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Archive for the ‘Public Records’ Category

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) member Walter Lee has been indicted by a state grand jury and the FBI is investigating State Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray)—both for double billing for travel.

Investigators may want to take a look at the expense records of State Rep. and Shreveport mayoral candidate Patrick Williams (D-Shreveport).

Lee’s indictment by a DeSoto Parish grand jury accuses him of the felony theft of $3,968 in fuel expenses and $1,578 in lodging in meals charged to both BESE and to the DeSoto Parish School Board at a time when Lee was simultaneously serving as DeSoto School Superintendent and as a member of BESE.

A state audit used as the basis of Lee’s indictment said he collected travel expenses from BESE for attending state board meetings even though he used a parish school system credit card to pay for those expenses and failed to reimburse the school system after receiving payment from BESE.

DeSoto District Attorney Richard Johnson, Jr. said Lee also terminated a lease early on a vehicle which cost the school system around $10,000 and then got a substantial discount on the purchase of another vehicle shortly thereafter.

Williams’ expense reimbursements, however, more closely resemble those of his colleague in the House.

Harrison has been ordered by federal investigators to produce travel expense records after the New Orleans Times-Picayune revealed in a lengthy investigative series that Harrison was reimbursed more than $50,000 by the House for travel in his district from 2010 to 2013—travel that he had also charged to his campaign.

House reimbursement records and campaign expense records reveal that in 2012 alone, Williams systematically doubled his campaign and the House for more than $4,000 for expenses that included postage, subscriptions to the Shreveport Times, travel to and from Baton Rouge, hotel accommodations in Washington, D.C., airport parking, cab fare, and air travel.

LouisianaVoice was alerted to Williams’ expense payments by former Shreveport attorney Michael Wainwright who now lives in North Carolina.

Wainwright said Williams accepts campaign contributions which then pays “thousands of dollars” in travel and other expenses. “Rep. Williams then bills the taxpayer for those same expenses (and) then keeps the reimbursement checks. He has converted the money to his personal use.”

Wainwright said the practice “is conduct which seems to fall squarely within the definition of theft,” which he said is defined under Louisiana Criminal Law as “the misappropriation or taking of anything of value which belongs to another, either without the consent of the other to the misappropriation or taking, or by means of fraudulent conduct, practices or representation.”

He provided us with a detailed itemization which we verified through our own check of Williams’ campaign expense report and House reimbursement records.

The following list includes the month of the House expense report, the amount and purpose. In the case of each expense item listed, Williams also billed his campaign:

  • January: $113.73—Purchase Power Postage;
  • February: $52.88—Shreveport Times Subscription;
  • April: $85.51—Pitney Bowes Postage;
  • May: $53.95—Shreveport Times Subscription;
  • May: $107.99—Pitney Bowes Postage;
  • June: $65.68—Pitney Bowes Postage;
  • August: $17.98—Shreveport Times Subscription;
  • October: $37.04—Shreveport Times Subscription;
  • October: $85.48—Pitney Bowes Postage;
  • November: $17.98- Shreveport Times Subscription;
  • December: $17.98—Shreveport Times Subscription;
  • November 5: $70.00—Fuel & Travel to Baton Rouge;
  • November 29: $50.32—Fuel & Travel to Baton Rouge;
  • December 4-8: $40.00—Shreveport Airport Parking;
  • December 4-7: $838.16—Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C. (Campaign billed for entire $912.71 amount);
  • December 4-8: $169.94—Washington Travel Expense (Note: Rep. Williams was paid $745.00 in per diem expenses by the State of Louisiana while attending a NCSL conference in Washington, DC Williams also charged his campaign account $169.94 for the following per diem expenses related to this trip: Delta Airlines Travel baggage ($25), Supreme Airport Shuttle ($13), Hilton Hotel ($103), Meals ($28.44);
  • February 1: $158.00—Holiday Inn, Lafayette;
  • March 12-16: $197.00—In Session Fuel & Mileage (This amount was billed to his campaign while the House paid $291.38);
  • March 17-20: $327.04—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
  • March 31-April 13: $373.09—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
  • April 14-27: $335.00—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
  • April 28-May 11: $257.00—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
  • May 12-25: $262.12—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75)
  • May 26-June 4: $146.00—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);

This is the same Rep. Patrick Williams who in 2011 authored House Bill 277 which would have required the posting of the Ten Commandments in the State Capitol. There’s no word as to whether his bill proposed deleting the Eighth Commandment.

 

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(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

My grandfather had a favorite expression he was fond of saying: “The stuck pig squeals the loudest.”

That may well explain the sudden onslaught of reassurances emanating from the Jindal administration in the form of press releases and op-eds, all telling us that our benevolent governor, expert that he is on health care, is taking care of and we shouldn’t worry about all those looming increased costs and reduced benefits.

But as it turns out, we may be about to see a new development to the controversy swirling around the proposed premium increases and benefit cuts for members of the Office of Group Benefits.

And just in case you might be wondering why your friendly legislator hasn’t been up in arms over the radical changes in health coverage being proposed for some 230,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents through the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) before now, there’s a reason.

If some similar action were taken to adversely affect their per diem, travel, and other perks, it would be quite another story. They’d have been squealing long before now.

But you see, 261 House members and staff and 151 senators and staff are not members of OGB and therefore, don’t have any skin in the game (my grandfather would have said they don’t have a dog in the hunt) being played by the administration and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana.

So where do those 412 people get their health coverage?

LSU First.

And now two of those legislators who earlier fell out of favor with Gov. Bobby Jindal when they questioned the wisdom of privatizing OGB at the outset, Reps. Joe Harrison (R-Gray) and Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) are back and the governor can’t be happy about it.

And Henry is even putting out feelers about moving all 230,000 members of OGB to LSU First, saying it is something “we should explore for employees to get into since the Office of Group Benefits is fiscally unsound.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), normally a wad of putty in Jindal’s hands, has suddenly grown something akin to a spine and called for a special hearing on Sept. 24 to take up the OGB changes. Other legislators also beginning make demands of the administration to have someone present to answer questions about the radical changes.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite), a candidate for governor, said he wanted administration representatives questioned under oath.

It was Edwards who originally requested that Kleckley call a meeting of legislators to discuss OGB. “The OGB fiasco is proof positive that privatization for the sake of privatization is foolish,” he said. “A reserve balance that recently exceeded $500 million is half that now and bleeding $16M per month due to mismanagement and budget chicanery, and the ultimate price will be paid by state retirees and employees through higher premiums, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, and higher co-insurance in exchange for fewer benefits, more forced generic drugs, and more preclearance of needed treatments and other changes that make crystal clear that the OGB beneficiaries will pay more for less.”

“I feel vindicated,” Harrison was quoted as saying by the New Orleans Times Picayune in reference to the depletion of the OGB trust fund which has shrunk from $540 million to less than half that since Jindal’s privatization plan went into effect. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/09/louisiana_legislators_have_a_h.html#incart_river “Exactly what I said was going to happen is now happening,” Harrison said.

And Henry is even putting out feelers about moving all 230,000 members of OGB to LSU First, saying it is something “we should explore for employees to get into since the Office of Group Benefits is fiscally unsound.”

Jindal had Henry and Harrison removed from their respective committee assignments when the two refused to go along with Jindal’s legislative agenda during the 2013 legislative session.

Administration officials, in an attempt to discourage a mass exodus from OGB said state employees now in OGB may not find the LSU First plans to be a better option, invoking such terms as “better service,” “strike a balance,” “right sizing of benefits,” “wider range of options,” and “it’s all the fault of Obamacare.”

So, just what is LSU first, anyway?

LSU First is the health coverage offered employees throughout the LSU system and back near the end of the Mike Foster administration, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was approved that allowed legislators and legislative staff members to opt out of OGB in favor of LSU First.

Senate 2003

House of Representatives 2003

The plan presently is not available to employees of Louisiana’s other institutions of higher learning or civil service employees other than those working for the Legislature.

So, why would anyone make the switch?

The answer to that is simple: Even before the pending revamp of OGB which will prove far more costly to members, LSU First was vastly superior in the benefits it offers. And now, with the increased premiums, higher deductibles and co-pays for OGB members (an overall cost increase of 47 percent), the contrast between the two plans is even more stark. http://www.lsufirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2014_LSU_First_SPD.pdf

http://www.lsufirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2014-SBC-Opt1.pdf

LSU established the plan for the fiscal year July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2003, adopting the “Definity Health Model Health Coverage Plan,” and the House and Senate climbed on board a year later, on July 1, 2003. The original MOU was signed in May of 2003 by then-LSU President William Jenkins, House Speaker Charles DeWitt, Jr. (D-Alexandria), and Senate President John Hainkel, Jr. (R-New Orleans).

No sooner said than done. The ink wasn’t even dry on the signatures on the MOU when legislators and staff members started a mass migration to the LSU plan. Additionally, civil service workers scattered throughout state government who were fortunate enough to have spouses working for LSU also switched.

The language in the MOU was such that any legislator who left the House or Senate and moved on to another state office or appointment was allowed to retain his or her coverage under LSU First. That would include, for example, people like former Gov. Mike Foster, Commissioner of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Troy Hebert, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and former House Speaker Jim Tucker.

LouisianaVoice made an inquiry of the LSU administrative types as to who pays the employer portion of the premiums and whether or not the governor, the commissioner of administration, and cabinet members were eligible for member in LSU First.

What we got back was less than satisfactory but entirely typical of the mindset of this administration. “We have fulfilled your public record request and any further questions can be directed to our University Relations office,” wrote Stephanie Tomlinson, coordinator, LSU Finance and Administration.

In other words, if one asks a simple question and does not specifically request documents or records, he is out of luck. This administration has no intention of helping someone seeking information and would prefer to toss obstacles in the path of transparency.

But we can play this game, too. We replied with the following email:

Okay, we’ll try it this way:

Please provide any and all documents and/or public records that identify all eligible members of LSU First medical coverage, including the governor’s office, Division of Administration and the various cabinet positions.

Please provide documentation and/or any and all public records that provides a breakdown of premium payments for LSU First, including employer/employee contributions and including which employer, i.e. the state, the House or Senate or LSU, pays the employer contributions.

Now that we have requested actual documents/records, we’ll see how they respond.

We did glean from the MOU, however, that the Legislature most likely is responsible for paying 70 percent of the premiums for legislators, legislative retirees, and staff members.

Meanwhile, Jindal communications officer Mike Reed, a native of Boston (Jindal apparently cannot find qualified Louisiana residents for these jobs), churned out a fact sheet that Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols proudly published verbatim as her own work as via an op-ed piece in today’s (Thursday’s) Baton Rouge Advocate under the heading Changes Good for Insurance Users, Taxpayers. (A hint, Kristy: U.S. Democratic Sen. John Walsh of Montana recently dropped out of his race for re-election after allegations of plagiarism.)

As for Reed, we can only hope that if he returns to Boston he doesn’t offer his services to the Red Sox. Mired in last place in the American League East, the Sox have enough problems without taking on another pitch man who can’t seem to find the strike zone.

Reed’s press release was directed at a recent well-researched column by political writer Jeremy Alford: For Health Care Woes, Jindal Prescribes Confusion. http://lapolitics.com/2014/09/for-health-care-woes-jindal-prescribes-confusion/

Reed sent the “fact sheet,” entitled Setting the Record Straight: LaPolitics Column on Healthcare reform in Louisiana, to state legislators on Wednesday. The four page letter was peppered with what Reed smugly, if inaccurately, described as “myth” followed by “Facts.”

Of course, being from Boston, it goes without saying that Reed is intimately familiar with all the nuances of Louisiana politics, including the sordid history of the administration’s recent health care issues. These include Jindal’s sticking his nose into the OGB operations and firing Director Tommy Teague who had taken the agency from a $60 million deficit to a $500 million fund balance, closing down or giving away state hospitals, the governor’s refusal of Medicaid expansion which led directly to problems at Baton Rouge General which last week announced it was closing its emergency room, forcing the administration to pump $18 million into the private hospital to keep its ER open to indigent patients forced to travel to the mid-city facility after closure of state-run Earl K. Long Hospital.

Undaunted, Reed waded into the fray, dutifully blaming everything on Obamacare just as his absentee boss would have him do. And Kristy Kreme eagerly published the tome under her byline.

https://webmail.east.cox.net/do/mail/message/view?msgId=INBOXDELIM16848

The whole thing evokes images to go with one of our favorite Sinatra songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1fVQGESUTo

Bobby Jindal (Gov. R-L)

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Occasionally we manage to strike a raw nerve with our blog posts about political shenanigans in Louisiana. Our post on Tuesday (Sept. 2) about U.S. Rep. John C. Fleming’s campaign contributions apparently was a case in point.

But it wasn’t the fact that Fleming, a Republican from Minden and a physician, has taken more than $200,000 from special interest political action committees (PACs) this election cycle.

Nor was there any dispute about our claim that Fleming brooks no dissenting opinion and blocks access to his Facebook page to anyone who disagrees with him.

But apparently, he doesn’t want it known that he once owned and/or operated a payday loan company.

On Friday (Sept. 5) we received a terse email from Fleming’s communications director, one Doug Sachleben, protesting that part of our post as being incorrect.

Sachleben did not say whether he works out of Louisiana or Washington, but that really is irrelevant. Here is the verbatim content of his email:

In your piece on my boss, the portion below is wrong. Rep Fleming has never owned or operated a payday loan company. I’d appreciate if you removed that.

 Doug Sachtleben

Communications Dir.

Rep John Fleming

He then lifted a quote from our Tuesday blog post, apparently for our benefit:

“Fleming, a doctor who apparently did not make enough money as a medical practitioner, once ran a payday loan company, an enterprise that offers short-term loans to low income families at the friendly annualized interest rate of up to 390 percent.”

Well, we hate being wrong. That’s why we researched our story in advance.

Accordingly, we went to our original source, the corporate records contained on the Louisiana Secretary of State’s web page.

In response to Sachleben, we copied and pasted a number of corporations listed in John C. Fleming’s name. These included Fleming Expansions, Fleming Acquisitions, Minden Family Care Center (a Professional Medical Corporation), Fleming for Congress, LLC, 1 Subway, LLC, Fleming Payday Loans, LLC.

Each of the corporations included the name of John C. Fleming as either an officer or an agent and in some instances, both. In a few cases, Fleming’s wife Cynthia also was listed as an officer.

More importantly, each of the six corporations had the same domicile address: 119 Homer Road in Minden.

Fleming and his wife also were owners, officers and agents in a dating service, Fleming Dating Development, Inc.

We replied to Sachleben, attaching a copy of the Fleming Payday Loans, LLC corporate records.

He wrote back this explanation:

At that time there were a lot of employees requesting advances on their paychecks. To pay people in advance of their work would have been problematic for many reasons and an accounting nightmare. The Fleming Group formed an LLC on paper with the thought of offering temporary interest-free loans to only its employees to accommodate their requests. The more it was considered, the more problematic it appeared; so they scrapped the idea entirely. There was never any desire or consideration to get into the payday loan industry as a business.

Wow.

In his incredulous clarification, he neglected to explain how a “problematic idea” managed to be incorporated on September 2, 2004, and the affidavit to dissolve was not filed until Aug. 4, 2009—a year after he elected to Congress. Why would Fleming leave a “problematic idea” on the books for five years when he would have been required to file annual reports, tax returns and other paperwork?

And while he’s at it, perhaps Sachleben can also offer either a denial of those campaign contributions (taken directly from Fleming’s campaign finance reports) or explain why his boss would accept funds from outfits with such tawdry records of fraud, influence peddling and other unsavory activity.

Here are the Secretary of State’s web page printouts on Fleming’s corporate entities:

 

FLEMING EXPANSIONS, L.L.C. Limited Liability Company MINDEN Active

 

Previous Names
Business: FLEMING EXPANSIONS, L.L.C.
Charter Number: 34627521K
Registration Date: 4/20/1998

 

Domicile Address
119 HOMER RD
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Mailing Address
119 HOMER ROAD
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Status
Status: Active
Annual Report Status: In Good Standing
File Date: 4/20/1998
Last Report Filed: 3/27/2014
Type: Limited Liability Company

 

Registered Agent(s)

 

Agent: MIKE TOLAND
Address 1: 119 HOMER RD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055
Appointment Date: 3/30/2011

 

Officer(s) Additional Officers: No 

 

Officer: JOHN C. FLEMING
Title: Member
Address 1: 119 HOMER ROAD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055
FLEMING PAYDAY LOANS, L.L.C. Limited Liability Company MINDEN Inactive

 

Previous Names
Business: FLEMING PAYDAY LOANS, L.L.C.
Charter Number: 35772196K
Registration Date: 9/2/2004

 

Domicile Address
119 HOMER ROAD
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Mailing Address
C/O JOHN C. FLEMING
119 HOMER ROAD
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Status
Status: Inactive
Inactive Reason: Voluntary Action
File Date: 9/2/2004
Last Report Filed: 8/18/2008
Type: Limited Liability Company

 

Registered Agent(s)

 

Agent: JOHN C. FLEMING
Address 1: 119 HOMER ROAD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055
Appointment Date: 9/2/2004

 

Officer(s) Additional Officers: No 

 

Officer: JOHN C. FLEMING
Title: Manager
Address 1: 119 HOMER ROAD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

FLEMING FOR CONGRESS, L.L.C. Limited Liability Company MINDEN Active

 

Previous Names
Business: FLEMING FOR CONGRESS, L.L.C.
Charter Number: 36736015K
Registration Date: 4/30/2008

 

Domicile Address
119 HOMER ROAD
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Mailing Address
119 HOMER ROAD
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Status
Status: Active
Annual Report Status: In Good Standing
File Date: 4/30/2008
Last Report Filed: 4/8/2014
Type: Limited Liability Company

 

Registered Agent(s)

 

Agent: MIKE TOLAND
Address 1: 119 HOMER ROAD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055
Appointment Date: 11/30/2011

 

Officer(s) Additional Officers: No 

 

Officer: JOHN C. FLEMING, III
Title: Manager
Address 1: 119 HOMER ROAD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

MINDEN FAMILY CARE CENTER (A PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL CORPORATION) Business Corporation MINDEN Active

 

Previous Names
PARK CITY HEALTH SERVICES (A PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL CORPORATION) (Changed: 3/14/2012)
Business: MINDEN FAMILY CARE CENTER (A PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL CORPORATION)
Charter Number: 34480626D
Registration Date: 12/19/1994

 

Domicile Address
119 HOMER RD.
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Mailing Address
119 HOMER RD.
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Status
Status: Active
Annual Report Status: In Good Standing
File Date: 12/19/1994
Last Report Filed: 12/3/2013
Type: Business Corporation

 

Registered Agent(s)

 

Agent: MIKE TOLAND
Address 1: 119 HOMER RD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055
Appointment Date: 12/2/2010

 

Officer(s) Additional Officers: No 

 

Officer: JOHN C. FLEMING, M.D.
Title: President, Director
Address 1: 1240 COUNTRY CLUB CIRCLE
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Officer: CYNTHIA B. FLEMING
Title: Director, Secretary
Address 1: 1240 COUNTRY CLUB CIRCLE
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

FLEMING ACQUISITIONS, L.L.C. Limited Liability Company MINDEN Inactive

 

Previous Names
MAIL BOXES 1, L.L.C. (Changed: 10/8/1999)
Business: FLEMING ACQUISITIONS, L.L.C.
Charter Number: 34525360K
Registration Date: 4/25/1996

 

Domicile Address
119 HOMER RD.
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Mailing Address
119 HOMER RD.
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Status
Status: Inactive
Inactive Reason: Voluntary Action
File Date: 4/25/1996
Last Report Filed: 5/2/2012
Type: Limited Liability Company

 

Registered Agent(s)

 

Agent: MIKE TOLAND
Address 1: 119 HOMER ROAD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055
Appointment Date: 4/8/2011

 

Officer(s) Additional Officers: No 

 

Officer: JOHN C. FLEMING, JR.
Title: Member
Address 1: 119 HOMER RD.
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Officer: CYNTHIA B. FLEMING
Title: Member, Manager
Address 1: 119 HOMER RD.
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Officer: MIKE TOLAND
Title: Manager
Address 1: 119 HOMER ROAD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

1 SUBWAY, L.L.C. Limited Liability Company MINDEN Active

 

Previous Names
Business: 1 SUBWAY, L.L.C.
Charter Number: 34529383K
Registration Date: 5/31/1996

 

Domicile Address
119 HOMER RD.
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Mailing Address
119 HOMER RD.
MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Status
Status: Active
Annual Report Status: In Good Standing
File Date: 5/31/1996
Last Report Filed: 5/12/2014
Type: Limited Liability Company

 

Registered Agent(s)

 

Agent: MIKE TOLAND
Address 1: 119 HOMER RD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055
Appointment Date: 5/16/2011

 

Officer(s) Additional Officers: No 

 

Officer: JOHN C. FLEMING, JR.
Title: Member
Address 1: 119 HOMER RD.
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Officer: CYNTHIA B. FLEMING
Title: Member
Address 1: 119 HOMER RD.
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

 

Officer: MIKE TOLAND
Title: Manager
Address 1: 119 HOMER ROAD
City, State, Zip: MINDEN, LA 71055

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If anyone has any hopes that the matter of the Edmonson Amendment will be resolved Thursday when the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) Board meets, it might be worth your while to consider a few developments in the Department of Public Safety (DPS) on the watch of Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson, aka “Precious.”

We have already examined the placing of “consultant” Kathleen Sill on the state payroll and paying her $437,000 plus $12,900 in air travel for 21 flights for her between Baton Rouge and her Columbia, S.C. home.

And we told you about DPS Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux’s taking a $46,000 cash payout incentive to retire at her $92,000 per year salary as Deputy Undersecretary, plus about $13,000 in payment for 300 hours of accrued annual leave and then re-hiring two days later—with a promotion to Undersecretary and at a higher salary of $118,600—while keeping the incentive payment and annual leave payment.

We even told you about then-Commissioner of Administration Angelé Davis ordering her to repay the money but resigning before she could follow through on her instructions. Under her successor, Paul Rainwater, the matter was quietly forgotten.

But we didn’t tell you about Boudreaux’s son-in-law Matthew Guthrie who, while employed in an offshore job, was simultaneously on the payroll for seven months (from April 2, 2012 to Nov. 9, 2012) as a $25 per hour “specialist” for the State Police Oil Spill Commission.

Nor did we tell you about John W. Alario, the son of Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) who serves as the $95,000 a year director of the DPS Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission. (We had earlier told you about his wife, Dionne Alario, who was hired in November o 2013 at a salary of $56,300 to work out of her Westwego home supervising state police personnel in Baton Rouge—something of a logistics problem, to say the least.)

Or about Danielle Rainwater, daughter of former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, who works as a “specialist” for State Police.

And then there are the spouses brought into the fold.

Jason Starnes has benefitted from two quick promotions since 2009 as his salary jumped from $59,800 to $81,250, an increase of almost 36 percent.

As if that were not enough, his wife Tammy was brought in from another agency on Jan. 13 of this year as an Audit Manager at a salary of $92,900. So not only does she now make nearly $11,700 a year more than her husband, she also is in charge of monitoring the agency’s financial transactions, including those of her husband.

In January of 2008, just before Edmonson was named Superintendent of State Police by Gov. Bobby Jindal, State Trooper Charles Dupuy was pulling down $80,500. Today, as Edmonson’s Chief of Staff, he makes $122,200, a bump of nearly $42,000, or 52 percent. Dupuy, it should be noted, is the Edmonson staffer who originated the drive to push the Edmonson Amendment through the Legislature on the last day of the session that gives his boss a $55,000 pension boost because the amendment allows Edmonson to revoke his decision to freeze his retirement at 100 percent of his $79,000 captain’s salary some 15 years or so ago to 100 percent of his current colonel’s salary of $134,000.

Kelly McNamara and Dupuy, both troopers, met at work and eventually married and Kelly Dupuy’s star began ascending almost immediately. Her salary has gone from $65,000 in 2009 to $80,600 today

Doug Cain serves as State Police Public Affairs Commander at $79,000 per year but the position appears to have been created especially for him, according to payroll records.

State Civil Service records for most promotions indicate whether or not the person being promoted is moving into a slot previously occupied by someone else. In Cain’s case the “Former Incumbent” block on the promotion form is blank indicating there was no one in that position prior to Cain’s being named to it.

The same is true for Edmonson’s brother Paul Edmonson.

On Sept. 7, 2011, Paul Edmonson was promoted from lieutenant to Captain, filling the spot previously held by Scott Reggio. On Oct. 10, 2013, Paul Edmonson was again promoted, this time to the rank of major. This time however, he was promoted into a spot in which there was no incumbent, indicating that the position was created especially for his benefit.

His rise has been nothing less than meteoric. Since December of 2006, less than eight years ago, he has gone from the rank of sergeant to lieutenant to captain to major at warp speed and his pay rose accordingly, from $57,500 to $93,000 a year, a 62 percent increase—all under the watchful eye of his brother.

And keep in mind all this transpired while the rank and file state troopers—and other state employees—were having to make do without pay raises.

As his reward for taking care of his people in such a noble way, Dupuy and State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) conspired, along with Gov. Bobby Jindal, to sneak the amendment to Senate Bill 294 during the closing minutes of the session that allowed Mike Edmonson a “do-over” on his decision to enter the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) which froze his retirement at his pay at that time.

The major problem with that little plan is that it leaves other state troopers and state employees who similarly opted to enter DROP and then received significant promotions or raises out in the cold because the amendment does not afford the same opportunity for them.

Accordingly, a group of retired state troopers have indicated their willingness to litigate the matter should the LSPRS board not decide to challenge the amendment in court themselves.

And it’s not at all likely the board will take that decisive step—for two reasons, neither of them sound.

First, Florida attorney Robert Klausner, an authority on pension law, advised that the amendment is unconstitutional and that the board should simply ignore it and refused to pay the increased pension should Edmonson and one other trooper caught up in the language’s net apply for the higher benefits.

The board would have a difficult time justifying such action, however, because it is bound by the Louisiana Constitution to comply with laws passed by the Legislature. The only recourse to that action would be to file a lawsuit formally challenging the constitutionality of the amendment. To ignore it would solve nothing, several attorneys and State Treasurer John Kennedy, a member of the board, have said.

Second, the LSPRS board is stacked heavily with those who are unquestionably Edmonson and Jindal loyalists. It was Jindal who signed the bill into law as Act 859 and his Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols is an ex-officio member of the board, assigning as her designee Andrea Hubbard. No way she’s going against the administration.

State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas), chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee, is nothing short of wishy-washy as evidenced by his constant switching from Republican to Democrat and back to Republican. He is Jindal’s lap dog and would cut his throat before invoking the governor’s ire and potential endorsement for lieutenant governor.

Dupuy is a member as well but should be run off by a mean, biting dog if he does not abstain from voting for his obvious conflict of interest as Edmonson’s Chief of Staff as well as the one who originally pushed the amendment.

A couple of other members are active troopers and they are a lock for bucking litigation since their boss will be watching and waiting for any sign of weakness or betrayal.

The only certain vote in favor of litigation will come from Kennedy when the board convenes Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System LASERS) Building at 4501 United Plaza Blvd. in Baton Rouge.

And unless Chicken Little was correct about the sky falling, Kennedy’s will be a lone voice when the dust settles.

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To fully understand the lengths to which those in the upper echelons of the Jindal administration will go to punish those—especially subordinates—who dare to cross them, you need look no further than the case the Louisiana State Police hierarchy attempted to build against one of its own.

On Feb. 6, 2010, senior trooper Chris Anderson, assisted by 11-year veteran state trooper Jason LaMarca and two other troopers, Patrick Dunn, and Tim Mannino, stopped a flatbed 18-wheeler on I-12 in Tangipahoa Parish being driven by Alejandro Soliz.

LaMarca, with Anderson’s mobile video recorder (MVR) activated and recording every word and move, patted down Soliz. Finding no weapons on the driver, LaMarca then conducted a search of the truck cab and discovered “several kilos of cocaine,” according to court records.

LaMarca pulled his taser from its holster and he and Dunn approached Soliz, ordering him to get down, according to court records and testimony provided by the State Police Commission. After Soliz, who spoke English, refused to comply with several commands of “Get down,” LaMarca attempted unsuccessfully to re-holster his taser as he continued to approach Soliz.

Transferring the taser to his right hand, he cupped his left hand behind Soliz’s head and pulled him to the ground, according to testimony by LaMarca and the other three troopers, testimony supported by the video recording.

No one was injured, no shots were fired, and there were no complaints, then or later, by Soliz of excessive force.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon, however, reviewed the video and thought he saw LaMarca strike Soliz in the back of the head “with what appears to be a flashlight or similar item.” Judge Fallon added that the recording showed “three other troopers laughing at this act.”

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson (aka “Precious”), upon receiving a letter from the judge, immediately ordered an investigation into the incident—as he should have.

But what occurred next went beyond the pale of disciplinary action by Edmonson and his actions have been attributed by those familiar with the case to an act of retaliation for an earlier confrontation between LaMarca and Edmonson’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy.

Edmonson notified LaMarca on Nov. 18 that he was “suspended for 12 hours without pay and allowances” as a result of his actions. The cause of his suspension was based, Edmonson said, on the following violations of Louisiana State Police Policy and Procedure:

  • The use of force policy;
  • The use of force reporting policy;
  • Conduct unbecoming an officer.

LaMarca, who had a spotless record in his 11 years, promptly filed an appeal with the State Police Commission, primarily to expunge the suspension from his record. The commission heard testimony from all four officers and reviewed the video recording of the arrest and put down of Soliz before issuing its ruling on Aug. 1, 2011.

In its ruling exonerating LaMarca, the commission noted:

  • Appellant (LaMarca) had nothing in the hand he used to “put the driver on the ground.” Likewise, we do not perceive appellant’s actions, in doing so, to be the use of excessive force. While the driver had been cooperative until the drugs were found, he became uncooperative thereafter and refused numerous orders to get on the ground.
  • While the maneuver used by appellant to take the driver to the ground may not be the one “taught” at the academy, it was effective and did not appear to be the use of “excessive” force.
  • We likewise do not perceive the other troopers to be “laughing” at appellant’s action.
  • As we do not find that appellant violated the “use of force” policy order, he likewise did not violate the “use of force reporting.”

That normally would have ended the matter. No weapons were used, no one was injured, no one complained of excessive force, and the commission found no violations by LaMarca.

But remember, LaMarca had earlier committed that unpardonable sin of arguing vehemently with Dupuy, Edmonson’s second in command.

And though Dupuy’s name never surfaces in the initial disciplinary action, the commission hearing and its subsequent decision, or court records, Edmonson was dutifully carrying the water for him and he made sure the issue was far from dead as he displayed unprecedented zeal in his attempt to punish LaMarca on behalf of his chief of staff.

Determined to exact revenge for LaMarca’s impudence, Edmonson took the matter up the line to the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

That’s right, he appealed the decision of the state commission charged with the responsibility of promoting effective personnel management practices for the Office of State Police and to protect the fundamental rights of the troopers under Edmonson’s command.

Much like the courtroom experiences of his boss Gov. Bobby Jindal, Edmonson went down in flames. At least the administration is consistent in that respect.

The First Circuit’s ruling of May 2, 2012:

  • On review of the video and testimonial evidence concerning the surrounding circumstances at the scene of the rest, we find no error in the commission’s finding that the force and manner used by trooper LaMarca to secure the suspect and “affect the arrest” was not more than was reasonably necessary under the circumstances and hence did not violate procedure.
  • On review, we find the verbiage used by the commission in concluding that the force used by LaMarca was not “excessive,” was simply synonymous with the commission’s ultimate finding that there was no violation of the “use of force” procedure order, i.e., that the use of force by trooper LaMarca was reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
  • We find the decision of the commission thoroughly and sufficiently reviewed the evidence and testimony produced at the hearing and addressed the procedure order violations lodged against trooper LaMarca in the suspension letter issued by Col. Edmonson.
  • After thorough review of the testimonial and video evidence herein…we find the decision of the commission is supported by substantial evidence.

http://statecasefiles.justia.com/documents/louisiana/first-circuit-court-of-appeal/2011ca1667-4.pdf?ts=1387486081

Well, that certainly laid the matter to rest, right?

No, not if you’ve had a confrontation with Dupuy.

Edmonson promptly applied for writs (appealed) to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

And what became of that?

The State Supreme Court simply declined to even consider the matter.

Now it’s over.

Until, that is, it’s determined by Edmonson or Dupuy that LaMarca makes another misstep.

But with the publication of this post and the decisions of the State Police Commission and the First Circuit Court of Appeal now on the record, any similar attempts in the future would come dangerously close to harassment.

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In 2011, two agencies within the Louisiana Department of Public Safety (DPS) entered into a pair of contracts with a company called CTQ Consultants totaling $38,400 to eliminate waste and to increase efficiency in the Office of Motor Vehicles ($22,400) by employing a combination of a trendy management method and to decrease the average DNA purchasing process turn-around time ($16,000).

Taken at face value, $38,400 is not an exorbitant amount for two contracts given some of the contracts awarded by the state. The infamous $270 million CNSI contract comes to mind. So does that $7.4 million consulting contract the state awarded Alvarez & Marcel (A&M) Consultants to track down $500 million in savings.

But then DPS promptly placed CTQ’s only employee, Kathleen Sill, on the state payroll as a $140 per hour state employee and proceeded to pay her $437,000 in salary over the next 28 months.

That’s $437,000 for her personally, not for her company.

Additionally, DPS paid $12,900 in air travel for 21 flights for Sill between Baton Rouge and CTQ’s Columbia, S.C., home office between Jan. 6, 2012 and March 2014, according to records obtained by LouisianaVoice.

The first contract, for $16,000, was awarded to CTQ by the Office of State Police on Feb. 1, 2011. That contract expired three months later, on April 30, 2011.

On Aug. 1, 2011, the $22,400 contract was awarded by the Office of Management and Finance. That contract expired five months later, on Dec. 31. Among the objectives of that contract was one that called for CTQ to assist in “streamlining including the operations of the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV).”

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson heads DPS in his dual role as Deputy Secretary and oversees, besides State Police, the Office of Management and Finance, the Office of Motor Vehicles, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, the Office of State Fire Marshal, the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office and the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission. http://www.dps.louisiana.gov/deputy.html

On Jan. 1, 2012, one day after the second contract expired, Sill was placed on the state payroll as an employee/consultant and remained employed until May 1, 2014, records show.

So, what is CTQ and who is Kathleen Sill?

Well, if McKinsey & Co. is considered the world’s premier business consulting company, Alvarez & Marsal might best be considered Mac Lite and CTQ as something several rungs down in the consulting pecking order. It’s a typical touchy-feely out-of-state organization that makes suggestions on to how local administrators can best do their jobs—after waltzing in, analyzing, discussing and writing expensive reports—all in a matter of a few weeks or months, as in the case of CTQ. Or, in Sill’s case, 28 months.

Sill formed CTQ in 2009 after spending more than 30 years with Bank of America as a “quality and productivity executive.”

The CTQ web page has an about us feature but when we clicked on it, only Sill’s profile appeared on the screen. No other employees of the firm are identified anywhere on the web page. http://www.ctqconsultinggroup.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=5

CTQ and Sill specialize in something called Lean Six Sigma, which Sill says is an abbreviated form of Six Sigma that draws upon her Six Sigma training and hands-on experience “to identify and implement results-driven solutions for your business.”

Six Sigma is a set of techniques for process improvement that was developed by Motorola in 1986 and General Electric adopted the program for its business strategy in 1995.

The program attempts to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing causes of defects by employing a set of quality management methods and creates a special infrastructure of employees within an organization (“Champions,” Black Belts,” “Green Belts and “Yellow Belts”) who are experts in infrastructure methods.

Lean_Six_Sigma_Structure_Pyramid.svg[1]

The name Six Sigma originated from terminology tied to manufacturing, especially terms associated with statistical modeling of manufacturing processes.

Sigma indicates its yield or percentage of defect-free products it creates while a six sigma process is one in which 99.00066 percent of the manufactured products are statistically expected to be defect-free (3.4 defective parts per million).

According to Wikipedia.org, Six Sigma doctrine asserts:

  • Continuous efforts to achieve stable and predictable process results are of vital importance to business success.
  • Manufacturing and business processes have characteristics that can be measured, analyzed, controlled and improved.
  • Achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly from top-level management.

Features that set Six Sigma apart from previous quality improvement initiatives include:

  • A clear focus on achieving measurable and quantifiable financial returns from any Six Sigma project.
  • An increased emphasis on strong and passionate management leadership and support.
  • A clear commitment to making decisions on the basis of verifiable data and statistical methods, rather than assumptions and guesswork.

Just how all this applies to the Department of Public Safety and how it justified an expenditure of $450,000 remains unclear.

Asked why Sill was placed on the state payroll as an unclassified employee instead of being retained as a contractor, DPS explained that the department “utilized a Civil Service hiring option to employ Ms. Sill as a WAE (when actually employed) due to the length of proposed projects underway or planned. This allowed her to perform projects across various state agencies as a state employee.”

One explanation might be the $50,000 plateau for contracts. Any contract of $50,000 or more must be approved by the Office of Contractual Review.

A better reason could be that contracts are easier for prying eyes to spot and more susceptible to prompting questions from nosy reporters than an otherwise low key state hire.

But if the results of “streamlining operations of OMV” can be used as a barometer, the efforts of CTQ and Sill are less than auspicious. One need only make a trip to one of the local DMV offices gutted by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s employee layoffs to witness the interminable delays brought on by his privatization obsession. And while you’re waiting, don’t take it out on the overworked, stressed-out employees. Just remember to thank Jindal—and Lean Six Sigma.

And bring a good book to read while you wait.

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It’s the story that won’t die, no matter how the Runaway Governor (apologies to Julia Roberts) would like it to.

While Gov. Bobby Jindal may go running off to Iowa or New Hampshire or Washington, D.C., or wherever his latest odyssey takes him in his futile attempt at resuscitation of his moribund presidential aspirations while ducking his responsibilities at home, folks like political curmudgeon C.B. Forgotston and State Treasurer John Kennedy just won’t go away.

Instead, Kennedy is staying home and demanding answers to the nagging problem of the Edmonson Amendment that Jindal so obligingly signed into law as Act 859, giving State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson that $55,000 bump in retirement income.

Act 859, which began as a bland, nondescript bill by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) that addressed procedures in cases where law enforcement officers are under investigation, quietly turned into a retirement bonanza for Edmonson.

That happened when State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) inserted language into a Conference Committee amendment to the bill that allows Edmonson and one other state trooper in Houma to revoke their decisions of several years ago to enter into the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) which gave them higher take home pay but froze their retirements at their pay level at the time of their decision.

In Edmonson’s case, his payment was frozen at 100 percent of his $79,000 a year captain’s pay but Act 859 allows him a do-over and to act as though all that never happened so that he can retire at 100 percent of his $134,000 per year colonel’s pay instead.

Other state troopers, teachers and civil service employees who made similar decisions, meanwhile, are stuck with their decisions because….well, sorry, but this is special for Col. Mike Edmonson Esq. Swank. Riff raff need not apply.

The Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) board is scheduled to receive a special report by Florida attorney Robert Klausner, an acknowledged authority on public retirement plans, and local attorney Denise Akers at its Sept. 4 meeting but Kennedy isn’t waiting that long.

As State Treasurer, Kennedy holds a seat on the LSPRS board and he has repeatedly voiced his concern over the amendment which he says could put enormous strain on LSPRS if other retired state police officers file suit to obtain similar consideration as Edmonson.

He has claimed the board has a fiduciary responsibility to file suit to overturn the new law that Jindal so hastily signed.

A group of retired state troopers also has signaled its willingness to enter into litigation to get the law overturned.

Both Kennedy and the retired troopers contend the law is unconstitutional because it was not properly advertised in advance of its passage.

“Talking points” originating in State Police headquarters by Capt. Jason Starnes and sent to Edmonson, his Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy, and—for whatever reason—Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Jones, said the bill was properly advertised but because the bill in its original form in no way addressed retirement issues, that claim appears rather weak, especially given the fact that state police should be more skilled in producing hard evidence to back their cases.

The additional fact that the amendment never made its appearance until the last day of the session even though it had been discussed weeks before adds to the cloud of suspicion and wholesale chicanery enveloping Jindal, Riser, Edmonson, and Dupuy.

And Kennedy, who already has fired off two previous letters to LSPRS Executive Director Irwin Felps demanding a full investigation of the rogue amendment, now has written a third.

That letter, dated today (Aug. 13), while much shorter than the others, loses no time in getting right to the point: Kennedy is demanding under the state’s public records statutes (La. R.S. 44:31, et seq.) that Felps provide him a copy of the report generated by Klausner and/or Akers.

“Please immediately email the document(s) requested to me,” he wrote. “If you cannot or will not email them, please immediately inform me, and I will send a representative to your office to pick them up right away.”

Here is the link to his letter: Treasurer Kennedy Public Records Request to Irwin Felps August 13 2014

His letter sets the stage for a probable showdown between Kennedy and the rest of the board given the fact that Felps has previously denied Kennedy’s informal request for the report.

Felps said following Kennedy’s initial request, he was advised by legal counsel (most probably Akers) to release the report to the board members but not to the general public. He added that he expected Kennedy will have the report Thursday morning.

“I don’t know why the big cloak and dagger that they won’t share with the board,” Kennedy told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/08/john_kennedy_demands_state_pol.html#incart_river

“I’m a board member and I’m entitled to it. They can’t tell me I can’t see it,” Kennedy said. “This is a very important issue and it’s not just limited to state police. We have thousands of employees in the retirement system (who) didn’t get this treatment.

“I just want to see a report that I asked for and the board asked for. It is a public document.”

Kennedy should know better. LouisianaVoice has already received its comeuppance from the House and Senate, both of which have refused to comply with our request for copies of emails and text messages between the six Conference Committee members who approved the amendment and Jindal, Edmonson or any of their staff members.

Even though such discussions would have fallen under the narrowest of definitions of public business, we were told the public has no business peeking over legislators’ shoulders to see what they’re doing and to please just butt out.

LSPRS board Chairman Frank Besson, president of the Louisiana State Troopers Association, told the Times-Picayune in a statement (prepared as talking points by Starnes, perhaps?) that he felt it would be “inappropriate and premature” for the board to take a position on Act 859 until it heard the attorneys’ report.

Uh, Trooper Besson, would that be more or less “inappropriate” than passing a secretive bill in the final hours of the session to benefit one person (well, two, since one other trooper fell within the strictly limited parameters of the bill’s language) while no one was looking?

Just as a reminder, it’s going to be difficult to get the board off dead center on this issue considering the board’s 11-person membership is comprised of four active troopers, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and one of Jindal’s legislative puppets, State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas), chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee (you can almost see Jindal’s lips move when he talks).

Just in case you lost count, that’s six members that Jindal and Edmonson control—and that’s a majority.

Folks, it’s looking more and more like that group of retired state troopers is going to have to make good on that threat to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the act.

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