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Archive for December, 2015

This is our final reminder of the Bye-Bye Bobby Bash:

Don’t forget you may now pre-order a signed copy of my latest book, Bobby Jindal: His Destiny and Obsession. The publication date is now mid-February.

Also, we have an update on our Bye-Bye Bobby Bash, the gala that will celebrate the end of the Bobby Jindal eight-year reign of error.

The date of the event, originally scheduled for Jan. 9 (a Saturday), has been changed to Sunday, Jan. 10 because of a personal conflict.

The party will be held at popular Baton Rouge eatery/watering hole Superior Grill at 5435 (appropriately enough) Government Street from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. http://batonrouge.superiorgrill.com/

The only cost will be your drinks and/or food. We are charging nothing for this event. We wish only to have a gathering of people with one important agenda in common: witnessing the exodus of Bobby Jindal from the governor’s office.

Bobby’s got one foot out the door, but the effect of his carnage will linger for years. That’s why I wrote a book about him. We should never forget what he has done to this state. The book can also serve as an important guide to the political platforms of future candidates.

The book covers such Jindal disasters as the Office of Group Benefits, higher education, public education, health care, hospital privatization, and of course, his delusional quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

And don’t think for a moment we have forgotten Jindal’s supporting cast. Also examined are his staff members and a complicit, compliant legislature, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Grover Norquist, and the Koch brothers, among others.

If you order by clicking on the book cover’s image below right, your order will be placed through Cavalier House Books of Denham Springs, a locally-owned independent bookstore.

Remember, I encourage you to order through Cavalier House. Why Cavalier House?

Two reasons.

  • First, by placing your order this way, you support a local independent book store, a cause I strongly endorse.
  • Second, because I live only about two blocks from Cavalier House Books, proprietor John Cavalier will summon me to sign each copy before he ships them out.

 

If you opt to purchase through Amazon or a big chain store, you’re hurting local business owners—much like shopping at Walmart instead of patronizing locally-owned stores. Moreover, you won’t get signed copies through those outlets.

Unless otherwise instructed, each signed book will be personalized to the name of the person ordering it. If you wish your copy signed to someone else (if it is a gift, for instance), please email me at:

louisianavoice@cox.net

DO NOT ORDER YOUR BOOK FROM THIS EMAIL ADDRESS. Order through Cavalier by clicking on Jindal’s photo at right and email me separately on signing instructions.

 

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“The petty thief is imprisoned but the big thief becomes a feudal lord.”

Zhuangzi

 

There it was, splashed across the Metro page of Tuesday’s Baton Rouge Advocate:

“OMV audit: More than $200,000 stolen”

The entire matter is heavily weighed down by irony but you’d never know it from reading the story.

It seems that a new audit of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS) has revealed that two employees of the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) misappropriated more than $211,000 before being arrested.

The two, Heather Prather of Baker in East Baton Rouge Parish and Angelle Temple of Marksville in Avoyelles Parish were actually arrested in early 2015—nearly a year ago—and fired for felony theft, injuring public records and malfeasance in office.

 

“Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and then they make you king.”

Bob Dylan

 

“Upon investigation, OMV management determined that the OMV employees had diverted public funds for personal use and violated state laws,” according to the Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Apparently the two issued receipts to paying customers but then either altered, voided or simply did not post the transactions. There was no indication as to whether or not the two knew each other or if they conspired together or acted separately in misappropriating the funds.

And yes, $211,000 is a lot of money and nothing in this post should be interpreted as excusing the women’s actions.

But isn’t it odd that the media would give such prominence to this story while overlooking official misappropriation of public funds?

Take, for example, the lingering case of high ranking State Police official Jill Boudreaux and the unmet demand that she repay nearly $60,000 in money she received to which she was not entitled. That little matter is still unresolved after almost six years.

And then there is Bobby Jindal. He allowed the taxpayers of Louisiana to pick up the tab for the cost of more than $3 million for State Police security details. Those costs were incurred while he spent more than two-thirds of his final year in office campaigning out-of-state for the Republican presidential nomination. A reasonable person would assume his campaign would have paid for that protection since his travels had zero to do with his job as governor of Louisiana.

But few lately have accused Jindal of being reasonable. The cost of flights, taxis, auto rentals, lodging, laundry and meals cost Louisiana taxpayers more than $640,000 in addition to the salaries of state troopers assigned to his out-of-state security detail. None of that has been refunded by Jindal’s campaign.

 

“He who uses the office he owes to the voters wrongfully

and against them is a thief”

Jose Marti

Boudreaux, Undersecretary for DPS, which has management oversight responsibility for OMV, first said the office would consider a policy of no longer accepting cash as a safeguard against theft by employees.

Later, however, she and the Auditor’s Office agreed that OMV only needs a better system of controls over accepting cash. State Police public information officer Doug Cain said the goal of OMV was to continue to provide convenience to the customer while at the same time, assuring “due diligence to have accountability on the process.”

Due diligence appears to have been lacking in efforts to have Boudreaux repay the $59,000 she was paid as part of an early retirement incentive offered nearly six years ago.

In April of 2010, the Jindal administration, in an offer to implement across the board savings, made a one-time incentive package offer to various state agencies as a means to encourage state employees to take early retirement.

Handled properly, it appeared at the time—and still does appear—to have been an economical and compassionate way to nudge employees who wanted out but who could not afford to retire, into making the decision to walk away, thus reducing the number of state employees which in turn translated to long-term savings in salaries and benefits paid by the state.

On April 23 of that year, DPS Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux sent an email to all personnel informing them that the Department of Civil Service and the Louisiana State Police Commission had approved the retirement incentive as a “Layoff Avoidance Plan.”

In legal-speak, under the incentive eligible applicants would receive a payment of 50 percent of the savings realized by DPS for one year from the effective date of the employee’s retirement.

In simpler language, the incentive was simply 50 percent of the employee’s annual salary. If an employee making $50,000 per year, for example, was approved for the incentive, he or she would walk away with $25,000 in up-front payments, plus his or her regular retirement and the agency would save one-half of her salary from the date of retirement to the end of the fiscal year. The higher the salary, the higher the potential savings.

The program, offered to the first 20 DPS employees to sign up via an internet link on a specific date, was designed to save the state many times that amount over the long haul. If, for example, 20 employees, each making $50,000 a year, took advantage of the incentive, DPS theoretically would realize a savings of $1 million per year thereafter following the initial retirement year.

That formula, repeated in multiple agencies, could produce a savings of several million—not that much in terms of a $25 billion state budget, but a savings nonetheless.

The policy did come with one major caveat from the Department of Civil Service, however. Agencies were cautioned not to circumvent the program through the state’s obscure retire-rehire policy whereby several administrative personnel, the most notable being former Secretary of Higher Education Sally Clausen, have “retired,” only to be “rehired” a day or so later in order to reap a monetary windfall.

“We strongly recommend that agencies exercise caution in re-hiring an employee who has received a retirement incentive payment within the same budget unit until it can be clearly demonstrated that the projected savings have been realized,” the Civil Service communique said.

 

“A man with a briefcase can steal millions more than any man with a gun.”

Don Henley

 

Basically, to realize a savings under the early retirement incentive payout, an agency would have been required to wait at least a year before rehiring an employee who had retired under the program.

Boudreaux, by what many in DPS feel was more than mere happenstance, managed to be the first person to sign up on the date the internet link opened up for applications.

In Boudreaux’s case, her incentive payment was based on an annual salary of about $92,000 so her incentive payment was around $46,000. In addition, she was also entitled to payment of up to 300 hours of unused annual leave which came to another $13,000 or so for a total of about $59,000 in walk-around money.

Her retirement date was April 28 but the day before, on April 27, she double encumbered herself into the classified (Civil Service) Deputy Undersecretary position because another employee was promoted into her old position on April 26.

A double incumbency is when an employee is appointed to a position that is already occupied by an incumbent, in this case, Boudreaux’s successor. Double incumbencies are mostly used for smooth succession planning initiatives when the incumbent of a position (Boudreaux, in this case) is planning to retire, according to the Louisiana Department of Civil Service.

http://www.civilservice.louisiana.gov/files/HRHandbook/JobAid/5-Double%20Incumbency.pdf

Here’s the kicker: agencies are not required to report double incumbencies to the Civil Service Department if the separation or retirement will last for fewer than 30 days. And because State Civil Service is not required to fund double incumbencies, everything is conveniently kept in-house and away from public scrutiny.

On April 30, under the little-known retire-rehire policy, Boudreaux was rehired two days after her “retirement,” but this time at the higher paying position of Undersecretary, an unclassified, or appointive position.

What’s more, though she “retired” as Deputy Undersecretary on April 28, her “retirement” was inexplicably calculated based on the higher Undersecretary position’s salary, a position she did not assume until April 30—two days after her “retirement,” sources inside DPS told LouisianaVoice.

Following her maneuver, then-Commissioner of Administration Angelé Davis apparently saw through the ruse and reportedly ordered Boudreaux to repay her incentive payment as well as the payment for her 300 hours of annual leave, according to those same DPS sources.

It was about this time, however, that Davis left Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to take a position in the private sector. Paul Rainwater was named to succeed Davis on June 24, 2010, and the matter of Boudreaux’s payment quickly slipped through the cracks and was never repaid.

Granted, $59,000 is not a lot in the over scheme of things—especially with the state facing a budgetary shortfall of nearly $2 billion. But as the late Sen. Everette Dirksen said, “A million here and a million there and pretty soon you’re taking about real money.”

Well, no matter the amount, it’s real money.

Perhaps when Jay Dardenne takes over as the incoming Commissioner of Administration, he may wish to take another look at the manner in which Boudreaux took $59,000 in extra cash and then defied the directive by Davis to repay the money.

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MIKE'S DREAMS

THE ANONYMOUS CARTOONIST STRIKES AGAIN!

(Click on image to enlarge)

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I am certain that I will not agree with every move John Bel Edwards makes as governor. The re-appointment of Mike Edmonson as Superintendent of State Police comes immediately to mind. Such is the nature of politics. No man alive can please everyone every time.

And when I do disagree, as in the Edmonson re-appointment, I will say so. I believe Edwards understands and respects that.

In the meantime, I am willing give him a chance. He has a monumental task before him in his efforts to help the state overcome eight years of Bobby Jindal’s reign of error. He must form coalitions with Republicans in the legislature in order to even approach a successful administration. But I certainly don’t expect legislators to be the whipped puppies they were during Jindal’s misrule.

I gave Jindal that same benefit of the doubt. If I am to be honest, I have to admit that I voted for Jindal not once, but twice. I voted for him in 2003 when he lost to Kathleen Blanco and again in 2007 when he won. I honestly thought he meant it when he said he supported state employees and that he stood for transparency and a high ethical bar. I believed him when he said his appointments would be based on “what you know, not who you know.”

Well, we all know how that went down. He tried to gut state retirement, he destroyed the Office of Group Benefits, gave away the state charity hospital system, drove higher education to the brink of exigency (bankruptcy), and worse, he set a new low in the areas of transparency and ethics. And one only has to examine his appointments to the myriad state boards and commissions. They are dominated (and that’s putting it lightly) with major donors to his various political campaigns. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bobby-jindals-biggest-donors-benefited-from-his-administration_55e9e976e4b002d5c075fb17

https://louisianavoice.com/category/campaign-contributions/

Moreover, “what you know” didn’t go too far in other areas, either. The number of state employees and legislators he teagued for daring to disagree with him is a very long list. And his “deliberative process” catch-all denial of public records threw a heavy blanket on any hopes of transparency.

So, it was with some surprise that I read Rolfe McCollister’s diatribe in his Baton Rouge Business Report this week. https://www.businessreport.com/article/publisher-whats-big-secret

Of all the ones to whine about any lack of transparency on the part of the governor-elect who has yet to even take office, Rolfe stands alone as the singular standard-bearer of double standards.

He contributed $17,000 to Jindal’s campaigns in 2003, 2006, and 2008. He was treasurer of Jindal’s 2007 gubernatorial campaign and served as chairman of Jindal’s transition team after his 2007 election. He served as director of Jindal’s first fundraising organization, super PAC Believe in Louisiana, and most recently served as treasurer of Believe in Louisiana as it raised funds for Jindal’s presidential campaign.

His Louisiana Business, Inc. partner, Julio Melara also was a player. Melara and his wife contributed an additional $8,500 to Jindal campaigns

And what did Rolfe and Julio get in return for all that?

Well Julio wound up with a pretty nice appointment to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome Board), complete with all the perks that go with the appointment.

McCollister was named to the LSU Board of Supervisors and that’s where the hypocrisy really boils to the surface. Board members get choice tickets to LSU sporting events (including a private suite in Tiger Stadium). http://forgotston.com/2013/07/16/need-a-lsu-tuition-break/

And until the quota was reduced earlier this year, each member could award up to 20 tuition-free scholarships to LSU. Even after the reduction, they still get 15 scholarships each. http://theadvocate.com/news/11898955-123/lsu-board-revamps-number-of

Those perks could mean more than $100,000 per year per board member. In 2012 alone, the board handed out $1.3 million in scholarships to their friends—even as college tuition was skyrocketing for the average student with no contacts on the board. http://thelensnola.org/2013/07/11/lsu-board-of-supervisors-awards-1-3-million-through-little-known-scholarship-program/

Rolfe didn’t invent the perks and though he tied with two other members for the fewest scholarships awarded—five. But you never heard him raise a single objection to their abuse.

Rolfe, as publisher of the Business Report, purports to be an objective chronicler of political news. You would think that as such, he would champion all efforts to obtain records of a public body.

You would think wrong. He, along with four other members, did not respond to an email from reporter Tyler Bridges, then writing for The Lens of New Orleans, seeking comment. How’s that for transparency?

He certainly came off as a bit petulant this week when he went on a rampage about Edwards’s education transition team’s meeting in private “at least four times.”

There’s more. “McCollister notes it was Edwards who proclaimed at a Public Affairs Research Council forum in April that his administration would be more transparent than previous administrations, saying ‘a scope of secrecy’ has been allowed to exist,” his staff wrote today (Wednesday, Dec. 23). https://www.businessreport.com/article/publisher-gov-elect-edwards-transition-committees-discussing-public-education-big-issues-behind-closed-doors?utm_campaign=dr_pm-2015_Dec_23-15_05&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dr_pm

“But what does conducting all of the discussions of the transition committees behind closed doors in secret do for the citizens? What I haven’t seen yet is an editorial from The Advocate or The Times-Picayune objecting to the discussion of ‘public’ education in private. Why not? I thought transparency was their big issue.

Rolfe has a very short memory. I can’t recall the Jindal transition team over which Rolfe presided ever holding a public meeting prior to Jindal’s taking office. And when The Advocate, the Times-Picayune and the LSU Reveille were demanding the release of the names of all the candidates for the LSU presidency, where was he?

It’s hard to tell because the very one who should have been front and center in championing the right of the public to know who those candidates were, was strangely mute.

Not a peep out of Rolfe who was in a unique position to reason with the boy blunder to release the names.

Likewise, when the LSU Board agreed to that hospital privatization contract with the 50 blank pages, he should have been the first one on his feet shouting that a blank contract was not just questionable, but also not a legal document. Instead, he sat quietly as the contract was approved, laying the groundwork for the litigation over state hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe now winding its way through the courts.

Likewise, not one word of protest when the contract was awarded to a foundation in Shreveport whose CEO was…(wait for it)…a fellow member of the LSU Board.

“The public knows very little in specifics about what Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards will propose and how far he will take some issues,” McCollister wrote. “Transition teams are made up of a majority of his friends, advisers and supporters—or those who think like he does (and Jindal’s wasn’t, Rolfe?). While this exercise is often ceremonial, it can reflect the views and direction of the new governor—and his closest friends and allies who will be whispering in his ear for the next four years (and of course, you never once “whispered in Jindal’s ear, right?). The public education committee has had five meetings in secrecy. What did they talk about, and who said what? We won’t read or hear about it in the media because they weren’t allowed inside—and the press never uttered a peep (Perhaps they learned from your example on the LSU Board, Rolfe.).

To those who don’t know your history, you sound like a champion of pure, open government.

Unfortunately, your words fall far short of matching your actions. Those indignant protests would carry a lot more weight if you had the track record to back them up.

That’s called hypocrisy, Rolfe. And that’s unfortunate, though not necessarily unexpected.

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SEE YA, LOUISIANA

Didn’t we really know deep down how he feels about Louisiana all along?

(With appreciation to Gambit magazine of New Orleans) http://www.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/bobby-jindals-f-word-tour-of-louisiana/Content?oid=2837182

Don’t forget you may now pre-order a signed copy of my latest book, Bobby Jindal: His Destiny and Obsession. The revised publication date is now mid-February.

Also, we have an update on our Bye-Bye Bobby Bash, the gala that will celebrate the end of the Bobby Jindal eight-year reign of error.

The date of the event, originally scheduled for Jan. 9 (a Saturday), has been changed to Sunday, Jan. 10 because of a personal conflict.

The party will be held at popular Baton Rouge eatery/watering hole Superior Grill at 5435 (appropriately enough) Government Street from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. http://batonrouge.superiorgrill.com/

The only cost will be your drinks and/or food. We are charging nothing for this event. We wish only to have a gathering of people with one important agenda in common: witnessing the exodus of Bobby Jindal from the governor’s office.

Bobby’s got one foot out the door, but the effect of his carnage will linger for years. That’s why I wrote a book about him. We should never forget what he has done to this state. The book can also serve as an important guide to the political platforms of future candidates.

The book covers such Jindal disasters as the Office of Group Benefits, higher education, public education, health care, hospital privatization, and of course, his delusional quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

And don’t think for a moment we have forgotten Jindal’s supporting cast. Also examined are his staff members and a complicit, compliant legislature, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Grover Norquist, and the Koch brothers, among others.

If you order by clicking on the book cover’s image at the right, your order will be placed through Cavalier House Books of Denham Springs, a locally-owned independent bookstore.

Remember, I encourage you to order through Cavalier House?

Two reasons.

  • First, by placing your order this way, you support a local independent book store, a cause I strongly endorse.
  • Second, because I live only about two blocks from Cavalier House Books, proprietor John Cavalier will summon me to sign each copy before he ships them out.

 

If you opt to purchase through Amazon or a big chain store, you’re hurting local business owners—much like shopping at Walmart instead of patronizing locally-owned stores. Moreover, you won’t get signed copies through those outlets.

Unless otherwise instructed, each signed book will be personalized to the name of the person ordering it. If you wish your copy signed to someone else (if it is a gift, for instance), please email me at:

louisianavoice@cox.net

DO NOT ORDER YOUR BOOK FROM THIS EMAIL ADDRESS. Order through Cavalier by clicking on Jindal’s photo at right and email me separately on signing instructions.

 

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