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Did the former director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control strong-arm New Orleans-area night club owners to contribute to the campaign of one of the candidates for governor in last fall’s elections?

A confidential source told LouisianaVoice that club owners and businesses in Orleans and Jefferson Parish were pressured during two separate meetings prior to the Oct. 24 primary election to contribute to the gubernatorial campaign of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.

There is no evidence that Angelle knew about or approved of the alleged coercion to contribute to his campaign.

Ten businesses or individuals subsequently contributed more than $30,500 to Angelle’s campaign, all of which was given prior to the primary election in which Angelle finished third to eventual winner John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

Why would club owners be asked to contribute to Angelle? One possible explanation might be that ATC Director Troy Hebert thought Angelle’s election represented his best chance for reappointment. Hebert resigned on Jan. 10, the day before John Bel Edwards became governor.

None of the 10 contributed to either of the other three candidates for governor though seven of them also contributed more than $19,000 to John Young’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, campaign records show.

John Young’s brother, attorney Chris Young, represents numerous New Orleans clubs and bars in proceedings before the ATC. Chris Young also serves as a lobbyist for the Beer Industry League of Louisiana. Their sister, Judy Pontin, serves as ATC’s $71,000-per-year “executive management officer” in ATC’s New Orleans office.

The timing of Operation Trick or Treat, a joint sting operation conducted by ATC and Louisiana State Police, also raises the question of whether there may have been a pattern of selective investigations of French Quarter strip clubs, particularly in New Orleans, last September and October.

Eighteen clubs in Orleans and Jefferson Parish were subjected to the investigation. Seventeen of the 18 did not contribute to Angelle. Only Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club among those that contributed was among those clubs visited in Operation Trick or Treat, according to a list obtained from ATC by LouisianaVoice. No violations were found there.

In all, nine clubs were found in violation of infractions of underage alcohol sales, drug use and/or prostitution.

Were club owners who contributed to Angelle and/or Young deliberately passed over during the joint LSP-ATC operation? Or were they just lucky?

Did the undercover investigation just happen to coincide with the run-up to the 2015 election for governor and lieutenant governor? Were those clubs who had their liquor licenses pulled targeted for their failure to follow through with political contributions? And did the license revocations help eliminate French Quarter competition for favored clubs?

A source close to the events contacted LouisianaVoice by email several weeks ago. Writing under an assumed name, the source said that prior to the Oct. 24 primary election, Hebert held private meetings with several club owners “to shake down the businesses” for contributions to Angelle’s campaign fund. She said the meetings were held “on top of Oceana Restaurant on Conti and in Metairie on Veterans Highway at Cajun Canyons Restaurant” (Cajun Cannon), run by former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert (no relation to Troy Hebert). It wasn’t immediately clear if she meant the rooftop of the Oceana or on the top floor of the restaurant.

Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon Restaurant & Bar is located at 4101 Veterans Memorial Blvd., but nowhere in the Secretary of State’s corporate records is Hebert listed as an officer of that or any other corporate entity in Orleans or Jefferson Parish.

Instead, the trade name Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon is listed at 5828 Marcia Ave. in New Orleans—the same address as several other corporations.

Oceana Restaurant is located at 739 Conti Street, the same address as Oceana Enterprises, LLC. Wassek N. Badr is listed as both the registered agent and the only officer of Oceana Enterprises.

And this is where it gets really confusing.

The name Badr, or Bader, crops up in several other corporate filings in New Orleans, all with the same 5828 Marcia Ave. address as Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon nightclub.

Others with Wassek Badr’s name listed as officer include Cajun Estates of 5828 Marcia, Cajun Conti, LLC, and Cajun Cuisine, LLC, both of 739 Conti (same address as Oceana Restaurant), and MRW Orleans, LLC (Mohamad Wassek Bader and Rami Wassek Badr), 5828 Marcia.

Moe Wassek Badr is listed as the agent and only officer of Cajun Maple, LLC, of 5828 Marcia while Mohamad “Moe” Badr is given as agent and only officer of Olde Creole Palace, LLC. And Rami Badr is listed as agent and only officer of Cajun Broad, LLC, both located at 5828 Marcia.

Additionally, Morton Bader is named as agent for Cajun Estates.

Amer Bader is listed in corporate records as a member of Wasek Badr, LLC, and it is Amer Bader who has said that he exchanged text messages with Hebert in which he accused Hebert of extorting sexual favors from a woman experiencing licensing problems with ATC. http://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/26/fbi-said-investigating-troy-hebert-for-using-office-to-extort-sex-from-woman-in-exchange-for-fixing-licensing-problems/

Campaign finance reports filed by Angelle would seem to indicate the meetings at Oceana and Cajun Cannon were likely held on or around Sept. 16 and Oct. 12, 2015, since all the contributions to Angelle were on those two dates.

Two contributions of $5,000 each were made on Sept. 16 by Hospitality Consultants and Magnolia Enterprises, records show, and Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply gave $500 on that same date.

On Oct. 12, Quarter Holdings and ITMC Enterprises contributed $5,000 each to Angelle’s campaign, Bourbon Heat and Promenade Entertainment gave $2,500 each, and HDV No. 1, SB Entertainment, and CATS 701 each gave $1,666.66.

Here are those contributors to Angelle and the dates of their contributions:

  • Hospitality Consultants: $5,000 on Sept. 16, 2015;
  • Magnolia Enterprises, Inc.: $5,000 on Sept. 16;
  • Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Inc.: $500 on Sept. 16;
  • Quarter Holdings: $5,000 on Oct. 12;
  • JTMC Enterprises: $5,000 on Oct. 12;
  • Bourbon Heat: $2,500 on Oct. 12;
  • Promenade Entertainment, LLC: $2,500 on Oct. 12;
  • HDV No. 1, LLC: $1,666.67 on Oct. 12;
  • SB Entertainment, Inc.: $1,666.67 on Oct. 12;
  • CATS 701 Bourbon, LLC: $1,666.66 on Oct. 12

Here are the seven who also contributed more than $19,000 to John Young’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, according to campaign reports obtained from the State Board of Ethics:

  • Quarter Holdings, LLC: $5,000 on Dec. 29, 2014;
  • Magnolia Enterprises, Inc.: $3,000 on Feb. 26, 2015 and $1,000 on April 29, 2015;
  • SB Entertainment, Inc.: $1,666.67 on Aug. 21;
  • CATS 701 Bourbon, LLC: $1,666.67 on Aug. 24;
  • HDV No. 1, LLC: $1,666.66 on Aug. 24;
  • JTMC Enterprises, LLC: $834 on Aug. 24;
  • Bourbon Heat, LLC: $2,500 on Aug. 28, 2014 and $2,500 on Aug. 26, 2015.

Besides those businesses, also conspicuously absent from the list of clubs investigated by the joint ATC/LSP sting operation was Rick’s Cabaret. Rick’s bills itself on its web site as “New Orleans’ finest gentlemen’s experience.” Located at 315 Bourbon Street, it is within three blocks of all nine strip clubs which had their licenses suspended. Because of its proximity to the other clubs, it would stand to gain financially from business lost by the penalized establishments because of their inability to sell alcoholic beverages.

Robert Watters, owner of Rick’s Cabaret, is said to be friends with both Troy Hebert and State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

The corporate records on the businesses are equally confusing.

Magnolia Enterprises and Quarter Holdings, LLC, share the same agent, Marcus Giusti, and at least one officer, Kishore V. Motwani. Additionally, Aaron K. Motwani is an officer in Magnolia Enterprises. Kishore Motwani also is an officer for Quarter Holdings, Inc. All three share the same Canal Street mailing address.

Neither CATS 701 Bourbon, which runs Cat’s Meow Club at that address, nor HDV No. 1, which operates Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, list any officers on the Secretary of State’s corporate web site, but they list the same Reno, Nevada address as their domicile. Along with SB Entertainment, they give Durand, Michigan, as their mailing address and SB Entertainment lists two corporate officers, both in Reno.

Bourbon Heat, LLC lists Huey Farrell as its agent and Angelo and Regina Farrell as officers while Jude Marullo is both agent and officer for Promenade Entertainment, LLC. Likewise, Warren Reuther, Jr., is agent and the only officer listed for Hospitality Consultants.

Pat O’Brien is listed as manager of Pat O’Brien Developments, LLC while only agents and no officers are given for JTMC Enterprises, LLC and Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Inc.

Attempts to reach spokesmen for the businesses who contributed to Angelle to determine if they were pressured to give to his campaign were unsuccessful.

 

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When Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) legal counsel Floyd Falcon defended political contributions in the 2015 gubernatorial campaign by LSTA, he cited a 1992 legal precedent which he said permitted the activity.

Apparently he had not counted on being outmaneuvered by a retired state trooper who was perfectly able to do his own legal research to counter Falcon’s argument at last week’s hearing before the State Police Commission.

Several retired state troopers, represented by spokesman Scott Perry, a retired captain with 26 years’ experience with LSP, appeared before the commission on Thursday (Jan. 14) to voice objections to the funneling of LSTA funds through its executive director David Young.

Perry was joined by retired Lt. Leon Millet who said more than $45,000 in political contributions were made without the knowledge or consent of the LSTA membership and that the action appeared to be a violation of the state constitution and State Police Commission regulations.

Perry, on Friday, followed his Thursday verbal request for an investigation with a written request. “Please accept this correspondence as a formal request pursuant to State Police Commission Rule ‘Chapter 16, Investigations,’” he wrote. Perry asked that the commission “investigate the allegation of Prohibited Political Active, 14.2 (A) (1), 14.2 (A) (4), 14.2 (A) (8), in regards to political endorsements and contributions.

“This request is made specifically against classified members of the Office of State Police acting in their capacity as elected officers of the Louisiana State Troopers Association.”

Following Perry’s address to the commission on Thursday, Falcon told the commission it had no authority to investigate LSTA because it is a private organization not subject to oversight by the commission.

Commission members agreed but pointed out that it is empowered to investigate illegal or questionable activity by individual state troopers. The commission is the equivalent of the Louisiana Civil Service Commission which serves the dual purpose of protecting the rights of state employees and investigating illegal or improper activities by state employees.

Falcon cited the 1992 case of Cannatella vs. the New Orleans Department of Civil Service. In that case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal overturned a 30-day suspension handed down to police Sgt. Ronald Cannatella for violation of a city civil service rule prohibiting political activity. http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=718580336782666189&q=cannatella+v.+department+of+civil+service&hl=en&as_sdt=8000006&as_vis=1

Cannatella was president of the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) in January 1990 when PANO decided to endorse a candidate for mayor. PANO had polled its membership beforehand and Cannatella subsequently appeared at a public forum to announce the endorsement. The appellate court noted that Cannatella believed he was acting “pursuant to what he believed was a function of his position as the president of PANO.”

The court said that while the prohibition against political activity is “exclusively limited to commissioners and classified civil service employees and officers,” the prohibition “does not extend to a labor organization such as PANO, or its spokesperson, merely because its members are classified civil service employees.”

No sooner was Falcon finished citing the Cannatella case than Perry, who now works as an investigator for the Office of Inspector General, was on his feet. Perry presented a copy of a 2001 ruling by a three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. The ruling he held, while not a legal precedent, nevertheless differed significantly with the Cannatella case and was identical to the circumstances of the LSTA action.

In the case of Kenner Police Department vs. Kenner Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board, five officers who signed off on a contribution check in their capacity as members of the executive board of the city police association were fired.

In the opinion written by Judge Clarence McManus, the Fifth Circuit said that while Cannatella held that members of PANO had the right to endorse a candidate without exposing the members to penalties under the civil service laws, “…Cannatella is not controlling or binding on this court, as counsel for appellants seems to suggest.”

It said Cannatella is distinguishable because it involved a different statute governed by a different provision of the constitution. “In this case the appellants are indeed classified civil service employees. Therefore, the prohibition against political activity clearly applies to them,” the decision said. But, the court noted, the officers claimed they did not individually make any campaign contributions, but rather PACK did. (PACK is an acronym for Police Association for the City of Kenner.)

The court said the appellants’ assertion that the contribution and endorsement were actions taken by PACK and not the fire appellants individually “is simply untenable. As for the contention that being members of a labor union exempts them from any and all responsibility under the civil service laws, we find this argument unpersuasive. To allow the appellants to do indirectly through the union or an association that which they cannot do directly as classified civil service employees will permit them to circumvent the statute’s prohibition.” (Emphasis ours)

The civil service board held that the campaign contribution check “was personal action taken by the officers individually, and not an action of the association,” said the appellate court in upholding their termination.  http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-court-of-appeal/1285153.html

LouisianaVoice broke the story of the LSTA contributions on December 9. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/

In the LSTA case, Young acknowledged that he made the contributions in his name and was subsequently reimbursed by the organization.

In a statement that would seem to conflict with LSTA’s own legal counsel’s argument, Young said there were questions about the ability of state employees making political contributions. “So in order to avoid any of that,” he told the Advocate, “if I make a contribution as a non-state employee, there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.”

Except there now are questions. Commission Vice Chairman W. Lloyd Grafton of Ruston observed that it “almost makes me think there was something suspect here because of the check writing. Why wouldn’t the association have made the contribution? It looks like someone was trying to circumvent something.”

Prior to that date, on Dec. 4, LouisianaVoice broke another story that State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson attempted to prevail upon the LSTA board to write a letter to then Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards endorsing Edmonson for reappointment to lead state police for another four years.

On Nov. 30, the board voted unanimously not to write the letter. Edwards subsequently reappointed Edmonson anyway, largely on the strength of the endorsement of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana Police Chiefs’ Association.

Edmonson twice denied that he had requested the LSTA board’s endorsement but LSTA Interim President Stephen LaFargue confirmed to LouisianaVoice, also on two separate occasions, that Edmonson asked him about the prospects of LSTA sending a letter to Edwards asking that Edmonson be reappointed.

“Col. Edmonson attended the board meeting and he told me he was going to apply for reappointment,” LaFargue said. “He then asked about the possibility of the LSTA board writing a letter of endorsement. I told him I didn’t know, that it would have to be taken up by the board.” Because of questions raised by LouisianaVoice, the board subsequently agreed unanimously not to write the letter to Edwards.

A meeting summary of a Troop I (Lafayette) affiliate meeting noted that LaFargue also “took responsibility” for the LSTA’s endorsement of Edwards in the Nov. 21 runoff election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Edwards defeated Vitter by a 60-40 percentage point margin.

Edwards also was one of several candidates who received contributions from LTSA. Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo told the Baton Rouge Advocate last Thursday that the governor had no knowledge that Young was reimbursed by LSTA and that Edwards would return the $8,000 received from LSTA through Young “if the contributions were made improperly.” http://theadvocate.com/news/14574305-124/head-of-state-police-group-says-nothing-wrong-with-his-political-donations-gov-edwards-said-he-will

Louisiana State Police Commission Chapter 14 to which Perry referred specifically says that no member of State Police shall:

  • Participate or engage in political activity, including, but not limited to, any effort to support or oppose the election of a candidate for political office or support or oppose a particular political party in an election;
  • Make or solicit contributions for any political purpose, party, faction, or candidate;
  • Directly or indirectly, pay or promise to pay any assessment, subscription, or contribution for any political party, faction or candidate, nor solicit or take part in soliciting any such assessment, subscription or contribution, and no person shall solicit any such assessment, subscription or contribution of any classified employee in the State Police Service.

http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/c4b8169248104d4286256ead0069b9bd/582526be4d41dca786256ea000667ce2?OpenDocument

So in the end, we have:

  • State police officers who comprise the LSTA board making a political endorsement in direct contravention of rules and regulations.
  • The Superintendent of State Police leaning on the LSTA board in an effort to get the board to send the new governor a letter endorsing him for reappointment.
  • The executive board of the LSTA, comprised of state police officers under the jurisdiction of the State Police Commission making the decision to make more than $45,000 in political contributions—contributions that were laundered through its non-state employee executive director—by the director’s own admission, and without bothering to poll its membership for approval.

All three of which were in violation of State Police Commission regulations.

Any questions?

 

 

 

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Gov. John Bel Edwards hasn’t even issued the call yet for a special legislative session to deal with the state’s budgetary woes and already state lawmakers appear to have the collective attention span of a gypsy moth.

A couple of years ago, a person who knows me well (my wife) commented that after Bobby Jindal leaves office, I would have nothing to write about. She’s dead-on with most of her evaluations but with this one, she failed to take into account we still have a legislature.

That’s the body that allowed Bobby Jindal to run roughshod over this state for eight long years with hardly a peep of protest. And that’s the body that must, in the final analysis, be held accountable for the damage inflicted by Bobby.

The legislature allowed Jindal to rape higher education. It looked the other way when he gave away the state hospitals. It was shamefully mute when he closed or privatized mental health hospitals and cut funding for the developmentally disadvantaged.

No questions were asked when it was revealed on this blog that Department of Public Safety Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux picked up an extra $46,000 in spare change by taking advantage of a retirement incentive offer (along with an additional $13,000 in unused leave) in April of 2010 only to return to work the next day—at a promotion from deputy secretary to undersecretary (Funny, when Sally Clausen did that at the University of Louisiana System, the mainstream media was apoplectic).

Lawmakers blindly went along with a last-minute amendment to a bill in the closing hours of the 2014 session that would have given State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an additional $50,000 or so in retirement income in violation of an irrevocable decision he had voluntarily made years before that locked in his retirement. Only when LouisianaVoice stumbled upon the amendment and publicized it was action taken to rescind the amendment.

So now here we are in January of 2016, staring down the barrel of a $2 billion-plus budgetary shortfall for next fiscal year and about $700 million just to make it to the end of this fiscal year (June 30).

I’m about to make citizens angry at legislators’ lack of focus. I’m going to make women furious at lawmakers’ lack of sensitivity towards equal pay for them. I’m about to make those struggling to feed a family on minimum wage wonder (actually, they’ve never stopped wondering) if anyone in elective office even cares. And I’m about to send state employees who have gone for years without a pay raise into orbit.

And no matter which group you fall into, you can look to the legislature as the cause of your continued struggles.

And just so you don’t forget, I want to remind you that it is legislators like Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) who use not their own money, but campaign contributions to dine at the finest New Orleans restaurants, purchase season tickets to LSU athletic events and to Saints and Pelicans pro football and basketball games, and to lease luxury vehicles like BMWs and Mercedes. Others use funds to pay fines for campaign violations (the ultimate irony) and to even pay personal federal income taxes as well as to purchase season tickets to athletic events.

The Baton Rouge Advocate on Wednesday (January 13) ran a front page story about Legislative Fiscal Officer John Carpenter’s attempt to convey to House members just how severe the state’s financial plight really is.

So the House members were riveted to Carpenter’s presentation, hanging onto every word, right?

Wrong. Elizabeth Crisp, writing for The Advocate, said the budget talk was “met with mild interest” from members “who mingled about and talked throughout the more than two hours of presentations.” http://theadvocate.com/news/14553820-123/state-house-members-hear-gloomy-budget-outlook

The chamber was called to order, she said, in an attempt to quiet the “loud chatter” and some members posed questions in an attempt to get fellow members’ attention, “though it had little effect,” she wrote.

What the hell? I mean, WHAT THE HELL?

Did we send a bunch of juvenile delinquent dumbasses to Baton Rouge to party and have a good time at taxpayer expense? Apparently so.

If these legislators had kids who got their hands on dad’s credit cards and maxed them out and the kids started chattering and laughing during the lecture on fiscal responsibility that followed, dad would—and should—jerk a half-hitch in them. We, in our parental roles, should remind these jerks, these spoiled brats in no uncertain terms why they were elected.

Remember State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia)? He’s the one who slipped the infamous Edmonson Amendment in during the closing hours of the 2014 session. That was the amendment that would’ve kicked Edmonson’s retirement up by some $50,000.

Well, guess what? Though he was frothing at the mouth to get Edmonson his money in 2014, he went on record today (January 13, 2016) as opposing any increase in the minimum wage. Greg Hilburn, writing for the Monroe News-Star, quoted the incoming chairman of the Senate Labor Committee as justifying his opposition to an increase: “The Louisiana economy is struggling,” he sniffed.

Well, DUH!

Yes, Senator, the economy is struggling. When you have people trying to exist on $7.25 an hour, they’re going to struggle. They won’t be able to purchase appliances, cars, or homes, the very consumer products that drive the economy. Where did you get your economics degree, Senator? Oh, that’s right, I forgot. You run a couple of mortuaries. Do they teach economics in embalming school? I bet you don’t pass up an opportunity to increase prices on those shiny coffins, do you? How much do you charge for a funeral today as compared to say, ten years ago? Five years ago? One year? Betcha a dollar to a doughnut those rates haven’t remained stagnant.

There was no one in Louisiana more skilled than C.B. Forgotston at chronicling the antics of those he referred to as the leges. C.B. sadly is no longer with us, so it falls to those of us who can only aspire to his observational skills to keep Louisiana’s citizens abreast of the shenanigans of the 144 members of the Louisiana House and Senate.

With that said, here’s another reason the economy in Louisiana is struggling: Women in Louisiana, on average, make 66 cents for every dollar paid a man for the same job. Where is the equity in that, Senator?

Here’s a news flash for you. Politico Magazine has just issued its annual “States of our Union” report. Any guesses as to where Louisiana ranks?

If you said 50th, you would incorrect. We’re 51st. It seems the District of Columbia was also included in the rankings (coming in at 39th overall).

There’s a thing called the Gini coefficient, or Gini index, factored into the rankings. The Gini coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent income distribution, or more accurately, to reflect income disparity (the gap between the haves and the have-nots).

In that measure, the District of Columbia is the worst but we’re not far behind. We have the nation’s fourth-worst income inequality. But Neil Riser doesn’t want to increase the minimum wage.

Here are a few other rankings that contributed to the state’s overall anchor position:

  • Per capital income: 11th worst at $24,775;
  • Unemployment rate: 6th worst at 6.3 percent;
  • Percentage of population living below poverty level: 3rd worst at 19.8 percent;
  • Percentage of high school graduates: 3rd worst at 83.6 percent;
  • Life expectancy at birth: 4th worst at 75.7 years;
  • Infant deaths per 1,000 births: 5th worst at 7.49.

And just for good measure, another survey shows that Louisiana is the sixth most violent state in America with 514.7 violent crimes per 100,000 population. The state’s murder rate (10.3 per every 100,000 residents) is the highest in the nation and more than double the national rate (4.5 per 100,000 people). http://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/01/12/the-10-most-dangerous-states/2/

Statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice show a direct correlation between poverty and crime. http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5137

But let’s not raise the minimum wage, Senator.

Here’s the real irony with Riser: he represents one of the poorest senatorial districts in the state which means he is undermining the interests of his own constituents. Could it be he does not want to pay his employees more?

At least Edwards has signed an executive order expanding Medicaid which will provide health care to some 300,000 citizens who were denied it under the Jindal administration.

And finally, for those state employees who have gone without raises, I’m sure by now you are well aware that state troopers received back-to-back raises totaling some 30 percent over a six-month period last year. http://theadvocate.com/news/legislature/12940806-123/state-troopers-get-hefty-back-to-back

But did you know that Edmonson is working quietly behind the scenes to implement an automatic annual pay increase for state troopers in addition to the usual merit raises (which, we need not remind you, have been denied other state employees)?

That’s right. He calls it a “longevity” increase and if he is successful, it will give state troopers, many of whom already make six-figure incomes, automatic raises each and every year, merit be damned. Longevity means by virtue of hanging onto one’s job, troopers get automatic raises.

While state employees may belong to a union (The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—AFSCME—is the main player), state civil service rules prohibit state employees from striking. But why not a state employee association? That’s a pretty benign term. We have RSEA, the Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana. Members pay their own dues and a state employee association could be set up in the same manner. No one has the authority to ban an employee association—especially if there is no payroll deductions for dues. And for the more sensitive types, it removes the stigma of the word union from the discussion. (People forget, however, that it was unions’ efforts that ended child labor in oppressive sweat shops. Unions gave us the 40-hour work week. They fought for a minimum wage and for our retirement and medical benefits. And it was unions that led the fight for equal rights for women and minorities. We should never lose sight of those facts because unions, like ’em or not, were instrumental in creating America’s middle class that Republicans seem hell-bent on eliminating.)

An association, after all, would only be a large social club—sort of like that other organization…what’s it called? Oh, yeah, the Association of Louisiana Lobbyists. Or maybe the Fraternal Order of Police.

And such an association would never call for a widespread sickout of state employees in order to make a point (wink, wink) on an issue like say, longevity pay increases for state police while civil service employees continue without even cost of living increases for years on end.

Seriously, if leges (with apologies to C.B.) don’t get their collective heads out of… (and we’re not talking about sand here), they will end up creating just such an organization. People (teachers, state employees, women, minorities—all voters, mind you) are tired of being dumped on. They’re tired of patchwork budgets, tired of legislators turning deaf ears on their problems, tired of the elitist attitudes and campaign-funded perks of the power structure.

They want solutions and the leges would be wise to pay attention in class and to take their jobs seriously—or get out so someone else will.

 

 

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It looks as though Bobby Jindal’s former commissioner of administration Kristy Nichols will finally have to comply with state regulations. Or maybe not.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics, in typical fashion first put the kibosh on any effort by Kristy Kreme to lobby state government on behalf of her new employer—and then promptly withdrew the opinion.

The board was essentially neutered by Jindal during his rush for ethics “reform” in his first days in office back in 2008. Because of those “reforms,” the board lost considerable steam and all its enforcement powers and it now appears it is missing a spine.

And one has to wonder if the Jindalistas had any influence on the decision to withdraw the unfavorable opinion.

Nichols served as Jindal’s commissioner of administration for three years, from October 2012 to October 2015. Those years were marked by consistent budgetary shortfalls, cuts to higher education and health care, the contentious revamping of premiums and benefits for state employees, retirees and dependents through the Office of Group Benefits and the equally controversial privatization of the state charity hospital system.

She also was sued twice by LouisianaVoice over her failure to produce public records in a timely manner. It was in that area that she enjoyed her greatest success by breaking even. She prevailed in the first lawsuit but lost the second one. She still owes a judgment of $800, plus attorney fees and court costs. She chose to spend even more state money in appealing the decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

She announced in September that she would be going to work for Ochsner Health System as a lobbyist. Well, technically, her new title is vice president of government and corporate affairs. While state law precludes her lobbying the legislative or executive branches for two years, there appears to be no prohibition to her lobbying local governments (parishes and municipalities) on the part of Ochsner.

She contacted the ethics board on Nov. 5 through attorney Kimberly Robinson of the Baton Rouge law firm Jones Walker.

Robinson was recently named by Gov-elect John Bel Edwards to be the new secretary of the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

The board last Thursday (Dec. 17) addressed six specific areas about which Robinson sought opinions. The board shot down four of those and took no position on the remaining two because of what it termed insufficient information, according to Walter Pierce of the INDReporter Web site. http://theind.com/article-22377-Ethics-Board-blocks-Nichols.html

A spokesman for the ethics board, however, told LouisianaVoice on Monday that the opinion has been “withdrawn” and the entire matter re-scheduled for the board’s Feb. 19, 2016, meeting.

The opinion initially would have barred Nichols for two years from:

  • Direct transactions or communications with the Division of Administration;
  • Participating in any transaction, researching or preparing materials for use in or in support of a direct act or communication with a legislator;
  • Communicating or having a transaction with the Department of Health and Hospitals, and
  • Assisting Ochsner in communications or transactions with LSU. The LSU Board of Supervisors currently oversees the public-private partnerships between the state-run hospitals and private health care providers.

There was no immediate explanation of what the remaining two questions from Robinson concerned.

There are several areas of concern in allowing Nichols to lobby state government on behalf of Ochsner, not the least of which is the agreement between the state and Ochsner during her term that allowed Ochsner to partner with the state in running the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma.

In 2013, the LSU Board of Supervisors signed off on the contract containing 50 blank pages. That contract handed over operation of state-owned hospitals in Lake Charles, Houma, Shreveport and Monroe. The blank pages were supposed to have contained lease terms. Instead, the LSU board left those details to the Jindal administration (read Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols).

Eventually details emerged about the contracts, including that of the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma. And, thanks to the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council, the picture began to come into focus.

Leonard Chabert Medical Center was opened in 1978 as a 96-bed facility with 802 employees but by the time it was privatized, it was down to 63 beds.

In 2008, a hospital-based accredited Internal Medicine residency program was begun. In 2011, the hospital’s revenue was 47 percent uncompensated care for the uninsured, 29.5 percent Medicaid, 13 percent Medicare, 5.5 percent state general fund and 6 percent interagency transfer from other departments with only 1 percent being self-generated.

When the Jindal administration moved to unload state hospitals, Chabert was partnered with Southern Regional Medical Corp., a nonprofit entity whose only member is Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC).

TGMC is slated to manage Chabert with assistance from a company affiliated with Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest private not-for-profit health system with eight hospitals and forty health centers statewide. Terms of the agreement call for a five-year lease with an automatic renewal after the first year in one-year increments to create a rolling five-year term.

Though Southern Regional is not required to pay rent under terms of the agreement, the Terrebonne Parish Hospital Service District No. 1 is required to make annual intergovernmental transfers of $17.6 million to the Medicaid program for Southern Regional and its affiliates.

The cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) calls for supplemental payments of $31 million to Ochsner. Small wonder then that the Houma Daily Courier described the deal as “a valuable asset to Ochsner’s network of hospitals” and that the deal expands Ochsner’s business profile.

Between 2009 and 2013, Ochsner’s revenue doubled from $900 million to $1.8 billion and the deal would mean more revenue for Ochsner, the Daily Courier said. http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140325/articles/140329692?p=3&tc=pg

There has never been a reasonable explanation as to why the LSU Board signed off on a blank contract that the Jindal administration would fill in after the fact. Was it just by chance that Nichols, as Commissioner of Administration, was responsible for that task? And was it just happenstance that two years after Ochsner received that $31 million, it saw the need to bring Nichols aboard just as her employment with the Jindal administration was winding down?

LSU Board of Supervisors handed over University Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe to the Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) even though the CEO of BRF was a sitting member of the LSU board at the time.

Within two years, that deal fell apart and the board and BRF are now involved in complicated litigation.

Meanwhile, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to approve the Jindal/Nichols privatization plan.

 

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LouisianaVoice has learned that The Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) has funneled more than $45,000 in political campaign contributions through LSTA Executive Director David T. Young since 2003 without the knowledge of the organization’s rank and file membership.

Much of that amount ($23,750) was given to Bobby Jindal ($10,250) and to three of the four major candidates for governor in the 2015 election ($13,500).

This follows the LSTA’s endorsement of Governor-elect John Bel Edwards in his runoff election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter which also was done without consulting or polling LSTA membership.

Following revelations by LouisianaVoice, the LSTA board has taken action to ensure that no future candidates will be endorsed by the organization without first polling its membership. The board also declined to forward a letter to Edwards asking that State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson be reappointed for another four-year term. Edmonson denied that he asked for the letter but LSTA Interim President Stephen LaFargue twice confirmed that Edmonson did make the request.

It was LaFargue who made the motion at the board’s November 30 meeting to not send the letter. The 11-member board voted unanimously to not send it.

The LSTA, according to information contained on its website, is “a fraternal organization representing the men and women of the Louisiana State Police” and represents approximately 97 percent of the commissioned officers “as well as a substantial portion of State Police Retirees.”

Organized under Section 501(c)(5) of the Internal Revenue Code, LSTA is a non-profit organization founded in 1969 to represent the interests of its members and to “improve the public services provided by our members to our community.”

Besides membership dues of $30 per month for about 950 active members and $15 per month for retirees under 60 (there are no dues for retires over 60), LSTA also relies on individual and corporate contributions to sustain its activities. It also sells decals, wearables, shirts, caps, glasses, mugs, flashlights, and miscellaneous clothing, according to information contained on the Secretary of State’s corporate records for LSTA Enterprises, LLC.

A member who spoke to LouisianaVoice on condition of anonymity said the board sets aside $25,000 per year for political contributions. Later, when candidates for office become known, the decision is made on whom to contribute money. “The problem with that is,” he said, “is that the membership has never been told of this. They knew nothing about it. David (Young) writes a check and then invoices the board for that amount.”

Another member, when shown the numbers said simply, “Holy s–t! We had no idea this was going on.”

A 501(c)(5) is allowed under IRS rules to make “unlimited corporate, individual or union contributions, so it was not immediately clear why the contributions were made through Young.

The same source said he was incensed by the action. “LSTA wasn’t set up for this kind of activity. Its main purpose is to provide support for trooper who have suffered misfortune, such as when a child has a major illness or when a trooper’s home burns down. We’re not supposed to get all involved in politics.”

Another source said it was not Young’s idea for the LSTA endorsement of Edwards or to make the political contributions and that in fact, he advised against the endorsement. “He (Young) has tried his best to keep Edmonson out of the LSTA’s operations. He and Frank (former President Frank Besson) butted heads constantly over that issue (the endorsement). But when it came down to it, Frank was President and David did as instructed. David has been dedicated and loyal to the LSTA for more than 15 years.”

Besson was recently promoted to captain’s rank and was forced to relinquish his presidency since no one with a rank higher than lieutenant may serve as an LSTA officer. LaFargue was elevated to the position on an interim basis until newly-elected President James “Jay” O’quinn takes office.

Following is a printout from the Board of Ethics Campaign Finance report on contributions made by LSTA through Young. Blank spaces represent the contributions of different David Youngs which were removed by LouisianaVoice.

Alario PAC, F202 : ANN  – LA-41156 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 OAKDALE BATON ROUGE, LA CC 12/21/2011 $1,000.00
Angelle, Scott A. F102 : 10P  – LA-52247 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   9/30/2015 $2,500.00
Broadwater, Chris F102 : 30P  – LA-50384 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA 70810   2/26/2015 $1,000.00
Broadwater, Chris F102 : 10P  – LA-25704 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA Contribution. 9/16/2011 $250.00
Clark, Cloyce F102 : 30P  – LA-50765 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   6/26/2015 $500.00
Clark, Cloyce F102 : 30P  – LA-50765 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   3/27/2015 $500.00
             
Clark, Cloyce F102 : 10G  – LA-54484 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   10/14/2015 $500.00
Dardenne, John L. (Jay) F102 : ANN  – LA-47554 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA 70810-3107   12/11/2014 $1,000.00
Davis, Paula F102 : 10P  – LA-52147 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 OAKDALE BATON ROUGE, LA 70810   10/1/2015 $250.00
Downer, Hunt F102 : 90P  – LA-4445 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   5/29/2003 $250.00
Edwards, John Bel F102 : 10G  – LA-54393 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   10/26/2015 $5,000.00
Edwards, John Bel F102 : 30P  – LA-50798 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   8/10/2015 $2,000.00
Edwards, John Bel F102 : ANN  – LA-48840 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA 70810-3107   7/16/2014 $1,000.00
Edwards, John Bel F102 : 90P  – LA-49688 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   7/2/2015 $1,000.00
Edwards, John Bel F102 : ANN  – LA-39161 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   7/14/2013 $500.00
Edwards, John Bel F102 : ANN  – LA-48840 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   10/30/2014 $500.00
             
             
             
             
             
             
             
             
Gautreaux, Dudley A. (Butch) F102 : 30P  – LA-20558 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   7/26/2010 $1,000.00
Gautreaux, Dudley A. (Butch) F102 : SUP  – LA-23092 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   10/25/2010 $500.00
Gautreaux, Dudley A. (Butch) F102 : 30P  – LA-20558 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   2/26/2010 $500.00
Gautreaux, Nick F102 : SUP  – LA-11398 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   3/22/2006 $250.00
             
Guillory, Elbert F102 : 30P  – LA-16780 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   2/11/2009 $500.00
Guillory, Elbert F102 : 10P  – LA-25573 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   9/16/2011 $500.00
Guillory, Elbert F102 : 10G  – LA-27857 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   10/29/2011 $500.00
Guillory, Elbert F102 : ANN  – LA-35616 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   3/9/2012 $500.00
Guillory, Elbert F102 : ANN  – LA-39781 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   3/26/2013 $500.00
Guinn, John F102 : ANN  – LA-20241 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr. Baton Rouge, LA   10/5/2009 $250.00
Heitmeier, David F102 : SUP  – LA-16593 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   2/20/2008 $500.00
Hoffmann, Frank A. F102 : 10P  – LA-25000 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   9/21/2011 $250.00
Hoffmann, Frank A. F102 : 30P  – LA-50146 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   4/10/2015 $250.00
House Democratic Campaign Committee of LA, F202 : 30P  – LA-24567 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   6/8/2011 $500.00
House Democratic Campaign Committee of LA, F202 : ANN  – LA-34684 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   5/17/2012 $500.00
House Democratic Campaign Committee of LA, F202 : ANN  – LA-39740 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   5/9/2013 $500.00
House Democratic Campaign Committee of LA, F202 : ANN  – LA-47440 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 8120 Jefferson Hwy Baton Rouge, LA   3/25/2014 $500.00
House Democratic Campaign Committee of LA, F202 : 30P  – LA-51260 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 8120 Jefferson Hwy Baton Rouge, LA   5/31/2015 $500.00
             
Jackson, Michael L. F102 : ANN  – LA-11231 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   3/22/2006 $250.00
Jindal, Bobby F102 : 90P  – LA-24239 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr. Baton Rouge, LA   4/21/2011 $5,000.00
Jindal, Bobby F102 : 180P  – LA-11626 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr. Baton Rouge, LA   2/26/2007 $2,500.00
Jindal, Bobby F102 : 30P  – LA-12153 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   8/18/2007 $2,500.00
Jindal, Bobby F102 : ANN  – LA-10037 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   9/30/2003 $250.00
             
             
LaBruzzo, John F102 : ANN  – LA-22748 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   12/3/2010 $500.00
LaFonta, Juan F102 : ANN  – LA-18988 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   10/15/2009 $500.00
Landry, Nancy F102 : ANN  – LA-17887 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   4/2/2009 $250.00
Leadership for Louisiana, F202 : ANN  – LA-34933 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   3/6/2012 $250.00
Leadership for Louisiana, F202 : ANN  – LA-39180 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   2/14/2013 $250.00
Martiny, Daniel R. F102 : 30P  – LA-12096 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   4/19/2007 $500.00
Michot, Mike F102 : ANN  – LA-17198 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   3/31/2008 $500.00
Mills, Fred F102 : 30P  – LA-24540 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 OAKDALE DRIVE BATON ROUGE, LA   4/25/2011 $500.00
Montoucet, Jack F102 : ANN  – LA-24151 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr. Baton Rouge, LA Golf Tournament Fundraiser 11-12-2010 11/11/2010 $500.00
Montoucet, Jack F102 : 10P  – LA-31755 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA Golf Tournament 9/26/2011 $250.00
Montoucet, Jack F102 : ANN  – LA-38808 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA Campaign Contribution 3/21/2013 $250.00
Montoucet, Jack F102 : ANN  – LA-24150 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1545 OAKDALE DR BATON ROUGE, LA   10/4/2009 $250.00
Nevers, Sr., Ben W. F102 : 90P  – LA-24091 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA donation 4/20/2011 $1,000.00
Nevers, Sr., Ben W. F102 : 10P  – LA-31700 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   9/15/2011 $500.00
             
             
Perry, Jonathan F102 : SUP  – LA-41161 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 OAKDALE DRIVE BATON ROUGE, LA   9/22/2011 $500.00
             
             
Robideaux, Joel F102 : ANN  – LA-47422 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   10/28/2014 $500.00
Robideaux, Joel F102 : ANN  – LA-47422 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   1/24/2014 $500.00
Robideaux, Joel F102 : ANN  – LA-47422 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   8/11/2014 $250.00
Robideaux, Joel F102 : 10P  – LA-25466 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   9/20/2011 $250.00
Schneider III, M. P. “Pete” F102 : 30P  – LA-50707 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Drive Baton Rouge, LA   7/16/2015 $250.00
Schroder, John F102 : ANN  – LA-38807 CONTRIB DAVID T. YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   4/3/2013 $250.00
Smith, Patricia Haynes F102 : SUP  – LA-35365 CONTRIB DAVID YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   10/24/2011 $500.00
             
St. Germain, Karen F102 : ANN  – LA-18774 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   2/25/2009 $500.00
St. Germain, Karen F102 : 10P  – LA-25903 CONTRIB DAVID T YOUNG 1548 Oakdale Dr Baton Rouge, LA   9/21/2011 $500.00
             

 

 

 

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