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Archive for the ‘Layoffs’ Category

Even as Gov. Bobby is busy handing out pink slips to state employees (a new round of layoffs is anticipated momentarily), LouisianaVoice has learned of a couple of unusual hiring practices—one involving yet another retire-rehire, this time by the Department of Public Safety, and a possible case of nepotism that has since quietly been resolved in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LADHH) with the timely transfer of the mother of a LADHH administrator to another agency.

DHH Deputy Secretary Courtney Phillips has accepted the position of Secretary of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHH) and will begin her duties there on April 1, according to a press release from LADHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert.

Courtney Phillips has been employed by LADHH since 2003 when she began as a management intern. She was appointed Deputy Secretary on May 10, 2013, at a salary of $145,000, according to information obtained by LouisianaVoice from LADHH.

Her mother, Sheila Phillips was initially hired by LADHH on June 19, 2012, as an Administrative Coordinator at a salary of $37,500.

“At no point in time did Courtney Phillips serve in a supervisory role over Sheila Phillips,” said LADHH spokesperson Olivia Watkins in an email Thursday to LouisianaVoice. “Regarding her time as deputy secretary, Courtney Phillips did not officially begin her tenure as deputy secretary until May 10, 2013. Sheila Phillips ended her employment with DHH on May 9, 2013, and is currently an employee with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Civil Service records reflect that Sheila Phillips actually resigned on May 8, 2013, two days before her daughter’s promotion, and began working on May 9, 2013, for the Department of Environmental Quality as an Administrative Assistant 4 and currently makes $40,560 per year.

And while Courtney Phillips did not begin as deputy secretary until two days after her mother left the agency, her curriculum vitae that she submitted to the State of Nebraska notes that she served as Chief of Staff at LADHH from September of 2011 until her promotion to deputy director—which was during the time when her mother was hired.

State statute, according to Watkins, specifically says that “no member of the immediate family of a member of a governing authority or the chief executive of a governmental entity shall be employed by the governmental entity.”

The statute defines “agency head” as chief executive or administrative officer of an agency or any member of a board or commission who exercises supervision over the agency, Watkins said.

“Based on consultation with Civil Service, agency head would not include the chief of staff position, precluding any violation of the state nepotism law during her tenure in that role. Furthermore, as chief of staff, Courtney Phillips did not have legal appointing authority or supervise any DHH program office, including the Office of Public Health where Sheila Phillips worked from 06/09/2012 through 05/09/2013.

“Given that definition and the facts of the employment of Courtney Phillips and Sheila Phillips, nepotism was not a concern,” Watkins said.

Her resumé, however, says her Chief of Staff duties involved the planning and direction of “all administrative, financial, and operational activities for the department’s Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Undersecretary” and that she acted “as a point of contact between top management and employees, as well as developing, overseeing and maintaining the budget for the executive office. She also said in her resumé that she served as a “key member of the executive management team responsible for the central coordination of activities and ensuring timely flow of information to and from the executive office.”

Moreover, on various LADHH organizational charts obtained by LouisianaVoice, Courtney Phillips served directly under the position of agency undersecretary during the tenures of both Bruce Greenstein, who resigned in March of 2013, and Kliebert.

As a “key member of the executive management team,” she was also a member of and regularly voted on matters coming before the LADHH Statewide Governance Board and signed off on letters to top legislators dealing with LADHH policy.

Meanwhile, an Information Technology (IT) Director 4 who retired from his $140,500 a year job at the Division of Administration (DOA) on Oct. 31, 2014, began working on Dec. 8, just over a month later, for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) as a technology consultant at $70 per hour, Civil Service records show. Jeya Selvaratnam

SELVARATNAM GOHSEP

Prior to his four-month stint with DOA, which began on June 23, 2014, and ran through Oct. 31 (he was retired for little more than a month, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 7), Jeya Selvaratnam worked first as an IT Deputy Director 2 for the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Office of Management and Finance from Sept. 25, 2006 through Aug. 27, 2008 at which time he was promoted to IT Director 4 for the same office. He remained at that post until June 22, 2014, when he moved over to DOA.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics prohibits former state employees from working for the same agency within two years of their retirements. The statute (R.S. 42:1111-1121) says, “During the two year period following the termination of public service as a public employee, these individuals may not assist another for compensation, in a transaction, or in an appearance in connection with a transaction involving the agency in which the former public employee participated while employed by the agency nor may the former public employee provide on a contractual basis to his former public employer, any service he provided while employed there.”

GOHSEP spokesperson Christina Dayries, however, said when retirees are rehired by state agencies, they are allowed to earn half of what they collect in state retirement. He was earning $140,500 per year and with more than 30 years of service, qualifies for at least 75 percent of his base salary in retirement. That computes to more than $105,000 in retirement, plus 50 percent of that amount as a re-hire up to $158,000—nearly $18,000 more than he made full time.

The project on which Selvaratnam now works as a part time capacity is the DPS FirstNet National Public Safety Broadband Network.

The project calls for the expenditure of up to $135 million of a State and Local Implementation Grant (SLIGP) provided by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to provide emergency responders with their first nationwide, high-speed broadband network dedicated to public safety, according to a Power Point presentation given on Jan. 21 and 22 of this year to provide an overview of the program created under the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

The $135 million 80-20 federal-state grant is only for the planning of the project. Implementation of the nationwide network is expected to cost $7 billion with funding expected to come from spectrum auction. By law, the network is to be self-sustaining upon expending the $7 billion.

There are 10 regional teams set up to implement the program on a nationwide basis. Louisiana is a member of Team 6, along with New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The program’s staffing chart shows Selvaratnam serving under the supervision of Program Manager Allison McLeary.

While at DPS, he represented the department as a member of the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) SIEC which is responsible for the ability of emergency service agencies to communicate across disciplines and jurisdictions, particularly during times of emergency. SIEC membership is composed of all appropriate first responder and support organizations and has “full authority to design, construct, administer and maintain a statewide interoperable communications system…in support of full response to any emergency event,” according to GOHSEP’s web page. http://www.gohsep.la.gov/interop.aspx

As the DPS representative on the SIEC, he also served as chairman of the SIEC Broadband Subcommittee. Accordingly, he had duties and responsibilities for the SLIGP program during that time and is again providing those same services.

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, for whom Selvaratnam worked at DPS, is the “State Point of Contact” for the FirstNet project, according to the Power Point presentation, with the Office of State Police listed as the SLIGP grant recipient and GOHSEP as the grant administrator.

A law meant to bring retirees back for short-term help was used by almost 200 current, full-time employees in the Department of Corrections. An oversight in the writing of the law even allowed “retired” employees to continue accruing money into their pension plans, according to a story on Governing, a web-based site on state and local government. http://www.governing.com/topics/public-workforce/Double-Dip-Dilemma.html

The issue of retire-rehire sparked considerable debate in 2010 when Higher Education Commissioner Sally Clausen resigned and rehired herself two days later, a move that netted her a $90,000 payout for unused sick leave and vacation time and entitled her to $146,400 in retirement pay. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/06/higher_education_commissioner.html

 

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In the five years we have been posting stories about Bobby’s administration, we have, from time to time, had to backtrack and admit we were wrong or were rash in our judgment. This is one of those times.

Except we may be incorrect in saying we were wrong. Got that? Read on.

Through a diligent search of payroll records, we have found that Bobby, while imploring state agencies to “do more with less,” has at least set an example of fiscal restraint for others to emulate.

Six months after taking office, the payroll in the governor’s office stood at a whopping $5.9 million. Today, a leaner and meaner staff (if indeed, it is possible to be any meaner) in the governor’s office is costing Louisiana taxpayers “only” $3.9 million in salaries.

As of June 30, 2008, Bobby had 92 full time employees drawing $5,659,800 in salary (an average of $61,519 each), not including medical and retirement benefits. He also had 34 part-timers for an additional $267,900, an average of $7,879 each, according to figures obtained by LouisianaVoice.

Where the governor’s office had 92 full time employees in 2008 drawing $5.66 million, today he has only 64 full-timers making $3.66 million, records show.

The number of part time employees also has decreased from 34 in 2008 to only 21 today, but their average salaries have increased considerably.

But wait! Things are never as they seem. It turns out that several former employees were quietly moved around to other agencies and are still on the state payroll. Chance McNeely, who went from a $65,000 per year policy analyst for all of nine months to a $102,000 position as head of environmental compliance at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), comes immediately to mind.

Stephen Winham also provided this interesting information: It seems that in Fiscal year 2008-2009, there were two transfers from the governor’s office to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the following year,  two more transferred from Bobby’s office to the Board of Regents and 11 more to DEQ to prepare a place for Chance McNeely. And in FY 2012-2013, three more left the fourth floor and moved across the street to the Department of Education. Winham’s source for his information is this link: http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/OPB/pub/ebsd.htm

“You are giving them too much credit for position and funding elimination,” Winham says, “since these positions and funding were simply transferred to other departments in the state budget. Based on your information, I’m guessing that at least 64 percent of the savings you show was really just transferred out,” he said.

So, before you get too excited over the apparent good news, we have to offer our disclaimer that the numbers are somewhat misleading.

Some of those reductions could also be employees who see the writing on the wall and are simply bailing out before the end of Bobby’s term of office expires in about 11 months. In such cases, departures would have nothing to do with Bobby’s efforts to reduce his own staff numbers while gutting needed state agencies of key personnel and leaving unqualified administrators in place.

Because we were interested only in the numbers and salaries of staff members, none of the figures included Bobby’s own salary of $130,000 per year.

Nine of those full time employees in 2008 earned $100,000 per year or more. Those nine combined to earn just over $1.2 million, or an average of about $134,800 each.

In addition, the governor’s office and governor’s mansion combined to employ 20 security personnel from the Department of Public Safety (State Police) at a per diem rate of $92.32 over and above their normal salaries. Because all 20 were not on duty at the same time, it was impossible to determine the total amount paid in per diem to the security personnel.

Today, the per diem rate remains the same but we could only account for 19 security personnel, one less than in 2008. Most the other numbers, however, have decreased significantly.

One major exception is the salary of Bobby’s executive counsel. In 2008, it was Jimmy Faircloth who resigned to run unsuccessfully for the Louisiana State Supreme Court. His salary then was $167,000 per year.

The current executive counsel, Thomas Enright, who supposedly advised Bobby last June to sign that bill giving Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson that retirement increase that was subsequently ruled unconstitutional, currently earns $165,000 per year, $2,000 less than Faircloth.

But where there were nine employees earning $100,000 or more in June of 2008, today there are “only” seven combining to make just over $900,000, or an average of $128,585 each.

Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell was making $165,880 per year in 2008. Apparently his brother, Taylor Teepell, doesn’t have the same value to Bobby at $130,000 per year as Deputy Chief of Staff. His $130,000, incidentally, is the same that Bobby makes as governor in absentia.

Kyle Plotkin is something of a success story in Bobby’s administration. Beginning in November of 2008 with his appointment as press secretary, he was named as Special Assistant to the governor at $85,000 per year on July 26, 2011 but is now Bobby’s Chief of Staff at $165,880 per year, more than double his salary of just three years ago.

Matthew Parker, Timmy Teepell’s brother-in-law, pulls down $120,000 as one of 15 “directors” in the governor’s office, though we’re unsure as to what he directs.

In 2008, the 34 part time employees combined to make $267,900 and while the $243,300 being paid to 21 part time employees today is $24,600 less than in 2008, the average salaries of the part-timers has increased from $7,879 per year to $11,585.

In 2015, we found a couple of staffers drawing pretty good chump change considering their listed status as part time employees. Bobbie Johnson, an “assistant,” was listed at $18,574 per year and “Executive Assistant” Megan O’Quin was listed at $30,420.

But those were nothing compared with a couple of part time salaries we discovered for 2008. Michael Wascom, a part time “special counsel,” was listed at $31,949 per year while James T. Ryder, was pulling down $156,000 per year as a part time “special counsel,” just $11,000 per year less than his boss, Faircloth.

All this is well and good, Bobby; you’ve set the pace for asceticism. You slashed your staff from 126 to 85, a 32.5 percent reduction and cut the combined salaries accordingly, by 33.9 percent. Good for you.

But still, the question must be asked: does it really require 85 people to run your office when apparently it isn’t even necessary that you be there half the time? I’ve been to the fourth floor of the State Capitol. There is not room for 85 people to maneuver in that space with any efficiency.

While you have reduced the number of warm bodies in your office and while you have cut salaries significantly, we still have to wonder at the necessity of 85 people bumping into each other and apparently  getting very little done, based on any real accomplishments during your time in office.

Besides the 15 directors, there are four deputy directors, two assistant directors, two executive directors, one project director, one representative, two managers, one project manager, one executive administrative assistant, three administrative assistants, eight executive assistants, one administrative staff officer, four advisers, four coordinators, a specialist, five assistants, one executive counsel, two assistant executive counsels, a law clerk, a chief of staff, two assistant chiefs of staff, one deputy chief of staff, along with a few clerks, receptionists, a single garden variety deputy, and one housekeeper.

But just what are the duties of a director? A specialist? An administrative assistant? An executive assistant? An executive administrative assistant? An advisor? What does a coordinator coordinate? What’s the difference between a director and a project director? What does either direct? What’s the difference between an assistant director and a deputy director? And what does a manager manage that a director can’t direct? Deputy? Deputy what? And just one housekeeper to clean up after all those people?

And just one more note, Bobby: You may pull the wool over the eyes of an old worn out news reporter but it’s difficult to fool a retired budget officer.

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Louisiana’s colleges and universities are facing some difficult choices.

With the latest round of budget cuts to higher education announced by Gov. in Absentia Bobby Jindal, college presidents have been thrown into deep crisis mode in trying to figure out how to keep their schools afloat in the wake of another $350 million slashed from their cumulative budgets.

The LSU campuses are facing cuts of 35 percent to 40 percent, or about $141.5 million which translates to the elimination of 27 percent of faculty positions, 1,572 courses, 28 academic programs and 1,433 faculty and staff positions, according to Associated Press reporter Melinda Deslatte. http://theadvocate.com/home/11535937-125/lsu-outlines-dire-budget-scenarios

Because of Jindal’s disastrous fiscal policies over the past seven years, repeated budget cuts have been imposed on both health care and higher education.

Conspiracy theorists might attribute that to the goal of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its objective of “taking the state out of state colleges,” or including public colleges and universities in its stated drive toward near total privatization of government.

And those conspiracy theorists, in this case at least, might not be too far off.

As has already been reflected in tuition increases of 90 percent for state colleges and universities in Louisiana since Jindal took office (with more undoubtedly on the way), it’s rather easy to see what such privatization would mean: soaring tuition costs putting college out of reach for all but the wealthiest Americans absent the securing of ever-rising student loans from private banks with debts guaranteed by the federal government (ALEC wants privatization to go just so far, it seems).

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has conducted an exhaustive state by state study of cuts to higher education which show Louisiana has undergone some of the deepest cuts (fourth highest in the nation) at 43.6 percent from Fiscal Year 2008 (the year that began six months before Jindal assumed office in January of 2008) through FY-13 (2012-2013). There have been two additional cuts since then in Louisiana. The $4,714 per student cut through FY-13, for example, has increased to more than $5,000 since then in Louisiana. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3927

The center’s report said state could have reduced the size of the spending cuts by enacting “significant new revenues, but many (including Louisiana) chose not to.”

It is an understatement to say that Louisiana colleges and universities are going to have to make some hard decisions, but the one issue that has flown under the radar thus far is intercollegiate athletics.

This is going to get some push back from the more rabid sports fans, especially at LSU which plays in the big leagues of the Southeastern Conference. Not to slight the other schools, but the reality is (as Jindal is fond of saying) the LSU athletic program is the only one in the state that is self-sustaining—but athletics could be adversely impacted in another key area: keeping players academically eligible.

You see, there is something out there called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which was written to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities.

Section 504 is employed by elementary and secondary schools to help students with learning and other disabilities but is especially popular in college athletic programs, according to one former high school coach who is familiar with the program.

Because any school receiving federal funding (which is all Louisiana colleges and universities) is mandated to provide extra assistance to those with learning disabilities. Section 504, therefore, is protected and exempt from any state cutbacks—much to the appreciation of college athletic programs.

Athletes with learning disabilities, and let’s be honest: there are a lot of college jocks who can’t read or write above fifth or sixth-grade levels and some have comprehension skills that fall lower than that, are provided special tutors. These tutors, our source tells us, not only do much of the students’ academic assignments for them, but even sit with them during testing, coaxing them on when they provide an incorrect answer and often even pointing to the correct answer.

(Had I had that kind of help at Louisiana Tech, I could have made the dean’s list other than the one I found myself on most of the time.)

There has been much written about Mary Willingham, the former academic advisor at the University of North Carolina who finally had enough and blew the whistle on so-called “paper courses,” or “counterfeit classes” for 18 years involving more than 160 student-athletes.

Willingham said athletes were literally funneled into the program as a means of keeping them eligible at the sacrifice of any semblance of a real education. The “paper classes” produced boiler plate papers that were shamelessly plagiarized. Professors in those classes rarely, if ever, bothered to read the papers but instead relied on counselors who simply advised the professors as to the grade an athlete needed to remain eligible, a practice they called “GPA boosters.”

Willingham said the “paper classes,” many of which were African and African-American studies, were openly discussed as a way to keep athletes eligible to participate in sports. One email from a counselor to a professor advised, “Yes, a D will be fine; that’s all she needs. I didn’t look at the paper but figured it was a recycled one as well, but I couldn’t figure out from where.”

Willingham called the system “corrupt because many of these young men are passed through the system without really being given what they’re promised, which is a real education.”

She said universities have lowered their admissions standards for athletes and the NCAA allows it to keep the revenue-producing sports going.

That’s because NCAA-level college football alone is a $16 billion (with a B) business for tax-exempt, “non-profit” universities which ostensibly are focused on research and education.

No wonder that subsequent to releasing her research on the poor literacy levels, UNC officials went to extreme of hiring outside academics in an attempt to discredit her findings.

We attempted to learn how many LSU athletes are currently participating in the Section 504 program. We submitted the following public records request:

Please provide any and all documents and/or public records that provide the following information;

The number of learning-disabled student athletes currently enrolled at the LSU Baton Rouge campus;

The percentage of learning-disabled student-athletes to the overall student population currently enrolled at the LSU Baton Rouge campus.

Please understand I am not asking for names—just the raw numbers and percentages of overall student population.

LSU responded that it had no record of such data, a claim we find extremely difficult to believe. Nevertheless, we tried once more, making the same request of Louisiana Tech. This time we received not so much as even a response to our request.

Never wishing to leave part of the story untold, LouisianaVoice did a little research of its own into some of the degree programs into which athletes may be “funneled,” to borrow a phrase from Willingham. We should preface what follows by stressing the samples of classes come directly from the LSU 2014-2015 catalog: http://catalog.lsu.edu/index.php?catoid=6

General Studies:

Semester 1: Gen. Ed. Analytical Reasoning MATH Course; “C” or better in ENGL 1001 . Semester 2: Gen. Ed. Natural Sciences; Gen. Ed. Social Sciences or Gen. Ed. Arts; Declare a Degree Program. Semester 3: Gen. Ed. Analytical Reasoning or Gen. Ed. Arts; 2.0 LSU and cumulative GPA.
African & African American Studies: Black Popular Culture (3); African Diaspora Intellectual Thought (3); Topics in History of Africa and the African Diaspora (3) (non-U.S.); Topics in Pre-Colonial Africa (3) (non-US); Special Topics in African & African American Studies (1-3); Black Music in America (3); Folklore of the African Diaspora (3); African American History (3); The New South (3)
Child & Family Studies: General Education course – Humanities (3); General Education course – Natural Sciences (3); Electives (6) or Fundamentals of Communication (3) or Introduction to Performing Literature (3); Public Speaking (3) or Introduction to Agricultural Economics (3)
Kinesiology: KIN 3513 Introduction to Motor Learning (3); KIN 3515 The Physiological Basis of Activity (3); PHYS 2001 General Physics I (3); KIN 3525 Laboratory Techniques in Exercise Physiology (1); KIN 1801 Movement Fundamentals for Physical Activity (2) or KIN 1802 Individual/Lifetime Activities (2) or KIN 1803 Team Activities (2)Sports Administration: History and Philosophy of Kinesiology (3); Sport in Society (3); Introduction to Management Information Systems (3); General Education course – Natural Sciences (3)

Sports Studies Minor: To graduate with a minor in sports studies, students must complete 18 semester hours from the following: KIN 2530 , three activity courses and 12 semester hours from the following courses: KIN 2502 , KIN 2511 , KIN 2525 , KIN 2526 , KIN 3507 , KIN 3800 , KIN 4513 , KIN 4515 , KIN 4517 , KIN 4800 , MKT 3410 .

Okay, you get the picture. Obviously, these are important courses. The beast must be fed so we can continue to kneel at the altar of intercollegiate athletics. Some things, after all, are sacrosanct. The option of cutting these programs is not even on the table.

So the cuts must be made elsewhere. But where?

Oh, such non-revenue producing programs as English, Arts, Physics, Engineering, Medical School (after all, who needs doctors after Jindal’s cuts to health care?), Business, Economics, History, etc. After all, who ever heard of TAF selling tickets to a science lecture?

Loss of accreditation of the business and engineering colleges? Hmpf, we don’t need no stinking accreditation when there’s a national championship to be won.

The alternative could be to sacrifice some of the courses we listed above in an effort at maintaining some semblance of academic integrity.

Of course, that would mean all athletes would have to take real courses—and pass. The lack of academic funding of the university and the resulting cancellation of the courses required for athletic eligibility will deal the death blow to athletic programs as we know them.

And that could have LSU playing Baton Rouge Community College in flag football next season.

Efforts to contact Les Miles and Johnny Jones for confirmation of the mothballing of the 2015 football and basketball seasons were unsuccessful.

We can only conclude that although Jindal, who has exhibited nothing but disdain and contempt for Louisiana’s education systems, knew of the consequences of his administration’s budget cuts on college and university athletic program, this was an “unintended consequence” by the legislature. To that, we can only say to legislators: “You should have done your homework and not sold your soul to Jindal for personal and political gain.”

(Thanks to Ruston High classmate John Sachs for the idea for this post.)

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It’s a good thing Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t have Vince Lombardi as a boss.

Whenever one of his players became prone to fumbling, the legendary coach would make the player carry a football everywhere with him—when he was eating or sleeping or even in the bathroom—as a reminder to hold onto the ball.

Jindal would look silly sillier having to carry a copy of the state budget with him everywhere he went.

But it would be an appropriate punishment for the way he has fumbled the state’s finances throughout his administration. To simply blame falling oil prices is the worst cop-out. He is now into his eighth year in office and he has had a budget crisis every year—and this is the first time since he took office that oil prices have experienced a major drop.

The fact is, Bobby Jindal is simply inept and an embarrassment to the state that has had more than its share of embarrassments.

After sell-offs of state property, privatization of state agencies, wholesale layoffs of state employees, raids on Office of Group Benefits reserve funds, devastating cuts to higher education and health care, and cutting state contracts, we now learn that at least one agency—there most likely will be others to follow—is instituting an employee furlough plan that will result in employees losing about a month’s pay projected over a 12-month period. Hopefully, the furloughs will last only through the end of the fiscal year (June 30).

Secretary of State Tom Shedler announced today (Jan. 14) that yet another proposed $3.8 million mid-year budget cut for his agency by the administration will force the implementation of an agency-wide furlough beginning next week. He said he has been advised to prepare an impact statement to the Division of Administration (DOA) by Friday outlining how the reduction would be facilitated.

“This level of reduction this late in the fiscal year is truly daunting,” Shedler said. “After holding the largest election our state has seen in decades just this past fall, my office’s resources are down to the bone. The administration is asking for us to give up bone marrow and it is extremely painful. You can’t cut enough pens, pencils and travel allowances to get to this number.”

Schedler shared the budget numbers with his senior staff Wednesday morning, telling them that if the Secretary of State’s office receives an executive order calling for the cuts, he will immediately seek Civil Service approval of a furlough to begin next Tuesday (Jan. 20), or soon thereafter.

Once approved, all Secretary of State employees, both classified and unclassified (including Schedler), will be required to take one day off per pay period (state pay periods are every two weeks, meaning that over a full year, employees would be required to take off 26 days, or nearly a full month, without pay) through the rest of the fiscal year.

If the furloughs last only through June 30, that would mean about two weeks’ lost pay to employees, still better than the previous Jindal method of wholesale layoffs.

“Furlough days will be staggered throughout the agency so that office hours can be maintained for the public,” Schedler said.

He said the one-day-per-pay-period furlough plan would produce an anticipated savings of $1.1 million through June 30. The administration has requested $2.6 million in state general funds that otherwise would be used for elections, he said. The remaining balance would be achieved from various savings in operational costs. With primary and runoff elections for governor scheduled for this year, $2.6 million would be a lot for the office to absorb.

“I recognize that this kind of reduction is unsustainable in the long run,” he said. “So, as I have my entire career, I plan to be fiscally responsible. As we await an executive order and Civil Service approval, immediate action was necessary to maximize savings while continuing to look for a more permanent solution if the budget picture does not improve.”

Secretary of State Press Secretary Meg Casper added that some state museums may have to close additional days in order to meet the required spending cuts.

Casper said has not heard how other state agencies will handle the pending executive order from Jindal to reduce spending but an official of one other agency, asked if he knew of the pending executive order, replied, “Oh, yeah. It’s coming…and going to be brutal.”

Of course, as the fiscal crisis worsens in Louisiana, Jindal is nowhere to be found. The last we heard, he was planning to bash Hillary Clinton in a speech in London next week—before returning to his home base of Iowa.

We’re as yet unclear on how the London speech relates to Louisiana’s fiscal woes. Maybe it’s just us, but it seems he was elected governor of Louisiana and should be in Baton Rouge minding the store—especially when it seems the store is going bankrupt.

 

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Having laid off about all the personnel he can, after cutting higher education and health care to the bone, and after selling all the state property he can and privatizing state agencies and hospitals to benefit political allies, Gov. Bobby Jindal has finally turned to his only recourse in making even deeper cuts in the state budget to cover an ever-widening deficit: state contracts.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that a Jindal “policy advisor” recently appointed as an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Environmental Quality will remain in that post only about nine months before enrolling in law school.

Chance McNeely, who has served as a $65,000-a-year policy analyst for the governor’s office since last March, began in his new position of Assistant Secretary for Environmental Compliance this month but is already making plans to leave.

Jindal, you may recall, has issued two hiring freezes and two expenditure reductions and even issued a directive last April that “no agency use employee transfers, promotions, reallocations or the creation of new positions in such a manner as to exceed a ceiling” imposed by the administration.

State Treasurer John Kennedy and others have been calling on the governor to cut contract expenses across the board as a means of saving money for the state but those calls have largely been ignored by Jindal who no doubt will now claim this decision as his own.

The state issued 3,576 contracts or contract amendments in Fiscal Year 2014 (July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014) totaling a little more than $3.6 billion, according to figures provided by the Office of Contractual Review.

The Office of Group Benefits accounted for 17 contracts totaling nearly $1.5 billion, the most of any state agency. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana has a $1.1 billion contract to administer the health benefits program for state employees, retirees and dependents, which accounts for most of that $1.5 billion figure.

The governor’s office, through the Division of Administration, was second highest with 807 contracts or amendments costing more than $744.2 million.

The Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) normally has the highest amount of active contracts in terms of value at any given time, but the 730 contracts/amendments approved by DHH during Fy-14 accounted for $454.9 million, third highest among state agencies.

In fiscal 2007 (July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007), the year before Jindal took office, there were 6,621 active contracts totaling $3.3 billion, up from the $2 billion in contracts during the 2005-06 (FY-07) fiscal year because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita that year. The next year’s total increased to $4.72 billion. Jindal took office in January of 2008, halfway through that fiscal year. In and to $5 billion in FY-2008-09. The number of contracts decreased from 7,286 to 6,781 that year but the cumulative amount of those contracts increased to $5 billion.

The number of state contracts continued to decline through the 2013-14 fiscal year but they increased to a high of $6.55 billion in 2011-12 even though the actual number of contracts continued to decrease to fewer than 4,800.

Across the board cuts will most likely not work as some state contracts necessarily must remain intact. Those would include contracts funded in whole or part by federal dollars in such areas as highway construction, Medicaid benefits and community development projects.

But in many other contracts it will be interesting to see if the cuts will be carried out since many of the contractors are major contributors to the campaigns of Jindal and other state politicians.

Jeez, how will the administration decide which contracts to cut?

Those contractors who don’t pony up with campaign cash are the obvious candidates.

Then there are those who give only token contributions to the governor’s political campaigns. Cuts, yes, but perhaps not so much.

But those who open up their wallets and bank accounts? No way. Gotta dance with who brung you (apologies to the late University of Texas coach Darrell Royal).

A random check by LouisianaVoice turned up 26 companies with state contracts totaling nearly $1.4 billion which, either through the companies themselves or through corporate representatives, have combined to pour more than $283,000 into one or more of Jindal’s state campaigns. That means that for every dollar contributed, the donor receives a contract of nearly $4,947. A 10 percent net profit on those contracts would mean a bottom line return of $495 for every dollar contributed—a nice investment by anyone’s standards.

Having said that, let’s take a look at some major contractors, the amount of their contracts and their campaign contributions (in parenthesis) to Jindal:

  • CSRS, Inc.: $5 million ($10,000);
  • DB Sysgraph, Inc.: $1.2 million ($5,000);
  • United Healthcare: $14.86 million ($20,000);
  • Coastal Estuary Services: $18.87 million ($18,000);
  • Vantage Health Plan: $45 million ($11,000);
  • Louisiana Health Service (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana): $1.1 billion ($7,500);
  • Alvarez & Marsal: $7.4 million ($5,000);
  • Acadian Ambulance: $4.3 million (13 contracts) ($15,000);
  • Van Meter & Associates: $8.7 million ($17,500);
  • Fitzgerald Contractors: $655,400 ($2,500);
  • Global Data Systems: $1.74 million ($5,000);
  • Sides & Associates: $4.4 million ($6,000);
  • GCR, Inc.: $10 million ($2,000);
  • GCI Technologies & Solutions: $32.5 million ($5,000);
  • SAS Institute, Inc.: $630,000 ($6,000);
  • Hammerman & Gainer, LLC: $67 million ($20,000);
  • Rodel, Parson, Koch, Blanche, Balhoff & McCollister: $3.7 million ($26,500);
  • CH2M Hill: $3 million ($13,500);
  • Burk-Kleinpeter, Inc.: $7 million ($17,500);
  • CDM Smith, Inc.: $6 million (two contracts) ($2,500);
  • Eustis Engineering Services: $3 million ($1,000);
  • Sigma Consulting: $3 million ($21,250);
  • MWH Americas, Inc.: $3 million ($5,000);
  • McGlinchey, Stafford, PLLC: $2.8 million ($17,000);
  • Faircloth, Melton & Keiser, LLC: $4.1 million ($19,000);
  • Adams & Reese, LLP: $1.33 million ($3,350);

In addition to the contributions to Jindal, four contractors also contributed to the Louisiana Republican Party: DB Sysgraph ($5,000), GCR, Inc. ($6,000), CGI Technologies and Solutions ($5,000), and Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($2,000). Blue Cross also contributed $15,500 to Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and $2,500 to Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles).

Vantage Health also contributed $10,000 to Donelon and $3,500 to Kleckley and United Health Care contributed $3,000 to Kleckley.

Another firm, Hunt-Guillot of Ruston, held a three-year, $20 million contract to perform grant management activities in connection to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. That contract expired last June 30. Hunt-Guillot also held a five-month, $3 million contract in 2011 for additional grant management of recovery projects related to Katrina and Rita.

Hunt-Guillot made two contributions totaling $4,750 to Jindal’s campaign in 2007. Additionally, Hunt-Guillot principal Trot Hunt made two contributions of $2,500 each to Jindal during his 2007 campaign for governor.

And Jindal made a $5,000 campaign contribution to Hunt-Guillot principal Jay Guillot during his successful run for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2011, campaign finance records show.

As the vise tightens around Jindal, who is striving desperately to hold things together until he leaves town a year from now in his quest for the presidency, hard decisions will have to be made. He can’t keep firing employees and he’s run out of state property to sell.

After seven years, it may be in Jindal’s final year that the legislature finally stands up to his amateurish manner of handling the state’s finances. Speaker Kleckley, heretofore one of Jindal’s staunchest allies in the House, has come out publicly in opposition to any additional cuts to higher education. The Public Service Commission earlier refused to surrender its automobile fleet to Jindal who wanted to sell them at auction. It’ll be interesting to see who will be the next to grow a pair.

Jindal is rarely in the state these days and when he is, he is too busy taking potshots at President Obama and planning prayer meetings when he should be minding the store and doing the job to which he was twice elected. There is more than ample evidence by now that Jindal is having trouble holding things together by remote control.

To continue on his course of self-promotion at the expense of four million Louisiana citizens is the worst kind of duplicity and deceit and he most certainly deserves his near certain future of political obscurity.

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