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Archive for the ‘Attorney General’ Category

Attorney General Jeff Landry is a busy man.

Since taking office a year ago, he apparently has personally made 35 arrests and announced nine other arrests by his office for such crimes as child pornography, elder fraud, Medicaid fraud, workers comp fraud, public corruption, and even for attempted murder.

I don’t know if he packs heat on those arrest sorties. Shoot, I didn’t even know the State Constitution gave him actual arrest powers. Just shows how little I know, I suppose.

Obviously, he was too busy fighting Gov. John Bel Edwards to take an active role in bringing those other nine to justice but his crack investigative teams were certainly up to the task.

Here are some sample headlines to stories released by his overworked public information office:

You have to admit that’s a pretty impressive laundry list of activity by Landry who, in addition to running hard for governor, must also dispense legal advice to various political subdivisions of the state as well as doling out consumer tips about how to ward off con artists and various scams.

Oh, I almost forgot: He also is personally rescuing New Orleans from its ongoing crime wave by busting a few individuals for pot possession. Apparently he’s been watching that classic 1936 film REEFER MADNESS that warned us about the homicidal/suicidal effects of Marijuana.

In case you don’t wish to watch the entire riveting movie, here is a short TRAILER to the film.

Here are some comments made by Landry in those news releases:

  • “Our office will leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of making our communities safer,” said General Landry. “We will do all that we legally can to bring child predators to justice.”
  • “Medicaid fraud robs much-needed services from our State’s vulnerable,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry.  “Our award-winning fraud detection and prevention unit will continue working hard to uncover, investigate, and arrest criminals who defraud Medicaid.”
  • “Our office is on the front lines investigating, arresting, and educating to help stop the awful occurrence of seniors being targeted and preyed upon by scammers,” said General Landry. “We want to help Louisiana’s people avoid falling victim to mortgage, contractor, charity and other types of frauds commonly perpetrated on senior citizens.”
  • “Our office will investigate and apprehend those who exploit our State’s children,” said General Landry. “We will continue to bring child predators to justice.”
  • “I have an unwavering commitment to protect our children, and my Cyber Crime Unit will keep working tirelessly to investigate and arrest those who have exploited children,” said General Landry. “We will continue to use all resources at our disposal to apprehend and prosecute child predators.”
  • “My office and I will do all that we legally can to protect our State’s children from predators,” said General Landry. “We will continue to work with all law enforcement partners to catch child predators and bring them to justice.”
  • “My Cyber Crime Unit works around the clock to investigate and arrest child predators,” said General Landry. “We remain focused on these efforts in an attempt to prevent innocent children from being exploited.”
  • “Our office will continue to be a model agency in arresting illegal criminals and stopping them from exploiting our State’s children,” said General Landry. “We will keep working closely with our local, state, and federal partners to make our streets safer by bringing child predators to justice.”

But here’s the best one, assuming you like cruel jokes:

“As Louisiana Attorney General, I will do all I can to end public corruption,” said General Landry. “The federal government has had to step in many times to help enforce these laws and protect the public. The federal government should not, and will not, be alone in this mission under my administration.”

“Under my watch, we will enforce state ethics laws and not just rely upon the federal government to take the lead on this issue,” continued General Landry. “The people of Louisiana should know government officials, elected and appointed, are accountable for their actions.”

You gotta love that, given how we thought all this time the State Ethics Commission was responsible for enforcing state ethics laws with those fines that are never collected.

From the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE:

  • The task force made 11 arrests in New Orleans between October and December, his office said. Those arrests included six counts of marijuana possession, three counts of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, one count of illegal possession of a firearm and one count of illegal possession of a stolen vehicle. They also included four counts of producing and distributing fake drugs.
  • During the same three months, NOPD made a total 5,463 arrests, the department said.

Kinda going after the low-hanging fruit, aren’t you General? Not to mention pissing off the local law enforcement types with your headline-grabbing tactics for doing basically nothing.

And from the Baton Rouge MORNING ADVOCATE:

  • While he did not rule out a run for governor, Landry, 46, said he remains focused on his current job. He said he “despises people” who use one political office as a stepping-stone to the next. (Emphasis added.)

And of course, in the interest of being ever-vigilant on behalf of Louisiana’s citizens, he blocked John Bel Edwards when the governor attempted to retain some attorneys to sue oil and gas companies over the wreckage inflicted on the state’s coastal marshes. Granted, the attorneys Edwards wanted to hire were high-dollar but with one exception, they also had impressive success records in prior litigation against the oil industry.

But he said he “despises people” who use one political office as a stepping-stone to the next.

Didn’t a recent governor also insist he had the job he wanted—until after his re-election, when he openly and unabashedly chased an elusive Republican presidential nomination?

Between the ineptness of the Ethics Commission, the Office of Inspector General, and the Attorney General’s office, I’m reminded of the story about the baby chick questioning his mother about how he came to be:

BABY CHICK: Mom, was I born?

MOTHER HEN: No, you were hatched from an egg.

BABY CHICK: Was the egg born?

MOTHER HEN: No, the egg was laid.

BABY CHICK: Are people laid?

MOTHER HEN: Some are, but others are chicken.

The point here being maybe they’re all just a little chicken when it comes to enforcing ethics laws.

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Despite Inspector General Stephen Street’s impassioned plea for a stay of proceedings in the Corey DelaHoussaye defamation lawsuit against the Street and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) “for the sake of conserving judicial resources and preventing the waste of valuable taxpayer dollars,” it has been brought to the attention of LouisianaVoice that one of the biggest and most expensive law firms in Baton Rouge has been retained to defend OIG.

And apparently it’s not enough that the firm Taylor Porter was retained but the firm has assigned not one, not two, but three of its attorneys to the DelaHoussaye matter.

As evidenced by OIG’s MOTION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS filed on Nov. 15, Taylor Porter attorneys Preston Castille, Jr., Katia Bowman and Ne’Shira Millender signed off as “Special Assistant Attorney General Counsel to OIG Defendants.”

Talking about using a baseball bat to swat a gnat…

Not that DelaHoussaye is a gnat by any means. He appears to have a pretty solid case against Street and OIG, given that his home was raided by Street on the basis of a search warrant the OIG has no authority to issue and based on the fact that Street initiated the prosecution of DelaHoussaye even though DelaHoussaye did not work for any state agency.

It’s also telling that by the attorneys signing off as “Special Assistant Attorney General” counsels for OIG it is implicit that the Taylor Porter contract was issued by the Office of the Attorney General.

You may remember how Attorney Jeff Landry got his drawers in a wad over Gov. John Bel Edwards’ appointment of attorneys to represent the state in litigation against oil companies for their contribution to the destruction of Louisiana’s coast. Landry just flat refused to sign off on the contracts and Edwards was forced to cancel their appointments.

That’s because State law gives the attorney general the final say-so in approving the appointment of all lawyers who represent the state.

So what’s wrong with that? Not much except that LIZ MURRILL is Chief of the Attorney General’s Civil Division and as such has direct supervision over Taylor Porter.

And her husband, JOHN MURRILL, just happens to be a PARTNER at Taylor Porter.

Now I’m not an attorney but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once and it appears to me that the Taylor Porter contract comes awfully close to a violation of the STATE ETHICS CODE which says, in part:

  • GENERAL PROHIBITIONS (R.S. 42:1111 – 1121): For public servants, other than legislators or appointed members of boards and commission, bidding on or entering into any contract, subcontract or other transaction under the supervision or jurisdiction of the public servant’s agency. This restriction also applies to the immediate family members of the public servant and to legal entities in which the public servant and/or his family members own an interest in excess of 25 percent. (Emphasis added)

Granted, John Murrill doesn’t “own” 25 percent of Taylor Porter but he is a partner in the firm.

And the State Ethics Law covers that little contingency when it goes on to say:

  • 1112 – Participation by a public servant in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which any of the following persons have a substantial economic interest: (1) the public servant; (2) any member of his immediate family; (3) any person in which he has an ownership interest that is greater than the interest of a general class; (4) any person of which he is an officer, director, trustee, partner, or employee; (5) any person with whom he is negotiating or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment; (6) any person who is indebted to him or is a party to an existing contract with him and by reason thereof is in a position to affect directly his economic interests. (Emphasis added)

Does Taylor Porter and thus John Murrill have an “economic interest” through contracts with the Attorney General’s Civil Division?

Well, consider this: Taylor Porter, from August 2015 through November 2016, was approved for 13 contracts totaling more than $2 million, about $160,000 per contract on average.

And that didn’t even include Taylor Porter’s contract to defend OIG. That contract has yet to be entered on the state’s online LaTrac program, which lists contracts with every state agency.

Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation for all of this. If so, we’d love to hear it.

Otherwise, we’ll just refer to the immortal words of the late C.B. Forgotston:

“You can’t make this stuff up.”

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This is a story with no readily apparent good guys.

It’s a story about charges of theft of heavy equipment.

It’s a story about thousands of dollars floating around unaccounted for by public officials.

It’s the story of the attorney general’s office abruptly halting a confrontational deposition.

It’s a story about a Baton Rouge judge having the decency and courage to impose (finally) a stiff financial penalty against a state agency over the agency’s failure to complete the deposition or to produce legally required public records.

It’s a story of how the superintendent of State Police was unable to account for the receipt of two checks totaling nearly $150,000 and how the state attorney general’s office and its former rogue investigator wound up with egg all over their already questionable reputations.

And, of course, it’s a story of how the taxpayer and not the public official responsible ultimately will bear the cost of those penalties.

It all began in May 2014 with the indictment of Joseph Palermo of Sulphur on five counts of possession of stolen things, destruction of serial numbers and forgery.

http://www.kplctv.com/story/25298149/five-count-indictment-unsealed-against-sulphur-businessman

Palermo previously got crossways with state police over operation of casinos in Calcasieu Parish and he settled that civil matter back in 1998 but prosecutors, apparently still nursing a grudge over the casino gambit, brought up the 1998 trouble in connection with his more recent problems. Things have a way of playing out that way for some people.

In February 2015, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of receiving “ill-gotten gains” in a plea bargain in which he agreed to paying civil penalties of $1.2 million over three years with expenses to the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s office coming off the top. After expenses, the $400,000 per year was to be divided equally between the Calcasieu DA, the attorney general and State Police ($133,333.34 each). An additional $14,792.55 was what remained after the district attorney’s expenses were paid.

Identical checks of $14,792.55 and $133,333.34 were then issued to Louisiana State Police and the attorney general’s office. State Police, however, initially had no record of receipt of the funds.

Moreover, neither of the checks to the attorney general’s office was ever negotiated and it took more than a little effort to get State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson to acknowledge his office had received the money. State Police’s financial section has no record of the checks, nor is there any record of the checks having been deposited in state police accounts.

In February of this year, Palermo began efforts to obtain certain records from the attorney general’s office, specifically those pertaining to the criminal investigation of his case by Scott Bailey, then employed as an investigator for the attorney general’s office.

Bailey, in addition to being a central figure in the botched CNSI investigation of a couple of years back, holds the dubious distinction of being the investigator who photographed Jimmy Swaggart exiting his infamous rendezvous with the hooker in that seedy Metairie motel three decades ago. (Some claims to fame you just want to hang onto for whatever reasons).

Bailey resigned from the attorney general’s office the very day he was directed to provide all his time management records for all his investigations.

The records by Palermo from the attorney general were insufficient to meet the parameters of his request, so he tried again and this time he was met with a response that the records, after all, were exempt from public disclosure despite the investigation of Palermo having been completed for more than a year.

The legal back and forth jockeying continued with two separate legal actions by Palermo—one for public records and the other to force deposit of the checks into the court’s registry pending a determination of to whom the money actually belonged—being consolidated into a single lawsuit. Finally, it culminated in a deposition scheduled for October 27 in Lake Charles.

Alas, it was not to be.

State attorney Chester Cedars abruptly called an end to the deposition only a few minutes into the proceedings, acknowledging he was doing so at his own peril.

On Monday, 19th Judicial District Judge Don Johnson of Baton Rouge came down hard on the attorney general’s office and we would be less than honest if we didn’t admit we are delighted (so much for any pretense of objectivity).

It was such a beautiful order, we’re reproducing some of the wording here:

“Judgment is hereby entered herein in favor of Joseph R. Palermo, Jr. and against Jeff Landry, in his official capacity as the Attorney General of Louisiana, in the amount of twenty-five thousand and no/100 dollars ($25,000.00) payable within 30 days from November 14, 2016.”

Here is the judgment in its entirety.

One courtroom observer speculated that Cedars would likely take writs to the Louisiana Supreme Court on the matter of the amount of the fine.

That’s unlikely, however, because of Cedars’s own admission at the time he suspended Bailey’s deposition.

It is part of the transcript of the deposition and Cedars tells opposing counsel Christopher Whittington, “…I do so at the defendant’s peril. I fully understand that if I’m incorrect in the assertions and the law as I understand it, or in the facts as I understand it, then we are going to have to pay the appropriate sanctions.”

WHITTINGTON: “Okay. And we will move for those sanctions pursuant to Article 1469.”

http://www.laboards-commissions.com/MCBD.pdf

You have to wonder how that little on-the-record exchange and Judge Johnson’s ensuing fine are going to sit with Cedars’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Landry (Of course Landry has his own problems, having recently dodged service on a subpoena in the ongoing litigation with Gov. John Bel Edwards over the governor’s non-discriminatory executive order).

Now, if we can just find out what happened to those two checks after they arrived at State Police headquarters…

(Special thanks to Robert Burns for scurrying around and digging up valuable court documents for this story.)

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No sooner had The Donald pulled off the biggest political upset since dewey-defeats-trumanthan the speculation on who would hold which cabinet position had begun. And it got downright scary.

There was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani being touted as Attorney General.

Yep. That’s all we need: A doddering old has-been who has all he can handle to remember his own name standing in as the premier legal authority in the land. He’s probably the only one who could make John Mitchell look good.

And Newt-for-God’s-sake-Gingrich as Secretary of State?

And the Republicans thought Hillary was bad in that role?

Next thing you know, Trump will be tossing out Charles Koch’s name as Secretary of the Interior.

And how about Chris Christie as Secretary of Defense?

Or Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback as Secretary of the Treasury? I mean, look what he’s done for that state’s finances.

But according to The Wall Street Journal, in a story quickly picked up by state media, a familiar name (to Louisianans, that is) is being pitched as a potential choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Bobby Jindal.

Are you kidding me?

Apparently not. http://www.wdsu.com/article/report-former-gov-bobby-jindal-being-considered-for-cabinet-role-in-trump-administration/8263712

For some reason the locals believe that because he worked for former Gov. Mike Foster as Secretary of Health and Hospitals and for former President George W. Bush as a special adviser to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he somehow has a shot at a similar role in the Trump administration.

I would refer those reporters to chapters 30 through 37 of my book Bobby Jindal: His Destiny and Obsession. Those chapters include the sordid details of how Jindal single-handedly dismantled the state’s model public teaching hospital system to benefit a few greedy political hangers-on—even to the point of signing off on a contract containing 50 blank pages. A rhetorical question: would anyone reading this ever sign his or her name to any document containing even one blank page?

As an added bonus, I would refer you to Chapter 17 of the book which details how Jindal’s Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols landed a cushy lobbying position with Ochsner Health System after helping negotiate a deal whereby Ochsner would partner with Terrebonne General Medical Center to take over operation of the state’s Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma.

At least the WSJ thought to mention failed GOP presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson as also being under consideration for the Health and Human Services post.

That would, after all, make a little more sense. After all, Carson did pipe up from time to time on behalf of Trump’s candidacy. We heard nary a peep from the Louisiana wannabe wunderkind Piyush Jindal after he removed himself from the Republican presidential sweepstakes last November…and no one noticed (of course they didn’t notice while he was running, either). All he did was join the board of some Texas corporation and quickly fade from memory—helping the Republican Party but crushing my book sales in the process.

Hey, Donald, here’s a heads-up. After Tuesday’s race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter, there are two former U.S. Representatives who ran unsuccessfully for the upper chamber who are now unemployed.

And they both just happen to be doctors.

But how can you trump (pun intended) a Rhodes Scholar?

If James Comey wasn’t doing such a splendid job, you might even consider Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson to head up the FBI. Think how regal he’d look sitting behind old J. Edgar’s desk.

But while you’re at it, you may be needing a new Secretary of Immigration and Border Protection. We understand David Duke just pulled an astonishing 3 percent of the vote in that same U.S. Senate race and may be looking for something to do. And we already know the rapport he has with minorities. Why, he’d fit right in.

And while you’re at it, you may be on the lookout for someone to replace Jeh Johnson as Secretary of Homeland Security.

There’s this fellow who previously did such a stellar job running the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control—into the ground. Troy Hebert did even worse than Duke, racking up a whopping .5 percent of the vote in the 24-person Senate race. That’s one-half of one damn percentage point. Imagine what he could do for Homeland Security.

He may even still have his badge from his ATC days.

Yep, Donald, if you’re looking for washed up political has-beens to lead your administration—and it appears that you are—we have a boatload of ‘em down here in Louisiana.

Take your pick.

Please.

(Apologies to Henny Youngman.)

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An interesting news release appeared in our email inbox on Thursday (Sept. 1).

The headline beneath the official portrait of Attorney General Jeff Landry proclaimed:

Attorney General Jeff Landry Makes Louisiana Public Corruption Arrest

As if the inference that Landry made the collar all by himself were not enough, the sub-headline said:

 AG Stresses Commitment to Holding Government Officials Accountable

Here is the news release in its entirety:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry today announced an arrest made in Jonesville on charges related to violating the public’s trust.

 “In order to make our state an even better place, we must end Louisiana’s checkered past of public corruption and abuse of government offices,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry (how many times can you get the name Jeff Landry in a single news release?). “This arrest highlights our commitment to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute those who defraud our State and its people (remember that statement: it comes up again later in this post). And our office will keep working with local, state, and federal partners to hold government officials accountable.”

 Leigh Ann Ingram, a former utility clerk for the Town of Jonesville, was arrested on charges of theft (over $25,000), malfeasance in office, and computer fraud. Ingram is accused of diverting over $25,000 worth of utility payments and falsifying computer records to avoid getting caught. She allegedly received cash from customers paying their electric bills and diverted the funds foe personal use.

Based on the comparison of witness statements, cash receipts, time sheets, computer log reports, and other evidence, investigators from General Landry’s Louisiana Bureau of Investigation and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office determined that Ingram altered computer records on times and dates in which she was the only clerk in attendance.

Ingram, 47, of Jena, was arrested on August 31, 2016, and booked at the Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office.

That should give us a warm fuzzy just as the announcement in February by Inspector General Stephen Street should help us all sleep better at night.

In that announcement, Street informed us that Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Kimberly Deann Lee, 49, surrendered to authorities and was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison after being charged with falsifying reports and time sheets and for malfeasance in office.

 

After Bobby Jindal cut funding for DCFS, case workers were laid off and those remaining found themselves with impossible caseloads and no transportation for field work after repairs went undone. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/13/dcfs-funding-slashed-necessitating-driveway-visits-but-overworked-caseworker-is-arrested-for-falsifying-records/

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, LouisianaVoice continues to ask the unanswered question:

How is that the Attorney General and the Inspector General can be so vigilant in pursuing low-level employees while turning a blind eye to those with political clout who are equally guilty of abusing their office for financial gain?

Quite frankly, we have little patience for and even less confidence in those who are in a position to accomplish meaningful reform but choose to pick low-hanging fruit, i.e. rank and file employees with neither the financial means nor the political pull to mount an aggressive defense.

Take the lingering—and obviously ignored—case of Jill Boudreaux.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/

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.

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.

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, Jindal’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, 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.

Six years later, in February of this year, Boudreaux finally retired for real, reportedly at the insistence of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who considered Boudreaux and the duplicitous maneuver and her accompanying financial windfall as something of an embarrassment.

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/02/29/dps-undersecretary-jill-boudreaux-retiring-for-real-this-time-6-years-after-taking-incentive-buyout-at-governors-directive/

When considering how Boudreaux successfully milked the system for what would appear to be a less than legitimate financial gain, one has to wonder how she manages to escape the self-serving law and order diligence of Landry and Street.

Or are their efforts to rid the state of official corruption a case study in selective justice?

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