Archive for the ‘Public Records’ Category

Now that Bobby Jindal has confronted reality and “suspended” (as opposed to terminated; the two terms are not the same) his moribund presidential campaign, several questions linger about his future and that of his hangers-on, not that anyone in Louisiana—or Iowa—really cares anymore.

There are also questions about how he will dispose of the approximately $261,000 remaining in his mostly depleted campaign fund. http://www.fec.gov/fecviewer/CandidateCommitteeDetail.do

Contributions had slowed to a mere trickle in the last quarter of his campaign which, combined with his inability to climb above 1 percent in the polls, prompted him to finally admit what everyone has known for some time now: “This is not my time.” Hell, even his kids knew that when he staged that creepy announcement to them that he put up on this campaign web page back in June and then immediately took down after national ridicule of the awkwardness of the entire video.

Campaign manager Timmy Teepell apparently remains flummoxed as to why his boy was banished to the standup comedy/concert equivalent of warmup act in the Republican debates. Well, Timmy, it shouldn’t have been a secret to anyone with a clue. Bobby simply had nothing to bring to the table.

So, what does Timmy do now? Given his disastrous handling of a disastrous campaign for a disastrous candidate, it would seem his options in future political endeavors are seriously limited.

As for Bobby, he probably won’t miss a beat. In fact, the rhetoric is not likely to be altered one iota as he eases back into his role as head of America Next, his nonprofit think tank.

He started America Next as a vehicle for all those self-righteous op-eds to support his ultra-right wing exclusionary philosophy that he attempts to pass off as policy papers on issues ranging from immigration to health care to lowering taxes for the rich and for corporations.

Which brings us to the question of what he will do with that $261,000 hanging around in his campaign bank account.

Time was a retiring office holder or losing candidate for office could simply convert leftover campaign funds to his personal bank account provided he reported the money as income and paid income taxes on the money.

No more. But other than that one prohibition, the rules are pretty loose as to what a politician can do with surplus funds.

He can hold on the money in case he ever decides to seek office again or he can contribute to his party or other candidates.

Or he can “donate” the extra campaign cash to his own nonprofit organization. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/22/ex-politicians-keeping-100-million-in-private-slush-funds.html

Like America Next. http://believeagain.gop/

Or leadership political action committees (PACs) http://classroom.synonym.com/left-over-campaign-funds-after-elections-17435.html

Like Believe Again. http://believeagain.gop/

Both the brainchildren of Bobby Jindal, America Next and Believe Again basically serve the same purpose—to promote the aspirations and agenda of Bobby Jindal.

And, like Dave Vitter’s Fund for Louisiana’s Future (FLF) and Vitter’s campaign committee, the two share a key player. With Vitter, it is Courtney Guastella Callihan who serves as his campaign finance director and as head of FLF.

With Jindal, it’s Jill Neunaber who ran the day-to-day operations of America Next and Believe Again.

“When I say super PAC, how many people think of a nameless, faceless, shady organization that bombards your television with commercials?” Neunaber asked, adding that Believe Again was a “different kind of super PAC.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inching-up-in-iowa-bobby-jindal-leaves-no-room-on-his-right/2015/10/17/0aea955e-745c-11e5-8d93-0af317ed58c9_story.html

But aren’t nonprofits like America Next supposed to leave the politics to PACs like Believe Again?

Well, yes and no. So, how does one draw the line distinguishing the two?

Nonprofits like America Next which generally support a single candidate have proliferated since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. They perform a variety of functions from helping develop polity to underwriting the costs of advertising.

They differ from candidates’ own campaign committees or super PACs in one major aspect: They are not required to publicly disclose their donors.


Even so, the Center for Public Integrity learned that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) last year contributed $50,000 to America Next. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/17/18867/drug-lobby-gave-50000-pro-jindal-nonprofit

So, while Jindal the presidential aspirant has faded into oblivion, Jindal the opportunist is alive and well, poised to write even more op-eds that promote the tax, health, education, and economic policies that made his eight years as governor such an unqualified success and which established him as a presidential candidate to be reckoned with and an inspiration to Republicans everywhere.

The obvious next step for him, according to longtime political observer Stephen Winham, is to move for a hostile takeover of The 700 Club from fellow failed Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson. There may be more than a grain of truth in Winham’s prognostication. After all, he has already gotten his foot in the door with multiple appearances on Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) http://www.cbn.com/tv/1386878899001?mobile=false#





We heard a rumor that on one of his appearances, he admonished Robertson’s audience to “stop being the stupid Christians,” but we were unable to locate that link. Nor were we able to find the link to a video taken of Jindal and his family from an overhanging tree limb as he told his children of his plans to succeed Robertson.


Read Full Post »

Imagine your dentist boss comes to you with a proposition:

Why don’t you help the board investigator do investigations for the board of dentistry? You can make some extra spending money by posing as a patient and presenting fake symptoms and false medical histories in hopes of gaining information and diagnosis that could be used against dentists in board hearings. The board can really use your help in putting the bad guys away.

What could go wrong, right? Your boss is a long-time member of the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry. He assures you this is done all the time. He even nicknames you “The Pink Panther” for your investigative efforts. Your thoughts go to all the extra money you will have for Christmas gifts this year.

A similar scenario happened with Karen Moorhead when she worked as a dental assistant for Dr. White Graves, a long-time board member, in Monroe. Moorhead testified that she worked “six or seven” undercover operations for board investigator Camp Morrison. She even testified to working undercover as an employee in an office that was under investigation by the LSBD.

The only problem is that no one told Ms. Moorhead what she was doing was against the law. Louisiana requires anyone getting paid to do undercover investigations have a valid private investigator’s license. Anyone caught doing this type of work without one is in violation of Louisiana criminal law, subjecting the offender for fines of up to $10,000 and up to a year in jail.

R.S 37:3507.2


It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to commit any of the following acts:

(1) Provide contract or private investigator service without possessing a valid license.

(2) Employ an individual to perform the duties of a private investigator who is not the holder of a valid registration card.



Ms. Moorhead has found herself a defendant in an ongoing civil trial since 2011 because of this highly questionable and unethical, if not illegal, activity. Instead of hiring an independent attorney, she relied on the attorney provided by the board of dentistry, the very organization that got her in trouble in the first place. In fact, the board had the legislature change the law in order to cover her defense. She now claims attorney-client privilege with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, and claims insurance coverage underwritten for state civil service employees. Never mind that Moorhead was an independent contractor doing work for a board contractor. Morrison’s contract specifically required him to hold an errors and omissions (E&O) insurance policy for such purposes that indemnifies the state against his actions. One former board member contends that the LSBD has spent over $500k on this suit. (Any state employee who is the subject of a civil lawsuit for actions taken in the scope of his or her employment is entitled to legal representation provided at the state’s expense. In the case of criminal prosecution for job-related actions, the employee may retain legal counsel of the employee’s choice and is entitled to have those legal costs reimbursed in the event of an acquittal. Moorhead, as a contractor, should not be entitled to legal representation provided by the state.)

More troubling, however, is the advice that her attorney has given her. The attorney Professional Rules of Conduct prohibit representing multiple clients when a conflict of interest exists between them. Barbara Melton, law partner to infamous Jimmy Faircloth, is a contract attorney for the board of dentistry—and she is defending both board investigator Camp Morrison and Moorhead at the same time. According to some legal analysts, that’s a major conundrum. One legal expert laid it out like this, “It’s apparent that Moorhead and Morrison may not share the same best interests. If I was hired to do a completely illegal job and was told that it was legal by supposedly reputable people and then found myself sued over it that would be a problem. I wouldn’t hesitate to sue the investigator, the board of dentistry, and possibly the boss that suggested the employment and got me into this mess in the first place.”

However, that’s not the advice that Melton seems to have given her. How could she recommend suing the board of dentistry and Morrison, who are both her clients? That recommendation should be off the table. Because of this conflict and lack of sound advice, Moorhead could find her troubles just beginning.

Several dentists have come together and are planning to file a civil class action suit against the Board of Dentistry and its agents. Moorhead’s involvement in “six or seven” cases, makes her the glue that ties this class action together. Moorhead may also have perjured herself in at least one deposition and during a board hearing. Finally, a recent affidavit from a Kenner dentist and Camp Morrison’s own billing records have Moorhead working undercover in an office that the board was investigating.

Although Moorhead originally bragged about working in this office, her story has changed and she remembers seeking but never being offered the job. This stands in stark contrast to the affidavit and billing records in hand. It’s possible that Moorhead may now risk jail time for perjury and continued ligation from multiple sources. She may have also committed tax fraud by not properly listing the income from these undercover jobs. Many believe the trouble Moorhead may be facing stems from the questionable legal advice she has been given. Meanwhile, the board attorney Barbara Melton has never missed a paycheck. She continues to represent the board of dentistry as a contract attorney.

Moorhead may want to check on her legal options, which some insist should include possibly adding her attorney to the list of people to sue. Moorhead certainly doesn’t appear to be innocent of the claims against her. But instead of stopping and ceasing to dig, her attorney appears to have helped her dig the hole deeper. It now appears to be one which she may not be able to escape.

The question must now be where the Attorney General’s office is in all this mess.

Buddy Caldwell is quick to issue press releases about child porn arrests, consumer fraud and CNSI. But he has been shamefully silent on the issue of going after offending power-mad, ego-driven Board of Dentistry members. These members have repeatedly demonstrated their intent to persecute dentists not in response to legitimate complaints but pursuant to board-initiated complaints generated by investigators and legal counsel. There is more than ample evidence to show that the board is set not on cleaning up the industry but in extracting hundreds of thousands of dollars from dentists denied the opportunity to properly defend themselves before a kangaroo court comprised of the same board members who bring the charges.

And while the attorney general’s job is to represent state agencies, he could be doing the board a service by offering his counsel to refrain from tromping on dentists’ due process rights. After all, should a class action lawsuit ensue, it’s going to cost the state a boatload of money to defend—and to pay any adverse judgment if that is the result. For no other reason than preventive maintenance, Caldwell should be offering his advice.

What has transpired thus far comes nowhere near the concept of due process. An attorney general committed to doing the job he was elected would have addressed this glaring problem long ago.


Read Full Post »

Interspersed in all the venomous political rhetoric in the gubernatorial campaign that is now moving toward its merciful final week are some real issues that affect our lives and which should warrant closer inspection by the voting public.

Unfortunately, given the public’s taste for voyeurism and salacious gossip, that probably won’t happen. Besides, time is short and the sordid half-truths, distortions and details of political black ops are just heating up. There just isn’t time for the things that matter.

But at least one group is taking U.S. Sen. David Vitter to task for a letter he wrote last April to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy.

In that otherwise routine five-page letter, dated April 16, 2015, Vitter addressed a number of issues concerning levees, flood control, storm surge protection, past due payments from the Corps to the State of Louisiana for freshwater diversion projects, a request to complete the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, deauthorization of the West Pearl River Navigation Project, a request for increased negotiation efforts to approve the Lower Mississippi River Management proposal, and bank stabilization along the Ouachita River in north Louisiana.

Buried at the bottom of page three of the letter was item number 7: Helis Oil and Gas Permit MVN (Mississippi Valley New Orleans)-2013-02952-ETT.

Issue: “The aforementioned permit application is currently awaiting approval within MVN, but has stalled due to several pending lawsuits,” Vitter’s letter said. “The State of Louisiana, Department of Environmental Quality issued the water quality certification (WQC 140328-02) on March 19, 2015. Issuance of the 404 permit is the last remaining action needed to begin construction of the test well.”

Request: “Immediately approve and issue the 404 permit.”


In his April 16 letter, Vitter did what he does best: intimidate with not-so-subtle threats.

“As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moves forward with leadership transitions and promotions in the coming months, I’d like to take this opportunity to ensure that you—as the two primary Corps leaders—continue strengthening your commitment to improve communication and issue resolution with non-Federal stakeholders who depend on the Corps to provide necessary flood protection, reliable navigation, and restored ecosystems,” he wrote.

“…However, it’s critical that Corps leadership understand there remain several significant Louisiana issues that need to be addressed and resolved in an expeditious manner. In light of those issues, I can’t support the transition or promotion of new leadership until I know that a constructive approach will be taken to address and resolve these serious problems.”

As if on cue, the Corps on June 8 approved the permit application by Helis Oil & Gas Co. http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/06/wetlands_permit_approved_by_fr.html

Vanishing Earth, a new political blog that concentrates on environmental issues, obtained the Vitter letter to the Corps that contained Vitter’s heavy-handed approach to resolving issues, particularly the approval of the Helis permit.

That permit, since approved, will allow Helis to drill an exploratory well for the purpose of oil drilling and controversial hydraulic fracking in St. Tammany Parish. Parish residents have resisted fracking in St. Tammany and have even filed a lawsuit in district court to stop the practice there because of legitimate concerns about air and water pollution, damage to the aquifer that supplies drinking water, and the industrialization of the parish.

The irony is that St. Tammany is considered a strongly Republican parish and represents one of Vitters’ strongest areas of support.

But, as is always the case in politics, money speaks much louder than loyalty to constituents and Helis has seen to it that Vitter’s campaigns, both federal and more recently, state, are remembered fondly.

On May 8, less than a month after Vitter wrote his letter to the Corps, Helis made a $5,000 contribution to Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign. Additionally, on that same date, Helis CEO David Kerstein made an identical maximum allowable contribution of $5,000. Then, on Nov. 6 of this year, less than two weeks after the first primary, Helis chipped in an additional $5,000. The company also contributed $15,000 in three separate contributions to lieutenant governor candidate Billy Nungesser.



Moreover, Kerstein contributed an additional $7,500 to Vitter’s U.S. House and Senate campaigns from 2000 to 2008, according to Federal Election Commission records. Corporations are prohibited from contributing to federal campaign. http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/qind/


Helis apparently is not an equal opportunity donor; no contributions could be found by the company or its CEO to Democrats John Bel Edwards or Nungesser’s opponent Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden.

What David Vitter is essentially saying in his letter to Secretary Darcy and Lieutenant General Bostick is that if they do not perform certain acts, issue the permit, then he will punish them by taking away something of personal value to them which, in this case, are the “transitions and promotions,” wrote Vanishing Earth publisher Jonathan Henderson. “In other words, he blackmailed them.” http://vanishingearth.org/2015/11/05/senator-vitter-corruption-reaches-st-tammany-parish-fracking-fight/

Henderson is encouraging his readers to call on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics “to immediately investigate Senator David Bruce Vitter.”

Additionally, one source said some residents of St. Tammany were considering filing a complaint with the State Board of Ethics. LouisianaVoice inquired of the state board whether or not such a complaint had been filed. This was the response we received:

In response to your public records request of Nov. 12th, please be advised that all complaints and documents prepared or obtained in connection with an investigation are deemed confidential and privileged pursuant to R.S. 42:1141.4 K&L which also provides that it is a misdemeanor for any person, including the Board’s staff, to make any public statement or give out any information concerning any confidential matter.

LouisianaVoice has begun an investigation into fracking operations in Lincoln Parish as well. Residents there are concerned about the drain on the Sparta Aquifer which supplies drinking water to several north Louisiana parishes. We will bring you more details on those operations as we receive them.

Read Full Post »

“It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”

—State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), commenting on the “deliberative process” exemptions pushed through the legislature in his 2008 “ethics reform” package, as quoted by the Center on Public Integrity’s 2015 state rankings.

“Jindal’s ‘gold standard’ is riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”

—The Center for Public Integrity, criticizing Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard” of ethics, in its 2015 state rankings report.


Read Full Post »

While Bobby Jindal is touting all the wonderful innovations, budget cuts, employee reductions, etc., that he has initiated in Louisiana, The Center for Public Integrity has a few items he may wish to soft peddle as he goes about trying to convince Iowans that he’s really serious about running for President and not the joke we in Louisiana know him to be.

The center has just released its 2015 integrity grades for each state and it isn’t very pretty for Louisiana.

In fact, the state received a flat-out grade of F and ranked 41st out of the 50 states overall with a composite score of 59 out of a possible 100. Only seven states had lower composite scores—Pennsylvania and Oregon (58), Nevada (57), Delaware and South Dakota (56), and Michigan and Wyoming (51).

Mississippi (61) and Alabama (67), normally found competing for Louisiana on lists of all things bad, were well ahead of Louisiana with rankings of 33rd and 7th, respectively. Alaska had the highest score at 71, good enough for a C. Michigan was the worst with its 51.

Louisiana wasn’t alone in getting a failing grade of course; there were 10 others but in the other states we can only assume the governors are at least attempting to address their problems. Jindal isn’t. He capitulated long ago as he set out on his quest for the brass ring that continues—and will continue—to elude him. Though he has only two months to go in office, he in reality abandoned us three years and 10 months ago—right after he was inaugurated for his second term. Truth be told, he has been at best a distracted administrator (I still can’t bring myself to call him a governor) for his full eight years and at worst, guilty of malfeasance in his dereliction of duty.

Harsh words, to be sure, but then his record screams out his shortcomings (loud enough to be heard in Iowa, one would think) and his lack of a basic understanding of running a lemonade stand, much less a state.

States were graded on 13 criteria by the Center for Public Integrity:

  • Public Access to Information—F
  • Political Financing—D
  • Electoral Oversight—D+
  • Executive Accountability—F
  • Legislative Accountability—F
  • Judicial Accountability—F
  • State Budget Processes—D+
  • State Civil Service Management—F
  • Procurement—D+
  • Internal Auditing—C+
  • Lobbying Disclosure—D
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies—F
  • State Pension Fund Management—F


The scores given each of these, and their national ranking were even more revealing.

Public Access to Information, for example scored a dismal 30, ranking 46th in the country.

In the scoring for Internal Auditing, on the other hand, the state’s numerical score was 79, but was good enough for only a ranking of 32nd.

Likewise, the grading for Procurement (purchase of goods and contracts) had a numeric score of 69, good enough to rank the state 25th. But numeric score of 64 for Lobbying Disclosure while rating only a D, was still good enough to nudge the state into the upper half of the rankings at 24th.

One of the biggest areas of concern would have to be the state’s numeric grade of only 40 for Judicial Accountability, plunging the state to next to last at 49th. (This is an area that has flown under the radar but one the legislature and next governor should address.)

The lowest numeric score was 30 for Public Access to Information, fifth from the bottom at 46th. LouisianaVoice can certainly attest to the difficulty in obtaining public records, having found it necessary to file lawsuit against the state on three occasions in order to obtain what were clearly public records. Even after winning two of the three lawsuits, we still experience intolerable foot-dragging as agencies attempt to stall in the hopes we will give up.

We will not. If anything, the stalling only strengthens our resolve to fight for the public’s right to know.

To compare Louisiana to other states in each of the 13 criteria, go here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18822/how-does-your-state-rank-integrity

In the final days of the 2015 legislative session the state Senate approved a bill that removed the exemptions pushed through by Jindal in his first month in office in 2008 which kept most government records from disclosure. State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) was quoted in the report as saying, “It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”

Jindal called his changes his “gold standard,” but the report said it is “riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”

That looked like a promising reversal to the secrecy of the Jindal administration but then the legislature agreed to postpone implementation of the new law that abolished the abused “deliberative process” exception until after Jindal leaves office next January.

Jindal also managed to gut the state’s ethics laws early in his first year. Enforcement of ethics violations was removed from the State Ethics Board and transferred to judges selected by a Jindal appointee. That prompted long-time political consultant Elliott Stonecipher of Shreveport to say that while the state’s ethics laws looked good on the surface, there was “no effective enforcement and that breeds more than just a system of corruption, but an acceptance of those practices,” the center’s report said.

The center reported that it is not Louisiana’s ethics laws that produced such a poor grade, but the day-to-day interpretations of the laws by various departmental legal advisors.

Since the center’s first survey of public integrity on a state-by-state basis, no fewer than 12 states have had legislators or cabinet-level officials charged, convicted or resign over ethics-related issues, the report said.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,977 other followers

%d bloggers like this: