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A couple of weeks ago, we received a comment from a reader identifying himself only as “The Truth Man” who proceeded to go on a 128-word tirade against another reader who called himself the “Dental Genie” and gloating over the outcome of the lawsuit of Dr. Randall Schaffer against the Louisiana State Dentistry Board.

Normally, it is the policy of LouisianaVoice to protect the identities of those commenting on our stories. We take the position that if they do not wish to divulge their real names, there must be a legitimate reason. Often, that reason is that the writer is a state employee who would fear for his job should his name be revealed.

But when the writer turns out to be the former director of the state board that was being sued by Dr. Randall Schaffer and when that writer attempts to color the results of the legal action in the board’s favor, we take the position that he is waiving his anonymity. He is, after all, a very public figure, retired or not.

Barry Ogden, former director of the Louisiana Board of Dentistry, was referring to Schaffer’s lawsuit against the board after the board turned on him for blowing the whistle on a defective joint replacement device for temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) sufferers by the head of the LSU School of Dentistry’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department in the mid-1980s. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/11/from-protecting-their-own-to-persecution-of-a-whistleblower-its-all-part-of-the-bureaucratic-shuffle-by-state-dental-board/

Schaffer who was a resident at LSU at the time, became aware of the negative effects to patients receiving the implants and when he was named as a witness and consultant in the class action cases that ensued, the Board of Dentistry immediately launched an investigation and ultimately revoked his license to practice dentistry.

Schaffer sued the board and moved to Iowa where he worked as a consultant and expert witness in legal matters involving dental malpractice. His case wound its way slowly through the courts, as legal cases always do, running up tremendous costs in the process. Meanwhile, Schaffer was forced to undergo bypass surgery and the combination of medical problems and legal costs left him with no choice but to allow his case to abandon.

Thus, he did not “lose” his case; it was dismissed because of the aforementioned reasons. “I simply could not afford to keep feeding the (legal) beast,” Schaffer said. “It has cost me more than $100,000 and it broke me.”

Ogden’s misleading and less than gracious rant led to several email exchanges between LouisianaVoice and Ogden. We first reminded him that the dismissal of Dr. Randall Schaffer’s case was not based on the merits of the case, but upon extenuating circumstances—money and health. We also reminded him that there are other lawsuits pending against the board and that state agencies have—and are continuing to—investigate tactics by the board and its contract investigator Camp Morrison, who inexplicably was given free office space in the Dental Board’s suite, paid for by taxpayers.

“Are you going to print my comment or not?” Ogden replied. “You obviously have made up your mind about me. Everything I said is true and public. Is your blog blocking what you don’t want to hear? I hope you will give myself and the other defendants a fair and balanced report after we prevail in court.”

We promised to publish his comment, but in context with the facts of the Schaffer case and Ogden’s 400-page deposition in another pending legal matter (Dr. Ryan Haygood). “The Schaffer case does not end the legal actions against the Louisiana Board of Dentistry,” we wrote, adding that as long as we were now communicating (we couldn’t get a comment from the board in our original story), “please explain how it is that the private investigator (Morrison) who is (or was) under contract to the board had the luxury of having an office in your office suite.”

Rather than answer that question, Ogden wrote back, “I cannot authorize you to publish my comment until I see how you plan to edit it and in what context. Are you on a witch hunt against the board or are you willing to publish non-biased comments? I do not wish for my comments to be changed. However, you may delete the final sentence admonishing you to know your subject before commenting. Further, do you require that I will only have my comments published if I allow you to controvert them with your own commentary?”

Well, yeah, when we feel it appropriate to clarify certain claims we do reserve that right.

We then asked him to please answer a few simply questions, to wit:

  • Why do you send in people posing as patients with the express purpose of setting these dentists up?
  • How is it that many of the dentists penalized with the board just happen to be in competition with board members?
  • How do you justify levying a fine of say, $2,000 and when the dentist refuses, you suddenly hand him a bill for $100,000?
  • How can you justify the board serving as accuser, prosecutor and judge? That makes it impossible for a dentist to receive a fair hearing.
  • When the U.S. Constitution says that everyone accused of wrongdoing is innocent until proven guilty, how is it that a dentist first learns of his “guilt” upon receiving notification of his fine?

We wrote that we had other questions, but unless he could address those satisfactorily, we could see no reason for further discussion. “You answer these and we can talk further,” we said.

“All I was attempting to do in my first comment,” he replied, “was to set the record straight, as I have been fed up with the  lies being said about the board and, in fact, all the horse manure thrown at us by you which you believed from the start… Now you wish me fill in the blanks in your next story which you have probably already written. I see no use in further communication, especially on matters in litigation. You are attempting to take advantage of me knowing I cannot answer your questions.

“Therefore, please do not print any of my comments, and let’s call it a day.”

Sorry, Mr. Ogden. That’s just not the way it works. You opened this dialog with your April 3 email to us in which you taunted us about the dismissal of Dr. Schaffer’s case—without revealing the real reasons for the dismissal—and advising us to keep our mouths shut. You offered your remarks as a comment to our story and even asked if we intended to print it before apparently having a change of heart and asking that it not be printed.

Sorry again, but when you want something to be off the record, you preface it that way—up front. You don’t come back after the fact and ask that your ill-advised remarks not be printed.

Accordingly, here is the original comment by Barry Ogden, retired director of the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry (verbatim, as he requested):

  • For all of you who believe the fairy tale told by the dental genie, please be advised that ALL lawsuits filed on Dr. Shaffer’s behalf have been DISMISSED. I guess now you have to complain that both state and federal judges are as corrupted as the dental board. Further, how can anyone make a legitimate comment without looking at both sides? You can obtain a copy of the decision revoking Dr. Shaffer’s license from the dental board. It’s a public record. You may also look up all the lawsuits he has filed in state court and federal court in New Orleans to get the true picture. You know the old saying it is better to keep your mouth shut if you don’t know what you are talking about.

Next, we will examine how the board attempted to revoke the medical license of a New Orleans surgeon who has never even practiced dentistry using highly questionable investigative methods and employing tactics can only be described as extortion.

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My granddad had an admonition for someone (more than once, that someone was me) who he thought was running his mouth off a little too much: “Don’t let your alligator mouth overload your jaybird ass.”

Loosely translated, that means don’t go shooting off your mouth with claims you can’t back up—physically or factually.

And from our perspective, it would seem that Bobby Jindal’s fusillade of fulminations, besides causing a “there he goes again” rolling of the eyes, has placed quite a burden on his scrawny backside.

It’s bad enough that he has waded off into the murky waters of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA, a bill being copied in other states, including Louisiana) by voicing his support of the bill during, of all things, a speech at the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/04/10/bobby-jindal-likens-gun-rights-to-religious-liberty/

(Bobby, Bibles and Bullets: what a presidential campaign slogan.)

But then, Team Jindal, in its weekly email blast, went to great lengths to point out that Iowa radio talk show host and Washington Times columnist “Steve Deace Proclaimed Governor Jindal A ‘Champion’ And ‘The Winner Of The Week’ For Standing Up For Religious Liberty.”

The email went on to say, “When a people’s very way of life is at stake, they look for a champion who stands up while others flee and says, ‘Here I am, send me.’ This week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was such a champion. He articulated the very argument that will be necessary to preserve religious liberty against the now underway Secular Inquisition. (Inquisition? Really?) Religious liberty is poised to become the issue in the 2016 GOP presidential primary. Jindal decided to grab this issue by the throat and own it. For this reason Jindal is our winner of the week this week.”

If that puerile prose wasn’t enough to make you hurl, then perhaps a closer examination of Deace, an apparent Rush Limbaugh wannabe (Rush’s brother David Limbaugh even penned the foreword to Deace’s book Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again).

One not-so-complimentary online description of Deace describes him as knowing more about superheroes, Star Trek and college football “than any man not living under a vow of perpetual virginity in his mom’s basement should.” http://stevedeace.com/author/stevedeace/

Even more telling is the masthead to his web page http://stevedeace.com/ which says (and we’re not making this up): “Fear God, Tell the Truth, Make Money.” And then there is his online gift shop Patriot Depot which, besides Bibles, American flags and the usual gung-ho patriotic tee-shirts, features a USB thumb drive shaped like revolver, described as the COOLEST USB DRIVE EVER

We would strongly suggest that Deace and Jindal take time out from spewing hatred in the name of Jesus to listen to old troubadour Kris Kristofferson who wrote Me and Bobby Magee while sitting on a helicopter landing pad in Morgan City between shuttling workers to and from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The track we recommend for their enlightenment is a rather obscure song entitled The Law is for Protection of the People: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK8TSJuBMgM

WITH GRATITUDE TO OUR ANONYMOUS ARTIST:

JINDAL REFA(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

All this is a prelude to Jindal’s propensity, indeed a determined effort, to step on his own tongue. He has successfully talked himself into a corner this time and it’s going to be interesting to see how he tries to wiggle out of a contradiction he created all by himself.

It was less than a week ago (Tuesday, April 7) that Bobby Jindal, while promoting his non-candidacy candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in Iowa, called Hillary Clinton’s scandal over private email use while Secretary of State yet another misstep making her “the center of this administration’s failed foreign policies.”

Clinton described the practice of using a private email account as a “convenience” and not a means to prevent public disclosure of what would otherwise be considered public records. “I was waiting for her to say, ‘What difference does it make?’” Jindal told the Des Moines Register in an interview the same day of Clinton’s Tuesday news conference. “I was kind of surprised she didn’t say that. This isn’t simply an issue about her account or emails. There’s just a pattern here,” he said.

His ratchet jaw response was reminiscent to his actions during the flap by those birthers over President Obama’s citizenship. Jindal hauled out his own birth certificate to prove he was born in the good ol’ USA—without anyone ever asking and as if anyone really cared. To be fair, though, at least this time he was asked his opinion about Clinton’s email controversy by Register reporters who apparently ran out of relevant questions to ask Jindal—like say, a $1.6 billion budget deficit in Louisiana—the state where he should have been doing his job instead of campaigning—or about the lack of health care for a quarter-million Louisiana residents because of his mule-headed refusal to expand Medicaid, or about devastating cuts to higher education, or about the deteriorating infrastructure.

Well, as it turns out, the Baton Rouge Advocate and blogger Lamar White each made separate requests nine days apart for copies of work-related emails from Jindal’s office and executive counsel Thomas Enright, Jr., refused both requests, claiming that “no records responsive to your public records request” exist outside exemptions outlined in the state’s public records law and that the exemptions support open discussion by the governor’s staff “to make recommendations to assist the governor in the usual course of the duties and business of his office.” http://theadvocate.com/news/12074849-123/bobby-jindal-wont-release-emails#comments

That explanation did not sit too well with Lamar White who has the excellent online blog Cenlarmar.com. Enright, a veteran attorney, received in return a harsh lecture on the public records law from law student White. Rather than try to rehash the contents of Enright’s and White’s letters, you can read the exchange here: http://cenlamar.com/2015/04/11/bobby-jindal-invested-too-much-in-the-gold-standard/

But the clincher came in four paragraphs near the end of White’s response and that does bear repeating here:

  • By failing to produce even a single e-mail responsive to this request, your office is suggesting either that Gov. Jindal is either openly and actively violating the public records law or, alternately, the governor is somehow, absurdly, still in the process of deliberating issues resolved several years ago— records that are, therefore, no longer legally entitled to any exemption and should be considered historic and subject to disclosure.
  • Mr. Enright, your response implicitly suggests that neither Gov. Jindal nor any member of his staff have ever made a decision on a single policy, budgetary, or legal issue during his entire two-term tenure as governor. (Emphasis White’s)
  • In Louisiana, a citizen’s right to access public records is considered fundamental, and the burden is on the government to provide a legal basis for each and every record denied. Unfortunately, your office has elected to prevent the disclosure of even a single record.
  • Gov. Jindal recently requested the full disclosure of all e-mails maintained by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presumably under the belief that those e-mails would enhance accountability and transparency and better inform the public.
  • Gov. Jindal’s unwillingness to disclose even a single e-mail, under the pretense of deliberative process, stifles the fundamental rights of Louisiana citizens and starkly contradicts the law and his own repeated pledge to implement a “gold standard” of ethics reform.

That, folks, is pure poetry.

We have seen comments to the Advocate story that accuse the newspaper to grandstanding because of the flap over Clinton’s emails. It would be assumed that the same accusations might be leveled at Cenlarmar.com as well. But LouisianaVoice has published stories in the past revealing how administration staff members (including the Department of Education) have been instructed to cease communicating on state email in favor of private accounts. That leaves no wiggle room for Jindal, nor does it permit him the luxury of criticizing Clinton without subjecting himself to that same scrutiny.

And most likely there was grandstanding by both. But sometimes that is what it takes to make a point. Like a baseball manager arguing a call with an umpire, they had to know their request would be denied. But in forcing Jindal’s hand, it revealed a deep-seated hypocrisy that has defined and continues to permeate Bobby Jindal’s administration—hypocrisy that should never have existed and which should be ended immediately. This is, after all, the administration that promised openness and transparency.

And before the question gets asked, do we condone Clinton’s use of a private email account? Absolutely not. She was a public servant with a secure public email account and government business should be conducted on that account. Just as with Jindal’s invoking of the deliberative process, there are safeguards built in that exempt disclosure of sensitive documents.

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My friend Walter Abbott up in Ruston seems to have a problem with any public employee as does, apparently State Rep. John “Jay” Morris, III (R-Monroe).

Abbott, as I, publishes a political blog and that certainly is his—or anyone’s—right. But the thing that he can’t seem to get around is his constant habit of labeling any public employee as a “deadhead.” In fact, he never refers to public employees, be they teachers, law enforcement officers, firemen, or highway construction crews, as anything but “deadheads.”

I’m not certain what Walter does for a living, but I would assume his work is essential and not of the “deadhead” status. But one can never be sure. Sometimes one creates a deliberate smokescreen (such as name-calling) as a tactic to deflect attention from himself. Again, I don’t know that, I’m just sayin’…..

Walter’s post today (March 31) provides a link to a story by Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Elizabeth Crisp which said that Louisiana college and university students plan to demonstrate at the state Capitol on April 15 as a protest to anticipated draconian cuts to higher education appropriations for the coming year.

But Walter, in his classic inimitable parsing of nomenclature, says in the headline to his blog: “Student Mob to Protest on Behalf of Deadheads.”

Student Mob? Seriously, Walter? You know with absolute certainty that these students will be roving bands of vandals, possibly armed, intent on rape and pillage and assorted other forms of crimes against humanity? Hell, Abbott, you’re better than the entire Justice League. Perhaps we need to make you an official state deadhead and bring you to Baton Rouge or New Orleans or Shreveport to fight crime—in advance with your gift of clairvoyance, of course. Which city? No problem; with your obvious skill at predicting the future, you need only tip off the deadhead law enforcement agencies in each city when a crime is about to take place.

And about that “deadhead” term you so love to toss around: I can only assume that you’ve drunk the Ted Cruz/Scott Walker/Rand Paul tea party Kool-Aid which finds all things public to be anathema.

In a previous blog you referred to teachers as “deadheads.” Well, Walt, unless I’m mistaken, a teacher taught you to read and write, which enables you to now turn on those same dedicated people by calling them “deadheads.”

Let me enlighten you about teachers, Walt, because you obviously do not know the facts or you choose to ignore them. Besides the problem that all teachers face, namely the constant push and pull from politicians who seem to think they have all the answers and rush in with ill-advised education “reform” measures, there are these specifics:

  • Kindergarten and elementary teachers: Not only must they teach, but they also have to do lesson plans, grade papers at night (after cooking for the family and cleaning house and helping their own kids with homework), contend with kids who can’t keep up in class because their lazy or irresponsible, drug-addled parents won’t take the initiative to help the kids at home, then attempt to appease those same parents who want to shift the blame for the kids’ poor grades onto the teacher. They daily see these same children come to school hungry or unbathed—or both. In addition to all these duties is the constant paperwork that must be filled out by teachers and as they perform all these tasks, they often are called upon to wipe snotty noses and wipe soiled behinds. Summer vacation? Fugetaboutit. That three-month vacation you always hear about is a myth. When school is out, classrooms must be cleaned, books put away, furniture stacked against the wall so janitorial crews can move in to do their jobs and by the time all that is done, it’s time to start planning the new school year.
  • Middle school teachers: One might think that middle school is a breeze but this is where kids grow into puberty, where cliques are formed and where little teen-age girls snipe at each other behind their backs. It ain’t pretty. As these children grow from adolescence into teens, attitudes are formed and teachers must deal with that reality on a daily basis. Moreover, remember those kids from elementary school who were lagging behind? Well some of them are older than their classmates because sadly, they had to be held back one or more grades. But they’re falling even further behind and it becomes the middle school teacher’s task to confront angry parents who won’t accept their own role in educating their own children. And that paperwork didn’t go away in elementary school. Neither do the late night paper grading sessions.
  • High school teachers: By now, the slower students have become a real challenge. Not only do they refuse to do their assignments and fall even further behind before eventually dropping out of school (and teachers consider every dropout a personal loss, some might even say a failure). But those who remain have by now developed really nasty attitudes (often encouraged at home by parents who still refuse to accept responsibility) and teacher-student confrontations often occur that sometimes become physical, placing the teacher in danger of bodily harm.

So there you have your teacher “deadheads,” Walt. But you know what? Through it all, they persevere at salaries most likely considerably less than what you make, because teaching is not an occupation, it’s a calling, and these educators are dedicated to that calling—something you obviously do not comprehend or care to.

But Walt insists on attaching that label to all public employees. Well, Walt, I was one of those “deadheads” for 20 years, working as a claims adjuster for the Office of Risk Management.

And being completely candid, I was far from being the best adjuster in the office (even though I was once told that I was by a member of management in his somewhat feeble effort at blowing smoke up my toga—some form of weird motivation, I suppose) but despite my many shortcomings (I love writing more than insurance), I still managed to help save the state several millions of dollars in bogus claims. To that end, despite my habitual failure to keep my diary updated and my distaste for insurance, I still managed to justify my salary many, many times over.

Finally, Walter, I would ask that you consider this in the future when dealing with these “deadheads”:

  • When you find a pothole in your street that tears up your vehicle’s front end, call a tea partier, not the highway department—they’re deadheads;
  • Same thing when you observe litter along the streets and highways;
  • When your sewer line backs up because of a lack of maintenance because the deadheads have been laid off, call a tea partier;
  • When you discover rust and other substances in your water line for that same reason, call a tea partier;
  • When your neighbor knocks down your fence and refuses to pay for it, don’t bother filing suit. Those courtroom employees, including the judge, are deadheads. Call a tea partier.
  • When your house catches fire, don’t call the fire department. They’re just a bunch of deadheads. Call the tea partiers;
  • When you or a family member is being assaulted by some thug, the police department, staffed with deadheads, is obviously the wrong call. The tea party will set things right for you.

Count on it.

As for Rep. Morris, his recent comments constitute a classic example of shooting the messenger.

He, like Jindal’s former chief of staff, now president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), Stephen Waguespack (the same one who leaned on Murphy Painter to ignore Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control regulations in that issue over the Budweiser tent at Jindal contributor Tom Benson’s Champion’s Square), doesn’t feel that Bob Mann retains the right of free speech under the First Amendment simply because he’s on the payroll of LSU.

Rep. Morris, you are an attorney and as such you of all people should be at the front of the line to defend that right. Instead, you choose to jump into the fray based on another blog, that of Scott McKay’s The Hayride. http://thehayride.com/2015/03/twitter-tough-guy-bob-mann-takes-on-labi-over-waguespacks-column/

McKay and Morris wax indignant that Mann has the audacity to write—on his own time—a column for the New Orleans Times-Picayune while teaching (this semester) one class because of the necessity to care for his wife who is ill.

Of all things, Morris chooses to compare Mann’s salary to that of a public school teacher who he says works for a paltry $32,000 a year. Well, isn’t it in the legislature’s power to increase those salaries? Has Rep. Morris ever, even once, made a move to raise the pay for teachers? Or instead, was he one of 53 House members who voted to kill House Bill 645 by Rep. Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe) to raise the state minimum wage? See for yourself: HB 645 VOTE

Rep. Morris, you can’t have it both ways: you can’t use teachers’ salaries against Bob Mann if you’ve never attempted to rectify the gaping disparity yourself. That comes under the heading of hypocrite. Don’t be so smug in jumping on Mann’s case as a means of questioning LSU’s budget while defending NLU perhaps because some of that university’s employees might be your constituents whom you don’t want to offend.

Rep. Morris asks the rhetorical question: “How are we polititians (sic) supposed to raise revenue to save higher ed when there might be a whole lot of waste?” Shouldn’t that be a question for you, as a representative of the people, to sort out? Have you and other legislators been asleep at the wheel so long that waste occurs right under your collective, oblivious noses?

If you are so concerned about waste, don’t you think it might have been a good idea for you to have checked the campaign expenditures of Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge) before you contributed $1,000 to his campaign, and who in turn contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales)? Do you really think their expenditures of $15,405 and $9,660, respectively, to purchase of LSU football and softball tickets from 2010 through 2014 was the most judicious use of their campaign funds? Could that perhaps be included in your sanctimonious, somewhat selective definition of waste?

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS:

Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. JOHN C JAY MORRIS III FOR STATE REP  2705 OAK DR MONROE, LA 71201 CONTRIBUTION 6/28/2012 $1,000.00
Recipient     Contributor Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay FRIENDS OF ERICH PONTI CAMPAIGN Thibodeaux Ave Baton Rouge, LA 70806 CONTRIBUTION 11/14/2011 $1,000.00

CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES:

Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS PO BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70894-5905 TICKETS 5/13/2014 $3,310.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA 2012 FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS/PARKING 4/20/2012 $3,130.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ATHLETIC ADMINISTRATION BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 5/5/2013 $3,110.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS c/o Speakers’ Office LA State Capital Baton Rouge, LA 70801 2010 Legislative Football Tickets 4/21/2010 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 4/26/2011 $2,000.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETICS P.O. BOX 25095 BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 FOOTBALL TICKETS 6/6/2011 $950.00
Ponti, Erich E. LSU ATHLETIC TICKET OFFICE BATON ROUGE, LA LSU FOOTBALL TICKETS 1/4/2012 $905.00
Candidate   Recipient Description Date Amount
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT ALTHLETIC BLDG BATON ROUGE, LA 70803 TICKETS 4/11/2014 $3,210.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 TAFT donation and tickets 5/23/2012 $3,135.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSU ATHLETIC OFFICE 110 Thomas Boyd Baton Rouge, LA 70808 tickets 5/22/2013 $3,115.00
Schexnayder, Clay LSUE SOFTBALL 2048 JOHNSON HWY EUNICE, LA 70535 DONATION 12/3/2014 $200.00

We’re just saying people who live in glass houses…

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My wife received an invitation in the mail Monday (March 23).

It was an invitation to a David Vitter Town Hall Meeting next Monday (March 30) in the East Baton Rouge Parish Council chambers in Baton Rouge at 9:30 a.m.

Needless to say, we are more than a little curious as to why she would get such an invitation from him inasmuch as both she and I are former Republicans now enrolled in RR (Recovering Republicans) and participating in the 12-Step Program.

To be fair, under her name in the address were the words “or current resident,” the implication being that whoever dwells in our house is invited.

Regardless, I’m not entirely certain I want my wife or any of my three daughters in the same room with this man—and not just because of the obvious—the 2007 revelations of Vitter’s association with the former (now deceased) D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey prior to his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate (while he was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives).

Neither is it a claim by former New Orleans Madam Jeanette Maier that Vitter had been a client of hers in the late 1990s.

Nope. It’s the 1993 case of Mary Mercedes Hernandez that sounds alarms and raises red flags for me.

Who is Mary Mercedes Hernandez, you ask?

Fair question. She is a conservative Republican whom Vitter defeated in the race for the District 81seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1991.

In April of 1993, Vitter was one of 16 New Orleans-area House members who voted not to table House Bill 1013 which would have made it illegal for employers or insurers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. There was some feeling that he voted not to kill the bill so that it could be debated on the House floor—and defeated on its merits.

Later that same year, on Sept. 21, Hernandez attended a “town hall meeting” held by Vitter at the American Legion Hall in Metairie. She, along with other constituents, had been invited to attend the meeting by Vitter (we’re seeing a trend here) to “discuss state issues,” she said in a lawsuit she filed against Vitter for physically attacking her at the meeting.

Documents obtained Monday by LouisianaVoice show that Vitter counter-sued Hernandez for harassment, naming prominent state Republican officials as her co-conspirators but that in the end, a judgement was signed in favor of Hernandez and Vitter paid Hernandez a small amount of money to settle her lawsuit in March of 1998, the year before he won a 1999 special election to succeed U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston who resigned following disclosures of his own extra-marital affair. VITTER 1993 ASSAULT CASE

The amount of the final settlement—a mere $50—isn’t nearly as important as what the few pages reveal about Vitter and how he can go on the attack when challenged.

For example, among the documents obtained by LouisianaVoice was a letter written by Vitter two years after the suit was filed, and while it was still moving through the legal system, to Livingston.

The letter, dated April 12, 1995, read:

  • “Thank you very much for your recent letter inviting me to help support the East Jefferson Parish Republic PAC with a significant contribution. I have been an active participant in and supporter of the PAC in the past, and would love to continue that support. However, one matter prevents me from doing so at this time.
  • “Several months ago, a Ms. Mercedes Hernandez slapped me with an utterly frivolous lawsuit which continues to languish in the courts. This is a continuation of a personal vendetta against me on the part of not only Ms. Hernandez, but other persons active in the PAC, specifically including John Treen and Vincent Bruno. Both Messrs. Treen and Bruno were instrumental in encouraging this harassing action. In light of this and in light of these persons’ continued active involvement in the PAC, I will have nothing to do with the PAC’s fundraising efforts.
  • “I can easily tolerate sincere disagreements with people. I can even tolerate serious disagreements which lead to litigation. But I will have nothing to do with people who pervert the judicial system to harass me, carry out a personal vendetta, and directly harm not only me but my wife and child as well.”

John Treen, the older brother of the late Gov. Dave Treen, lost a 1989 special election to the Louisiana House of Representatives to Ku Klux Klansman David Duke and Dave Treen lost to Vitter in that 1999 election to succeed Livingston by a scant 1,812 votes. Bruno was a member of the Republican Party’s State Central Committee and worked in the 1999 Dave Treen congressional campaign.

So, it’s easy to see that bitter feelings were running deep when Hernandez asked Vitter during a question and answer session to explain the intent of House Bill 1013, the so-called “Gay Rights Bill,” had failed by a 71-24 vote in April of that year—with Vitter voting against passage. It might even reasonably be called ambush journalism—but sometimes that’s the only way to get an answer from some of our elected officials (see Bobby Jindal).

In her petition, she said Vitter “became agitated and enraged,” left the podium and advanced toward her in a “threatening manner, pushing aside chairs where were in his path,” and wrenched a portable tape recorder from her grasp, causing injuries to her right hand.

In the classic defense of “My dog doesn’t bite,” “I keep my dog in my yard,” “I don’t own a dog,” Vitter denied that (a) the incident occurred, (b) he had no intent to cause “physical contact or the apprehension of physical contact,” (c) “any contact was incidental,” (d) that Hernandez “sustained no injuries as a result of the alleged events in question,” and (e) Hernandez should be held in comparative negligence and assumption of risk…in mitigation or in reduction of any damages recoverable by the plaintiff…”

And then he filed a reconventional demand, or countersuit, claiming that Hernandez had gained the floor at the “town hall meeting” to “spread false, malicious and damaging information about Mr. Vitter, particularly concerning his voting record with regard to gay rights.”

Hernandez, in her answer to Vitter’s reconventional demand, described herself as a conservative Republican and active as a member of the Jefferson Parish Republican Party. She said she wanted him to explain the “Gay Rights Bill” and his position on the bill because she “had heard that he was a co-author of the bill” by former Rep. Troy Carter (D-Algiers).

(An attempt by LouisianaVoice to determine the names of any co-sponsors of the bill was unsuccessful because the Legislature’s web page which tracks bills in current and past sessions goes back only to 1997.)

She said “after being assaulted and battered” by Vitter “in front of scores of people,” she left the meeting and went to a nearby restaurant where she met a friend, Peggy Childers, who had been seated next to her at the meeting and who had witnessed the encounter.

It was Childers, she said, who suggested that she contact John Treen, “a friend and very prominent and respected member of the Republican Party, for advice. The following day, Sept. 22, she met with John Treen, Ms. Childers, Bruno (then Vice-Chairman of the Jefferson Parish Republican Party), and several others.

The judgment against Vitter was for a pittance ($50, plus judicial interest and costs is certainly that in any legal proceeding), but it did vindicate Hernandez and the entire matter illustrates the mental makeup of the man who wants to be our next governor.

(An earlier post of this story incorrectly said Vitter voted to kill the bill.)

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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

In 2001, I attempted to sell my home via the traditional means.  My listing was with ReMax, but I wasn’t happy with the snail’s pace everything seemed to move at.  It was not the fault of my agent but rather a simple reflection of the reality of traditional real estate listings in that they do not create any urgency to buy.

About five weeks into my listing, I noticed an ad in the real estate section of the paper for an upcoming real estate auction.  The ad got my attention, so I called the owner of the real estate auction company.  Thereafter, I attended four of his auctions before deciding that was the route I wanted to go.  My auctioneer, at that time, had a 20-year stellar record of successful auctions (it’s now nearly 35 years).  I was impressed by his professionalism and how the auction method could generate a firm, unconditional offer accompanied by a 10% liquidated damages deposit on a definite date and time that was within only about 30 days of executing the auction listing.  I utilized his services (even keeping my ReMax agent in the mix), and I was pleased with the results.  Consequently, within days of us closing, I called him and asked if I could join his company.  He blew me off in saying, “Sure, but you have to get your real estate license first.”  He later said he thought that was the last he’d ever hear from me, but I surprised him when I called only three weeks later indicating I’d procured the real estate license and asking what I needed to do next.

Over the next two years, he taught me everything one needs to know to be a successful real estate auctioneer.  His honesty, his integrity, and his ethics are beyond reproach, and they’re reflected in his auction results.  He instilled such confidence in me that I even formed my own auction company and began auctioning real estate properties myself.  I enjoyed helping solve people’s problems more than anything I’ve done in my entire professional career.

As many Louisiana Voice readers are aware, Gov. Jindal’s office contacted me within months of his taking office about serving on the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB).  I would later learn I was contacted only because other applicants had felony convictions or other problems and were ineligible to serve.  I figured I had zero chance of being selected because I never contributed a dime to Jindal’s campaign and, except for 2003 (the year he lost), I didn’t even vote for him.  Nevertheless, I completed the application and figured that would be the end of it.  To my bewilderment, his office called me about six weeks later congratulating me on being selected to serve on the board.  I should have known something was wrong right then because it just didn’t make sense to be selected to serve on a board with no political allegiance to the governor.  Nevertheless, I naively felt honored to have been selected and anxiously looked forward to improving the auction experience for Louisiana consumers.

What I didn’t know was that I would encounter rampant racism on the board and that corruption was so prevalent that I had trouble believing any board could conduct itself in such an anti-consumer, auctioneer-biased manner.  I’ve written several articles already on this blog regarding what I encountered in my early days on the board, so I won’t repeat them here.

Even with all I encountered, however, I never dreamed the LALB could stoop as low as it has in the last six months.  Readers may recall the post entailing 84-year-old widow LALB complainant Betty Jo Story.  That case stands out as the most egregious abuse of any auction victim I’ve seen, yet LALB members found the auctioneer guilty of nothing and merely advised him to “go out in the hallway and work this out.”  Instead, he proceeded straight past Ms. Story and headed back to his home in DeRidder.  Thereafter, he refused to try and make things right with her, so she sued him in 36th JDC in DeRidder.  On October 29, 2014, serving in a pro-se capacity (and doing so quite well I might add), she obtained a judgment of $4,102.29, which the auctioneer paid within a week.

Even more disconcerting, however, was the preferential treatment granted to Brant Thomson, son of State Sen. Francis Thompson.  In that case, the LALB closed its investigation (finding no auctioneer wrongdoing), only to reopen it and find the auctioneer guilty and even file Thompson’s bond claim for him after he drafted a scathing letter to the LALB and had the presence of mind to copy to Ms. Holly Robinson, Gov. Jindal’s then-head of Boards and Commissions.  That incident is covered in this post.

Another complainant, Ms. Judy Fasola, claimed she was victimized by auctioneer Ken Buhler, who happens to have Marvin Henderson as his lead cheerleader with the LALB.  Henderson, a substantial contributor to Jindal campaigns, has historically exerted control over the board which, for whatever reason, is intimidated by him and his self-proclaimed (and no doubt accurately stated) ability to have members removed from the board with a mere phone call to the governor.  The LALB is afraid to assist any person, and that most certainly includes Fasola, in an auction complaint when such assistance may alienate Henderson (as pursuing a bond claim entailing Buhler or any affiliate of his would).

LALB cited a number of reasons for refusing to file a bond claim for Fasola at its November 5, 2014 meeting.  Thereafter, on January 13, 2015, Fasola refuted the LALB members’ November statements as being factually incorrect (a claim substantiated by prior videos).  That fact notwithstanding, at its March 10, 2015 meeting, the LALB, via a prepared statement drafted by legal counsel Larry S. Bankston, but read by his associate, Jenna Linn, stated that the board has “total discretion” regarding whom it wishes to file bond claims for and whom it wishes to decline to do so.  That is not a joke. That’s what Linn read from Bankston’s letter.

Given this public statement, perhaps it would be appropriate that consumers refrain from using the services of auctioneers.  The rationale is simple.  If a primary source of consumer protection is the auctioneer bond, and the LALB is now publicly asserting that it can cherry pick whom it will file bond claims for, that leaves consumers at the whim of political connections affiliated with the board.  When combined with the board’s demonstrated history of filing a claim for a politically connected alleged victim like Brant Thompson but declining to do so when it may alienate political powerhouse auctioneer Henderson, why should any consumer have faith and confidence in an auctioneer?  It’s time to face reality.  Though there are exceptions, the auction industry is corrupt and the board designed to protect consumers is even more corrupt.

I conclude by providing a webpage of Fasola’s three-meeting ordeal, complete with links for documents and video coverage.  Additionally, I provide this webpage of video highlights of the March 10, 2015 LALB meeting.  Linn rudely cut off my public comment when I referenced “FBI investigations,” so I provide an off-site assessment of why she likely recoiled when I uttered those words.

I have no idea if the next governor will do anything to clean up the mass of corruption, nepotism, and cronyism that exists on the LALB.  If he doesn’t, I would recommend a continued boycott of auctioneer services.  To do otherwise would be an injustice to the many clients and bidders I fought so hard to ensure access to experienced honest, open, and transparent auctions.

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