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Remember the angst over the temporary shutdown of the Louisiana Department of Education’s (LDOE) web page a little over a week ago because the Division of Administration (D)A) had neglected to pay the $280 bill for the domain subscription?

It was a “technical glitch,” we were assured by DOA Director of Communications Meghan Parrish. “This was not purposeful,” she said, and not part of the ongoing Common Core catfight between those two behemoths of machoism, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Superintendent of Education—“Dude, you are my recharger”—John White.

Well, we were prepared to give the administration the benefit of the doubt that it was simply an oversight and not, as White claimed, because of the state’s refusal to make payments. We are, after all, reasonable and we understand that sometimes things slip through the cracks—even as Jindal was careful to take the necessary steps to strip LDOE and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from employing legal counsel to sue the governor.

Never mind that the governor has now moved forward with his own lawsuit against the federal government over Common Core. Apparently, while he doesn’t want to be a defendant over Common Core, he has no problem being a plaintiff and thereby further enriching his own legal counsel Jimmy Faircloth with at least $300,000 more of your taxpayer dollars in addition to more than a $1 million he has already been paid in other lost causes as, in the words of Bob Mann on last Friday’s Jim Engster Show, “the most successful loser” in Louisiana legal circles. http://wrkf.org/post/friday-bob-mann-carley-mccord (move your curser to the 19:40 minute of the show for the quote.)

But now LouisianaVoice has learned of a much more serious situation involving non-payment of electric and natural gas utilities at the Bridge City Youth Center a couple of months back.

Also surfacing are reports that despite assurances of Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols to the contrary, the administration and its $7.5 million hired gun Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) aren’t nearly as concerned about the welfare of 230,000 enrollees in the state’s Group Benefits program as they would have you believe.

A&M was initially hired for $4.2 million but the contract has been illegally amended—does this administration give a damn about the State Constitution?—at least twice in violation of the 10 percent maximum over which legislative concurrence is required (though neither Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, nor House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, seems to possess sufficient spinal makeup to hold the governor accountable on that little technicality).

A&M, probably best described as McKinsey Lite, is charged with trying to find $500 million—an updated number by the Baton Rouge Advocate puts the amount at $1 billion—in savings over five years. Its consultants have swooped into state agencies with their iPads and Smartphones and their instant expertise.

The problem is that neither A&M nor its army of consultants has ever run a business; they have never run a state agency; they have never interacted with the very people whose lives they are consulting to impact in a very adverse way. Yet incredibly, with all that proficiency and foolproof know-how gleaned from literally days and even a week or two of studying theoretical scenarios for each agency visited, the most consistent solution to cost cutting is: “Lay off personnel, reduce your workforce.”

A&M does have one thing that is critical to its mission: the full blessings of Bobby Jindal and that apparently is all that matters. The human element is not a factor in this pathetic exercise. That’s because Jindal himself is not human; he’s a droid, devoid of compassion or feelings and programmed to spew statistics and factoids at such a rapid pace as to trick the listener into mistaking rote recitation for intelligence.

And if he believes he can fool the national media the way he has the Louisiana media, we can assure him that task will keep him busier than a one-legged tap dancer. He will have greater success shoveling water with a pitchfork.

But we digress. Because A&M is banking on motion being interpreted as progress, it has come in and created a lot of dust, wind and noise, but little substance. Conflicts were inevitable and shouting matches have erupted in various agencies between professionals who know their jobs and pseudo-professionals who are deep on theory but short on practicality. Or who, in the words of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards in her characterization of George W. Bush, are “all hat and no cattle.”

Faced with protests by agency heads over the impossibility of meeting payroll after A&M imposed cuts, the A&M suits invariably offered the same adolescent solution of firing workers.

And for that we’re paying $7.5 million?

And now those 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents covered by the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) are facing what Kristy Kreme Nichols calls the “right-sizing of benefits to costs.” http://theadvocate.com/home/10132562-171/state-employee-insurance-changing Translated, that simply means an average 47 percent increase, including higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, including 100 percent higher co-pays and new and higher deductibles. Let’s not forget, most state employees will get their first pay increase in 5-6 years – 4 percent – just in time to meet those higher insurance expenses. Interesting timing.

One of our readers correctly pointed out that Naomi Kline, in her book The Shock Doctrine, lays out the game plan now being followed to the letter by Jindal and his $7.5 million consulting firm. It should come as no surprise that the A&M suits are smugly referring to the upcoming Oct. 1-Oct. 31 open enrollment as “War Games.”

War Games? Yes, War Games. To them, it’s just a way of keeping score with the fate of state employees, retirees and dependents as only an asterisk, an afterthought.

That is, after all, what this administration is all about: Jindal and his boot lickers against state workers; Republicans against the middle class. And if you don’t believe it is true class warfare, we invite you to read another book by Hedrick Smith, Who Stole the American Dream?

Smith includes in the appendix of his book the August 1971 Lewis Powell memo to the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that set in motion the creation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Cato Institute, and Americans for Prosperity and the eventual steamrolling of the American middle class by Corporate America. Barely three months after writing that blueprint for the consolidation of corporate America’s power over our government, Richard Nixon appointed Powell to the U.S. Supreme Court. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/

Meanwhile, there’s the matter of that unpaid utility bill at the Bridge City Youth Center.

The Bridge City Youth Center houses about 150 troubled youth, down from about 300 in 2002.

Since 2008 when Jindal took office, the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) has had its budget slashed by over 50 percent, and a couple of months ago, representatives from electric and natural gas utility companies showed up at the door of the Bridge City Youth Center with an order to cut services because of unpaid bills.

The amount owed? $50,000. A small partial payment was made to prevent the utilities cutoff—for now.

Granted, these 150 kids may not be up for their Merit Badges but the state in its wisdom has taken over responsibility for their housing, feeding, clothing, education and hopefully, some degree of rehabilitation.

So if the state is going to accept those responsibilities, it’s only fair to ask that the state meet those same responsibilities and pay the bills.

OJJ’s business functions were “consolidated” with DPS some time ago, and now those responsibilities have been transferred to DOA, DOA is responsible for those non-payments.

That’s the same DOA that forgot to pay LDOE’s web page subscription.

And that’s the same DOA that is an extension of the governor’s office. That’s why it’s called the Division of Administration.

Why did DOA not pay the bill? For that answer, we would have to go back to that huge budget cut imposed by one Bobby Jindal. The money simply is not there.

And it almost wasn’t there for OJJ and other agencies to meet payroll recently but A&M had a ready answer for that knotty little problem: impose layoffs.

And thrown into the mix, doesn’t is somehow seem a bit curious how this administration, which can’t lay its hands on sufficient cash to pay a $50,000 utility bill, can somehow find $18 million for a private hospital in Baton Rouge to keep its emergency room open to handle the indigent patients coming over from the state-run Earl K. Long Hospital after it was closed by the governor? Is it even legal for the state to fund a private business at all, much less without legislation? In a cash-strapped administration, where did $18 million magically and immediately appear from? http://theadvocate.com/news/10108601-123/br-general-jindal-administration-reach We’re just sayin’…

And keep in mind, the state has already had to borrow $24 million from this fiscal year’s (2014-15) budget to balance last year’s budget, meaning we’ve already started the new fiscal year, which began on July 1, $24 million in the hole.

And yet he found $18 million for a private hospital to keep its ER open for one year.

The question now must be asked: What happens next year when it threatens to close again?

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The underhanded attempt to rip off the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSRPS) on behalf of State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson (aka “Precious”) through a shady back door amendment steered through the Legislature by State Sen. Neil Riser wasn’t the first time that the agency charged with protecting Louisiana citizens has illicitly commandeered state funds on behalf of one of its own.

And, it seems, the more deeply we venture down the rabbit hole that is the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the uglier and scarier the unfolding picture becomes.

In April of 2010, the Jindal administration, in an offer to implement across the board savings, made a one-time incentive package offer to various state agencies as a means to encourage state employees to take early retirement.

Handled properly, it appeared at the time—and still does appear—to have been an economical and compassionate way to nudge employees who wanted out but who could not afford to retire, into making the decision to walk away, thus reducing the number of state employees which in turn translated to long-term savings in salaries and benefits paid by the state.

On April 23 of that year, DPS Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux sent an email to all personnel informing them that the Department of Civil Service and the Louisiana State Police Commission had approved the retirement incentive as a “Layoff Avoidance Plan.”

In legal-speak, under the incentive eligible applicants would receive a payment of 50 percent of the savings realized by DPS for one year from the effective date of the employee’s retirement.

In simpler language, the incentive was simply 50 percent of the employee’s annual salary. If an employee making $50,000 per year, for example, was approved for the incentive, he or she would walk away with $25,000 in up-front payments, plus his or her regular retirement and the agency would save one-half of her salary from the date of retirement to the end of the fiscal year. The higher the salary, the higher the potential savings.

The program, offered to the first 20 DPS employees to sign up via an internet link on a specific date, was designed to save the state many times that amount over the long haul. If, for example, 20 employees, each making $50,000 a year, took advantage of the incentive, DPS theoretically would realize a savings of $1 million per year thereafter following the initial retirement year.

That formula, repeated in multiple agencies, could produce a savings of several million—not that much in terms of a $25 billion state budget, but a savings nonetheless.

The policy did come with one major caveat from the Department of Civil Service, however. Agencies were cautioned not to circumvent the program through the state’s obscure retire-rehire policy whereby several administrative personnel, the most notable being former Secretary of Higher Education Sally Clausen, have “retired,” only to be “rehired” a day or so later in order to reap a monetary windfall.

“We strongly recommend that agencies exercise caution in re-hiring an employee who has received a retirement incentive payment within the same budget unit until it can be clearly demonstrated that the projected savings have been realized,” the Civil Service communique said.

And, to again quote our favorite redneck playwright from Denham on Amite, Billy Wayne Shakespeare from his greatest play, Hamlet Bob, “Aye, that’s the rub.” (often misquoted as “Therein lies the rub.”)

Basically, to realize a savings under the early retirement incentive payout, an agency would have had to wait at least a year before rehiring an employee who had retired under the program.

Boudreaux, by what many in DPS feel was more than mere happenstance, managed to be the first person to sign up on the date the internet link opened up for applications.

In Boudreaux’s case, her incentive payment was based on an annual salary of about $92,000 so her incentive payment was around $46,000. In addition, she was also entitled to payment of up to 300 hours of unused annual leave which came to another $13,000 or so for a total of about $59,000 in walk-around money.

Her retirement date was April 28 but the day before, on April 27, she double encumbered herself into the classified (Civil Service) Deputy Undersecretary position because another employee was promoted into her old position on April 26.

A double incumbency is when an employee is appointed to a position that is already occupied by an incumbent, in this case, Boudreaux’s successor. Double incumbencies are mostly used for smooth succession planning initiatives when the incumbent of a position (Boudreaux, in this case) is planning to retire, according to the Louisiana Department of Civil Service.

http://www.civilservice.louisiana.gov/files/HRHandbook/JobAid/5-Double%20Incumbency.pdf

Here’s the kicker: agencies are not required to report double incumbencies to the Civil Service Department if the separation or retirement will last for fewer than 30 days. And because State Civil Service is not required to fund double incumbencies, everything is conveniently kept in-house and away from public scrutiny.

On April 30, under the little-known retire-rehire policy, Boudreaux was rehired two days after her “retirement,” but this time at the higher paying position of Undersecretary, an unclassified, or appointive position.

What’s more, though she “retired” as Deputy Undersecretary on April 28, her “retirement” was inexplicably calculated based on the higher Undersecretary position’s salary, a position she did not assume until April 30—two days after her “retirement,” sources inside DPS told LouisianaVoice.

Following her maneuver, then-Commissioner of Administration Angelé Davis apparently saw through the ruse and reportedly ordered Boudreaux to repay her incentive payment as well as the payment for her 300 hours of annual leave, according to those same DPS sources.

It was about this time, however, that Davis left Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to take a position in the private sector. Paul Rainwater, Jindal’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, was named to succeed Davis on June 24, 2010, and the matter of Boudreaux’s payment quickly slipped through the cracks and was never repaid.

This occurred, it should be noted, at a time when state employees, including state police, (except for a few of Edmonson’s top aides, who we plan to discuss in future posts) were already into a period of five or six years of going without pay raises because of the state’s financial condition which has deteriorated in each year of Jindal’s administration.

Meanwhile, Jill Boudreaux continues in her position of Undersecretary of the Department of Public Safety at her present salary of $118,600 per year.

Now that we have shone a little light on her retire-rehire ploy, the question becomes this: Will anyone in the Jindal administration look into this matter and demand that she repay the money—with interest?

Or will the governor, who insisted as Candidate Jindal that “it is time we declare war on the incompetence and corruption” https://www.nrapvf.org/articles/20070720/nra-pvf-endorses-congressman-bobby-jindal-for-governor-of-louisiana

and that incompetence and corruption “will not be tolerated,” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15503722

and that he has “zero tolerance for wrongdoing,” http://theadvocate.com/home/5500946-125/federal-grand-jury-looks-at

continue to ignore problems at home as he racks up frequent flyer miles in quest of the presidency that is far beyond his grasp?

Governor, the ball is now in your court.

Put up or shut up.

 

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Have you ever wondered why Gov. Bobby Jindal writes all those op-ed pieces for the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Heritage Foundation, and Politico and not for Louisiana publications?

Could it be for the same reason that he doesn’t hold press conferences that aren’t tightly managed and/or staged? Could it be because the ones who read those publications are, for the most part, not from Louisiana so he can get away with his half-truths and outright prevarications (a polite word for lies)? What he says in those publications would simply never fly in Louisiana and he knows it—because we know him.

His ruminations can best be described as the artful practice of creative license because his ideas rarely are grounded in reality. They are more suited to one of those inane, shallow plots from The Brady Bunch, from which, coincidentally, he took his first name Bobby.

But now, in his ubiquitous quest for the presidency, he is taking his unsolicited opinions global and the powers at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are probably quaking in their boots.

Our governor, who, in his six years in office, has yet to present an executive budget that wasn’t held together with Bondo, baling wire and duct tape, has offered President Barrack Obama and French President Francois Holande the benefit of his vast economic knowledge in his latest op-ed for The Heritage Foundation. And he even managed to invoke the memory of D-Day in doing so.

Perhaps we subconsciously plagiarized Jindal who in his op-ed piece criticized Obama and Hollande for their “pretensions to economic knowledge vastly exceed their capacity to make smart policy choices.”

Would that be smart choices like your school voucher plan? Or like your ill-fated state retirement reform plan? Or would it be more like your income tax reform plan of last year that was dead on arrival? Or perhaps it was your visionary plan to build those $250 million disappearing berms to stem the flow of oil from the BP spill? What about your rejection of an $80 million federal grant to provide Broadband internet services to the state’s rural areas? Or even your inspirational plan to trick the feds into matching its own federal funds with more federal funds in your infamous hospital privatization plan through advance lease payments? Or maybe the health insurance premium reduction that resulted in that historic drawdown of the Office of Group Benefits reserve fund from half-a-billion dollars to something like $60 million or so? And there’s that $5 million contract with Alvarez & Marsal to cut state spending by, among other things, cutting Medicaid fraud and having Medicaid Mamas birth their babies at home. But then it could be your going against the advice of a dozen or so legal scholars and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to sign SB 469 that kills the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against those 97 oil companies that wrecked our coastline and marshes but which contains language that might also kill ongoing claims by local governments for damages inflicted by that BP spill. It’s not, after all, like his own legal counsel is batting a thousand in these matters.

No matter. We can readily see there is a plethora of examples of stellar economic wisdom flowing from the fourth floor of the State Capitol.

Why, you are so full of wonderful economic ideas that you even supported the rejection of Senate Concurrent Resolution 142 by Sen. Rick Gallot (D-Ruston).

I mean, let’s be reasonable. Gallot wanted to pass a resolution asking that the Department of Revenue to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that all oil and gas severance taxes due the state from oil companies is paid in accordance with state law.

Gallot, in his frenzied call for heavy-handed governmental control, actually wanted the Department of Revenue and the Legislative Auditor to work together to determine the accuracy of self-reported (as in no oversight) data from oil and gas companies to determine the amount of severance taxes owed as well as the accuracy of tax refunds claimed on those severance taxes.

Gallot also wanted to take the oppressive hand of state government even further by having the two state agencies “review and conduct yearly audits of all who may owe mineral royalties to ensure that the state receives complete, accurate, and timely payments.”

Really? We wouldn’t just want to continue to take the word of the oil and gas companies?

The State Senate, apparently caught unaware of Gallot’s Gestapo-like tactics, approved the resolution by a 35-0 vote with four absences (Conrad Appel, A.G. Crowe, Jack Donahue and Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb) but the House, much more alert to threats to members’ generous campaign contributors, defeated the measure by a 48-44 vote with 12 absences—22 votes short of the required two-thirds needed.

Here is the House vote on SCR 142:

YEAS

Anders

Arnold

Badon

Barrow

Billiot

Broadwater

Burns, H.

Burrell

Chaney

Connick

Cox

Dixon

Edwards

Fannin

Franklin

Gaines

Gisclair

Guillory

Harrison

Hazel

Hill

Honore

Hunter

Jackson

James

Jefferson

Johnson

Jones

Landry, T.

LeBas

Leger

Montoucet

Moreno

Morris, Jay

Norton

Ortego

Pierre

Ponti

Price

Reynolds

Richard

Ritchie

Shadoin

Smith

Thierry

Williams, A.

Williams, P.

Woodruff

TOTAL: 48

 

NAYS

Adams

Barras

Berthelot

Bishop, S.

Burford

Burns, T.

Carmody

Carter

Champagne

Danahay

Dove

Foil

Garofalo

Guinn

Harris

Havard

Henry

Hodges

Hoffmann

Hollis

Howard

Huval

Ivey

Lambert

Landry, N.

Leopold

Lopinto

Lorusso

Mack

Miller

Pope

Pugh

Pylant

Robideaux

Schexnayder

Seabaugh

Simon

St. Germain

Stokes

Talbot

Thibaut

Thompson

Whitney

Willmott

Total – 44

 

ABSENT

Mr. Speaker

Abramson

Armes

Bishop, W.

Brown

Cromer

Geymann

Greene

Hensgens

Morris, Jim

Pearson

Schroder

TOTAL–12

 

After all, who needs another layer of government bureaucracy to ensure that the state receives the money due from the oil and gas companies? They already have folks on staff to make certain that the ordinary citizen pays his taxes so why do we need to duplicate that effort with the oil and gas companies? After all, we killed that pesky lawsuit against the oil companies.

And now Jindal, the financial wizard of Louisiana, writes an essay critical of…France’s revenue shortfall.

While saying America’s labor force participation rate is at a 36-year low (could be because American corporations ship jobs overseas for cheap labor, thus robbing Americans of decent jobs?), Jindal claims that Obama’s proposed minimum wage increase could cause as many as a million Americans to lose their jobs. Apparently, he would prefer that we revert to the dollar-an-hour minimum wage of the ‘60s and McDonald’s would love nothing better than to outsource its hamburger flipping jobs to Bangladesh if it could find a way to do so.

Jindal also was critical of France’s 11 percent unemployment rate, contrasting it with Louisiana’s 4.3 percent jobless rate.

But as Baton Rouge/New Orleans Advocate reporter Mark Ballard, quoting Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, pointed out, France’s unemployment is the result of the country’s practice of giving government aid to students to help them complete their education as opposed to American students who work, but at low-paying jobs to pay their way through school. At the same time, Ballard, again citing Krugman, said that French adults “in their prime working years…are substantially more likely to have jobs than their American counterparts.”

But here’s the kicker: Jindal, with his smoke and mirrors economic policy, believes dealing out tax breaks, exemptions and other incentives to rich corporations like so much Halloween candy leads to employment for the poor. It’s a classic example of misdirection and precisely the reason he prefers to write for publications outside the borders of Louisiana.

“But in Louisiana,” he writes for The Heritage Foundation, “we’ve tried to show that there is a better way—one that leads to quality jobs and robust economic growth.” That growth, it should be obvious to those forced to sling burgers for a living, is why our tax base continues to shrink instead of expanding, his sage advice to the French president notwithstanding.

“While Obama raised federal taxes by more than $1 trillion, we passed the largest income tax cut in state history,” he writes. “As a Democratic Congress rammed through trillions in new spending for Obamacare, we cut the state budget by 26 percent. And even as the EPA proposes new regulations that could decimate critical portions of our energy sector, we’ve worked to create a more predictable legal environment for energy companies in the state,” he said.

Well, there is certainly no disputing that last statement as witness the Jindal-led successful effort to kill the lawsuit by the SLFPA-E litigation.

But we do have a question: how is it that our governor can spend more time writing his self-serving op-ed pieces for the national publications than he spends at the job for which he is paid? Perhaps someone will ask him that if he ever holds a real press conference in Louisiana.

 

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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 Tim 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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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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