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Without getting into an overall critique of the Trump administration (I am already on record as to my feelings about him, so no need to repeat myself), I nevertheless feel compelled to address an issue that has arisen in recent days.

The Trump Justice Department, at his direction, is exploring the possibility of PARDONING military personnel convicted of war crimes in the Mideast, including SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, Green Beret Major Matthew Golsteyn, a former Blackwater contractor and others.

Trump took up the matter supposedly after FAUX NEWS host ROGER HEGSETH repeatedly urged him to take the action.

No doubt such a move would get the approval of Secretary of State John Bolton.

Setting policy on the advice of news reporters (and that includes ALL pundits whose job it is to report news, not make it) is bad enough, but this proposed action is ill-advised on so many levels that even U.S. military veterans are DISGUSTED by the very thought.

A former platoon leader in Iraq has also weighed in on the debate in a WASHINGTON POST story. And please, even if you agree with Trump about the Post, try to put those feelings aside and consider what is considered acceptable and unacceptable in the manner in which civilians are to be treated in wartime. This is an issue that transcends—should transcend—politics.

To issue pardons would send the wrong message about what this country stands for. We are not Nazi Germany.

We are not Japanese soldiers slaughtering American GIs on the Bataan peninsula.

We’re better than that. At least, we’re supposed to be.

There’s another reason for opposing this insane line of action:

To uphold the heroics of Hugh Thompson.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1943, Hugh Thompson was the Army warrant officer who flew helicopters in Vietnam.

After the war, he settled in Lafayette, Louisiana, and flew ‘copters for Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI). He died of cancer in January 2006 in the VA Hospital in Pineville.

If you read nothing else in your life, read THIS ACCOUNT of The Forgotten Hero of My Lai and then decide for yourself if pardons are a good idea for war criminals.

If you don’t recognize his name, perhaps you’ll remember the name of LT. WILLIAM CALLEY.

The two men crossed paths on March 16, 1968, in what has become one of the darkest chapters of an ill-advised war that had no victors, only survivors.

Thompson happened upon the mass slaughter of Vietnamese civilians by C Company of the U.S. Army’s 1st Platoon. He landed his helicopter and the following exchange took place between him and platoon commander Calley:

Thompson: What’s going on here, Lieutenant?

Calley: This is my business.

Thompson: What is this?

Who are these people?

Calley: Just following orders.

Thompson: Orders?

Whose orders?

Calley: Just following…

Thompson: But these are human beings, unarmed civilians, sir.

Calley: Look Thompson, this is my show. I’m in charge here. It ain’t your concern.

Thompson: Yeah, great job.

Calley: You better get back in that chopper and mind your own business.

Thompson: You ain’t heard the last of this!

Thompson subsequently left but returned and set his helicopter down between fleeing Vietnamese civilians and the pursuing Americans. He instructed his door gunners Specialists Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta to train their M-60 machine guns on the Americans and to cover him. “If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them.”

His actions not only save the lives of 11 civilians at the scene, but when he reported the incident when he returned to base, his commander ordered Charlie Company to “knock off the killing.” His actions saved the lives of hundreds more Vietnamese.

So, was Thompson recognized as a war hero?

Nope. He was pilloried by members of the House Armed Services Committee, especially so by committee Chairman Mendel Rivers (D-S.C.), who actually proclaimed that Thompson was the only soldier at My Lai who should be punished and then attempted to have him court martialed. All the committee was interested in was covering up a massacre by American troops.

Thompson began receiving hate mail, death threats and mutilated animals on his doorstep.

It wasn’t until precisely 30 years later that Thompson, Andreotta and Colburn were awarded the Soldier’s Medal (Andreotta posthumously), the Army’s highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy. “It was the ability to do the right thing even at the risk of their personal safety that guided these soldiers to do what they did,” then-Major General Michael Ackerman said at the 1998 ceremony.

Calley, for his part, was eventually charged with the premeditated MURDER of 109 Vietnamese civilians. As it turned out, he was the ONLY ONE found guilty of murdering 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment, a sentence that was reduced first to 20 years and then to 10 by the Secretary of the Army. He was paroled by Nixon in 1974 after serving only about three years.

Incredibly, he was considered by much of the public as a scapegoat in the entire affair.

Incredibly, Secretary of State BOLTON for years has campaigned to convince other countries to sign the Article 98 agreements which says that the countries would not cooperate with the world court in the prosecution of American military personnel at the expense of American foreign aid if they did cooperate.

The Nazis would’ve loved to have had Bolton as their advocate at the NUREMBERG TRIALS.

And just so you know, Bolton, the quintessential war-monger who is constantly rattling swords, like Trump, was in reality, a DRAFT-DODGER during the Vietnam War, even writing in his Yale 25th reunion book, “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.” So, to him, it’s okay to send others to die for his political ambitions so long as he doesn’t have to answer the bell himself.

That would qualify him as a chicken hawk.

But I digress. To pardon these war criminals would be to dishonor the courage of Hugh Thompson and his two gunners, Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta.

They deserve better.

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When the State of Louisiana VOIDED A FLOOD-RECOVERY CONTRACT with Hunt Guillot and Associates (HGA) earlier this month because of a conflict of interest, it wasn’t the Ruston firm’s first brush with state ethics laws.

Paula Tregre, the state’s chief procurement officer whose office oversees the bid review process, voided the $10 million federal-funded contract after finding what she described as several flaws in the contract award. One of those “flaws” was HGA’s intention to use a subcontractor with a couple of employees who had “obvious” conflicts of interest.

One of those employees, Stacy Bonnaffons, served as a contract employee with Restore Louisiana, the state’s disaster recovery agency established to help victims of widespread 2016 flooding in Louisiana.

Tregre said Bonnaffons, listed by HGA as one of its “three most relevant key staff,” appeared to have supervisory authority over one of the bid evaluators.

Bonnaffons, Tregre said, performed contract work and served at one point as interim chief of staff to the Office of Community Development, which Tregre said gave her internal access to information about the Restore Louisiana program and was involved in revising plans that “became integral components” of the bid solicitation for the contract which was ultimately awarded to HGA.

Following the awarding of the contract, a formal protest was filed by losing bidder Hammerman and Gainer (HGI).

Besides its headquarters in Ruston, HGA also has offices in Shreveport, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Questions about the company’s cozy relationship with the state first surfaced way back in 2011 when the Louisiana Board of Ethics gave a thumbs-up on HGA partner JAY GUILLOT to serve on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) from the 5th District while the firm simultaneously held $17 million in state contracts.

LouisianaVoice initiated an inquiry with the ethics board on Nov. 2, 2011, as to the legality of Guillot’s serving on a state board while his firm held the contract with the Office of Community Development (OCD) for recovery efforts from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike, and Gustav.

That’s when it was first learned that one must have some type of official capacity to have an inquiry recognized by the ethics board.

The board ruled that LouisianaVoiceHAD NO LEGAL STANDING” to request a ruling.

Translation: Louisiana taxpayers are insignificant and powerless to hold public officials and state contractors accountable to state ethics laws. Those laws are only for contractors and elected and appointed officials, thank you very much.

That’s when the damage Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard” of ethics had done to the state really came into sharp focus.

But that wasn’t the end of the HGA ethics questions.

Three years later, LouisianaVoice revealed that HGA had received $1.58 million for work for the RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT AND 12 INDIVIDUAL PARISH SCHOOL BOARDS.

The Department of Education has responsibility for the oversight of RSD and cannot be considered separate entities for purposes of say, a lawsuit against the RSD. At the same time, BESE is the governing authority over DOE, thereby creating a straight line of authority between BESE and the RSD as well as the dozen school boards for whom HGA also performed work.

Section 1113 of The Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits public servants and their family members from entering into certain transaction. That section says:

  • “No elected official or public employee or member of such public servant’s immediate family, or legal entity in which he has a controlling interest shall bid on or enter into any contract, subcontract, or other transaction that is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the public servant’s agency.”

As might be expected when there is so much money to be made off the suffering of Louisiana citizens, HGA has appealed the action. The firm’s legal counsel, Loretta Mince, said Tregre had “no authority” to ignore an April ruling by the ethics board which she said cleared Bonnaffons and another subcontractor employee to perform the contract work.

Mince said Bonnaffons had no input into “drafting specifications, working on the invitation for bids or exercising any influence on the evaluators.”

Because Bonnaffons does not have a controlling interest in HGA, the matter is likely to evolve into a protracted legal battle.

That appeal goes to Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and his decision, whichever way he rules, is likely to make its way into the courts.

State Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) has been kind enough to offer LouisianaVoice a clarification of Monday’s STORY about House Bill 346 which would have given civil service fire and police personnel the right to actively participate in and contribute to political campaigns to the exclusion of all other civil service personnel.

While Seabaugh was in agreement to our assessment that HB 346 was a bad bill, he pointed out that it was in fact the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that actually debated the merits of the bill and passed it unanimously to send it to the House floor.

LouisianaVoice said it was sent to the floor by the unanimous vote of the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee.

In fact, the Civil Law and Procedure Committee was only voting on the ballot language as all constitutional amendments are required to go to that committee for approval of ballot language.

The gist of our story was that seven of the nine Civil Law and Procedure Committee members either changed their votes to vote against the bill or did not vote when it got to the House floor.

That point didn’t change appreciably, however, confirming our initial position that approving the bill in committee and then changing votes on the House floor sends the wrong signals about legislators’ real motives and the courage of their convictions.

While all 13 members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to send the bill to the full House, six of those still changed their votes to no when it came to a full House vote, which failed, 29-84.

Representatives voting for the bill in committee but switching to no in the full House vote were committee Chairman Gregory Miller (R-Norco), Vice Chair Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula), Ryan Bourriaque (R-Abbeville), Jimmy Harris (D-New Orleans), Dorothy Hill (D-Dry Creek), and Ed Larvadain, III (D-Alexandria).

Voting yes in both committee and on the full House vote were Reps. Roy Daryl Adams (I-Jackson), Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), Dodie Horton (R-Haughton), Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge), Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport), John “Jay” Morris (R-Monroe), and Mark Wright (R-Covington).

Here is the full text of Rep. Seabaugh’s email:

From: Seabaugh, Rep. (Chamber Laptop) <aseabaugh@legis.la.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2019 6:35 AM
To: louisianavoice@outlook.com
Subject: Dodie Horton’s HB 346

I would like to start by telling you that I completely agree with your analysis of the bill. However, the portion of your article that references the actions of the Civil Law and Procedure committee is slightly inaccurate. The bill was originally referred to the House and Governmental Affairs committee who were the ones that the debated the substance of the bill and decided whether to send it on to the House floor for a full vote. It came out of that committee unanimously. I’m sure some of those members also voted against the bill on the floor so you could make the same point with respect to the Members of that committee. However, the House Civil Law committee was only voting on the ballot language. All constitutional amendments must to go to the Civil Law committee for approval of the ballot language. The committee does not have the authority to amend the bill or to kill the bill. All the committee can do is change or approve the language which will appear on the ballot when the measure is placed before the voters in the fall.

If you will go watch the video of the committee hearing, you will see that I handled the bill for representative Horton and explained that I was not for the bill and that I did not support the measure but that I was merely handling it for her to get the ballot language approved. Therefore, the unanimous vote by the Civil Law committee was not an approval of the substance of the bill. It was only a vote affirming that the ballot language fairly and accurately explained the substance of the bill.

 

Alan Seabaugh

Louisiana State Representative, District 5

401 Market Street, Suite 1120

Shreveport, LA  71101

Office (318) 676-7990

Fax (318) 221-0656

Aseabaugh@legis.la.gov

 

The breadth and depth of ruthlessness and greed apparently knows no bounds with the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry.

And it’s time, past time, that Gov. John Bel Edwards stepped in and brought an end to the destructive force that the board has become.

LouisianaVoice has documented numerous instances of abuses by the board:

EXAMPLE ONE

EXAMPLE TWO

EXAMPLE THREE

EXAMPLE FOUR

EXAMPLE FIVE

EXAMPLE SIX

EXAMPLE SEVEN

EXAMPLE EIGHT

EXAMPLE NINE

EXAMPLE TEN

EXAMPLE ELEVEN

EXAMPLE TWELVE

EXAMPLE THIRTEEN

EXAMPLE FOURTEEN

EXAMPLE FIFTEEN

EXAMPLE SIXTEEN

EXAMPLE SEVENTEEN

EXAMPLE EIGHTEEN

And these are just a few of the stories we and others have done about the gestapo-like tactics of this board established to protect consumers but which has become nothing other than a means for raising funds to support the salaries of board executives, staff, attorneys and investigators, not to mention rent in luxurious office spaces.

Because it receives no funding from the state General Fund, the board, like the State Board of Medical Examiners, relies on back-breaking fines that are completely out of proportion to the offenses for which doctors and dentists are fined by a board that acts simultaneously as accuser, investigator, prosecutor and judge.

In short, there can be no semblance of due process with kangaroo courts like these.

There have been efforts in the legislature to rein in the runaway boards, but those efforts have met with little success.

In the case of Dr. Ken Starling of Slidell (see Examples 3 and 18), the arrogance of the board and the ineptness of the Office of Inspector General have to be particularly galling.

Starling did everything the board asked of him, including entering and completing a rehab program at a costly facility in Rayville. But that apparently was not enough, for when Starling petitioned the board, sitting in god-like judgment of him, for reconsideration of adverse sanctions assessed against him, he only met with more maddening bureaucracy compounded by the ineptitude of the Office of Inspector General, which appears to have less justification for existence than just about any other state agency.

The PROCEDURES for reconsideration of an adverse disciplinary decision by the board says nothing at all about referring a dentist’s petition to the Office of Inspector General. Yet, that’s precisely what the board did, punting its responsibilities to another equally-bumbling agency.

LouisianaVoice has tracked some of the performance claims of the OIG and found that its claims of recovery of millions of dollars in restitution from felonious state employees were misleading because they basically piggy-backed federal prosecutors who actually led all the leg work.

As tor the OIG itself, it has provided little evidence of being an effective investigative or enforcement agency. In other words, taxpayer dollars wasted on useless inertia.

At any rate, the dentistry board, relying of all things, on the results of an OIG “investigation,” rejected Starling’s petition. Inspector Clouseau would have been a better choice.

The board, in a classic case of the blind leading the blind, noted that the OIG “reported to the Board that it found no irregularities or improper conduct associated with the investigation in 2009-2010 or the Consent Decree of March 5, 2010.”

Of course not. The OIG could not find its posterior with both hands, so it was a safe call by the dentistry board to refer the matter to OIG. You might say it was a classic Catch-22 that would do Joseph Heller proud while sealing Starling’s fate.

The board didn’t even extend the courtesy of sending a letter to Starling notifying him of its decision, relying instead on an email:

From: Rachel Daniel
Date: May 21, 2019 at 2:25:58 PM CDT
To: Kenneth Starling

Cc: Arthur Hickham <ahickham@lsbd.org>

Subject: Request for Reconsideration of Adverse Sanctions

Dear Dr. Starling:

Your petition for reconsideration of adverse sanctions was addressed by the members of the Disciplinary Oversight Committee and by the full board on March 15, 2019 in accordance with LAC 46:XXXIII.116.  While the committee found that your petition should be presented to the full board, the board voted unanimously to refer your case and your concerns to the Office of the State Inspector General of Louisiana (OIG).

After the OIG’s investigation, the OIG reported to the Board that it found no irregularities or improper conduct associated with the investigation in 2009-2010 or the Consent Decree of March 5, 2010.  Therefore, your petition of adverse sanctions was addressed again by the members of the Disciplinary Oversight Committee on May 7, 2019 in accordance with LAC 46:XXXIII.116.

Please be advised that the committee found that your request for reconsideration of adverse sanctions on May 7, 2019 lacked substantial merit and was denied.  Attached please find board rule .116 which outlines the time delay before which you can seek further relief.

Should you have any questions regarding this correspondence, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

 

Arthur F. Hickham, Jr.

Executive Director

Louisiana State Board of Dentistry

P.O. Box 5256

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70821-5256

225.219.7334  Phone

225.219.0707  Fax

www.lsbd.org

Prussian Prime Minister and German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck once said that the man who wished to keep his respect for sausages and laws should not see how either is made.

HOUSE BILL 346 Rep. Dotie Horton (R-Haughton) is a perfect example.

First, the bill would have given municipal civil service firefighters and policemen the right no other civil servant in Louisiana currently enjoys, namely:

  • To assist in voter registration drives when off-duty;
  • To make political contributions;
  • To attend political rallies, meetings and fundraisers while off-duty;
  • To join political groups (other than just political parties);
  • To sign nominating petitions;
  • To participate in political campaigns when off-duty.

The reason this was a bad bill, besides that it specifically excludes all civil service employees other than firefighters and police, is that it opens the door for incumbent office-holders to exert pressure on employees under his or her supervision to participate in fund-raising and voter drives on his or her behalf against the employee’s will.

The fact that Horton’s bill contained language that strictly forbade such action or reprisals against employees who supported the wrong candidate, there are obviously ways to retaliate against an employee considered politically disloyal:

  • Assignment to menial work;
  • Unfavorable employee performance reviews, adversely affecting merit pay raises;
  • Refusals to promote employees.

Anyone who truly believes Horton’s proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting disciplinary action or coercion of a public employee would actually work has his head in the sand. There are just too many subtle ways to make an employee’s life miserable without adding political patronage to the list.

And the real story here isn’t that the bill garnered only an anemic 29 VOTES on the floor of the House on Monday against 64 nay votes and 12 absences. That’s actually 29 more than it deserved.

Can’t you see the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association, if the bill had passed and been approved by voters, cranking up its legal team for the discrimination lawsuit that would almost certainly have followed to have state police included?

Again, that’s not the story.

The story would be how the House CIVIL LAW AND PROCEDURE COMMITTEE voted on the bill to get it to the House floor and how its nine members voted afterward.

The committee voted unanimously to move the bill forward. That’s 9-0 in favor. That’s Reps. Raymond Garofalo (R-Chalmette), Randal Gaines (D-LaPlace), Robby Carter (D-Amite), Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City), Mary DuBuisson (R-Slidell), Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport), Mike Johnson (R-Pineville), Tanner Magee (R-Houma) and Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) all voting yes.

Yet, when it came to the floor vote, there were six defections and another just took a powder.

Only Jenkins and Magee voted yes. Crews, DuBuisson, Gaines, Garofalo, Mike Johnson, and Seabaugh all voted thumbs down. Robbie Carter was no where to be found when the vote was taken.

Obviously, the committee members didn’t want the onus on them, so they passed the buck to get the bill to the full House, knowing, perhaps, it never stood a chance.

So, because the committee members couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do their jobs (or at least vote their true convictions), they punted to the full House so it could waste time on the bill.

Maybe that’s what old Otto was talking about.