Archive for the ‘Teague’ Category

'BEGONE...EVIL CRITICS'(Borrowed from the ‘Forward Now’ blog)

It seems we have all been dead wrong about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s aspirations to become Commander-in-Chief.

He would much rather be anointed as Prophet-in-Chief if that speech he gave at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Thursday is any indication.

And you may wish to change the spelling to profit—as in political profit—as might be realized by his shameless pandering to the religious right, the Family Forum, and, of course, the Tea Party.

Three words kept coming to mind as I read the text of his speech—written, by the way, on the Louisiana Governor’s Office letterhead so as to completely blur the line between church and state (wouldn’t his campaign committee letterhead have been far more appropriate?).

Those three words are: sanctimonious little twit.

While wagging his finger in our collective faces, Jindal had the nerve to quote John Adams as saying, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.”

There is but one way that statement can be taken: sinners and rapscallions need not apply. The accused no longer are entitled to a fair trial if their crime was not committed in the name of God. Those who profess to no religious belief apparently have no rights under our Constitution if those words are to be taken literally.

But Jindal failed to mention a couple other Adams utterances:

  • “The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”
  • “A constitution of government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. Liberty lost once is lost forever.”

The first quote simply means we should trust no one who would impose his version of morality on the rest of us. The second quote is self-explanatory.

And to be sure, the freedom to express no religious conviction is every bit as sacred as setting oneself up as a moralist over society. The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion—and that includes the practice to not cling to any religious tenet, including Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or the Presleyterians/Elviscopalians (those who think they will come back in their next life as Elvis).

Pointing out (correctly) that “every person wants to live out his or her values,” Jindal proceeded to cite several cases in which the federal government (Obama, in his preferred nomenclature) has sought to impose certain conditions, including attempts to force businesses to accept the administration’s contraception mandate under Obamacare, trying to protect a single teacher at a church-affiliated elementary school who became pregnant from being fired by the school, and a ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court that a photography business had violated the state’s Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph a same sex wedding ceremony.

Even as he invoked the word tolerance (“There was a time when the left preached tolerance.”), Jindal quietly ignored events in his home state: the refusal of a justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish to preside over an interracial marriage and the expulsion of a pregnant teenager at a church school in Richland Parish while the boy who impregnated her, a football player, received not so much as a reprimand. Moreover, the school then attempted to impose a policy whereby it could indiscriminately test female students for pregnancies. Public outcry was such that the school quickly backed down from that hypocritical policy.

“There was a time when liberals in this country believed in debate,” Jindal said. “But that is increasingly not the case for the modern left in America.”

This from a man who tolerates absolutely no dissenting opinion in this oligarchy, er… administration.

All one has to do to understand how open this governor is to debate is go down the Jindal Teague List:

  • Tommy and Melody Teague;
  • William Anker;
  • Cynthia Bridges;
  • Mary Manuel;
  • Raymond Lamonica;
  • John Lombardi;
  • Dr. Fred Cerise;
  • Dr. Roxanne Townsend;
  • Scott Kipper;
  • Murphy Painter;
  • Tammy McDaniel;
  • Jim Champagne;
  • Ann Williamson;
  • Entire State Ethics Board;
  • State Rep. Jim Morris;
  • State Rep. Harold Richie;
  • State Rep. Joe Harrison;
  • State Rep. Cameron Henry

These are people who were either fired or demoted for the unpardonable transgression of disagreeing with Jindal on some level of policy or legislation.

So much for any belief in debate by this administration.

And now Jindal, who never seems to find the time to hold press conferences or to give interviews in his home state, goes traipsing off on yet another out-of-state trip in his quixotic pursuit of the presidency to give yet another speech about how everyone else should think and act as he does.

But did anyone notice that nowhere in that 4,500-word speech did Jindal once mention the word compassion?

Compassion. That’s a word that has been strangely absent from this entire administration.

Where was Jindal’s compassion when he vetoed that $4 million appropriation for the developmentally disabled last year?

Where was his compassion when he refused the expansion of Medicaid, thus depriving adequate health care for hundreds of thousands of Louisiana’s poor?

Where was his compassion when he attempted to “reform” the state’s retirement program that would have cut some state employees’ retirement by tens of thousands of dollars per year?

Where was his Christian compassion when he said the only reason for Louisiana’s public school teachers remaining on the job was the fact that they are breathing?

Where was his compassion when he turned his back on the people of Bayou Corne, refusing to so much as visit the expanding sinkhole for months on end?

And now he’s going to strap on his halo and wings and travel around the country telling anyone who will listen how great he is, how Christian he is, how tolerant he is, how open to debate he is?

Perhaps Gov. Jindal should read 1 John 4:20.

  • “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

Never have the words to the song One Tin Soldier been more appropriate than for Jindal and his minions:

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,

Go ahead and cheat a friend;

Do it in the name of heaven,

You can justify it in the end.

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It’s small wonder that Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted to get out of town quickly—he departed the state for an extended trip to Asia to recruit business and industry investment in Louisiana—given the flak he is receiving from the legislature and radio talk show hosts over his hiring of a consulting firm at a cost of $4.2 million to somehow magically find $500 million in state government savings. http://theadvocate.com/csp/mediapool/sites/dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls?STREAMOID=sZuDzNJoJK2fudmeRm9FJpM5tm0Zxrvol3sywaAHBAlauzovnqN0Cbyo1UqyDJ6gE0$uXvBjavsllACLNr6VhLEUIm2tympBeeq1Fwi7sIigrCfKm_F3DhYfWov3omce$8CAqP1xDAFoSAgEcS6kSQ–&CONTENTTYPE=application/pdf&CONTENTDISPOSITION=Alvarez%20Marsal%20Government%20Savings%20Contract.pdfhttp://theadvocate.com/news/8045923-123/vitter-super-pac-raises-15

And that contract doesn’t even take into account Pre-Jindal recommendations by the firm that may ultimately end up costing taxpayers $1.5 billion which, of course, would more than offset any $500 million savings it might conjure up that the Legislative Fiscal Officer, the State Treasurer, the administration, the legislature and the Legislative Auditor have been unable to do, largely because of a time honored political tradition affectionately known as turf protection.

One might even ask, for example, why representatives of the consulting firm, Alvarez & Marsal, who somewhat smugly call themselves “efficiency engineers,” were wasting their time Friday at the gutted Office of Risk Management. Isn’t there already a promise of $20 million in savings on the table as a result of Jindal’s privatization of that agency four years ago? For just that one small agency, that’s 4 percent of the entire $500 million in savings Jindal is seeking through the $4 million contract. (The elusive $500 million savings, for the real political junkies, represents only 2 percent of the state budget.)

The Baton Rouge Advocate also got in on the act on Saturday with Michelle Millhollon’s excellent story that  noted that the actual contract contains no mention of a $500 million savings. http://theadvocate.com/home/8131113-125/vaunted-savings-not-included-in

That revelation which is certain to further antagonize legislators, including Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) whom Jindal will now probably try to teague for his criticism of the governor’s penchant for secrecy.

Hey guys, your contract is only for four months, so why waste your time in an agency that supposedly is on the cusp of a $20 million savings? That ain’t very efficient, if you ask us.

Legislators immediately voiced their displeasure at the contract. “There’s a lot of people who don’t like it,” said Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington), a one-time staunch Jindal ally.

Rep. Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee (if he hasn’t been teagued by now), said when the dust settles any cost cutting will ultimately be the responsibility of state officials. “Even the best PowerPoint presentation isn’t going to cut government,” he said. “The trick is to make the political choices.”

The contract raises immediate questions how Jindal, now entering his seventh year in office, could justify the move in light of his many boasts of efficiencies his administration has supposedly initiated.

Ruth Johnson, who is overseeing the contract for the Division of Administration, defended the deal with the simplistic and less than satisfactory logic that “Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.”

And while Jindal has indicated he wants a final set of recommendations in April, the contract runs through 2016, meaning the final cost could far exceed the $4.2 million Alvarez & Marsal is scheduled to receive for its review.

Jim Engster, host of a talk show on public radio in Baton Rouge, on Friday predicted during an interview with State Treasurer John Kennedy that Alvarez & Marsal’s final report will most likely bear an uncanny resemblance to the 400-plus-page interim report of Dec. 18, 2009, by the infamous Commission on Streamlining Government.

The hearings by that commission, you may remember, gave birth to the term teaguing, a favorite tactic employed by the Jindal administration when a state employee or legislator refuses to toe the line. A state employee named Melody Teague testified before that commission and was summarily fired the following day. Six months later her husband, Tommy Teague, was fired as head of the Office of Group Benefits when he was slow in getting on board the Jindal Privatization Express. Mrs. Teague appealed and was reinstated but her husband took employment elsewhere in a less volatile environment.

The Alvarez & and Marsal representatives have pleaded ignorant to questions of whether their report will draw heavily from the four-year-old commission report and even professed to not know of its existence.

A curious denial indeed, given that Johnson was also the ramrod over the streamlining commission during Jindal’s second year in office. Does she not share this information with the firm or was all that commission work for naught? Or part of Jindal’s infamous deliberative process? Curious also in that Alvarez & Marsal is specifically cited—by name—no fewer than six times in the report’s first 51 pages, each of which is in the context of privatizing the state’s charity hospital system. The report quoted the firm as recommending that:

  • “The governor and the legislature authorize and direct the LSU Health System to adopt the recommendations of Alvarez and Marsal for the operation of the interim Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The governor and legislature direct every other charity hospital in Louisiana to contract for a similar financial and operational assessment with a third party private sector consulting firm, such as but not necessarily Alvarez and Marsal, that specializes and has a proven track record in turnaround management, corporate restructuring and performance improvement for institutions and their stakeholders.”

That’s right. That is where the seed was apparently first planted for the planned privatization of the LSU Hospital system, even to the point of directing the LSU Board of Stuporvisors to vote to allow a Shreveport foundation run by one of the LSU stuporvisors to take over the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe. Alvarez & Kelly performed that bit of work under a $1.7 million contract that ran for nine months in 2009, from Jan. 5 to Sept. 30 (almost $200,000 per month).

Alvarez & Marsal also received a $250,000, contract of a much shorter duration (10 days) from Jindal on April 9, 2013, to develop Jindal’s proposal to eliminate the state income taxes in favor of other tax increases. That quickie, ill-conceived plan was dead on arrival during the legislative session and Jindal quickly punted before a single legislative vote could be taken

But Alvarez & Marsal’s cozy if disastrous relationship with state government goes back further than Jindal, even. http://www.alvarezandmarsal.com/case-study-new-orleans-public-schools It’s a relationship that could become one of the most costly in state history—unless of course, the state chooses to ignore a court judgment in the same manner as it has ignored a $100 million-plus award (now in the neighborhood of a quarter-billion dollars—with judicial interest) stemming from a 1983 class-action flood case in Tangipahoa Parish.

In fact, the state probably has no choice but to ignore the judgment as an alternative to bankrupting the state but that does little to remove the stigma attached to a horrendous decision to accept the recommendation of Alvarez and Marsal which subsequently was rewarded with a $29.1 million three-year state contract from April 4, 2006 to April 3, 2009 to “develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated disaster recovery plan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

In December of 2005, the Orleans Parish School Board adopted Resolution 59-05 on the advice of the crack consulting firm that Jindal somehow thinks is going to be the state’s financial salvation.

That resolution, passed in the aftermath of disastrous Hurricane Katrina was specifically cited in the ruling earlier this week by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal that upheld a lower court decision the school board was wrong to fire 7,500 teachers, effective Jan. 31, 2006. The wording contained in the ruling said:

  • “In December 2005, the OPSB passed Resolution No. 59-05 upon the advice and recommendation of its state-selected and controlled financial consultants, the New York-based firm of Alvarez & Marsal. The Resolution called for the termination of all New Orleans Public School employees placed on unpaid “Disaster Leave” after Hurricane Katrina, to take effect on January 31, 2006.1 On the day that the mass terminations were scheduled to take place, Plaintiffs amended their petition to seek a temporary restraining order preventing the OPSB from terminating all of its estimated 7,500 current employees at the close of business on that day. The trial court granted the TRO and this Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court denied writs on the issue. The TRO was later converted into a preliminary injunction that restrained, enjoined and prohibited the OPSB, et al, from “terminating the employment of Plaintiffs and other New Orleans Public School employees until they are afforded the due process safeguards provided in the Orleans Parish School Board’s Reduction in Force Policy 4118.4.” Nevertheless, Plaintiffs and thousands of other employees were terminated on March 24, 2006, after form letters were mailed to the last known address of all employees of record as of August 29, 2005.”

The appellate court upheld the award of more than $1 million to seven lead plaintiffs in the case of Oliver v. Orleans Parish School Board but adjusted the lower court’s damage award, ordering the school board and the Louisiana Department of Education to pay two years of back pay and benefits and an additional year of back pay and benefits to teachers who meet certain unspecified requirements.

Immediately following Katrina, state-appointed Alvarez and Marsal set up a call center to collect post-Katrina addresses for a majority of staff members in time for the anticipated layoffs. But when the state began the hiring process for schools that had been taken over, the terminated employees were never called, prompting plaintiff attorneys to charge that the entire procedure was intentional and part of the state’s plan to take over the Orleans Parish school system.

Plaintiffs said that then-State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard chose Alvarez & Marsal to prevail upon the school board to replace acting parish Superintendent Ora Watson with an Alvarez & Marsal consultant.

So, Watson was replaced, 7,500 teachers were fired, and the teachers sued and won, leaving the Orleans School Board and the state liable for a billion-five and the firm that started it all is hired by Jindal to find savings of an unspecified amount. What could possibly go wrong?

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The echoes of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s silly, incoherent defense of the Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson had not even died out before the ironic acquittal of former commissioner of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Murphy J. Painter stung him with perhaps the most humiliating of several recent courtroom defeats.

And before we delve any further into this sordid mess, let us point out that the media, for the most part, have missed the real story in this entire Robertson GQ interview. While everyone is fixated on his comments about gays, his even more moronic claim that African-Americans were happier before the civil rights movement should have been the lead in every story written about the interview. How a writer claiming to be a professional reporter could have missed that elephant in the room is beyond comprehension.

And though he could not find the time to visit that toxic sinkhole at Bayou Corne in Assumption Parish until many months into the crisis, Jindal was Johnny on the spot with his defense of Robertson and in his condemnation of A&E Network for daring to suspend Robertson for exercising his freedom of speech.

While Jindal may well have a valid point in invoking the First Amendment, it is interesting to reflect on how intolerant the governor is of dissenting opinions within his own administration. Early on, he jettisoned Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Tammy McDaniel, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Executive Director Jim Champagne (because Jindal apparently didn’t want to wear a motorcycle helmet on his Hell’s Angels weekend outings—now just try and get the visual of biker Bobby out of your head), Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Ann Williamson and virtually every member of the State Ethics Board (though most left in protest over his gutting of that agency).

In quick order followed Melody Teague for testifying against his government streamlining plans (she eventually was reinstated). Then her husband, Tommy Teague, was booted as head of the Office of Group Benefits for not toeing the company line on privatization (Scott Kipper, his successor, would also leave within weeks).

The firing of the Teagues quickly gave birth to the widespread use of the term “teaguing” as the euphemism for being terminated by Jindal.

Others shown the door included Department of Transportation and Development Secretary William Ankner, Office of Elderly Affairs Executive Director Mary Manuel, LSU System Office General Counsel Raymond Lamonica, LSU President John Lombardi, Secretary of Revenue Cynthia Bridges, LSU Health Care System head Dr. Fred Cerise, and Interim LSU Public Hospital CEO Dr. Roxanne Townsend.

And then there were the demotions from key legislative committee assignments. Removed from their positions for not voting with the administration or for simply asking the wrong questions in committee meetings were State Reps. Jim Morris (R-Oil City), Harold Richie (D-Bogalusa), Joe Harrison (R-Gray) and Cameron Henry (R-Metairie).

And of course, there was the showcase teaguing—the very public firing of Painter by Jindal and subsequent criminal charges after Painter refused to issue an alcohol permit for Champions Square across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

It just so happens that Champions Square is part of Benson Towers, owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson who, coincidentally, is a huge contributor to Jindal through himself, members of his family and his various business enterprises—in addition to being the landlord for several state offices in Benson Towers at an annual cost of $2.6 million a year more than the state had been paying before moving into Benson Towers. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/06/emerging-claims-lawsuits-could-transform-murphy-painter-from-predator-to-all-too-familiar-victim-of-jindal-reprisals/

When Painter rejected the application of Spectacor Management Group (SMG) because of errors in its application for the alcohol permit, SMG arranged a meeting between Painter and SMG attorney Robert Walmsley, Jr., member of a law firm that contributed $5,000 to Jindal.

Apparently, refusal to crater to Benson is a cardinal sin in Louisiana.

Painter was soon contacted by Jindal executive Counsel Stephen Waguespack, nephew of Wiley Waguespack, who had earlier defeated Painter in the Ascension Parish sheriff’s election. Painter said Stephen Waguespack leaned on him to cooperate with SMG and to cease using ATC’s legal counsel to address concerns with the Champions Square project being pushed by SMG.

Waguespack, Painter said, advised that he, as executive counsel for the governor’s office, “saw no problem with issuing the requested license to SMG,” whereupon Painter said he would defer to Waguespack—if Waguespack was willing to issue a legal opinion in writing to the ATC representing the governor’s position.

“The governor’s executive counsel refused and suggested that issuing such an opinion was not a good use of his time and/or position,” Painter says, adding that he understood from that conversation that he “was being ordered to issue the license requested by SMG in direct contravention of law.”

In more than 15 years as ATC commissioner, Painter said he had never received such a call from the governor’s office.

Painter and ATC again refused to issue the requested license and two days later Painter was summoned to the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol where he met with Waguespack, Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and Jindal’s then-assistant executive counsel Liz Murrill.

Painter was advised that an unidentified law enforcement agency (later identified as the Office of Inspector General) was investigating him for alleged criminal violations, specifically sexual harassment and that Jindal was asking for his resignation.

When Painter refused to resign he was fired and an official announcement was issued by the governor’s office that he had resigned.

In what Painter described as another means of garnering publicity, an investigator from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) obtained a warrant to search Painter’s office at ATC even though a previous investigation by the Department of Revenue had already cleared Painter of any wrongdoing.

So, after losing major court battles over the funding of school vouchers, pension reform, and the teacher tenure and evaluations section of his education reform, Jindal now has egg all over his face in the highest profile case of teaguing in his beleaguered administration. It was, after all, the only one of the many teagued employees Jindal has actually tried to prosecute in criminal court.

On Friday, December 20, 2013, it all blew up in his face. In baseball terminology, he’s oh-for in the courts.

And don’t think for a moment that because it was a federal trial, the Jindal administration was not behind the indictments and subsequent prosecution from the get-go. All of which makes his sanctimonious outrage over the A&E network’s actions more than just a little hypocritical.

The jury verdict: not guilty on all 29 counts of computer fraud and lying to the FBI.

Sadly, for a governor who entered office with such promise, Jindal’s jumping on the Phil Robertson bandwagon is about all that’s left of his fading political career.

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Blind, unquestioning loyalty has long been a prerequisite for serving in the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Any administrator, of course, expects his appointees to be loyal, and rightfully so. There’s no argument at any level with that basic principle of employment, whether one works for a bicycle shop or the President.

Generally, though, an intelligent CEO will seek candid input from subordinates—even if that input differs from his management philosophy. The free exchange of ideas is, after all, the foundation for growth and progress in any organization.

Except with the Jindal administration.

At least a dozen firings/demotions have documented the belief that if you don’t drink the Jindal Kool-Aid, if you so much as give a flickering thought to dissent, you will be teagued.

Teagued, of course, is the term born of Jindal’s firing of state employees from rank and file workers to state board members to university presidents and cabinet officials and of the demotions of at least four legislators from their committee assignments.

To this point, the firings and demotions have been limited to state employees and legislators.

No longer.

Now there may reason to believe the Jindal retaliation team has reached into the private sector and the perpetrator is none other than Superintendent of Education John White.

The latest victim may be Sue Lincoln, formerly a reporter for Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB), and a veteran of 35-years’ reporting experience.

Lincoln, who lives in Baton Rouge, is careful not to say outright that White had her fired, but the evidence is pretty convincing.

The Southern Education Desk, headquartered in Atlanta, GA., is funded by a multi-million dollar grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and reports on education news from five states—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana. While Lincoln worked for LPB as a reporter for the Southern Education Desk, her salary was paid from the grant.

It is, or was, a two-year grant administered through Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and involved eight stations—five National Public Radio and three Public Broadcast System television stations. They included WLPB-TV and WRKF Radio, both Baton Rouge stations.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer feigned surprise and/or ignorance of reports of manipulations of student test scores by the Department of Education (DOE) during a Senate Education Committee hearing last week but the truth is Lincoln first reported on the department’s suppression of data as early as February 12.

It was that report that most probably ended her reporting tenure with LPB and the Southern Education Desk.

The report cited studies by Mercedes Schneider, Ph.D., a teacher in St. Tammany Parish which called into question dramatic jumps of up to 25 points in high school standardized test scores.

Lincoln noted that Herb Bassett, who holds a master’s degree in mathematics and who teaches in LaSalle Parish, also saw major discrepancies in statistics released by DOE. Bassett is the same one who at last week’s Senate Education Committee accused DOE and White of releasing fraudulent data.

It was that data about which Roemer denied any knowledge but promised he’d “look into it.”

Immediately after we posted Roemer’s denial, Schneider emailed LouisianaVoice to say, “I have a document that proves he (Roemer) is lying.”

She promptly followed that email with a copy of a letter she sent to White and BESE members (including Roemer) on Dec. 1, 2012 in which she called attention to what she said was “scoring bias” in the 2012 school performance scores. (We will elaborate more on the contents to that and other documents in subsequent posts as our coverage of this growing story continues.)

White apparently turned up the heat on Lincoln and her bosses in Atlanta in an effort to kill the story.

He first told Lincoln the story was “too complicated for television” and that “Even the New York Times doesn’t have enough ink and paper to do it justice,” Lincoln said. “He accused me of sucking up to Diane Ravitch.” Ravitch is research professor of education at New York University and a leading opponent of current education reform trends.

“He told me to ‘check with people over you to be sure this is the right thing to do,’” Lincoln said

A series of emails between Lincoln and White is even more revealing.

At 1:28 p.m. on Jan. 23, as White prepared for a weekend in New Orleans with his wife (She has never moved to Louisiana from their New York home, which should say something about White’s long-range plans for remaining in Louisiana), Lincoln emailed him:

“John, thank you for your call and the copy of the letter you sent out. After conferring with my editors here and in Atlanta, they want me to go ahead with the story. Please don’t let it affect your evening with your wife, but I will be coming down to N.O. to interview you at 10 tomorrow morning.

“I’ll give you a statement instead,” White tersely replied six minutes later.

As Lincoln delved further into the questionable data, she sought a comment from White who, instead of addressing the apparent problem, went on the attack.

Two days later, at 8:51 a.m. on Jan. 25, Lincoln emailed White: “Due to an electrical fire at LPB Wednesday night (Jan. 23), we were without video-editing capability for the majority of the day Thursday. As a result, the airing of my story on the 2012 SPS (school performance scores) analysis has been pushed back to Feb. 1.

“Because of this delay, I have to ask again—would you consider going on camera to make a statement?”

Four minutes later, at 8:55 a.m., White, apparently not having read Lincoln’s email asking for an on-camera statement, wrote: “Your source knowingly distorts facts in print, but you are using her as a source on the very issue about which she distorts facts.

“This story is pure innuendo and drama—a fiction—under the guise of investigative reporting.”

Then, 19 minutes later, at 9:14, White, sent another email saying, “Sue, take a look at what your source has written here. First she lies about my experience working in schools. But more than that, she goes out of our (sic) way to assert that my administration created this formula regarding graduation rate bonus points and such.”

Finally, at 9:29 a.m., 38 minutes after Lincoln asked him to appear on camera, White responded: “No thanks. If reported accurately, this is a story of a formula and a calculation by way of that formula. The number and the formula can speak for themselves.”

“I can’t say for certain that the story is the reason I’m no longer reporting for the Southern Education Desk,” Lincoln said. The grant is currently under consideration for renewal but LPB informed Lincoln they were “going in a different direction” should the renewal be approved.

WRKF was not a partner in the initial grant, but has asked to become a partner if there is a third year of funding.

“The Southern Education Desk managing editor at GPB was unfailingly supportive of doing investigative stories,” Lincoln says. “And he was insistent that there needed to be a ‘firewall’ between the financial and political concerns of LPB management and what Southern Education Desk reporters covered.”

So why would LPB crater to White’s demands?

First, there is the factor of Course Choice providers. Described by DOE as “an innovative educational program that provides Louisiana students with access to thousands of high-quality academic and career-oriented courses,” the program simply allows practically any provider to offer online courses to students—on the state’s tab. Not only may just about anyone, private or public sector, offer courses, but they also are free to charge just about whatever they want.

Bottom line: there’s big money for Course Choice providers.

One of the approved providers is Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

Follow the money.

Second, LPB has a contract with the Iberville Parish School Board to provide certain curriculum and instruction to the parish system. Elvis Cavalier is the Iberville curriculum director, or Chief Academic Officer. He also serves as Director of Academies, also known as principal of the little-known Math, Science and Arts (MSA) Academy.

Little is known about the school because it flies under the radar. It does not exist for all practical purposes. It is not listed among Louisiana public schools and its student scores are not reported to DOE or to the federal government.

Known informally as a “shadow school,” scores for its 1200 students are spread out among the other public schools in Iberville Parish. This allows Iberville School Superintendent Ed Cancienne to boast—and he does—that Iberville’s performance score “has grown.” He neglects to add that that growth is primarily the result of infused scores from the “non-existent” MSA Academy.

Lincoln said she began investigating that story and her editors at LPB kept telling her to get additional information. “When I’d get that, they’d want more. It kept on that way until I was finally informed there would be no story,” she said.

Follow the money.

“I can’t prove that I was terminated because of pressure or implied threats from White regarding the Course Choice program or because of the shadow school story,” Lincoln said.

“All I can do is connect the dots.”

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“I have prepared a bill calling for a constitutional amendment making the Louisiana Superintendent of Education elected and not appointed. It will be difficult to pass, but the people should decide who their superintendent is—not the Governor.”

—State Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe), in an email Thursday to LouisianaVoice as a result of LouisianaVoice story about plan to provide personal student information to a computer bank controlled by News Corp., owned by Rupert Murdoch.

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What at first appeared to be a slam-dunk sexual harassment case against former commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Murphy J. Painter is beginning to look more and more like reprisals on the part of Gov. Bobby Jindal because of Painter’s refusal to acquiesce to administration demands involving several major Jindal campaign contributors.

It wouldn’t be the first time Jindal has fired a subordinate or demoted a legislator because he or she had the temerity to disagree with him, of course. But it would be the first time such tactics were employed in conjunction with criminal charges.

Painter was indicted—somewhat belatedly—on 42 separate counts of computer fraud in connection with his conducting criminal records, background and driver’s license checks on 35 individuals over a three-year period but never on the sexual harassment claims. Nor was he ever indicted on charges that he stalked or conducted surveillance on individuals—even though that claim was given widespread publicity by State Inspector General Stephen Street on May 28, 2012, the day Painter was formally indicted.

That indictment, coincidentally, came down only days after the legislature voted to strip Street’s office of all appropriations for the current fiscal year. Funding for his office was restored only after Street testified before legislators and repeated details of his office’s investigation of Painter as justification of continued funding, Painter says in his motion to dismiss the charges against him.

Painter’s trial on the federal charges is scheduled to begin on April 22. Meanwhile, he has separate civil suits pending against the state and against the woman who accused him of sexual harassment—after she told an OIG investigator that Painter had never harassed her.

We’ll return to the allegations, denials and counter-accusations in due course, but the real issues swirling around Painter appear to be rooted deep in Louisiana politics and back door deals as only a saga of Louisiana political intrigue and corruption can be told.

It was in late summer of 2010 when a series of events in New Orleans and Baton Rouge—unrelated to sexual harassment, computer fraud or surveillance—would culminate in a meeting in the governor’s office which would end Painter’s 34-year career in law enforcement, 14 of which he served as chief criminal deputy under former Ascension Parish Sheriff Harold Tridico.

After losing the 1995 sheriff’s race to current Sheriff Jeff Wiley by fewer than 700 votes, Painter was appointed ATC commissioner by then-Gov. Mike Foster in February of 1996.

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson had purchased the 26-story building once known as Dominion Tower, or CNG Tower, a year earlier in September of 2009. The building is located across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. As part of the deal struck between Benson and the state to keep the Saints from moving to San Antonio, the Jindal administration agreed to a 20-year lease of some 325,000 square feet of office space at $24 a square foot for various state agencies, some of whom were paying as little as $12 a square foot before being forced to move to Benson Tower.

At the outset, the state’s obligation was about $7.7 million a year, $2.6 million more than the $5.1 million the state was paying before the move.

Included in the Benson Tower purchase was a 60,000-square-foot plot encompassing a one-block section of LaSalle Street and part of what once was the New Orleans Centre shopping mall.

Champions Square opened on Aug. 21, 2010, with the Saints hosting a pre-season game against the Houston Texans. The facility provided a tailgate party atmosphere and gave up to 8,000 Saints fans who did not have tickets a place to hang out and party while cheering on the Saints.

Champions Square soon became the catalyst in the struggle that would erupt between Painter’s office, the governor’s office and Mercedes-Benz Superdome management firm SMG (formerly Spectacor Management Group). On the fringes of this growing dispute were parties who had more than a passing interest: Benson, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED), Anheuser-Busch, brewers of Budweiser Beer, and local Anheuser-Busch distributor Southern Eagle Sales & Service.

LSED is a state political subdivision created to oversee operations of the Superdome, the John A. Alario Sr. Event Center, the New Orleans Arena, the Saints training facility, TPC Louisiana, and Zephyr Field, home of the Triple-A baseball team.

Benson, the seven LSED members (each of whom is appointed by the governor) and their families, businesses and business associates, SMG and Southern Eagle combined to contribute more than $203,000 to Jindal campaigns between 2003 and 2012.

In a lawsuit filed against Jindal, the State of Louisiana, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, its former secretary, Cynthia Bridges and Inspector General Street, Painter says that in May of 2010, some three months before Champions Square was officially opened, he met with representatives of SMG and its lobbyist about SMG’s request for a license to serve alcohol in Champions Square on Saints game days.

Budweiser and Southern Eagle stood to be the big winners if the license application was approved.

Painter says in his lawsuit that he informed SMG of several regulatory violations in its proposal and offered suggestions on bringing the proposal into compliance with state laws. SMG’s subsequent license proposal, however, failed to address a number of the problems Painter had outlined in their previous meeting.

When Painter rejected the proposal, SMG arranged a meeting between Painter and SMG attorney, Robert Walmsley, Jr., Painter says in his petition.

Walmsley is a member of the law firm Fishman, Haygood, Phelps, Walmsley, Willis & Swanson of New Orleans which also contributed $5,000 to Jindal’s campaign in October of 2008.

Walmsley, after meeting with Painter, agreed to provide “a written legal opinion to the ATC documenting how SMG’s proposal complied with, or was otherwise exempt from, Louisiana law,” the petition says.

That promised opinion was never provided to ATC, Painter or his counsel, according to the suit.

Within a matter of weeks, Painter was contacted by Jindal executive Counsel Stephen Waguespack, nephew of Ascension Parish Sheriff Wiley. Waguespack asked Painter to cooperate with SMG and to stop using ATC’s legal counsel to address concerns with the Champions Square project being pushed by SMG, Painter says in his petition.

Subsequent to that call, Walmsley sent Painter an email in which he outlined a purported rationale that would allow SMG to qualify for the sought after license but the email, Painter says, did not include Walmsley’s promised written legal opinion. The ATC legal counsel again advised that the SMG proposal did not satisfy legal requirements.

Painter advised Walmsley that the license would not be issued because SMG did not qualify for the proposed exception as had been suggested. Painter also advised SMG “that alternative legal means would be utilized to address any issues related to the forthcoming grand opening of Champions Square if a resolution was not reached,” according to the lawsuit.

Then, on Aug. 11, Waguespack again called Painter and advised that he, as executive counsel for the governor’s office, “saw no problem with issuing the requested license to SMG,” whereupon Painter said he would defer to Waguespack—if Waguespack was willing to issue a legal opinion in writing to the ATC as representing the governor’s position.

“The governor’s executive counsel refused and suggested that issuing such an opinion was not a good use of his time and/or position,” Painter says, adding that he understood from that conversation that he “was being ordered to issue the license requested by SMG in direct contravention of law.”

In more than 15 years as ATC commissioner, Painter said he had never received such a call from the governor’s office.

Painter and ATC again refused to issue the requested license and two days later, on Aug. 13, Painter was summoned to the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol where he met with Waguespack, Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and another member of the governor’s legal staff.

Painter was advised that an unidentified law enforcement agency (later identified as OIG) was investigating him for alleged criminal violations, specifically sexual harassment, and that Jindal was asking for his resignation.

Painter said he asked if Jindal was asking for his resignation because it was his prerogative to do so or because of the criminal investigation and when informed it was because of the investigation, he refused to resign and was fired.

Despite, the manner in which his dismissal came about, it was subsequently reported to the media that he had resigned.

In what Painter described as another means of garnering publicity, an OIG investigator obtained a search warrant to search Painter’s office at ATC even though a previous investigation by the Department of Revenue had already cleared Painter of any wrongdoing.

The administration, through OIG, zeroed in on the sexual harassment charges for Painter’s former administrative assistant Kelli Suire. Suire did contact local news media in July of 2010 with claims of sexual harassment by Painter and on Aug. 6, an email purportedly sent from lindseyjarrrell@rocketmail.com to several media outlets outlined several complaints about Painter and ATC, including the alleged sexual harassment of Suire and that Painter stalked Suire by going to her home on several occasions. The email, Painter learned from his own investigation, originated from the Louisiana State Library near the State Capitol.

Painter also claims that Suire and ATC Deputy Commissioner Brant Thompson were cooperating with each other in efforts to undermine Painter’s authority.

Painter says he took his concerns to Thompson’s father, State Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) on Aug. 12 and the elder Thompson offered assurances that his son would cooperate with Painter in the future.

Painter then asked that Brant Thompson report to his office no later than Monday, Aug. 16, “to discuss his conduct and accept a suspension from his job duties.”

That meeting never occurred because Painter was fired the following day and Brant Thompson was appointed interim commissioner until the appointment of current commissioner Troy Hebert.

Almost a year before Painter’s dismissal, on October 16, 2009, Suire resigned her position at ATC. But three days later, on Oct. 19, Painter, on ATC business in Washington, D.C., received a call from his office informing him that Suire had been in his office for several hours that morning copying files, Painter says in a separate defamation lawsuit against Suire.

That suit was filed in 23rd Judicial District Court in Ascension Parish while his lawsuit against the state for wrongful firing was filed in 19th JDC in Baton Rouge. And while considerable coverage was given his firing and the subsequent charges of sexual harassment, minimal coverage has been given his lawsuits by Baton Rouge area media outlets.

Sometime following his Aug. 13 firing in 2010, Painter learned of a letter dated 11 days earlier, on Aug. 2, to LDR Deputy secretary Earl Millet, Jr. from Barry Kelly, assistant director of Revenue’s Criminal Investigations Division in which Kelly gave the results of his investigation of six accusations against Painter, including sexual harassment and stalking of Suire.

In that letter, Kelly said, an attorney was hired to conduct an investigation into the allegations and when questioned, “Ms. Suire admitted that there was no sexual harassment.”

Prior to that Aug. 2 letter, on March 29, the Department of revenue sent a letter to Suire reporting its findings. That letter said, in part, “The investigator met with yourself, Painter and other ATC employees. Based upon the information gathered during the investigation, LDR has determined Painter’s actions did not violate the LDR’s Anti-Harassment Policy…

“The finding is based upon information secured during your interview wherein you indicated Painter did not make unwelcome sexual advances toward you. You also indicated Painter did not request sexual favors or engage in verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature to you. Additionally, you also stated that your complaint against Painter was not one of sexual harassment.”

Despite that admission, the governor’s office, through OIG, proceeded with its investigation, accusing Painter of accessing the criminal records database 314 times in more than five years between February 25, 2005, and Aug. 13, 2010. Subsequent information obtained by Painter through legal discovery revealed that OIG received 1,063 complaints between June 20, 2009 and June 15, 2011 and determined that not all the complaints constituted a need for a law enforcement data base check.

Yet, during that same two-year period, three OIG investigators combined to access the criminal records database nearly 3,000 times—one of those more than 2,100 times.

Painter’s trial in federal district court in Baton Rouge on the computer fraud charges is scheduled for April 22.

And yet, despite the charges alluded to by Waguespack when he fired Painter, he has never been formally charged with sexual harassment, stalking or surveillance.

And charges of accessing the criminal records data bank 314 times over a period of more than five years—approximately five times per month—to most people would not appear excessive for the head of a law enforcement agency whose job it is to track criminal activity.

…Unless someone was looking for a reason to fire an uncooperative subordinate standing in the way of political expedience and opportunity—and inconveniencing campaign contributors.

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LouisianaVoice has learned that Louisiana’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) Ed Driesse and three members of his staff have already or are quitting, apparently over ongoing disagreements with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s staff regarding the outsourcing of the State Office of Information Technology (OIT).

Driesse, who makes $167,000 a year, was contacted Tuesday and said his last day will be April 5.

Assistant Director Barbara Oliver and Deputy CIO Randy Walker retired on Jan. 18. The third, Assistant Director Mike Gusky, is also scheduled to leave, Driesse said.

Oliver presently earns $118,000 per year and Gusky’s salary is $117,000, according to State Civil Service records. Walker’s salary was unavailable.

As the state CIO, Driesse heads the Office of Information Technology in the Division of Administration (DOA) within the Office of the Governor.

The CIO is the state’s point person for matters related to IT and IT resources, including setting policies, standards, hardware and software deployment, strategic and tactical planning, acquisition, management, and operations in keeping with industry trends, both private and public. The CIO oversees several IT organizations within the DOA, acting as architect and primary executor of technical and business strategy for IT in Louisiana state government.

Act 772 of 2001set forth several policies of OIT, including:

• The implementation of IT standards for hardware, software and consolidation of services;

• The review and coordination of IT planning, procurement and budgeting;

• The providing of oversight for centralization/consolidation of technology initiatives and the sharing of IT resources;

• Assuring compatibility and connectivity of Louisiana’s information systems;

• The providing of oversight on IT projects and systems for compliance with statewide strategies, goals and standards.

Several additional legislative acts in 2001 provided for:

• The electronic government structure for the executive branch (governor’s office) of state government;

• The duties of the Office of Telecommunications Management (OTM);

• Electronic governmental transactions;

• Electronic transactions by certain state agencies.

Act 409 of 2009 abolished the Office of Electronic Services and transferred its duties to OIT. At the same time, it redefined the duties of the Louisiana Geographic Information Systems Council and the Louisiana Geographic Information Center.

Last February, the Civil Service Commission rejected a plan to terminate 69 IT employees in the Department of Health and Hospitals when DHH attempted to push through a privatization contract with the University of New Orleans (UNO).

Last October, eight months after that initial effort, the Civil Service Commission signed off on a revised proposal that called for revamping DHH IT services.

That plan, which involved no layoffs, called for various IT functions to be spread out among four different entities—DHH, the University of Louisiana Lafayette, UNO and a private vendor, Venyu Solutions. The move was projected to save about $1.12 million from the current $37.8 million expense, the administration said.

Venyu contributed $5,000 to Jindal’s re-election campaign in October of 2011.

In 2012, Louisiana was one of only seven states to receive an A-grade in national rankings on providing online access to government spending data. The state’s score of 92 out of 100 was tied with Massachusetts. Arkansas, by contrast, received a grade of F. The state received a score of only eight out of 100, for third worst in the nation.

The rankings were compiled by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PRIG) Education Fund, a consumer watchdog organization that promotes and evaluates transparency in government spending.

Louisiana’s OIT was also cited as having taken the lead among states in providing detailed performance evaluations of government agencies.

Driesse has 15 years’ experience as a chief information officer in both the public and private sectors, including three Fortune 500 companies.

Prior to his appointment, he served as CIO for DHH and also served as CIO for AECOM Technology Corp., a global design and management services company in Los Angeles, where he managed a budget of more than $50 million and a staff of 260.

He also served as CIO for Foster Wheeler, Ltd., a global engineering and construction company in Clinton, N.J., where he oversaw the global deployment of the JD Edwards integrated applications system.

Driesse also served as Vice President and CIO for Zimmer, Inc., of Warsaw, IN, and for HealthTrust, Inc., of Nashville, TN.

He holds a B.S. in mathematics and a M.S. in computer science, both from the University of Louisiana Lafayette.

There was no word on the planned privatization of OIT.

An email inquiry to the Jindal’s office got no response.

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First it was a federal judge who threw out Piyush Jindal’s voucher plan in Tangipahoa Parish because it posed a major setback to the parish’s current desegregation consent decree.

Then, last Friday, a state district judge, Tim Kelley, whose wife once worked for Piyush, said the method of appropriations to fund the statewide voucher program is unconstitutional.

Fast on the heels of Kelley’s ruling, fellow Baton Rouge District Judge William Morvant refused to throw out a lawsuit challenging the only part of Piyush’s far-reaching retirement reform proposals that survived the legislative session earlier this year.

In case you’re counting, that’s oh-for-three—not a good batting average for the governor who would be president.

Keep in mind that Piyush is the incoming chairman of the National Republican Governors’ Association.

Remember, too, that he thought he would be moving into that position in the hope that it would be the launching pad for his presidential aspirations. To do so, he needed to bring something substantial to the table.

That something was to be sweeping education reform. That was to be the centerpiece of his list of grand accomplishments, the bold-face type on his curriculum vitae.

Now, the status of both education and retirement reform are suddenly in jeopardy.

Suddenly the star of the errand boy of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) doesn’t shine quite so brightly.

What to do?

The obvious answer would be to teague someone. That practice, after all, has served him well in the past. No college president, attorney, doctor, agency head, legislator or rank-and-file state employee will dare rebuke Piyush lest he or she be shown the door.

There was a time when we would have run a recap of those teagued by this peevish little man, but the list has grown so long that it would take up far too much space.

On reflection, however, one must ask just what are Piyush’s alternatives?

Well, normally he could campaign against the re-election of judges Kelley and Morvant—except he already did the anti-judge campaign thingy in Iowa.

He can’t teague the federal judge; he was appointed by the president.

He can’t teague either of the state judges—Kelley or Morvant—because they were elected by voters of the 19th Judicial District.

He can’t teague Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney who so expertly represented the interests of the state in arguing on behalf of the voucher program because Faircloth was working under a contract that ends when all appeals are exhausted—about $100,000 or so down the road.

He can’t teague Angéle Davis, wife of Judge Kelley because she already resigned her position as Commissioner of Administration.

He can’t teague the legislator who introduced the education bills because they were not written by any Louisiana elected official but by the corporate honchos at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

He might consider teaguing Superintendent of Education John White since there are already unconfirmed rumors floating around that he is leaving soon.

But there is a far better option open to Piyush:

He could take a page from the playbook of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

It’s such a simple solution we’re surprised no one has thought of it before.

All he has to do is first invoke that obscure nullification clause which several states unhappy with last month’s presidential election are bantering about—the one that says states can unilaterally ignore a federal law they don’t like. Or even opt out of the union itself. Some in Texas are talking about splitting off and breaking the state into five separate states (pure lunacy, but a philosophy that dovetails nicely with that of the Tea Party).

Then, like Morsi, Jindal can unilaterally decree greater authority for himself, including issuing a declaration that the wrong-headed courts are henceforth barred from challenging his decisions.

(Come to think of it, such a move is not exactly unprecedented. President Andrew Jackson said of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the state of Georgia could not impose its laws on Cherokee tribal lands, “(Chief Justice) John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”)

After that, he could even take it a step further and, like North Korea’s late Kim Jong-il, bestow upon himself the title of “Dear Leader,” and, again like Kim Jong-il, commission a song of the same name in his honor.

Think about it. If he were to take that action, he could sell prisons, the old insurance building property, hospitals, roads, universities, the Saints and the Zephyrs, not to mention a few state-owned golf courses and state parks.

That water from Toledo Bend Reservoir? Sold. Gone to Texas and a few select political cronies are even richer than before.

And you only think you’ve seen a lot of corporate tax breaks, incentives and exemptions. Once he issues his decree, corporate taxes would disappear into that sink hole in Assumption Parish.

All state employees who aren’t fired outright (to be replaced by telecommuting administrative types from Florida, California, Alabama and elsewhere) would immediately forfeit all health and retirement benefits—except for friendly former legislators who, of course, would be elevated to six-figure salaries with full benefits.

The Department of Civil Service, public schools and the State Ethics Board would become distant memories for the nostalgic among us.

Of course, were he to take such action, he could always say his decision was predicated “by three things: one, to protect needed reform packages; two, to streamline government so at the end of the day, we can do more with less, and three, I have the job I want.”

Opponents could be expected to condemn his decrees as heavy-handed and dictatorial but what else would you expect from those who represent the coalition of the status quo?

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“Everything they (legislative committees) do is scripted. I’ve seen the scripts. They hand out a list of questions we are allowed to ask and they tell us not to deviate from the list and not to ask questions that are not in the best interest of the administration.”

—Rep. Joseph Harrison (R-Gray), on his removal from the House Appropriations Committee by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles) on Friday, one day after Harrison voted against the Jindal administration on the proposed contract between the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBS).

“I was elected by the people of (House) District 82 on a platform of fiscal responsibility. It is the job of legislators…to ask difficult questions necessary to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and wisely.”

—Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), on his removal from the House Appropriations Committee on which he served as vice-chairman following his vote against the Jindal administration on the proposed OGB contract.

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House Speaker Chuck “The Eunuch” Kleckley Friday removed House Appropriations Committee vice chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) and Appropriations Committee member Joe Harrison (R-Gray) one day after each voted for a motion by Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) that the administration opposed.

(Eunuch: (1) a castrated man placed in charge of a harem; (2) a man deprived of the testes or external genitals (3) one who lacks virility or power—Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.)

Henry was reassigned to the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee while Harrison was moved to the House Commerce Committee.

When Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) jokingly referred to himself as the “former member of the Senate Finance Committee” during Thursday’s joint hearings by the House Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committee, he was closer to the truth than even he wanted to admit.

Claitor had just objected to a motion by Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego) to defer action on the proposed contract between Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS) and the state that called for BCBS to take over as third party administrator for the Office of Group Benefit’s (OGB) Preferred Provider Organization health coverage plan.

His objection forced a vote on Alario’s motion and the motion subsequently passed by a vote of 11-3 but the House never got a chance to vote because Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols pulled the contract from the committees’ agenda before the House members could vote on Rep. Katrina Jackson’s substitute motion to reject the contract.

Claitor, at this writing, still has his seat on the Senate Finance Committee but that, as Jindal has shown, is subject to change on very short notice.

The latest purge brings to four the number of legislators Gov. Piyush “The Putsch” Jindal has teagued this year for having the temerity to oppose the state’s absentee chief executive. Earlier this year, Reps. James Morris (R-Oil City) and Harold Richie (D-Bogalusa) were removed from the vice-chairmanship of their respective committees.

Morris was demoted from the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee for opposing Jindal’s decision to use one-time money to fund recurring expenses in the state’s General Budget. Richie opposed tax rebates for those who donate money to private and parochial schools.

Jindal has made it abundantly clear on several other occasions that dissention will not be tolerated in his administration. There is simply no room for dialog. This incredibly petulant governor has never learned that politics is the art of compromise. He has fired department heads, university presidents, physicians, attorneys, board members and rank and file employees at the slightest hint that they are not 100 percent on board with his agenda.

Jindal spokesperson Shannon Bates, of course, issued the standard denial that the administration had requested (read: demanded) that Harrison and Henry be removed.

The administration did provide a prepared statement from the governor who, as usual, is campaigning, ostensibly, for Mitt Romney in Ohio: Speaker (“Eunuch”) Kleckley is a fair-minded and proven leader,” Piyush (or Timmy Teepell or Kyle Plotkin—who knows who writes this stuff?) said. “We support the Speaker and the decisions he makes regarding the organization of House committees.”

While he didn’t say so, it is rumored that Jindal also has some ocean front property in Kansas that he’s willing to sell.

Just how long the legislature—and the state’s citizens—will stand for his unabashed grab for absolute control of every facet of state government is anyone’s guess but Henry and Harrison were livid over their ouster.

Harrison, interviewed by LouisianaVoice, said the occupants of the State Capitol’s fourth floor “are not people of good character. Their word is no good.”

Seven members of the Appropriations Committee are elected by members of the House—one from each congressional district—and Harrison was the leading vote getter for the position from the Third Congressional District when Kleckley (aka “Gelding”) approached him and asked that he withdraw as a candidate so that the second-leading vote-getter, Rep. Simone Champagne (R-Erath) could be on the committee. “He (Kleckley) said he would then appoint me and he promised that he would not remove me,” Harrison said.

Ironically, Champagne was promoted by Kleckley to Henry’s old vice chairmanship.

“I agreed and when he called me on the phone to tell me I was no longer on the committee, I reminded him of that. I said, ‘So, you are not a man of your word.’

“He didn’t even show me the dignity of calling me into his office to fire me; he did it over the phone. And he wouldn’t even give me a reason,” Harrison said of Kleckley. “He just said some other Republicans had complained about me. I asked, ‘Which Republicans, Timmy Teepell?’ He said, ‘I don’t take my orders from Timmy Teepell.’ I said, ‘Yeah, right.’”

Harrison lashed out at the administration, saying, “Everything they do (on the legislative committees) is scripted. I’m not making this up; I’ve seen the scripts. They hand out a list of questions we are allowed to ask and they tell us not to deviate from the list and not to ask questions that are not in the best interest of the administration.

“That is not how the State Constitution defines the three branches of government,” he said. “We no longer have a legislative branch of government.

“I don’t mind following men, but I don’t follow boys,” he said in obvious reference to the gaggle of young aides with which Jindal has surrounded himself. “We’re being directed by a bunch of youngsters on behalf of a man not even in the state. How can we, in the critical financial situation this state is in, have inept youngsters telling us what the governor wants when we don’t even see the man?”

He then singled out Jindal’s former chief of staff Timmy Teepell who resigned a year ago to hed up the Baton Rouge operations of OnMessage, a political consulting firm out of Maryland. OnMessage has no Baton Rouge address or phone number and Teepell apparently runs his consulting business from the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol.

“Teepell is the puppeteer in this administration. How can you have a man serving as de facto head of state government who never went to school and who never interacted with other people while growing up? The man is anti-social,” Harrison said.

Henry was no less critical of Jindal.

“It is the job of legislators, particularly those serving in leadership roles, to ask the difficult questions necessary to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and wisely,” he said.

“I have been at odds with the speaker and the administration over fiscal issues for the last several years, asking questions about the constitutionality of the state budget; use of one-time and contingency money, fund sweeps and disastrous mid-year budget cuts that impact healthcare systems like LSU, as well as higher education.

“This action by the speaker and the governor demonstrates that they are afraid of having legislators do the job they were elected to do. The people of Louisiana are suffering as a result.”

He said what he called a series of “irresponsible decisions by the speaker and administration” demonstrate that they are not serious about fiscal discipline and following the Constitution.

“The State Constitution contains clear and strict limitations on the budget process for a very good reason,” he said. “These sensible limitations on deficit spending exist so that we can craft realistic, fiscally-responsible budgets through a transparent and deliberative process. Following the constitution is the only way to have a stable, sustainable budget that best serves the needs of the people, families and businesses of Louisiana.”

He said he was disappointed but not surprised at the administration’s action. He said Jindal and Kleckley were trying to ensure they had “yes-men and yes-women” on important committees who would trust the administration and not challenge it.

“We didn’t get elected to trust people. We got elected to ask questions,” he said.

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