivered services to workers using funds provided by the three federal agencies. http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2007/07/11/acs-settles-federal-fraud-case.aspx

In 2010, ACS settled charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had backdated stock option grants to its officers and employees. http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2010/lr21643.htm
Jan Cassidy also worked for 19 years, from 1986 to 2005, with Unisys Corp. where she led a team of sales professionals marketing hardware and systems applications, “as well as consulting services to Louisiana State Government,” according to her website.

Unisys had five separate state contracts from 2002 to 2009 totaling $53.9 million, the largest of which ($21 million) was with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and which was originally signed to run from April 1, 2008 through Nov. 30, 2009, but which the state cancelled in April of 2009.

The contract was for work to upgrade the state computer system that dealt with driver’s licenses, vehicle titles and other related issues within Louisiana’s Office of Motor Vehicles. http://www.wafb.com/global/story.asp?s=10152623

State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson cancelled the contract, telling legislators that he was dissatisfied with the work and that he believed his staff could complete the project.

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While the Jindal administration has said nothing publicly, more major changes may be in the offing with the merger of departments of three major agencies as a means of further reducing the number of state employees, according to confidential state sources.

A public meeting was held two weeks ago among workers in one of the agencies to be affected by the proposed merger of human resources, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).

The immediate goal is apparently to lay off about one-third of the staff of the agencies being merged. Initial reports indicate that DEQ and DNR will merge their human resources and information technology sections.

The move is anticipated to save about $3 million, one source told LouisianaVoice.

Other changes as yet unconfirmed have the human resources section of the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) being moved under the Division of Administration along with five departments of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB).

Efforts at creating a state Environmental Protection Agency in 1972 failed and much of the enforcement of environmental violations was left to LDWF and DNR. It wasn’t until 1984 that DEQ was officially created during former Gov. Dave Treen’s administration to relieve the other two agencies of their enforcement responsibilities and moved its offices from the DNR building.

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