Archive for the ‘State Agencies’ Category

Complaints and protests had no effect on the decision by Louisiana Tech David Vitter to restrict access to Thursday night’s gubernatorial debate on the Ruston campus, so LouisianaVoice has submitted a formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request under Louisiana’s Public Records Law (R.S. 44:1 et seq.) for any documentation revealing Vitter’s thumbprints on the unprecedented decision to bar access to the debate to students, the public and the media.

It is as obvious as that great big elephant in the room that Vitter is Bobby Jindal reincarnated as far as his unwillingness to take unscripted questions or questions not approved in advance. His propensity for appearing only in tightly controlled venues is doing little to blot out the ugly memory of eight years of Jindal’s avoidance of unpleasant questions.

All politicians, of course, would prefer to appear at events that evidence overwhelming support and if a politician is willing to take the risk, he will encounter hostile crowds or, at least an enterprising journalist who isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. Vitter, however, has taken his aversion to such risks to a level at which even Jindal would be envious.

His reasons are quite obvious. He refuses to entertain, let along answer, the BIG question: “Senator, did you break the law?”

Ask Edwin Edwards that and he would likely say, “Sure, but you’re going to have find out for yourself which one it was.”

Ask Paul Newman in his lead role in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean that, and he would simply tear that page out of the law book and say, “That’s a bad law. I just repealed it.”

Ask Jindal that and he’d probably hire Jimmy Faircloth to file suit against the law.

But you just can’t ask Vitter that. Plain and simple, he’s not going to put himself in that position, which presents a conundrum of sorts or, as the late Johnny Carson might say, “A sticky wicket.” The problem I have with that is this man is asking us to place our trust in him and to elect him Governor when he is not willing to accept questions about his moral character.

Moral character. An interesting term and one might justifiably ask what that has to do with his ability to govern. After all, Woodrow Wilson, LBJ, JFK, FDR, Bill Clinton, Warren Harding, and 14 other presidents are rumored to have carried on affairs in the White House—some with male partners.

For the answer, I will only point to the fact that Vitter ran as a family values candidate and in 1998 Vitter opined that Clinton “should resign…and move beyond this (Monica Lewinski) mess.” http://cenlamar.com/2010/08/21/can-we-be-honest-about-david-vitter/

But now, after being linked to prostitutes in Washington and New Orleans, doesn’t have so much to say on the subject of infidelity. As a candidate for Louisiana’s chief executive officer, he has instituted his very on “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

And he’s making damn sure no one gets to ask that. Hence, the controlled venues, including barring the media and the public from a “public debate” in a public facility on the campus of Louisiana Tech University Thursday night.

Which must beg the question in the minds of any citizen of Louisiana who can get past the latest exploits of those wild and crazy Kardashians: what else might he refuse to share with the electorate of this state? Will he, like Jindal, shut off the governor’s office from all outside inquiries, including those about legitimate state business? Will he invoke the “deliberative process” as did Jindal for eight long years?

He was uncomfortable enough at Thursday night’s debate when the question of his attack ads against fellow Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle arose. Of course, he denied his hand in the attacks, saying that he didn’t buy the ads; that The Fund for Louisiana’s Future did.

Well, The Fund for Louisiana’s Future just happens to be his very own Super PAC and while federal law dictates that candidates not involved themselves in the decision-making process of plotting strategy and ad buys with Super PACs, never doubt for a nano-second that it was his hand stirring the pot. After all, Vitter gave a quarter-million dollars of his own money to The Fund for Louisiana’s Future.

So, in a sufficient state of outrage over Vitter’s exclusion of the very public he is asking to elect him, I, Tom Aswell, on behalf of LouisianaVoice has submitted the following public records request of Louisiana Tech President Les Guice:

Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.), I respectfully request the following information:

Please allow me to review all communications, including text messages, twitter messages, emails and any other written correspondence between any representative of Louisiana Tech University (including any member of the university’s administration and/or the university public information office from U.S. Sen. David Vitter and/or any member of his Senate and/or campaign staff or representative/spokesperson for David Vitter, including aides, public relations firms, advertising agencies, Fund for Louisiana’s Future, or anyone else serving in a capacity to promote his gubernatorial campaign. Such request is limited to any and all discussions of the gubernatorial debate of Thursday, October 15, 2015 at Louisiana Tech University, including, but not limited to any and all parameters, restrictions, and/or criteria of said debate, including any advance questions submitted or to be submitted to such spokespersons and/or David Vitter, any demands, suggestions and/or stipulations as to who may or may not be allowed to attend said debate and any reasons and/or justification given to support such demands, suggestions and/or stipulations.

Just so there are no misunderstandings about what information I am entitled to, below are some major requirements of the Louisiana Public Records Act (R.S. 44:1, et seq.) and remedies that are available to us for non-compliance with the law:



To be “public,” the record must have been used, prepared, possessed, or retained for use in connection with a function performed under authority of the Louisiana Constitution, a state law, or an ordinance, regulation, mandate, or order of a public body. This definition covers virtually every kind of record kept by a state or local governmental body. La. R.S. 44:1(A)(1). In Louisiana, a “public record” includes books, records, writings, letters, memos, microfilm, and photographs, including copies and other reproductions.


In Louisiana, any person at least 18 years of age may inspect, copy, reproduce or obtain a copy of any public record. La. R.S. 44:32. The purpose for the document request is immaterial, and an agency or record custodian may not inquire as to the reason, except to justify a fee waiver.


A request to review or copy a public record is made to the custodian of the records. The custodian is the public official or head of any public body having custody or control of the public record, or a representative authorized to respond to requests to inspect public records.

You may also make an oral request in person to inspect a public record. At that time, the public record must be immediately presented to you, unless the record is not immediately available or is being actively used at the time. If the public record is not immediately available, the custodian must promptly notify you in writing of the reason why the record is not immediately available and fix a day and hour within three days (excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays) when the records will be made available.

Enforcing The Public Records Law

A custodian who determines a record is not public, must provide written reasons, including the legal basis, within three working days. If a requester is denied a public record by a custodian or if five business days have passed since the initial request and the custodian has not responded, the requester may file a civil suit to enforce his right to access. The custodian bears the burden of proving that the record is not subject to disclosure because of either privacy rights or a specific exemption. The law requires the courts to act expeditiously in such suits and to render a decision “as soon as practicable.” If the requester prevails in the suit, the court will award reasonable attorney’s fees and other costs. If the requester partially prevails, the court may, at its discretion, award reasonable attorney’s fees or an appropriate portion thereof. (The custodian and the public body may each be held liable for the payment of the requester’s attorney’s fees and other costs of litigation; however, the custodian cannot be held personally liable for these fees and costs if he acted on advice from a lawyer representing the public body.) The court may also award the requester civil penalties of up to $100 for each day the custodian arbitrarily failed to give a written explanation of the reasons for denying the request. In addition, if the court finds that the custodian arbitrarily or capriciously withheld a public record, it may award actual damages proven by the requester to have resulted from the custodian’s action. (The custodian may be held personally liable for the actual damages unless his denial of the request was based on advice from a lawyer representing the public body.)

In addition to civil remedies, the law also provides criminal penalties. Anyone with custody or control of a public record who violates the law or hinders the inspection of a public record will be fined $100 to $1,000, or imprisoned for one to six months upon first conviction. For a subsequent conviction, the penalty is a fine of $250 to $2,000 or imprisonment from two to six months, or both.

We amended this request about five minutes after we sent it after we received additional suggestions from a reader. The amended requests reads thus:

Any and all documents related to the Louisiana gubernatorial debate held on the Louisiana Tech campus on October 15, 2015.

Requesting specifically any and all e-mails, documents, audio files, digital files, and printed matters related to the debate rules, venue choice, reasons for not allowing an audience and press to be able to watch the event.

Requesting specifically any and all e-mails, documents, audio files, digital files, and printed matters from or to David Vitter, his office, his staff, including Luke Bolar, and others to any employee or volunteer at LA Tech since April 15, 2015. Requesting specifically any and all e-mails, documents, audio files, digital files, and printed matters from or to President Les Guice with the words “debate,” Vitter, “Edwards,” “Angelle,” “Dardenne,” “Senator,” “Governor,” or “Sen.”

Requesting a written rationale for not allowing students, staff, faculty, or the community to view the debate in person on campus.

Requesting a written rationale for the decision to allow certain radio and television stations to broadcast the event. and not allowing others.

Requesting a list of names, titles, and e-mail addresses for all persons involved in any way with planning, promoting, facilitating or decision-making related to the debate.

(Disclaimer: Not that it matters, but I am a 1970 graduate of Louisiana Tech.)

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In a state drowning in consulting contracts, what’s one more?

Bobby Jindal is a lame duck governor who long ago set his sights on bigger and better things. He has abdicated every aspect of his office except the salary, free housing and state police security that go with the title. In reality, he has turned the reins of state government over to subordinates who are equally distracted in exploring their own future employment prospects.

His only concerns in almost eight years in office, besides setting himself up to run for President, have been (a) appointing generous campaign donors to positions on state boards and commissions and (b) privatizing state agencies by handing them over to political supporters.

To that end there has been a proliferation of consulting contracts during the Jindal years. The legislative auditor reported in May that there were 19,000 state contracts totaling more than $21 billion.

So as his term enters its final months and as Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols has less than a month before moving on to do for Ochsner Health System what she’s done for the state, what’s another $500,000?

LouisianaVoice has learned that Nichols signed off on a $497,000 contract with ComPsych Corp. and its affiliate, FMLASource, Inc. of Chicago, to administer the state’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program. FMLA CONTRACT

It is no small irony that Nichols signed off on the contract on May 19, less than two weeks after the legislative auditor’s report of May 6 which was highly critical of the manner in which contracts are issued with little or no oversight.

The latest contract removes the responsibility for approving FMLA for state employees and hands it over to yet another private contractor.

Apparently FMLA was just one more thing the Jindal administration has determined state employees are incapable of administering—even though they have done so since the act was approved by Congress in 1993.

Because no state employees stand to lose their jobs over this latest move, the contract would seem to simply be another consulting contract doled out by the administration, obligating the state to more unnecessary expenditures.

Whether it’s farming out the Office of Risk Management, Office of Group Benefits, funding voucher and charter schools, or implementing prison or hospital privatization—it’s obvious that Jindal has been following the game plan of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to the letter. That plan calls for privatizing virtually every facet of state government. If you don’t think the repeated cuts to higher education and health care were calculated moves toward ALEC’s goals, think again.

The contract runs from May 17, 2015 through May 16, 2016, and the state agreed to pay FMLAServices $1.45 per state employee per month up to the yearly maximum of $497,222.

Agencies for which FMLAServices will administer FMLA include the:

  • Division of Administration;
  • Department of Economic Development;
  • Department of Corrections;
  • Department of Public Safety;
  • Office of Juvenile Justice;
  • Department of Health and Hospitals;
  • Department of Children and Family Services;
  • Department of Revenue;
  • Department of Transportation and Development.

The legislative auditor’s report noted that there is really no way of accurately tracking the number or amount of state contracts. STATE CONTRACTS AUDIT REPORT

“As of November 2014, Louisiana had at least 14,693 active contracts totaling approximately $21.3 billion in CFMS. However, CFMS, which is used by OCR to track and monitor Executive Branch agency contract information, does not contain every state contract.

“Although CFMS, which is a part of the Integrated Statewide Information System (ISIS), tracks most contracts, primarily Executive Branch agencies use this system. For example, Louisiana State University obtained its own procurement tracking system within the last year, and most state regulatory boards and commissions do not use CFMS (Contract Financial Management System). As a result, there is no centralized database where legislators and other stakeholders can easily determine the actual number and dollar amount of all state contracts. Therefore, the total number and dollar amount of existing state contracts as of November 2014 could be much higher.”

The audit report also said:

  • State law (R.S. 39:1490) requires that OCR (Office of Contractual Review) adopt rules and regulations for the procurement, management, control, and disposition of all professional, personal, consulting, and social services contracts required by state agencies. According to OCR, it reviews these types of contracts for appropriateness of contract terms and language, signature authorities, evidence of funding and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, executive orders, and policies. OCR also reviews agencies’ procurement processes against competitive solicitation requirements of law. The contracting entity is responsible for justifying the need for the contract and conducting a cost-benefit analysis if required.
  • However, state law does not require that a centralized entity approve all state contracts.
  • According to the CFMS User Guide, OCR is only required to approve seven of the 20 possible contract types in CFMS. The remaining 13 types accounted for 8,068 contracts totaling approximately $6.2 billion as of November 2014. Exhibit 2 lists the 20 types of contracts in
  • CFMS and whether or not OCR is required to approve each type, including the total number and dollar amount of these contracts.
  • In fiscal year 2014, 72 agencies approved 4,599 contracts totaling more than $278 million.

The Office of Contractual Review was since been merged with the Office of State Procurement last Jan. 1.


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Furtive plans by some agency heads to move certain unclassified employees into Civil Service classified positions before Bobby Jindal leaves office could be thwarted by Civil Service rules designed expressly to prevent such maneuvers.

LouisianaVoice received reports on Wednesday (Sept. 23) of plans to move some of Jindal’s appointees from unclassified to classified positions as a means of protecting them from potential termination by the new governor when he takes office on Jan. 11.

“Since the clock is ticking on the Jindal administration,” wrote one state employee, “his department heads are converting…unclassified folks into classified positions. Only trouble is, those positions don’t pay that well. [I] overheard a conversation by some HR (Human Resources) folks that they don’t know how to make the slip switch and include a $30,000 add-on to the classified position.”

But former Civil Service Director Shannon Templet, in one of her last actions before accepting the position of director of human resources for the Louisiana House of Representatives, may have put the kibosh on any such plans—or at least made any such attempt considerably more difficult.

General Circular 2015-033, issued to heads of state agencies and human resource directors on Sept. 1, addresses that very scenario although there still may be a small window of opportunity to circumvent a prohibition against converting appointees to unclassified positions. CIVIL SERVICE CIRCULAR 2015-033

The circular alluded to Civil Service Rule 22.2 which says all appointing authorities shall obtain the Civil Service Director’s approval before making a permanent appointment to any job at specified pay grades.

But the policy governing such appointments is applicable only between the date of any election for a statewide elected office (Oct. 24, 2015) through Inauguration Day (Jan. 11, 2016).

There appear to be no restrictions to such transfers between now and Oct. 24, which is nearly a full month away and some movement may have already occurred.

“Unless the director grants permission, vacancies covered under this rule cannot be filled on a permanent basis through a probationary or permanent appointment into a regular ongoing position,” the circular says. “This also applies to promotions and transfers into an agency while on permanent status.

“The process will be handled as follows:

  • Vacancies affected by this rule shall not be announced without obtaining prior approval of the director by means of a letter which includes justification explaining why the vacancy needs to be filled.
  • Agencies are to send letters requesting approval to fill to the Staffing Division.
  • Agencies will be notified via email of the director’s decision.
  • Verification of approval must be attached to the exam plan…for audit purposes.

Even if an appointive (non-classified) position should be converted to a classified one, the additional task of adjusting the position’s salary poses yet another problem—unless the appointee would agree to a major pay cut.

Because Civil Service classifications govern pay scales for every classified position in state government—as opposed to unclassified positions, which have no such restrictions—appointive posts generally pay much higher salaries than civil service jobs. Converting from unclassified to classified necessarily would dictate significant reductions in pay.

But even if that wrinkle could somehow be worked out, there is one more deterrent to such an underhanded tactic. Any transfer, lateral or otherwise, or new appointment generally carries with it a six-month (180 days) probationary period during which the employee may be terminated without cause.

As of today (Sept. 23), there are exactly 110 days until a new governor takes office.

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Troy didn’t want me there and, as if it might be his rights instead of a subordinate’s that were being violated. “Are the media allowed in here?” he asked, almost pleading.

Assured by the hearing referee that I could stay, he was reminded that it was a public hearing and anyone could attend, including the media.

The referee was presiding over a civil service appeal of the firing of one of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) agents by agency director Troy Hebert and Hebert clearly did not want the proceedings to become public.

Hell, yes, the media are allowed Troy and you can expect to see a lot of me at the various civil service hearings, EEOC hearings, and court trials currently pending against you. But Troy, I can understand your reluctance to operate in the open and in plain sight.

You probably learned that paranoia from your boss, Bobby Jindal. You know, the two of you are a lot alike in that regard; Bobby likes the furtive style of governing and he likes to fire anyone who doesn’t buy whole hog into his B.S. The problem is, Troy, Bobby (and it really hurts to say this) is a little smarter than you.

And it almost seemed there were as many lawyers as witnesses in the crowded hearing room. But this wasn’t like the O.J. Simson trial, it was a civil service hearing. Nevertheless, Hebert strolled into the hearing room in the W.C.C. Claiborne Building across the scenic but polluted Lake from the towering State Capitol accompanied by not one, not two, not three, not four, but (count ‘em) five attorneys—all paid for not by Hebert but by the good citizens of Louisiana. If I didn’t know better, I’d call that a classic case of overkill.

One of those attorneys was Jessica Starnes, officially Hebert’s “counsel of record.” Starnes served as legal counsel for ATC, a civil service classified position, but on March 30, was appointed to the unclassified position of “advisor,” assigned to the Executive Office (governor), all of which raises the question of how she can be an advisor to the governor and defense attorney for Hebert.

Oh, wait. I forgot. Hebert is the governor’s “legislative liaison,” so everything is tied up in a neat little incestuous knot; Bobby Jindal is apparently joined at the hip by Starnes on one side and Hebert on the other in this sordid mess, interchangeable parts, if you will. Remember the image of a beaming Starnes standing behind Bobby at his announcement for the Republican presidential candidacy? http://louisianavoice.com/2015/06/26/just-when-it-seems-jindal-cannot-get-creepier-viral-video-shows-willingness-to-exploit-his-children-for-political-gain/

But an even more pressing question: now that Starnes is no longer legal counsel for ATC but is the “counsel of record” for Hebert’s defense, will her work be billed to ATC along with the other four attorneys? Or was she on the clock, drawing a salary as the governor’s “advisor,” while arguing on behalf of her former boss in a matter seemingly unrelated to day to day activities in the governor’s office? Did she take leave from her current position to represent Hebert?

There wasn’t much at stake at the hearing, just the career and livelihood of former agent Brett Tingle of Prairieville, fired by Hebert in February—a dismissal carried out by letter delivered to Hingle’s home while he was convalescing from a heart attack.

The reasons for the firing were answered in detail in an 11-page letter from J. Arthur Smith, Tingle’s attorney, on March 10, which indicated the basis of the firing appears to stem from Hingle’s support of several black agents either disciplined or fired by Hebert. To learn more about Hingle’s firing and the response by his attorney, go here: http://louisianavoice.com/2015/03/13/atc-director-troy-hebert-rivals-his-boss-in-cold-hearted-demeanor-fires-agent-who-is-recovering-from-heart-attack/

There isn’t much to report about Friday’s proceedings. Settlement negotiations which were initiated by the referee before the scheduled hearing and which lasted about two hours, were done behind closed doors as is proper. When we were admitted back into the room and the hearing resumed, the referee simply informed us that the hearing was continued until Sept. 1-4.

The fact that no settlement was reached between the two parties could be interpreted as bad news for Troy because he is staring down the barrel of that federal EEOC racial discrimination complaint by three black agents filed almost exactly a year ago after two were fired and a third was transferred from Baton Rouge to Shreveport with no prior notice. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/14/forcing-grown-men-to-write-lines-overnight-transfers-other-bizarre-actions-by-troy-hebert-culminate-in-federal-lawsuit/

Hebert, known to require agents to stand and greet him with “Good morning, Commissioner” when he enters a room, who in the past has required agents—grown men and women—to write lines, and who once ordered a female agent to patrol dangerous New Orleans bars in uniform after she had already worked narcotics detail in the same bars in plain clothes, cannot easily afford an adverse civil service ruling prior to the EEOC hearing. That just would not bode well for him.

Hebert, who succeeded Murphy Painter who was fired after being set up by Team Jindal on bogus charges, ostensibly for accessing information on individuals on his state computer, ordered one of his agents to conduct a warrantless background check on me (it turns out I was found to be somewhat boring). Hebert also once boasted to another agent that he could easily have his IT people hack into my computer. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/03/25/hebert-like-bobby-jindal-stumbles-from-one-ill-fated-fiasco-to-another-in-oblivion-and-without-a-trace-of-embarrassment/

So what happened to Hebert after those two little episodes were revealed? Well, he was promoted to Jindal’s legislative liaison, whatever that may entail. We see it as simply a synonym for lap dog. Oh, and he also held a state contract for debris cleanup after Hurricane Katrina—while simultaneously serving in the Louisiana Legislature. No conflict there.

Witnesses were admonished not to discuss the pending Tingle matter with each other or anyone else, including the media. A violation of that dictum, the referee said, could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal from their jobs.

Well, folks, I’m not among the subpoenaed witnesses, I’m already retired, and I can’t be fired.

As the popular ’60s song goes, see you in September, Troy.


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No sooner did we call U.S. Sen. David Vitter out for potential improprieties for using his Senate franking privileges to gain an edge over his three opponents in this year’s gubernatorial election than our old friend C.B. Forgotston send us evidence of an even more flagrant misuse of his office for similar reasons.

It’s enough to make you wonder what the hell goes through these politicians’ minds except that we already know: they are so convinced they are above the law that they couldn’t care less what the great unwashed think about their flaunting of the rules.

We’ve previously reported Jindal’s acceptance of tainted campaign contributions from the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (non-profits are prohibited from making campaign contributions), laundered money from a St. Tammany Parish bank board of directors (without the 11 directors’ awareness they were “contributing” $5,000 each to Jindal) and the head of Florida’s largest-ever Ponzi scheme who funneled $30,000 in contributions to Jindal from himself, his wife and his law firm.

Within an hour of posting the story about Vitter’s use of franking privileges to promote his gubernatorial campaign, LouisianaVoice’s email exploded with messages about Jindal’s latest post on the governor’s web page, paid for by Louisiana taxpayer dollars.

The first email was from Forgotston, who has fired off a letter to Inspector General Stephen Street demanding an answer to his inquiry as to the legality of Jindal’s “press release” on Tuesday.

So what, exactly, is all the fuss about?

Quite simply, Jindal used the state computer and web page (and presumably a state employee) to gin out a “press release” personally attacking one of Jindal’s probable opponents for the Republican nomination for president under the headline “Gov. Jindal: Senator Paul unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief.” http://www.gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=4965

Paul, a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, is an announced candidate for the Republican nomination. https://randpaul.com/

And what did Paul do or say that prompted Jindal to ignore legal constraints on the use of state web pages? Apparently, Paul said something to the effect that ISIS exists because of the U.S. hawkish foreign policy—a claim, by the way, that we cannot entirely disagree with.

“This is a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief,” Jindal whined.

Except he did his whining on a state-funded web page and that immediately invoked the wrath of a number of readers and Forgotston, who once worked as a legal counsel for the legislature, is not the one you want to tick off when it comes to matters concerning the state constitution.

In his email to Street, Forgotston began by describing the Jindal press release as “a violation of Louisiana Constitution, Article XI, 4.”

In case you don’t want to take the time to open the link, it says that while there is no prohibition against the use of public funds to disseminate factual information about a proposition appearing on an election ballot, “no public funds shall be used to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated to a candidate or political organization.”

“It (the press release) clearly urges a vote against U.S. Senator Rand Paul for President of the United States,” he said. “The press release was issued by state employees (the release contained the names of Shannon Bates Dirmann and Shannon, Deputy Communications Director for the Governor’s Office) and has no disclaimer that public funds were not used.

“If this is not a violation of the law, please advise why it isn’t,” Forgotston said. He ended his email by writing, in all caps, “A RESPONSE IS REQUESTED,” which he said “is not directed to any recipients of his email other than the State Inspector General.”

In case any of our readers also would like to submit a similar question to the OIG, here is Street’s email address: stephen.street@la.gov.

Forgotston said he will also share his concerns with Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

As Forgotston himself is fond of saying: you can’t make this stuff up.


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