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In his message in the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry’s Winter 2010 Bulletin, retiring board President Barry Ogden said in the third paragraph from the bottom of page 4 of the bulletin: “Every time a licensee gets sanctioned they always explain it as the board was on a witch hunt… or they are power hungry…. This is all bogus, and I ask you whether your would sign a consent decree if you thought we were wrong? I don’t think so.”

http://www.lsbd.org/Bulletins/Bulletin2010.pdf

It’s pretty obvious why: The board holds the life or death power over dentists’ livelihoods. They can, on a whim, render years of costly education useless, destroying careers in the process.

LouisianaVoice has shown in previous posts how the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry has run roughshod over dentists. We have revealed board actions ranging from levying draconian fines for minor board rules infractions to initiating devastating reprisals against whistleblowers and those who otherwise resist its strong-arm tactics.

But in examining the case of Slidell dentist Dr. Kenneth O. Starling, it becomes even more evident that the Dentistry Board for decades has operated a white collar extortion scheme that rivals any protections racket run by mobsters in New York, New Jersey or elsewhere.

Strong accusation? Indeed. But what’s more, the board has been allowed to do this at will, unabated and unrestrained by those who appoint the board members. And that would be whoever happens to occupy the governor’s office.

Due process? Fugetaboutit. Innocent until proven guilty? Not even an option. Burden of proof? Don’t want it, don’t need it, can’t use it.

To be sure, some of Dr. Starling’s troubles were of his own making. He had a drinking problem that first placed him in the board’s crosshairs. He freely admits that and has never made an issue of it.

But then, as it often does, the board smelled not alcohol, but blood.

And, like any other rapacious animal, sensing weakness on the part of its prey, it moved in for the kill.

In early 2010, he was called before the board for his “habitual indulgence of the use of drugs, narcotics, and intoxicating liquors” in violation of state statutes and for failing to notify the board of three driving while intoxicated convictions.

The statute was a catch-all one and while it could be interpreted that he was simultaneously abusing narcotics and/or other drugs, he insists he was not. The term “habitual indulgence,” however, seemed accurate enough in light of three DWIs. “I did abuse alcohol and I did receive three DWIs,” he said in a recent interview with LouisianaVoice. “I own them and I acknowledge that fact.”

On March 5, 2010, Starling signed a consent decree in which he agreed to “reimburse the board costs” of $350 and to pay a fine of $8,000 to the board. In addition, a five-year suspension of his dental license was stayed (waived) in favor of a five-year probationary period provided he satisfactorily completed an approved rehabilitation program.

A third major stipulation of the consent decree was that Starling would surrender “all controlled dangerous substance prescribing privileges.” That meant just what it said: he could not prescribe medications during the five years he was on probation.

So, with the consent decree signed, his $8,000 fine paid, and his DEA card (his only authority to issue prescriptions) cancelled for five years, he shuttled off to his new residence for six months at the Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center 200 miles away in Rayville in Richland Parish in Northeast Louisiana. http://www.palmettocenter.com/

And that’s when his real problems began.

During his exile in Palmetto, three other dentists rotated with each other to fill in for Starling. The three on occasion prescribed pain medication like Vicodin and Lortab to patients.

Those were perfectly legal because it was they, not Starling, who issued the prescriptions.

Except because they were written on prescription pads from his dentist office, the pharmacies filling the prescriptions, instead of looking at the signature on the prescriptions, looked at the letterhead on the pads and entered Starling’s name as the prescribing dentist. That information was entered into a data bank used by pharmacists as a deterrent to doctor shopping by those addicted to pain killers.

And that’s where Camp Morrison entered the picture and things got unbelievably complicated for Starling at the hands of a Board of Dentistry that had already long been drunk on power.

Morrison was a private investigator who was issued eight contracts by the Board of Dentistry totaling more than $1.46 million. Even more puzzling was how Morrison, a private contractor, warranted free office space in the board’s suite of offices on the 26th floor of One Canal Place in New Orleans—for which the board pays $4,700 in monthly rent.

Beginning with a $45,000 contract in 1997, all but one of his contracts were of three-year durations. His final contract, for $110,000, was for only 10 months, from September 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. https://wwwcfprd.doa.louisiana.gov/latrac/contracts/expiredSearchResults.cfm?view=A

Out of the blue and based on an “investigation” by Morrison, Starling was accused by the board of dispensing prescription narcotics against the terms of his probation.

Starling said it would have been impossible for him to issue prescriptions with no DEA identification card, so he said he asked Morrison how he got his information. “He said, ‘I had a hunch and I looked it up,’” he quoted Morrison as replying.

The only problem with that is that Morrison, who has no DEA credentials, had no legal authority to access the data bank. “He had to have accessed the information by obtaining someone’s DEA card,” Starling said. “That’s a flagrant violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal offense. He also ran me through the DEA data base and the FBI data base.

“He had a hunch and he looked up information that was not only illegal, but inaccurate as well,” he said. “I have never had any prescription drug issues.”

In Massachusetts, a doctor named Bharani Padmanabhan has filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Attorney General in federal court for “illegally trawling through the state prescription drug monitoring program.”

http://maurabrokecfaa.com/

DOWNLOAD CASE # 1:15-CV-13297-NMG

Besides the prescriptions written by the three substitute dentists—verified in at least one case by a March 18, 2010, letter from a Walgreens pharmacist—six of the 10 prescriptions Morrison accused Starling of writing illegally were actually written prior to Starling’s surrender of his DEA card at the end of October 2009.

So it turns out that six prescriptions were written legally while Starling still held his DEA card and the remaining four in question were written by substitute dentists working to keep his office open while he was in rehab.

Starling, of course, did what anyone in his position would do. He fired off a letter to Morrison. “Since my voluntary surrender of my DEA license, I have neither written, nor authorized to be written, nor called in, any prescriptions for controlled substances,” he wrote.

Besides including a copy of the letter from the Walgreens pharmacist, he named the substitute dentists who wrote prescriptions for each of the patients cited by.

“I was under the understanding that without a DEA license, no prescriptions could be filled under my old DEA number,” he wrote.

And here’s where things really got dicey.

On Nov. 5, 2013, the Board of Dentistry sent Starling a letter inviting him to a December 6 conference of the board’s Disciplinary Committee “relative to your request for reconsideration of adverse sanctions.”

Those sanctions proposed an additional fine of $20,000, plus $850 in costs to cover Morrison’s error-laden “investigation.” Among the erroneous allegations was the claim that Starling wrote a prescription for 300 tablets of Hydrocodone when in reality, it was for a much weaker dosage of 300 mls. (about 60 teaspoons) of the medication in liquid form.

That Dec. 6 conference was attended by committee Chairman Blackwood, Drs. David Melancon and Wilton Guillory, Jr., and independent counsel Arthur Hickham, Jr.

The minutes of that meeting read, in part:

“The Disciplinary Committee of the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry finds that the application for reconsideration of an adverse sanctions filed by Dr. Kenneth Starling does have substantial merit. (Emphasis added.)

In a separate letter to the Board of Dentistry, Starling enclosed copies of patient records that showed signatures of substitute dentists on the dates on which Morrison accused him of writing the prescriptions. “I did not see any patients during the dates I was incarcerated in St. Tammany (Parish) or in treatment at Palmetto treatment center and no prescriptions were written by me during this time.

“I ask that the Board take all of this into consideration and I humbly ask for a reconsideration of sanctions imposed in relation to the second consent decree.”

And it was that last sentence, however, that spelled doom for Starling at that Dec. 6 committee meeting. A “reconsideration of sanctions” would necessarily mean a rescission of the $20,000 fine and the $850 in costs.

And the board was having none of that.

With the Dentistry Board, money trumps justice. Every time.

The very next day, on Dec. 7, the full board met and besides approving pay raises and per diem payments and other expenses to themselves, and despite the Disciplinary Committee’s decision that Starling’s application had “substantial merit,” voted unanimously to deny Starling’s application for reconsideration.

Starling was called in and Blackwood pushed the newest consent decree toward him and instructed him to sign it.

So, even though the Disciplinary Committee recommended consideration of Starling’s application, the full board not only denied the application on the following day, but also had the consent decree already drawn up, obviously in advance of the board’s decision.

It was a kangaroo court and the fix was in.

The consent decree not only called for him to pay $20,850 in fines and costs, but to again surrender his DEA card, attend AA meetings, enter into group therapy, undergo addiction counseling, re-enter Palmetto, and to agree to five years’ probation.

Starling balked and Blackwood, he said, spat “Sign the G—d—m consent decree.”

Realizing that Blackw00d and the board held all the cards, Starling signed.

Justice, or more accurately, the board’s idea of justice, was served and the Starling’s bank account was $20,850 lighter.

And the citizens of Louisiana were safer, thanks to the diligence—and greed—of the State Board of Dentistry.

It’s really interesting—and disappointing—to see how the very ones charged with enforcing our laws can be so condescendingly smug about getting away with actions they have to know—but can’t bring themselves to admit—are wrong from a legal, moral and ethical standpoint.

To no one’s surprise, the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) is both capitalizing on what it terms as “civil unrest” and crowing about the outcome of Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC).

But the association’s braggadocio was careful to cloak an ongoing effort for yet another pay raise (the third in just over a year) in a carefully worded, three-sentence explanation.

And the election of a new commission president could present a whole set of new problems.

To bring you up to date, the LSPC accepted the recommendation that no action be taken in any investigation of wrongdoing by state troopers responsible for (a) making the decision to actively support political candidates with campaign contributions and (b) laundering the money through the bank account of LSTA Executive Director David Young. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/14/expectations-of-state-police-commission-report-on-lsta-campaign-contribution-probe-dies-with-a-pitiful-whimper/

The Code of Governmental Ethics, Section VIII of R.S. 18:1505.2 (B) lists the making of contributions or loans “through or in the name of another” as a prohibited practice. http://ethics.la.gov/Pub/Laws/cfdasum.pdf

That’s pretty specific and clear-cut. And that prohibition is equally applicable to boty civil service employees and state police, even though the two answer to different boards—state employees to the State Civil Service Commission and state troopers to the LSPC.

And if the LSPC cratered to pressure from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, with the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards serving as the official conduit, there are other ongoing investigations and one of those investigating agencies, the FBI, is not likely to succumb to pressure from the sheriffs or Edwards.

The State Ethics Board also has been asked to look into the contributions laundered by LSTA to a number of statewide political candidates since 2003, including Bobby Jindal and Edwards, both of whom received $10,000 from the association. Edwards has since returned his contributions to LSTA.

Here’s the text of an email from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn that went out Friday morning, the day after the LSPC unanimously accepted the recommendation of commission attorney Taylor Townsend that no action be taken on the investigation:

From: Hillary Moses <hmoses@latroopers.org>
Date: July 15, 2016 at 10:53:37 AM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: A Message from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn

Members, 

During this time of civil unrest, please remain vigilant in keeping yourselves and your families safe.  I only wanted to take a few moments to inform you of a few details regarding yesterday’s Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) meeting.  Most of you are aware that, many months ago, certain individuals alleged that LSTA members and David Young were guilty of misconduct related to political activity.  The LSPC began an investigation into the LSTA based on these allegations and assigned attorney Taylor Townsend to conduct the investigation.  The LSTA cooperated fully, and Mr. Townsend acknowledged his appreciation of our cooperation when he released his findings in yesterday’s public meeting.  Mr. Townsend stated that the LSPC has no authority over the LSTA or its Executive Director, facts that were previously acknowledged.  Mr. Townsend further declared that no individual trooper was guilty of misconduct. The commission then voted unanimously to take no action and announced the matter closed.  

In regard to the proposed rule changes affecting the Louisiana State Police pay plan, Rodney Hyatt testified on behalf of the department.   After some debate, Rodney and TJ Doss, our representative on the Commission, successfully persuaded the Commission to table this matter until the next LSPC meeting.  This was done to allow the department time to ascertain the effects of the rule change and make any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.    

Lastly, by vote of the six Commission members, TJ Doss was elected as Chairman of the LSPC.  Please join me in congratulating TJ.  He has proven to have the motivation and ability to lead the LSPC.  To have the other Commission members recognize his ability and leadership is an enormous, well-deserved compliment.  Thanks to all members who took time to attend yesterday’s meeting, and thank you to those who continue to support the LSTA.  The many phone calls, messages, and words of encouragement mean more than you know.  Please feel free to share this information with members who may not have an e-mail address separate from the department. Thank you, and stay safe. 

Jay 

Way to go, guys. You pulled a fast one. It’s not enough to get away with it, but you have to top it off with bombast and swagger—just to show you can. Real class. But you might do well to remember two applicable quotes: It ain’t over ’til it’s over (Yogi Berra) and Pride goeth before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

If you read O’Quinn’s email carefully, you may have noticed two other things worth reexamination.

The e-mail skimmed over (we think deliberately) the testimony of State Trooper Rodney Hyatt with the two sentence explanation that Hyatt and commission member Thomas J. Doss, himself a state trooper, persuaded the commission to table an unspecified matter for 30 days to allow times to ascertain effects of a new rule change and to make “any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.”

That unspecified matter was a pay plan, adopted last November giving troopers an automatic yearly 4 percent pay hike but rescinded last month because any rule that affects wages or hours can go into effect only upon the governor’s signature—and that signature has never been provided. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

It was Doss who insisted that a new rule eliminating the longevity pay plan be tabled for 30 days. His motion was a transparent effort to send signals to the LSTA to step up its lobbying efforts with the governor’s office to get Edwards’ signature on last November’s pay plan, effectively killing the substitute plan. Eight months apparently was not sufficient for Doss and Hyatt; they need another 30 days, it seems.

Even as state civil service employees have gone without pay increases for five years or longer, state police have already received pay raises over the past 18 months totaling as much as 50 percent for some troopers.

The proposed longevity pay plan, which gives automatic yearly pay raises (that other state employees have been denied) aside from any merit increases, could give the impression that state police under its present leadership are just a tad greedy.

Obviously that’s not applicable to all state police officers—just those at the top who are attempting this as a means of consolidating power by buying the loyalty of the rank and file troopers. It was no accident that Thursday’s LSPC meeting was attended by nearly two dozen troopers from headquarters.

It was also Doss who was chosen as the new President of LSPC. The only dissenting vote was cast by Calvin Braxton of Natchitoches who nominated and voted for Interim President Lloyd Grafton of Ruston.

With the killing of the LSTC money laundering investigation and the 30-day delay on adopting a substitute to the proposed longevity pay plan in order for the LSTA to gets its ducks (read: politicians) lined up, the election of Doss as the new president was the perfect trifecta for Mike Edmonson.

The commission’s Web page contains the traditional mission statement:

Our mission is to provide a separate merit system for the commissioned officers of Louisiana State Police. In accomplishing this mission, the program administers entry level law enforcement examinations and promotional examinations; process personnel actions; issue certificates of eligibles; schedule appeal hearings on disciplinary matters on a monthly basis and pay hearings when necessary. Review, develop and implement State Police Commission rules, perform investigations, review contracts, review and accept or denies performance appraisal programs, and issues general circulars and transmittals. To enable the Office of State Police to meet the staffing needs in a timely fashion by hiring and promoting the best qualified applicants. 

So now the following questions must be asked:

  • Could there be a conflict of interest in his serving as president of the commission that is charged with performing investigations of wrongdoing and ruling on appeals of disciplinary matters?
  • What will happen should State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson come under investigation by the commission?
  • What will be Trooper Doss’s position should one of his fellow troopers—a close friend—come under investigation for some transgression?
  • How will Doss handle appeals from trooper friends disciplined by Edmonson? Will he support his friends or go against his commander?

These are serious questions that someone should put to the State Board of Ethics.

In the seven years that Doss has served as a full-time trooper, he has received pay increases totaling 36.5 percent—from $37,500 to $59,000.

But never fear. If past is indeed prologue (William Shakespeare: The Tempest), his seat on the commission is the fast track to lucrative promotions.

We have already begun a dangerous descent on a slippery slope and that slide must be reversed. Too often and for too long we have benignly looked the other way when we are confronted with unethical, immoral and illegal behavior by our public officials.

It is no longer sufficient to simply smile and say, “Well, that’s just Louisiana politics as usual.”

It may well be politics as usual, but it’s time for the citizens of this state to unite and demand one simple thing of our public officials:

Do the right thing. Not because we say so, but because it IS the right thing. Better yet, do it when no one is looking. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

–Alexander Pope

The so-called “investigation” by the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) into the laundering of campaign money by the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) through the association’s executive director turned into a major sham that only served to reinforce the old adage that crap flows downhill.

But the good news is state civil service employees may now pursue a method whereby they can make their own heretofore verboten political campaign contributions.

Hyped for two weeks as an investigation that would “name respondents” for the association’s deliberate circumvention of state regulations prohibiting political activity on the part of individual state troopers, the “report” of Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, hired to conduct the investigation and to make recommendations back to the commission, was a major dud in every respect.

His recommendation at Thursday’s (July 14) meeting: Do nothing. Punt. Abdicate the commission’s responsibility.

The term “deliberate” is not used lightly here. It was, after all, LSTA Executive Director David Young, in whose name more than $45,000 was contributed to various political candidates, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, who told the commission that the campaign contributions were made through him in order that “there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.” Young said he wrote the checks, dating back to 2003 and the association would reimburse him. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/15/louisianavoice-exclusive-at-long-last-it-can-be-disclosed-that-the-reason-for-all-the-problems-at-state-police-is-us/

For two weeks, word has circulated that Townsend’s report would name names and would be sharply critical of the association’s practice.

There is even word of an audio tape at a contentious meeting of association members from Troop I in Lafayette at which it was disclosed by association representatives that LSTA officers made the decision as to whom would receive campaign contributions.

That tape was never mentioned in Townsend’s brief “report” on Thursday (July 14). Nor were any names given as those directly responsible for the decision to contribute campaign money to candidates.

Instead, Townsend said the commission has no jurisdiction over the association or over Young. While that was an accurate assessment openly acknowledged before Townsend was ever brought on board, it was also acknowledged prior to his being hired that the association did have investigative and disciplinary powers over individual state troopers found in violation of state law. And while Townsend was quick to absolve the commission of any responsibility for Young and the association, he conveniently neglected to bring up the commission’s responsibility for enforcement of laws and regulations when individual state trooper actions are involved.

Because the LSTA is a 501(c) non-profit charitable organization, it is free, under certain restrictions, to make political contributions. So, by having Young make personal contributions in his name and then filing an expense report, the LSTA conveniently bypasses state law by funneling money to political candidates through Young.

Carrying his verbal report to its obvious conclusion, state civil service employees may need no longer worry about a similar prohibition against their making campaign contributions. All they have to do is form an association and get IRS approval of their status as a 501(c).

Of course, while state police have received two recent pay increases totaling 50 percent in some cases (and, by the way, they still want more), state civil service workers have been routinely denied even their paltry 4 percent annual merit increases for more than five years now, so they, unlike their fortunate state trooper counterparts, could hardly be expected to afford to make token campaign contributions.

So, the question is how is it that an investigation which only a couple of weeks ago seemed almost certain to result at least in suspensions for identical infractions that forced three of the LPSC members to resign since April was suddenly rendered impotent? https://louisianavoice.com/2016/04/14/two-more-members-of-lspc-quit-over-political-contributions-while-pondering-probe-of-lsta-for-same-offense/

To find the answer to that, one must go right to the top—the man who ran on the strength of his West Point Code of Honor.

It was John Bel Edwards who reappointed State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, most likely solely on the strength of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association insistence.

Asked by LouisianaVoice on Oct. 27, 2015, at 10:57 a.m. (before he took the oath of office) what his intentions were regarding the reappointment of Edmonson Edwards professed he had no intentions either way:

Please tell me your intentions as to the re-appointment of Mike Edmonson.

 

Tom Aswell

LouisianaVoice

 

From: John Bel Edwards

Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:50 PM

To: Tom Aswell  

Subject: Re: QUESTION

 

I don’t intend one way or the other

Being as charitable as possible, we now are forced to speculate that Edwards was being less than truthful at the time.

Edmonson was Bobby Jindal’s boy so why would Edwards feel obligated to keep him on? The LSTA even drew the line and said no to Edmonson’s request to have the association write a letter to Edwards recommending his reappointment.

Well, before he was Bobby Jindal’s boy, he was the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association’s boy. The Sheriffs’ Association wanted him to stay around because he is easily controlled and manipulated by the sheriffs.

The Sheriffs’ Association endorsed Edwards when the outcome of his runoff election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter was still in doubt. He needed that endorsement and the condition that went with the endorsement was that Edwards would keep their boy on. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/16/lsp-unable-to-locate-sergeants-critical-letter-warning-of-danger-edmonson-is-reappointed-by-gov-elect-edwards/

And don’t forget that Daniel Edwards is Sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish—and an influential member of the Sheriff’s Association—and probably has more than a little influence with his brother, the governor.

Consequently, anything that might implicate—or even embarrass—Edmonson would, by extension, embarrass Gov. Edwards and the Sheriffs’ Association. Accordingly, the report by former State Sen. Taylor Townsend had to be watered down or even killed.

In short, everyone simply circled the wagons.

And that’s now what we were led to expect from one who espouses the West Point Code of Honor.

(Note to self: Stop expecting.)

Business Wire, an online business news publication and part of Warren Buffett’s vast Berkshire Hathaway Company, posted an interesting story on Tuesday (July 12) that, thanks to our friend and sometimes contributing writer Stephen Winham, prompted LouisianaVoice to dive into our ubiquitous resource of public records.

What we found was of considerable interest.

It seems that our former governor was/is not above accepting generous campaign contributions from those doing business with the State of Louisiana.

But we knew that already as evidenced by the scores of stories we’ve posted on this site about his cozy financial relationship with vendors.

But then on Tuesday, Business Wire posted a story from Katy, Texas, announcing that Cotton Holdings, Inc. “is pleased to announce that it has added Bobby Jindal, the 55th Governor of the State of Louisiana, to the Board of Directors.”

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160712006179/en/Cotton-Holdings-Elects-Bobby-Jindal-Board-Directors

Okay, so what’s the big deal? Lots of politicians retire from office only to (a) join some lobbyist firm at an enormous salary, (b) join the public speaking circuit at incredibly high fees, or (c) join some corporate board of directors at an obscenely huge salary.

Former presidents George Bush the Elder and Bill Clinton capitalized in a big way on the speaking tour, pocketing millions of dollars. Former President Gerald Ford accepted high-paying positions on the boards of 20th Century-Fox, Primerica, and American Express. Gen. Douglas MacArthur joined the Rand Corp. board after being fired by President Truman.

Truman, on the other hand, refused to play the game. He consistently rejected offers to make commercial endorsements, to engage in lobbying, or to accept “consulting fees.” Offered a position on a corporate board, he is said to have tersely replied, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the president, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.”

The accuracy of that quote has never been verified, but he did write in his 1960 book, Mr. Citizen: “I turned down all of those offers. I knew that they were not interested in hiring Harry Truman, the person, but what they wanted to hire was the former President of the United States. I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and the dignity of the office of the Presidency.”

Not so, apparently, with “Mr. Ethics,” the man who claims to have given Louisiana the “gold standard” of good government.

Here’s what Pete Bell, founder and CEO of Cotton Holdings, had to say about his firm’s newest director:

“Having known and worked with Bobby (first name basis, wouldn’t you know?) over the past several years, I am very pleased to now have him join the board as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company…I am confident that Bobby’s vast expertise and depth of knowledge of government, coupled with his extensive commercial experience (what!!!???), will add tremendous value to the company and, ultimately, our shareholders.”

Jindal’s “extensive commercial experience” consists of approximately 11 months’ employment with McKinsey & Co. It’s the only time he has worked in the private sector in his entire life. Bobby must have crammed a lot of his “extensive commercial experience” into those 11 months.

Cotton Holdings Board Chairman Naveen Bhatia added, “We are excited to expand the board of Cotton with another world-class director with specific domain expertise and who will continue to drive the growth of our various businesses. Whether it is his experience in attracting $60 billion of private capital to Louisiana, including the petrochemical industry which is a growth engine for Cotton, or his operational expertise across our business lines, our board and management are looking forward to having a problem solver (snicker, chortle, guffaw) of Bobby’s caliber joining the team and assisting in our continued goal of maximizing shareholder value.”

Headquartered in Katy, Cotton Holdings is an infrastructure support services firm which provides property restoration and recovery construction, roofing, consulting, temporary workforce staffing and housing and culinary services to public and private entities throughout the U.S. in support of disaster events and complex work environments of the petrochemical and oil and gas industries, the Business Wire news release says.

CORPORATE REPORT

So, how is it that Cotton founder Pete Bell has “known and worked with Bobby over the past several years”?

That’s what we at LouisianaVoice wanted to know and rule number one is to always follow the money. Rule two: see rule one.

Well, it turns out that Cotton had a couple of pretty nice CONTRACTS with the State of Louisiana. Together, the two contracts totaled more than $2.2 million.

The larger of the two contracts was for $1.965 million but we were unable to check the dates of that expired contract since the state’s Web page for state contracts would not allow access to the details of that contract. The smaller contract, however, for $295,453, did allow access and revealed that the contract was for just 22 days in 2006. It called for mold remediation in a building at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.

In checking campaign finance records, we also find that four Cotton BOARD OFFICERS’ campaign contributions to Jindal’s state political campaigns totaled more than $29,500 between January 2007 and October 2012—after the smaller of the two contracts was awarded, it should be noted. But even though Jindal had no hand in awarding at least one of the contracts, classified employees are prohibited by the State Ethics Commission from accepting the smallest of gifts from vendors, so why should that same rule not apply to elected officials?

Records reveal that Bell contributed $5,000 on Oct. 8, 2009. CFO Bryan Michalsky and COO Randall Thompson gave $5,000 each the following day. Two weeks later Bhatia chipped in $5,000 to go with the $4,000 he gave on Sept. 5, 2007; the $3,000 contributed in cash and an additional $1,594.28 in in-kind contributions (food for a campaign event) on Oct. 25, 2012, and $1,000 on Jan. 31, 2007.

Because we are unable to access the larger contract to determine the beginning and end dates, it is impossible to determine whether that contract or the campaign contributions came first.

The campaign contributions aside, has Jindal hung a “For Sale” sign on the governor’s office as he did several state agencies during his tenure? Apparently so.

Unlike Truman, he has shown no reluctance in capitalizing on and profiting from his eight disastrous years as governor. Even as the bankrupt state struggles to overcome his wholesale carnage and to provide needed services to its citizens, this self-anointed paragon of virtue finds ways to reap financial rewards for himself. We submitted a request to Cotton for his salary as the company’s newest board member but to no one’s surprise, there was no response. Funny how eager Cotton was to get the announcement out on Bobby’s appointment but is suddenly silent on his compensation package.

How many other board positions has Jindal accepted since leaving office? How many others will he accept in the future? Who knows? We’ve already seen that he is a shameless opportunist. Cotton may well be not the only corporate entity eager to bring Jindal on board to prostitute the office of governor; it may just be the only one to make a public announcement.

We will probably never see another congressman like former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, who holds the record for the longest tenure as House Speaker (17 years), started out in the Texas Legislature. He was a member of the Steger, Thurmond and Rayburn Law Firm at the time and while serving, he refused to accept fees from clients with interests before the legislature because he said was a servant of the people of Fannin County. Later, as a member of Congress, a wealthy oil man delivered an expensive horse to Rayburn’s farm in Bonham, Texas. Though only the two men and a Rayburn staff member knew about it, Rayburn promptly returned the horse. He always paid his own travel expenses—even on a trip to the Panama Canal when his committee was considering legislation concerning the canal.

When he died in 1961, his entire estate was valued at just under $300,000, most of which was land he owned. The amount of cash that he had in various checking accounts was just over $26,000. Compare that to Jindal, who became a multi-millionaire during his brief, three-year stint in Congress and who owns home in a gated Baton Rouge community valued at almost a million dollars.

All of which should make each of us sit back and wonder whatever became of the idealistic, patriotic concept of public service? Why do our elected officials—Billy Tauzin, Bennett Johnston, Bob Livingston, Richard Baker, John Breaux (to name only former Louisiana politicians)—use their positions of public trust as a springboard to greater wealth and power as professional lobbyists whose duty it seems to be to work for the enrichment of their corporate clients as opposed to the benefit of their former constituents?

Worse yet, why do we as the taxpaying citizens allow it? Why is it there has been no groundswell of public sentiment for strict, binding laws prohibiting the seamless transition from congressman to paid corporate whore?

We didn’t create the monster but we certainly allowed our representatives to worship at the altar of greed and influence and to grow into the destructive agents they have become.

And now you can add your knight in tarnished armor, Piyush Jindal, to that ever-growing list of non-official hogs at the public trough.

There are times when we have to dig pretty deep to uncover wrongdoing, conflicts of interest, favoritism, and outright corruption. There are other times when the information just seems to drop into our lap.

Such is the ongoing reports of kangaroo court proceedings conducted by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry. And how was a witness in a case against a fellow dentist rewarded with a seat on the board? And how is that dentist/board member allowed to serve as an insurance claims analyst in determining payments to other dentists in the same geographic area of his own practice?

It’s probably a good idea to provide something of a refresher to bring new readers up to speed. The State Dentistry Board previously had a contract with a private investigator who had a nasty habit of deciding that a dentist was in violation of some obscure regulation and then going about his investigation with the intent of proving his pre-set theory.

Investigator Camp Morrison, who racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in billings while contracted to the board for more than two decades (he even was provided rent-free office space in the Dentistry Board’s office suite on Canal Street in New Orleans), appeared to have an unlimited expense account.

And why not? He roamed the state under color of law, harassing dentists to self-generate his own fees which were more than paid for by the six-figure fines levied against dentists not in the board’s favor.

Of course, he couldn’t have done all that without the aid of the board’s general counsel, who often served in dual capacity as board counsel and board prosecutor, a violation of legal ethics rules and common sense. Because he only had a duty to his client the board of dentistry to act in its best interest, anyone that he prosecuted was denied due process. The same would be true if a police force handled its own prosecutions without an independent prosecutor; there would be no fundamental perception of fairness.

Attorney Brian Begue was also known to hide behind the cloak of administrative law in denying defendants’ rights afforded under the US Constitution. Because he self-generated his own fees, he had apparently selfish financial motives for seeing dentists prosecuted. In 2012, he was found by the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to have violated the due process of a Louisiana dentist. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/11/16/dentistry-board-facing-difficult-future-because-of-policies-contracts-with-attorney-private-investigator-are-cancelled/

This investigator and attorney were perhaps given cover by a few complicit board members and staff to carry out their harassment and extortion schemes.

Take Dr. Isaac “Ike” House of Haughton in Bossier Parish. http://www.lsbd.org/boardinfo.htm

In a highly questionable move by the Jindal administration after he testified as a witness in a hearing in which a Louisiana dentist alleged the board participated in criminal conspiracy and unfair trade practices against him by revoking his license to practice in Louisiana.

Was that appointment his reward for his testimony against the dentist?

Dr. Ike, it seems, wears many hats: he’s a dentist, a witness, a board member, and more recently, it has been learned, an analyst for dental insurance claims for a Baton Rouge dental insurance company.

IMAG2140

DENTAL INSURANCE CLAIM ANALYSIS PERFORMED BY DENTAL BOARD MEMBER DR. ISAAC “IKE” HOUSE (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

            That last position might appear to some as something of a conflict. As one who performs evaluations of claims for an insurance company serving dentists in his geographic area, he has direct input on their financial reimbursement from the company.

But conflicts of interest have never been a deterrent to the board in the past. The questionable practices of Begue and Morrison is ample evidence of that.

One former Shreveport dentist, Dr. Ryan Haygood, fought the board for several years and finally settled with the board early last month.

Dr. Haygood settled for a fine of $16,500, a fraction of what the board unjustly cost him in its ongoing persecution. Haygood’s attorney told him the facts of life about a board hearing that was cancelled at the last moment after the settlement agreement was reached: the deck was stacked against him and he would lose at the hearing—and it would cost him much more than the $16,500. The board was raising the same issues as before and daring him to appeal. He said he did not have the $300,000 necessary to go through with the appeal, only to lose since the board itself decides all appeals of its decisions.

He said there was no confidentiality clause in the agreement but two of the stipulations of the agreement were that he would take his Internet blog down and that he would sign a “non-disparaging clause.”

LouisianaVoice, however, is not bound by any such restrictions and our blog is still up and we will continue to disparage when deemed appropriate.

Haygood, however, is moving forward with his civil lawsuit against the board which will ultimately be determined in a court of law and not in the Dentistry Board’s hearing room by an attorney who acts as accuser and judge.

Meanwhile, rumors of state and federal investigations persist. http://theadso.org/federal-racketeering-laws-may-finally-bring-the-dental-board-to-its-knees/

It would be most refreshing if investigators could offer a valid explanation of how certain boards’ powers to run roughshod over licensees has been allowed to go unchecked for so long

If there’s corruption, this must be Louisiana (with apologies to the 1969 movie If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium).

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