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Archive for the ‘ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council’ Category

A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge has scheduled arguments for Tuesday in the state’s appeal of a DECISION by a 19th Judicial District Court judge last March that knocked down much of the Jindal administration’s arbitrary rule changes in the approval of medical treatment for state employees injured on the job.

The decision was another in a long line of “reform” movements by Jindal—and pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—that were subsequently found to be unconstitutional or simply fell apart. Some of those included public education funding, group medical coverage for state employees, public-private partnerships in the operation of state hospitals, prison privatizations and tax proposals.

In his March 30 seven-page REASONS for JUDGMENT that followed a Feb. 7 bench trial, District Judge Don Johnson noted that:

Because the legislature did not authorize OWC to create a new rule creating a “tacit denial” when the provider simply ignores a request for treatment, “the Office of Workers Compensation exceeded its legislative authority as (it) lacks the authority to create and implement procedural regulations that authorize the ‘tacit denial of requested medical treatment which is statutorily obligated to the injured worker by the employer pursuant to (state statute).”

Johnson also found that OWC promulgated rules requiring injured workers to meet a higher burden than the state statute for any variance in an injured worker’s treatment schedule are “vague and the regulations are arbitrary, denying injured workers’ medical treatment that Louisiana employers are statutorily obligated to provide…”

Johnson also found that the “scheme” for determining whether an injured worker can receive medical treatment outside the Louisiana medical treatment guidelines (MTG) “is unduly burdensome.”

Special Assistant to the Director Carey Holliday testified that he was hired to help “bring the judges into conformity,” according to the answer to the state’s appeal filed by attorney J. Arthur Smith III on behalf of several plaintiffs. Holiday did that by implementing judicial performance evaluations. While he acknowledged he could not tell judges how to rule, he could “put them together and let them talk” and that “there will be some conformity…to come out of that,” Smith said in his answer.

The most damning revelation to come out of last February’s trial was testimony of improper Ex Parte communication between insurance carriers and defense attorneys about the merits of injury claims pending before OWC judges. Those communications were usually in the form of emails.

For example, one such email from a workers’ compensation defense attorney to former OWC Director Wes Hataway, Holliday, and the OWC chief judge contained complaints that one judge had ruled against an employer. The email went on to say of the judge, “He should be fired immediately,” and implied that the judge’s skills were less than those of a first-year law student. “He will do as he pleases no matter what,” the email said. “If this isn’t grounds to fire a judge, I don’t know what is.” The defense attorney ended his email by saying, “I think it’s time for the W.C. judges to become accountable for their actions.”

Judge Johnson took a dim view of this disregard for judicial independence by the 2011 decision to remove of the decision-making authority of the OWC judges and place it in the hands of the OWC Medical Director, Dr. Christopher Rich.

Johnson ruled that OWC “has violated the separation of powers doctrine by compromising judicial independence” by giving unpreceded powers to Dr. Rich, who was awarded a $500,000 contract to serve as medical director.

Rich, if nothing else, is consistent. Previously involved in ethical problems with another state contract, LouisianaVoice wrote about an apparent conflict of interest. In March 2011, the State Ethics Board ruled that he was prohibited, in his capacity as Medical director of OWC from participating in any matter involving Central Louisiana Surgical Hospital, a facility in which he owned an interest and which provided medical treatment to injured workers.

As OWC Medical Director, he could deny coverage to a state employee and then refer the employee to Central Louisiana Surgical Hospital for private treatment.

And did he ever deny coverage to state employees once ensconced as medical director. He even testified in February that he ignored the clinical judgment of treating physicians, even specialists, giving no weight to the recommendations of treating physicians. Moreover, according to his own testimony, he never examined an injured worker even though he made the final decision on what, if any, medical treatment the employee would receive. He even overruled a neurosurgeon’s recommendation that an employee undergo a cervical fusion because he, Rich, did not deem it necessary.

Attorney Janice Valois Barber testified in February that Rich had denied 100 percent of her clients’ requests for medical treatment variances. Dr. John Logan also testified by deposition that 100 percent of his variances likewise had been denied by Dr. Rich. Dr. Logan said that many of his patients simply gave up, knowing they would never get approval for the medical treatment they needed.

Dr. Pierce Nunley testified that he performs spinal surgery on almost a daily basis. He said he has attempted to contact Dr. Rich regarding Rich’s repeated refusals of request for treatments that vary from the MTG but was never able to get through to Rich nor did Rich return his calls.

So now, the state is continuing to pour good money after bad by appealing the decision of the lower court in an effort to uphold what was—and is—a very bad policy in dealing with people’s lives.

To us, it doesn’t seem quite right that one man, who never even once examined a patient would deny 100 percent of all requests for variances in the normal medical treatment guidelines. Surely there were a couple of valid claims in all of that.

But by consistently rejecting each and every claim, Dr. Rich was enforcing the Bobby Jindal code of justice and fair play.

It might be fine for Jindal to sell his books to his foundation in order to divert money from his non-profit into his pockets but no injured worker had a right to receive treatment for his injuries.

It might be fine for a legislator to lease luxury automobiles, pay ethics fines or even income taxes from campaign funds or for legislators to place relatives in state employment, but we just can’t have judges giving these deadbeat state employees a decent break.

And why not? The money-sucking appeals aren’t costing elected officials and bureaucrats anything. The tab is being picked by those clueless taxpayers. And besides, the state has plenty money.

The three-judge panel hearing the case includes appeal court judges John Michael Guidry, John T. Pettigrew and William J. Crain.

 

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A question for Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis:

How much is enough?

And that’s not a rhetorical question. We really want to know what your limits are.

According to Francis, a wealthy man in his own right, he should be entitled to a free lunch.

Literally.

You see, the political campaigns of Public Service Commission (PSC) members, the Louisiana Insurance Commissioner and judges at every level are financed in large part by the very ones they regulate or do business with on a daily basis.

But apparently that association is not cozy enough for Francis, who wants to remove all restrictions on accepting free meals from representatives of utilities, motor carriers, and others regulated by the PSC.

Granted, the PSC purports to hold itself to a higher standard than actual ethics rules allow. Legally, elected officials are allowed to accept up to $60 per day in food and beverage under the guise of “business” lunches or dinners. But, as Baton Rouge Advocate columnist and resident curmudgeon JAMES GILL writes, the PSC, at the urging of members Foster Campbell and Lambert Boissiere, rammed through a rule barring all freeloading.

That didn’t sit well with Francis, who is financially solvent enough to daily feed the entire commission out of his petty cash account.

Saying he wanted the commission to be run like a business, he sniffed that a working lunch is “pretty standard procedure in the real work world.”

Our question to Francis then is this: since when is government run like a business? Businesses are run to make a profit; government is run to provide services for its citizens. The two concepts are like the rails on a railroad track: they never cross though they often do appear to converge.

And then there is our follow up question to Mr. Francis: isn’t it enough that you manage to extract huge sums of money from the industries you regulate in the form of campaign contributions? Why would you need a free lunch on top of that?

After all, your campaign finance reports indicate you received $5,000 from AT&T, $5,000 from ENPAC (Entergy’s political action committee), $5,000 from Atmos Energy Corp. PAC, $2,500 from the Louisiana Rural Electric Cooperative, $2,500 from Dynamic Environmental Services, $2,500 from ADR Electric, $2,500 from carbon producing company Rain CII, $2,500 from Davis Oil principal William Mills, III, $2,500 each from Jones Walker and the Long law firms, each of whom represents oil and energy interests. There are plenty others but those are the primary purchasers of the Francis Free Lunch.

LouisianaVoice would like to offer a substitute motion to the Francis Free Lunch proposal. It will never be approved, but here goes:

Let’s enact a law, strictly enforced, that will prohibit campaign contributions from any entity that is governed, regulated, or otherwise overseen by those elected to the Public Service Commission, the Louisiana Insurance Commission, judgeships at all levels, Attorney General, and Agriculture Commissioner.

  • No electric or gas companies, oil and gas transmission companies, or trucking and bus companies or rail companies could give a dime to Public Service Commission candidates.
  • Lawyers would be prohibited from contributing to candidates for judge or Attorney General.
  • Insurance companies would not be allowed to make contributions to candidates for Insurance Commissioner.
  • Likewise, companies like Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer and BASF, who control 75% of the world pesticides market, and Factory farms like Tyson and Cargill, which account for 72 percent of poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production worldwide, could no longer attempt to influence legislation through contributions to candidates for Agriculture Commissioner.
  • Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) could no longer accept contributions from individuals or companies affiliated in any way, shape or form with education.

While we’re at it, the Lieutenant Governor’s office oversees tourism in the state. In fact, that’s about all that office does. So why should we allow candidates for Lieutenant Governor to accept campaign contributions from hotels, convention centers, and the like?

This concept could be taken even further to bar contributions from special interests to legislators who sit on committee that consider bills that affect those interests. Education Committee members, like BESE members, could not accept funds from Bill Gates or from any charter, voucher or online school operators, for example.

Like we said, it’ll never happen. That would be meaningful campaign reform. This is Louisiana. And never the twain shall meet. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would see to that.

But wouldn’t it be fun to watch candidates scramble for campaign funds if such restrictions were to be implemented?

We might even see a return of the campaign sound trucks of the Earl Long era rolling up and down the main streets of our cities and towns after all the TV advertising money dries up.

Ah, nostalgia.

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Two seemingly unrelated news stories appeared in my laptop emails on Monday, one noteworthy for nothing more than its abject absurdity and the other even more so for the ominous threat it poses to the ability to hold elected officials accountable.

And while LouisianaVoice rarely delves into national politics because, well, truth be told, it’s admittedly way beyond my pay grade (and I was always taught to “write what you know”), both these stories have potential trickle down repercussions if any legislator is dumb enough to take his (or her) cue from the Man with the Golden Hair.

In the first story, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway issued a dire warning, heavy with legal overtones, to “be careful” BE CAREFUL what we say about her boss. Her remarks, of course, were directed to retiring Senate Minority Leader, Nevada Democrat Harry Reid.

Reid last week said the election of Trump “has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America” And that, in the minds of Conway—and presumably Trump—borders on libel (and, of course, “crooked Hillary” is simply campaign rhetoric).

It’s no secret that Trump, on the one hand, champions tort reform whereby corporations can be better protected from lawsuits over such trivial oversights as exploding batteries, toxic dumping, sexual harassment, etc. On the other hand, however, Trump has made it equally well know that he favors more liberal libel laws which would make it easier for public officials to sue.

Well, Trumper, you can’t have it both ways. The landmark case Sullivan v. New York Times makes it quite clear there must be a “reckless disregard for the truth” for a public official to recover damages.

Were that not the case, there might well have never been a Watergate scandal, the White House plumbers, Bebe Rebozo Iran-Contra revelations, Sen. John Edwards, the all-too-cozy relationship between Wall Street and The Clintons, Bushes, and even Obama or any number of other investigative pieces about public corruption. And to quote an old Baton Rouge State-Times editor responding to a reader who was irate over the treatment the paper was according Richard Nixon: “Exactly what is it about Watergate you would rather not have known?”

And out in Arizona, we have a bill pending BILL PENDING before the state legislature that appears to be right out of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) playbook and if it is, you can look for clones of this bill to pop up across the landscape, including, in all likelihood, Louisiana.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills (wouldn’t you just know it would be a Republican who wants to put the kibosh on the public’s right to know?) has introduced a bill that would make it more difficult to obtain public records if public officials feel the requests are “unduly burdensome or harassing.”

That’s pretty open-ended and a decided advantage to any public servant who feels my request might be “unduly burdensome.” Wouldn’t Kristy Nichols have loved that? No, wait. It wouldn’t have mattered with her; she simply ignored my requests until she was damned good and ready to comply—if she even decided to comply. Okay, Mike Edmonson. He’d feast on a law like that.

Lest you think such a bill would never pass, consider this: this is Kavanagh’s second attempt at passing the bill and last it passed the Senate by a 22-7 vote, but lost in the House by a 40-19 vote.

LouisianaVoice will be watching closely to see if any similar such legislation is introduced in the 2017 session. If it is, then we will know without a doubt that this is an ALEC-sponsored bill.

ALEC, you may recall, meets at retreats, mini-conventions and conferences to draft “model bills” for members to introduce in their respective legislatures back home.

More recently, it has launched a sister organization, American City Council Exchange (ACCE) that has the same goals as ALEC, only on a municipal as opposed to state level. One of ACCE’s objectives, outlined in an Indianapolis conference last July, is to have its members become familiar with public records laws and to “be on the lookout for frivolous or abusive requests.”

Sen. Kavanagh couldn’t have said it better himself.

But what he conveniently overlooks is this: In any company, be it a mom and pop hardware or one of those mega box stores, management has the unchallenged right to know what its employees are doing when representing the company, be it processing orders, reducing errors, or one-on-one contact with the customer.

The President, Congress, 50 governors, Kavanagh, his fellow legislators and other elected officials throughout the land are chosen by the people. They in turn hire subordinates to carry out the day-to-day functions of government. So Kavanagh and every other elected or appointed public official in this country works for…the people.

And we, the people, have a right to examine the work they’re doing on our behalf.

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As it turns out, that quote was attributed to Einstein in error but the fact that he never said it doesn’t alter the accuracy of the definition.

And for at least three decades, Louisiana along with the rest of the South, has insisted on following the same outdated industrial inducement policies first warned about in a 1986 report by MDC, Inc. (Manpower Development Corp.) of Durham, N.C.

One of the members of the MDC Panel on Rural Economic Development which produced the 16-page report Shadows in the Sunbelt was Dr. Norman Francis, then President of Xavier University and Chairman of Liberty Bank in New Orleans. https://gri.unc.edu/files/2011/10/Shadows-in-the-Sunbelt-86.pdf

That 1986 report was followed up in 2002 when MDC published a 44-page report entitled The State of the South. http://mdcinc.org/sites/default/files/resources/MDC_StateOfTheSouth_2014.pdf

Both reports said much the same thing: that the market had dried up. There were, the reports said, 15,000 industrial inducement committees in the South chasing 1500 industries—and if they relocated at all, it would be whether inducements in the form of tax incentives were offered or not. “At best, the states have assisted businesses in doing what they wanted to do anyway,” the ’86 report said.

“The factors which once made the rural South attractive (to industry) are now losing relevance,” it said. That’s because the South, which once boasted an abundance of low-cost labor, can no longer complete in the global market. Where American apparel workers would earn $6.52 an hour (remember, this was in 1986, but the numbers are still comparable), their counterparts in Korea and Taiwan earned $1 and $1.43, respectively, and Chinese workers made about 26 cents per hour.

Shadows in the Sunbelt called southern states’ tax incentives to lure business and industry a “buffalo hunt,” an analogy to the great buffalo hunts of the 19th century which nearly wiped out the North American bison population. “Yet the hunters (states) continue in their pursuit, hoping to bag one of the remaining hides,” the report said.

The stampede actually started in Mississippi 80 years ago through a program called “Balance Agriculture with Industry” whereby the state used municipal bonds to finance construction of new plants. That practice evolved into tax breaks offered to prospective industries as states began forfeiting property tax revenues to lure new jobs.

Today, Louisiana gives up about $3 billion each year in tax breaks and credits doled out in various programs, all of which are designed ostensibly to attract industry and raise the standard of living through more and better jobs but which in reality, do little of either.

What we’ve received instead are tax breaks for duck hunters, chicken plucking plants, Wal-Mart stores, fast food franchises and for industries that either (a) get the tax incentives but which soon shut down operations (Nucor Steel, General Motors) or (b) claim the creation of great numbers of new jobs but which actually are far fewer than announced.

In fact, the ’86 report said, a long-term study of job promises in South Carolina revealed that only 52 percent of the jobs promised actually materialized. In Louisiana, when Bobby Jindal ran for re-election in 2011, he claimed in TV ads that the Louisiana Department of Economic Development during his first term handed out incentives that brought 25,425 new jobs to Louisiana. The actual number, however, was only 6,729. That’s only 26.5 percent of the jobs promised. https://louisianavoice.com/2011/09/29/jindal-plays-fast-and-loose-with-jobs-claim-tv-campaign-ad/

The ’86 report said as much. “The costs of inducements offered to attract industry are also heavy—and in some cases counterproductive,” it said. Evidence showed that tax breaks did not significantly affect plant location decisions but states nevertheless open up the state treasury for companies to loot even though the benefits do not offset the costs. “Whatever the effectiveness of industrial recruiting in the past, current trends clearly indicate that its value as a tool for economic development is declining,” it said.

That was 30 years ago and we’re still giving away the store by adhering to a faulty ALEC-backed policy of favoring corporations over citizens.

As an alternative, the report recommended that in lieu of spending millions to attract out-of-state industries, states should implement programs to support local development and to encourage entrepreneurship.

The 2002 report, State of the South, only reiterated the recommendations of the study of 16 years earlier. It also should have sent a clear message to the Louisiana Legislature and to Bobby Jindal six years before he came to power. The latter report’s recommendations included:

  • Refocus state agencies responsible for economic development to pursue a broader, more strategic approach;
  • State governments should not measure success simply by the number of new jobs, but also in terms of higher incomes for people and improved competitiveness of regions within the states;
  • Modernize tax systems so that states have the fiscal capacity to provide excellent educatin, widely accessible job training, necessary infrastructure, and community amenities that enrich the soil for economic development;
  • Tighten performance criteria for industrial incentives—and encourage associations of Southern governors and legislators to reexamine the one-dimensional, incentives-driven recruitment strategy in favor of a comprehensive economic development strategy;
  • Dramatically expand efforts to erase serious deficits along the entire education continuum in the South, and bolster the education, health and well-being of children;
  • Draw on universities and community colleges to act as catalysts for state and regional economic advancement.

The 2002 report said high-poverty, sparsely-populated areas are last to get telecommunications infrastructure. More than 60 percent of the zip codes in the Delta areas of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana have no broadband internet provider which further widens the competitive gap for these areas. Yet Jindal rejected an $80 million federal grant to install broadband in Louisiana’s rural areas. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/11/80_million_grant_for_rural_bro.html

Because Louisiana, along with the rest of the South, made a commitment to low taxes, low public investment, and low education in return for jobs. That strategy trapped the state in a cycle of low-wage, low-skill industry “begetting more low-wage, low-skill industry,” and thus perpetuating the “Wal-Mart Syndrome.”

Mac Holladay, who served as head of economic development for three Southern states summed up the situation. “If we had put the vast majority of our economic development resources into incubators, small business services, export training, and existing business assistance instead of recruitment and overseas offices, it might have made a big difference.”

Tax abatements and other financial giveaways, the 2002 report said, “inevitably drain resources from schools, community colleges and universities—public investments that are crucial to long-term economic advancement. Incentives provide a better return on investment when they build a community’s infrastructure, provide workers with higher skills and attract jobs that pay markedly more than the prevailing wages.”

Even when Mississippi granted $68 million in incentives for Nissan’s assembly plant in Canton, a small town just north of Jackson, the company’s director of human resources told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that he could not name any Canton resident likely to be hired for one of the 5,300 jobs starting at $12 per hour. He attributed that to the town’s 27 percent poverty rate, 76 percent of out-of-wedlock births and 44 percent of adults without a high school diploma.

Carley Fiorina, former chief executive for Hewlett-Packard and more recently an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination said, “Keep your incentives and highway interchanges. We will go where the highly skilled people are.”

“Not so long ago,” said the 2002 State of the South report, “the South sought to build its economy by enticing companies from afar to relocate with the bait of cheap land, low taxes, and a surplus of hardworking but undereducated workers. That old recipe no longer works to feed families and sustain communities.

“No comprehensive strategy would be complete without further efforts to bolster public schools,” the report said.

“There must be a recognition that the ultimate challenge lies in the educational and economic advancement of people who have gotten left behind,” it said. “We must get the message out to every household, every poor household, that the only road out of poverty runs by the schoolhouse.

“The line that separates the well-education from the poorly education is the harshest fault line of all.”

Yet, Louisiana’s leaders insist on doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

And we keep electing the same failed policy makers over and over and over…

Insanity.

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It was bad enough Friday when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that career politician and former national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council Noble Ellington as his legislative director.

But at the same time, he announced the appointment of Marketa Garner Walters as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) at $129,000 per year.

Ellington, besides serving as national chairman of ALEC, was twice named Legislator of the Year. He left the legislature to take a cozy $150,000-a-year job as Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Insurance in 2012 even though he had no background in the insurance industry.

And it was during his tenure as ALEC’s national chairman that Bobby Jindal was presented the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award (you may want to check with the descendants of Sally Heming on that freedom part). http://www.alec.org/press-release/hundreds-of-state-legislators/

It’s beginning to look a lot like business as usual for the new administration. Like pro football and major league baseball, Louisiana’s elected leaders seem to keep recycling the same old familiar faces in and out of various state offices. The problem is, they are the ones who helped create the problems. So what makes anyone think they have the solutions now?

Take Garner Walters, for example, who served as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Services within DSS (DCFS) from January 2004 until November 2008, when she went by the name Marketa Garner Gautreau.

“A national leader in the field of children and family services, Marketa Garner Walters has worked for more than 20 years to improve the lives of children,” the governor’s announcement said. “As a public servant, a national consultant, and an advocate with deep roots in her home state of Louisiana, Walters has been able to create meaningful change in the lives of family and children over the years.”

So what’s so wrong with that?

Well, not much. Unless one considers her explanation for an incident in which a 17-year-old mentally challenged boy raped a 12-year-old boy in a group home during the time she served as assistant secretary for the Office of Community Services.

“Retarded people have sex—it’s what they do,” she said, sounding more like a GEICO commercial than someone responsible for children’s welfare. That bit of wisdom was imparted during her testimony before the Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission in 2008.

The Office of Community Services is a sub-office of the Department of Children and Family Services, formerly the Department of Social Services (DSS).

A former employee of the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ), then the Office of Youth Development, witnessed Gautreau’s testimony.

“In late 2008, DSS and OJJ were called before the Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission about a situation at a Baton Rouge group home housing both OJJ and DSS youth (and) where a 17-year-old mentally challenged boy raped a 12-year-old boy,” the former OJJ employee said.

“OJJ removed our youth from the group home at once and put a moratorium on placement there. DSS, the licensing agency for group homes, left their kids there,” she said.

When questioned by JJIC members, including (then) Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and (then) Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Kitty Kimball, Garner Gautreau offered a bizarre explanation. She said it was really not rape because the youths were of similar mental capacity.

When asked why there was not better staff security to keep the children from roaming around and molesting others, she replied, “Retarded people have sex. It’s what they do.”

The former OJJ employee was aghast. “I told my colleagues I’d wring their necks if they ever made statements like that in public hearings.

“We figured that (Gautreau’s testimony) was a career-limiting speech and we were not surprised when Ms. Garner Gautreau was shortly looking for another job,” the former OJJ employee said.

She added that OJJ stopped placing children in the same facilities as DCFS children.

There was “a consistent pattern of DSS failing to properly monitor and supervise group home operations and looking the other way when deficiencies were noted,” the former OJJ employee said. “Group homes were even re-licensed when still deficient and corrective actions plans were not being followed.

“The DSS review committee was a joke – the agency’s monitors looked the other way and ignored problems at the group homes, even when OJJ removed kids and notified DSS of deficiencies,” she said.

The intent is for private group homes to provide a safe, homelike setting for abused and neglected children who have been removed from their families. But the safety factor appears to have come up far short. Four rapes were reported over a 15-month period at two Baton Rouge group homes.

The Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization, released a 41-page REPORT ON GROUP HOMES in early 2008 that described filthy conditions and neglect of children’s education and medical needs at many facilities. Additionally, a 2007 report by the legislative auditor found that 90 percent of the group homes had deficiencies when their licenses were renewed.

Garner Gautreau, however, told the Baton Rouge Advocate that she had “a high level of comfort” in the knowledge that 80 percent of homes scored at an acceptable level.

Its report included problems that staff members observed themselves but also cited violations found in previous inspection reports filed by the state from 2004 to August 2007. Those include failure to assure proper medical care at 53 percent of the facilities and failure to assure proper physical environment in 69 percent of homes.

State inspectors cited 18 facilities for failing to have sufficient staff and found cases where homes failed to provide criminal background checks and in some cases knowingly hired people with criminal records, the Advocacy Center report noted.

“In some cases, we found evidence that the Bureau of Licensing had identified the same problems and cited the same facility over and over again. However, nothing changed,” said Stephanie Patrick, who oversees visits to homes for the Advocacy Center.

“I started following DSS failures when our staff consistently documented problems that DSS ignored,” the former OJJ employee said.

“Louisiana’s licensing statute for these facilities fails to provide an adequate framework for assuring the health, safety, and welfare of children in these facilities,” the Advocate Center report said.

What?!!

The state doesn’t assure the safety and welfare of children it is charged with protecting?

Among the deficiencies of the statute, the report said were:

  • That it grants final authority over residential facility licensing regulations and standards to two committees, none of whose members is required to be an expert in child residential care and treatment, and many of whose members are providers.
  • That it allows the issuance of licenses without full regulatory compliance.
  • That it requires the Department to seek the approval of the relevant committee before denying or revoking a facility’s license, and gives the committee veto power over such action.
  • That it does not permit DSS to assess civil fines and penalties when facilities violate minimum standards.

The Advocacy Center requested DSS’s Bureau of Licensing reports for the years 2004-2006 and up to August 2007. “A review of these reports shows that a shocking number of the facilities had serious violations of minimum licensing standards, including:

  • 38% of the facilities had violations relating to staff criminal background checks;
  • 62% of the facilities were found to violate minimum standards regarding children’s medications;
  • 53% of the facilities failed to assure that children received proper medical and/or dental care;
  • 33% of the facilities were cited for not following proper procedures or violating procedures pertaining to abuse/neglect;
  • 62% of the facilities were cited for not assuring their staff received all required annual training;
  • 69% of the facilities were cited for not assuring that children were living in a proper physical environment;
  • 36% of the facilities were cited for not having appropriate treatment plans or for inappropriate execution of children’s treatment plans;
  • 33% of the facilities were cited for not assuring that sufficient qualified direct service staff was present with the children as necessary to ensure the health, safety and well- being of children.

“Many facilities were found to be in violation of minimum standards on inspection after inspection,” the report added.

LouisianaVoice has been receiving unsettling reports of inadequate inspections of foster homes by unqualified DCFS employees. Those reports are currently being investigated by us and will be reported in future posts should they be substantiated.

Meanwhile, we can take comfort in the knowledge that Marketa Garner Walters nee Gautreau will be watching out for the children as the new secretary of DCFS.

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