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Archive for the ‘Civil Service’ Category

In 2013, the Louisiana Legislature passed and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law House Bill 703 which mandated that any state unclassified (appointive) employee earning $100,000 or more must be a bona-fide resident of the gret stet of Looziana.

The bill, which would become Act 264 of 2013 and which now goes by Louisiana Revised Statute 42:31, passed the HOUSE easily enough by a 70-20 margin with 15 members ducking out on the vote.

In the SENATE, however, it was quite another story with the bill squeaking through by a razor-thin 20-17 vote with two senators joining their 15 counterparts in the House in not voting.

The author of HB 703? That would be then-State Rep. John Bel Edwards.

Here are the specific provisions of the ACT:

  • Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, any person hired or employed in an unclassified position as defined by the State Civil Service Commission, and whose annual salary or rate of compensation is equal to, or exceeds one hundred thousand dollars, shall, within thirty days of being hired or employed at such salary, provide proof to his public employer that he has been issued a Louisiana driver’s license and that all vehicles registered in his name are registered in Louisiana.  This requirement shall be deemed a qualification for the position for which the person was employed or hired, and for the duration of the person’s employment in the event the person’s salary is increased and the requirements of this Section are triggered.
  • All government agencies which hire or employ any person in an unclassified position as defined by the State Civil Service Commission, whose annual salary or rate of compensation is equal to, or exceeds one hundred thousand dollars, shall verify that such person has been issued a Louisiana driver’s license and that all vehicles registered in his name are registered in Louisiana.  The public employer shall verify the employee meets this requirement for the duration of this person’s employment.
  • Any person hired or employed in an unclassified position who does not meet the requirements of this Section, or who no longer meets the requirements of this Section, shall be removed and terminated within thirty days of the public employer learning such person does not meet the requirements of this Section.

Credit for the introduction and subsequent passage of the law has to go to the late C.B. Forgotston who spearheaded a one-man campaign against state government parking garages crammed with vehicles bearing out-of-state license plates.

C.B. took it as a personal affront that Louisiana tax dollars were being used to hire employees from other states who wouldn’t even bother to register their vehicles in Louisiana. His reasoning was the workers were perfectly willing to take money from the state but weren’t willing to pay their fair share of taxes by simply registering their cars here.

One of the biggest offenders, he learned, was the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

Of course, not all the out-of-state employees were pulling down a hundred grand a year but there was this one guy that LouisianaVoice had occasion to write about.

His name was David Lefkowith, though his friends just call him Lefty.

When they see him, that is. Trouble is, he is considered a ghost by some of his co-workers who assumed he was long gone from LDOE. That’s because he doesn’t appear at the LDOE offices in the Claiborne Building across from the State Capitol.

You see, Lefty resides in Los Angeles and commutes to Louisiana if and when he has occasion to drop in to pick up an Enterprise rental at Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans and visit educational centers in Houma, Natchitoches, Lafayette, and Shreveport—but rarely Baton Rouge.

When LouisianaVoice first had occasion to write about Lefty back in 2012, he was knocking down $145,000 a year as something called the Director of the Office of Portfolio.

Act 264 of 2013 threw a monkey wrench in State Education Superintendent John White’s decision to pay Lefty $145,000 and when LouisianaVoice did a story recently about all the unclassified employees at LDOE pulling down $100,000 or more per year, a couple of LDOE employees expressed curiosity to LouisianaVoice as to why his salary was cut $45,000, to $100,000. LEFKOWITH IS NUMBER 197 on the list provided LouisianaVoice.

Well, truth be told, it was cut $45,000.10 to $99,999.90. That put him at a dime below the $100,000 threshold and allowed him to slither under the door.

That is a little trick White probably learned from Jindal who had a cute habit of issuing contracts of $49,999 in order to avert the requirement for proposals, or bids, for all contracts of $50,000 and above.

Still, commuting back and forth between California and Louisiana on a $100,000 salary doesn’t make much sense. It just doesn’t seem a sound fiscal decision unless LDOE pays for his flights back and forth.

Not so, says White.

I made a public records request for all expense payments made to Lefty and I also sent the following email to White:

From: Tom Aswell
Date: Friday, May 25, 2018 at 10:51 AM
To: John White <John.White@la.gov>
Subject: LEFKOWITH

John, for an employee no one in LDOE seems to remember seeing around the office, you certainly have paid him quite a tidy sum in travel and lodging expenses. I have a couple of questions in that regard:

  • How is he allowed to be a full-time employee of LDOE (at $100K per year) and reside in California?
  • What are his precise duties at LDOE. Please be specific?
  • What are his qualifications that you are apparently unable to find in a Louisiana resident?
  • Did you know him before he was brought into LDOE?
  • Does LDOE withhold state income taxes for Louisiana or California?

To his credit, White responded rather promptly, the very next day (a Saturday), in fact:

From: John White <John.White@la.gov>
Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2018 11:02 AM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: Re: LEFKOWITH

Here is the web site that lists what Dave has developed and leads at the Department: https://www.louisianabelieves.com/courses/all-things-jump-start.

Dave attended Yale University as an undergraduate and Stanford University for business school. He spent more than 30 years as a management consultant across a wide array of industries.  The work outlined above is unique among states and speaks to his capacity to lead the mission with which he has been charged. I was not familiar with him prior to becoming state superintendent.

Dave pays taxes in both states and is reimbursed for work-related travel within the state, as other state staff are. He pays his own commuting costs.

Thanks for the note.

John

As for Lefty’s management consultant duties, one of those was an ill-fated plan, uncovered by reporters Michael Pollock and Chris Davis of the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune (Davis would move on to become leader of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg).

In 1998, when Jeb Bush was running for governor of Florida, Enron, then a fast-rising Houston energy broker, was in the process of diversifying into the potentially profitable new field of water supply privatization through a subsidiary called Azurix Corp.

Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) David Struhs, a Bush appointee, was simultaneously promoting two concepts on behalf of Azurix: auctioning off blocks of water to the highest bidders and obtaining underground water and storing it for later withdrawal through a process called aquifer storage and recovery (ASR).

Enron sank $900 million in Azurix, hoping to duplicate the proposed action in two other states, California and Enron’s home state of Texas, as well as in South America. Ultimately, however, Enron lost $500 million when the project failed to materialize, eventually selling what was left of the company in 2001 to American Water Works as a precursor to the eventual collapse of Enron.

Struhs also pushed another project to deregulate energy in Florida and to open the state to competition by allowing companies to build power plants, using existing power lines for the purpose of selling electricity to the highest bidding utility or other customers.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Struhs was his good friend, David “Lefty” Lefkowith, president of Canyon Group, Inc., of Los Angeles.

Back in 1991, President George H. Bush named 23 industrialists and environmentalists to the President’s Commission on Environmental Quality and named Struhs to run the commission. One of the 23 commission appointees was then-Enron CEO Kenneth Lay.

When Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992, Struhs went to work for Lefkowith as vice president of Canyon Group. Lefkowith has represented as many as 60 different electric power companies through his company.

By 1998, Struhs was working for Jeb Bush and Lefkowith was on board with the ill-conceived Florida water privatization project. “I don’t think water is so damn special,” he said at the time. “If you let markets take over, you’d find water was cheaper, there would be more of it, and customers would be better served.” He neglected to explain how water quantity would increase.

Fast forward to 2002 and Struhs and Lefkowith were back at the forefront of market manipulation in Florida at the behest of Jeb Bush, but by now, their dealings were with electric power companies. Struhs was DEP Secretary and Jeb Bush had set up Energy 2020 Commission, a group assembled to study deregulation.

This time when Struhs brought him in as a consultant, Lefkowith was given unlimited access to all the emails of Bush’s Energy 2020 Commission members and staffers even though most of the 2020 commissioners never heard of him, never saw him (sound familiar?) and never knew he access to their correspondence.

On Feb. 4, 2001, Struhs’ deputy chief of staff, Mollie Palmer, ordered a half-dozen top DEP employees to start sending Energy 2020 Commission documents to Lefkowith with emails from Energy 2020 Chairman Walter Revell or from commission executive director Billy Stiles to be “forwarded to Lefty upon receipt.”

After receiving a copy of that memo, Pollock and Davis requested copies of all documents sent to Lefkowith but DEP officials responded that no documents existed. (That sounds much like the responses received by Capitol News Service from the Division of Administration and from the Louisiana governor’s office.)

“Who is this guy to get this information?” asked Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe. “From the tone and tenor of these emails and communications, he is directing energy policy (for the state). What authority does he have to do that? And for what purpose?”

Democratic State Sen. Kip Campbell of Tarmarac was even less forgiving of the practice. “Suppose I was sending letters to Struhs, like ‘here is my thought process on what we are going to do legislatively.’ And Lefkowith knows this ahead of time. Lefkowith might be working for Calpine and all those other companies and selling that knowledge for profit. I’d be willing to wager he probably was.”

Lefkowith also attended strategy sessions with Gov. Jeb Bush to discuss findings of the Energy 2020 Commission.

In addition, he lobbied Florida utility representatives in private meetings on the issue of building power plants in order to broker power sales.

He would later use the information he had obtained as confidant to Struhs and Jeb Bush to wrangle a consulting job with the Florida PSC.

So, yes, Lefkowith has worked with a lot of different entities but appears to have trouble remaining at one job for very long.

Now about White’s claim that Lefty pays his own commuting costs.

A check of his travel, lodging and meal expense reports provided by LDOE pursuant to our public records request turned up a couple of interesting tidbits, not the least of which was that the records appear to be incomplete with Lefkowith claiming many days of travel in Enterprise vehicles but hotel expense records that can only be described as spotty and sporadic with a lot of gaps. Accommodations for days at a stretch are unaccounted for.

From 2013 through current available 2018 dates, travel records show that LDOE has shelled out more than $21,880 for auto rentals, meals, lodging, and airplane flights to Austin, Texas, Cincinnati, and New Jersey.

On one occasion, on September 3, 2013, he drove an Enterprise rental vehicle 833 miles from New Orleans to Houma and Shreveport and back and even though he was in a rental, he charged LDOE for 99 miles at 51 cents per mile, collecting $50.49 in mileage. (Note: at the time, state regulations allowed employees to be reimbursed for a maximum of 99 miles traveled in personal vehicles as a means to encourage them to drive state vehicles. Regulations do not permit mileage payments while driving rentals.)

In July 2017 Lefkowith rented an Enterprise vehicle for 21 days, paid for by LDOE, and drove the car, a Chrysler Pacifica, from his Los Angeles home to New Orleans, a distance of 1,169 miles on your dime—$609.94 in dimes, to be precise.

So much for White’s claim that Lefkowith pays his own commuting expenses.

For that matter, the idea of paying his own commuting expenses on a $100,000 (oops, sorry. $99,999.90) per year salary just doesn’t make sense.

It’s enough to make one wonder just how many expense reports requested by LouisianaVoice were not forthcoming.

Surely any omissions were simply oversights.

 

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Just when you thought enough had been written about the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA), wouldn’t you know that the organization sent out solicitation letters to three members it had kicked out a couple of years back because they questioned the group’s political activity?

Talk about adding insult to injury.

But that isn’t really the story here. What’s interesting about this solicitation is that the Spring 2018 edition of Trooper Talk actually appears to sending out a not-so-subtle message that if you contribute enough money, you will get a handy little magnetic decal to stick on your vehicle to alert troopers that you gave and probably shouldn’t get a ticket for doing 85 in a 65.

Full disclosure: the story at the top of the page is an LSTA story about the appointment of Col. Kevin Reeves as Superintendent of State Police. Reeves is in no way connected to the LSTA fundraiser. This bulletin is published independent of Louisiana State Police.

And while the LSTA loves to point out how many wonderful projects it supports via its fundraisers, this time the solicitation seems to go out of its way to assure donors that, except for the cost of the newsletter and the decals, 100 percent of the money stays with the LSTA.

Maybe that’s because the LSTA is confident that the State Police Commission, the state police equivalent to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission, won’t lift a finger to investigate the association for its POLITICAL ACTIVITY even though such activity is clearly illegal.

The commission already has hired Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend under a $75,000 contract to conduct a non-investigation investigation of tens of thousands of dollars of LSTA political contributions funneled through the private bank account of its executive director David Young.

So, now there’s this Trooper Talk which informs potential donors that any contribution will get them a couple of window stickers that will, in case you are pulled over for a traffic violation, tell troopers that you are a cheapskate who wouldn’t even pony up $50. But if you give between $50 and $100, you will get a dandy “Silver Distinguished Donors badge.” Those donors will also be entered twice in a drawing for a vacation for two in the Canal Street Inn Bed and Breakfast in New Orleans.

Now this is just any old silver distinguished donors badge. It has a genuine magnetic back “and should be placed on the driver’s side of your vehicle’s trunk or rear door.” (emphasis added.) (Now, why would they suggest placing them there? For better trooper visibility perhaps, hmmm?)

What about those who give $100 or more? Good question. Those generous supporters will get a “Gold Distinguished Donors badge” and four chances at that dream vacation in New Orleans. Those benefactors will also be recognized on the LSTA website. (The site is visited by our troopers and the LSTA personnel,” the solicitation letter said (wink, wink).

And while the letter stresses that the money will remain with the LSTA, it would be unfair not to point out that the organization does do considerable charitable work with children and the families of troopers killed in the line of duty.

On the other hand, however, the LSTA recently announced that it was providing monetary assistance to members who were victims of the 2016 floods in Louisiana. But several retired troopers who also victims of the same floods complained that they received no assistance whatsoever.

Some of those same retirees have filed a complaint with State Police headquarters in Baton Rouge about the latest fundraising solicitation and its indirect suggestion that a large enough donation might help donors avoid a ticket.

 

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State Rep. Dustin Miller (D-Opelousas) has filed HOUSE BILL 724 that would provide an exception to certain provisions of the state ethics code that would allow a Louisiana Department of Health physician to skirt a conflict of interests—in other words, to circumvent the very situation ethics rules were put into place to prevent.

Miller’s bill would allow the physician, Dr. Harold Brandt, to perform in a dual capacity that has already been rejected by the ethics board in a 2016 RULING.

The ruling of July 18, 2016 informed Dr. Sreyram Kuy that he could not accept employment with a healthcare provider that accepted Medicaid payments for medical services because of her position as Medicaid Medical Director, Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Health Services Financing (BHSF) within the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), now LDH.

The decision, written by Jennifer T. Land, read, “The Board concluded…that the Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits you from being employed as a surgeon for OLOL (Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center), other Louisiana licensed hospitals and other healthcare providers that accept Medicaid payments for medical services while you serve as Medicaid Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of BHSF.”

Land cited the specific section which said the code “prohibits a public servant from receiving compensation for services rendered to the following persons: (1) those who have or are seeking to obtain a business, contractual or financial relationship with the public servant’s agency, (2) those who conduct operations or activities that are regulated by the public servant’s agency, and (3) those who have a substantial economic interest that could be affected by the performance or non-performance of the public servant’s official duty. OLOL, other Louisiana licensed hospitals and other healthcare providers that accept Medicaid payments for medical services are regulated by your agency, BHSF. Therefore, as the Medicaid Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of BHSF, you are prohibited from being employed by or from providing compensated services to these entities.”

What makes Miller’s bill particularly interesting, however, is that both Dr. Kuy’s predecessor, LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee, and his successor, Dr. Harold Brandt, each worked in that same position without bothering to request an ethics ruling, apparently falling back on the Nike slogan “Just do it.”

In fact, in the case of Dr. Brandt, LouisianaVoice has been informed that he was reappointed to the position with the proviso that Miller’s bill would be introduced in order to change the existing law to accommodate him. This despite the fact that an ethics review was requested of LDH legal to determine if such an arrangement was acceptable, and the answer was no, according to sources.

On Jan. 25, LouisianaVoice published a story in which it was revealed that Dr. Brandt previously served as Medical Vendor Administrator (Medicaid Medical Director) for LDH from April 7, 2016 to Sept. 2, 2017 at a rate of $156.25 per hour while he simultaneously served on the staff of BATON ROUGE CLINIC, which received $83,000 in PAYMENTS from LDH during Dr. Brandt’s tenure at LDH.

the Medical Director serves as chairman of the Medical Quality Review Committee, so LDH legal was asked for a second opinion whether any ethics concerns existed in regards to that capacity.

The response was the following potential issues identified under the Code of Governmental Ethics. The Medicaid Quality Committee (Committee) of the Louisiana Department of Health, Bureau of Health Services Financing, fulfills the role of the Medical Care Advisory Committee required by 42 CFR 431.12.  According to its Bylaws, the Committee provides focus and direction for Medicaid program quality activities that assure access and utilization of quality, evidence-based healthcare that is designed to meet the health needs of all Louisiana Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients through:

  • Establishing and maintaining sound business and clinical practices/benchmarks that ensure a system of internal controls and support optimal performance within established thresholds;
  • Driving meaningful and measurable collaboration between the LDH agencies BHSF, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), Office of Public Health (OPH), Office of Aging and Adult Services (OAAS), and Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities (OCDD), with a focus on demonstrating improved care and service for Medicaid recipients by using evidence-based guidelines;
  • Creating and sustaining a vibrant evaluation process for Louisiana Medicaid benefits and services and health care delivery systems that is based on integrity, accountability, and transparency;
  • Offering expertise and experience of Committee members to recommend improvements to BHSF that will serve to better meet the healthcare needs of recipients in a cost efficient manner;
  • Sharing Committee recommendations with recipients, providers and policy leaders; and
  • Forming subcommittees to address specific areas of care, as needed.

The Committee’s functions are advisory and shall include:

  • Monitoring ongoing metrics and ensuring findings are reported on a regularly scheduled basis (quarterly or annually);
  • Ensuring key quality initiatives are identified to align with regulatory and business requirements;
  • Overseeing quality improvement projects and ensuring coordination and integration of the quality improvement activities;
  • Reviewing performance results and providing feedback and recommendations to the MCO action plans; and
  • Participating in the evaluation of the Medicaid Quality Program by evaluating the quality, continuity, accessibility, and availability of the medical care rendered within Louisiana.

The Secretary of LDH appoints all non-permanent Committee members, which must include board-certified physicians and other health professionals familiar with the medical needs of low-income population groups and with the resources available and required for their care, in accordance with 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 431.12(d).  Additionally, the members of the standing subcommittees are appointed by the Louisiana Medicaid Medical Director, who serves as the permanent Chair of the Committee.

La. R.S. 42:1113B prohibits an appointed member of any board or commission, member of his immediate family, or legal entity in which he has a substantial economic interest from bidding on or entering into or being in any way interested in any contract, subcontract, or other transaction which is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such appointed member.

As such, La. R.S. 42:1113B would prohibit Medicaid providers from serving, despite 42 CFR 431.12(d) effectively requiring they be appointed to the Committee or subcommittees. LDH should consider proposing an amendment to the Code of Governmental Ethics to provide an exception for Medicaid providers appointed to serve on the Medicaid Quality Committee or any of its subcommittees.

Unconfirmed reports said that Brandt prevailed upon Gov. John Bel Edwards to write Dr. Gee to request that he be allowed to continue serving as Medical Director for LDH.

An attempt was made to reach Dr. Brandt at LDH but his phone line was forwarded to a non-working number. The Department of Civil Service has no record of his employment after last Sept. 2.

LouisianaVoice has made a public records request of LDH for all correspondence between Dr. Brandt and Edwards, between Dr. Brandt and Dr. Gee and between Edwards and Dr. Gee relative to Brandt’s employment.

LDH received an email today (April 3) from LDH to the effect that it would take 30 days to provide such records. It takes only a simple keystroke to retrieve such messages from email files, however. They can be produced in a matter of seconds.

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When an organization like the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) trots out sick children to promote its political agenda, one has to wonder about whether that organization is genuinely interested in helping the unfortunate or more focused on shamelessly exploiting them for the purposes of building and maintaining a political power base.

And when an attorney for that organization, its membership made up entirely of active and (some) retired state troopers, says it is a labor union, you have to wonder what, exactly, constitutes a labor union. State civil service employees are allowed to enter into collective bargaining agreements such as the one recently negotiated between the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Louisiana Department of Health. But state employees are not allowed to strike as would your garden variety labor union. And therein lies an important distinction that attorney Floyd Falcon conveniently neglected to mention.

And when a state commission shirks from its responsibility to enact a RULE CHANGE (See agenda item no. 4) to ensure that state troopers, do not fall into the same trap that KENNER POLICE OFFICERS did a few years back with regard to political contributions, you have to wonder about the qualifications of those commission members to serve—and where their allegiance lies.

And when those same commission members emerge from an executive session with a RULING already neatly typed up (obviously agreed to in executive session) to summarily dismiss its investigation of those contributions—meaning there necessarily had to be a polling of members during the closed session to confirm a predetermined decision, an action blatantly illegal under the state’s open meeting laws—you have to assume a deal had been cut in advance despite the staged and choreographed dog and pony show passed off as a public hearing.

In short, there is little to distinguish this assemblage from the commission makeup of two years ago, when a completely different cast of characters occupied commission seats. The current makeup is comprised of members equally lacking in backbone, scared to death, apparently, to make any decision of consequence. The preferred game plan is to show up for the monthly meetings, occasionally issue a ruling on some trooper’s appeal of disciplinary action, exchange pleasantries and go home.

Some might even call it pontification.

But when it comes down to making hard decisions, the rule of the day is to punt or, in a term attributed to the Louisiana Legislature’s refusal to address real fiscal problems, kick the can down the road.

But on Thursday, things came to a head and it didn’t take long for things to get ugly.

In the end, it was SSDD, with the commission pulling the artful dodge despite months of repeated assurances to retired state trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet that his complaints were “not falling on deaf ears.” By the end of Thursday’s meeting, it was not only deaf ears, but also see no evil, speak no evil.

Millet has been a worrisome pain in the backside for the commission, appearing every month with procedural questions and challenges, only to be repeatedly told his concerns would be addressed at the proper time. Well, on Thursday, he threw the commission a curve. In light of the commission’s consistent stand that it had no jurisdiction over the LSTA’s political contributions, he noted that one LSTA member, a retired state trooper who has been rehired by the Department of Public Safety and who is, therefore, a member of Civil Service, only this week entered into a settlement over political activity whereby he has agreed to two weeks unpaid time off. Millet’s revelation, initially described as a conviction, prompted Falcon into his best lawyerly OUTBURST (pontification) in which he called Millet a flat out liar in much the same manner as he called me a “chronic complainer” a couple of years ago.

One might even be prone to believe that the old guard is still pulling the strings of the puppet commission members. Someone surely was.

Cowed by Falcon, who insisted the commission had no jurisdiction over the LSTA, no action was taken against individual state troopers involved in the decisions to contribute thousands of dollars to political candidates, including Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards among others.

Falcon and the commission were right in the assertion that the commission has no jurisdiction over the LSTA since it is a private organization (and let’s be honest; it’s not a union, it’s a fraternity that operates its own bar—at one time even on State Police property). No one argues that point. But the commission certainly has jurisdiction over the actions of individuals in the LSTA who made the decision to launder money through its executive director’s private checking account—and to reimburse him for “expenses”—in order to facilitate the contributions.

That way of doing it, by the way, begs the obvious question of just why did the LSTA do it in that manner if the contributions were legal and above-board? Huh? Answer that question, Mr. Falcon (Hint: the answer is they were not legal and above-board). Any layman can see right through that little scam of washing the money through Executive Director David Young’s personal bank account.

And then to pay $75,000 to John Bel Edwards’s political crony, Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, to “investigate” the contributions only to see him come back to the commission and recommend that “no action be taken.” $75,000. No written report. $75,000. Just a verbal recommendation. $75,000. His contract (did I mention it was for $75,000?) called for a written report but it’s been two years now and the commission still hasn’t found sufficient cojones among its entire collective membership to demand that written report. $75,000.

But the most disgusting, most shameless, most exploitive part of the entire affair Thursday was the LSTA’s parading St. Jude’s patients and Dreams Come True children before the commission to demonstrate the fine, charitable work it does. No one denies that it gives to those organizations. It’s a fine thing to do and there’s not a person anywhere who would not commend the LSTA for that. But to use that as leverage for political gain is worse than reprehensible.

And too, the question remains: what in the name of benevolence does that have to do with the political contributions?

Better yet, why didn’t the LTSA take that money and give it to St. Jude’s or Dreams Come True instead of to politicians if you are so driven by goodwill? That would’ve been a helluva lot better use of the money than secretly funneling it to some politician as if the LSTA was trying to hide something—which it was. And as if LSTA might be trying to buy a little political influence—which it was.

A lot of folks give to St. Jude’s and Dreams Come True who do not make political contributions and if they do, they probably make them openly and legally, not through an employee’s personal bank account like a Russian oligarch laundering money through some shady real estate deal.

Here’s a good idea: do a video presentation of LSTA parties and post a photo of the liquor flask (I’m sorry, “pocket canteen”) sold by LSTA (complete with Louisiana State Police logo) on your Web page.

And be sure to emphasize how you support MADD in its efforts to curtail drunk driving.

And post those letters to the four retirees (including Millet) who you kicked out of the LSTA because they had the unmitigated gall to question those political contributions.

And tell us again how you want to keep civil service protection while at the same time be allowed to continue to make political campaign contributions.

And Mr. Falcon, Mr. Young, and Mr. Jay O’Quinn (LSTA President) please tell us again, the way you testified on Thursday, how, if the new rule prohibiting campaign contributions goes through, the LSTA will “cease to exist,” because truthfully, we’re in agreement with retired state trooper Jerry Patrick who asked: why, when for decades, LSTA made no political campaign contributions, it didn’t collapse then?

And Mr. Falcon, please enlighten us as to why, as you claimed Thursday, the LSTA “is no different than the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.” Because to us, the difference is quite plain. Sheriffs and their deputies are not classified (civil service) employees. State troopers, by contrast, most certainly are.

(Video of Millet-Falcon confrontation and link to dismissal of investigation courtesy of Robert Burns, who covered the commission meeting while I was taking physical therapy for a torn rotator cuff.)

 

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Editor’s note: The following first-person account was submitted to LouisianaVoice for publication. The writer’s name is being withheld because she is still employed at the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal and she fears for her job, her safety and that of her family. Several employees of the fire marshal’s office have already been fired or forced to resign because management suspected them of talking to LouisianaVoice. This post is certain to prompt a new round of interrogations and intimidation tactics to ferret out the new mole. But Fire Marshal Butch Browning may want to be very careful: if he finds and punishes or fires this individual, she will have no compunction about going public and naming names. She’s very angry and this is a bit more serious than decorating your uniform with military medals you never earned.

To her story, we would only add this question of Gov. John Bel Edwards: What are you going to do about this situation that this woman says is even now occurring on your watch?

I want to get right into my discussion, as recent news from around the country and world has allowed me the opportunity to tell my story.

I am a female employee at the Office of State Fire Marshal, Baton Rouge/Headquarters Office.

Over the past several years, upper management and the high-ranking deputies of this agency have sexually harassed me on numerous occasions—making inappropriate comments and sexual advances towards me. I have witnessed first-hand these advances being made towards others, as well.

I started my career with DPS a number of years ago and have been the victim of several comments and suggestions and subject to jokes about homosexuality and bestiality.

Several years ago, I was approached by a top supervisor about a special project to handle. While in his presence, he made it quite known that to “advance” in the agency, I would have to subject myself to him. I did not file a complaint, as I heard this was common amongst his bosses at Louisiana State Police.

I rejected those advances and went about my business. A few weeks later, another individual in my capacity told me about a similar situation she was involved in with another supervisor. The advances were brushed off and I continued to work at SFM. Several months later, a new employee with ties to the DPS compound (relative to higher-ups) was brought in the agency to handle similar clerical type jobs. I witnessed her being subjected to advances from several upper management heads until her abrupt departure shortly after. I was told she was just a temporary assignment anyway, and I moved on.

About two years ago, I was approached by the newest member of the executive staff. I heard from several sources in his previous agency that he was a man who knew what he wanted and just how to get it. It didn’t matter what kind of car he drove or uniform he wore, but he did things his own way. I was told that to move up in this agency, I was to kiss the feet of the new “Prince” himself. He was, in fact, related to a powerful politician. I soon recognized that this wasn’t just a made for TV movie about a corrupt southern town where the boss gets what he wants because he was related to the power brokers; I was actually living in a nightmare in real time.

Sure enough, the “Prince” approached me. It was just the two of us in the room, and he made his move. It began innocently enough about work. Then came the jokes about our personal lives. Then sexually suggestive comments that made me quite uncomfortable. I excused myself and we didn’t speak of it for the rest of the day. Sure enough, it returned. When I was again alone with him in the office, the story repeated itself. As a married mother, I brushed it off and changed the topic. But predictably, he brought the conversation around to just how well my career could/would be advanced had I given him what he wanted—ME. I was a young, dumb clerk who decided my family was important, and more important than me.

I decided to play his games.

When he made comments about my breasts, I joked and flirted back. When he said my rear end looked good, I joked and made suggestive comments again. Surely enough, he was falling for it. That’s when I decided to use this to my advantage and work myself to a better/higher position in this agency.

I asked him for favors and filed training requests to attend certain courses where I would be out of the office more. I asked to be assigned to another division where my work load would be decreased. I asked for a certain vehicle, and sure enough, it was mine—just like everyone said it would be.

It ended there. I made sure that it he knew that after I got what I wanted (and he got what he wanted), that was it. He was told that this would end it, and it did.

I am ashamed of what I did, but it was for my family and my career.

This man sexually harassed me, forcing me in uncomfortable situations to further my career.

Butch Browning knew about this but never did a thing about it.

Several, if not all upper management at SFM know about this, but are afraid to speak of it because of the fear they have for upper management and the highly-placed politicians who protect them.

I remain anonymous because I am still an employee with this agency, but I am very well aware of LouisianaVoice‘s articles about this office.

I am a proud mother and wife and I am truly ashamed for allowing myself to be harassed, but I know this story must be shared—now more than ever. This hasn’t ended. This happens every day, yet claims aren’t filed because of the fear of this man. Complaints can’t be made for fear of having them fall on deaf ears at the top—and for fear of the reprisals that would certainly follow.

To this day, I hear jokes about homosexuality and bestiality being made by upper management—comments about homosexual employees and our SFM K-9 dogs. To this day, I hear a joke about a woman’s vagina or a man’s penis size. To this day, I hear about management’s sexual conquests with deputies’ wives. To this day, I am told stories about affairs being carried on by upper management with clerks and deputies. To this day, I am truly embarrassed for what I put myself through. But I need to tell my story.

This is my story.

And I want it told.

It took incredible courage for this woman to come forward. Any other employee(s) with similar stories of sexual or racial discrimination at the State Fire Marshal’s Office is/are encouraged to come forward. Your identity will be protected above all else.

—Tom Aswell, publisher

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