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Archive for the ‘Commissions’ Category

The ongoing soap opera of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), which in no way resembles its membership makeup of a little more than a year ago, continues unabated.

In a relatively short time, the commission has undergone a complete membership turnover, has seen two commission chairmen resign under pressure, a member resigning in protest over what he called a lack of integrity on the part of fellow commissioners, the resignations or removals of other members, and the forced resignation of its executive director.

Now that former executive director, Cathy Derbonne, is back with a vengeance—and with an attorney known in Baton Rouge for taking on the establishment in a take-no-prisoners frontal assault.

Derbonne and her attorney, Jill Craft, have filed suit against the Louisiana State Police Commission, claiming that then-Commission Chairman T.J. Doss, commission member Jared Caruso-Riecke, Louisiana State Police upper command (including then-Superintendent Mike Edmonson) conspired to force her from the job she had held for eight years.

DERBONNE PETITION

She claims in her lawsuit that the reprisals started after she initiated an investigation into reports that members of the commission and the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) had violated regulations against political activity by making monetary contributions to several political campaigns, including that of Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards.

She alleges in her petition that Doss was sharply critical of her at the LSTA convention held in Lafayette in June 2016. She claims that Doss said the furor over the political contributions were her fault and that she “had lost her mind.”

She says a year later, on July 14, 2016, Doss was detailed from his job in Troop G in Shreveport to Baton Rouge headquarters “with the purpose of closely monitoring and observing (Derbonne’s) daily routine,” and the following day he appeared unannounced in her office to ask when was the last time she had been evaluated “which petitioner (Derbonne) understood was a threat.”

When she brought an unlawful pay increases of as much as 32 percent for Edmonson and four of his top deputies to the attention of the Legislative Fiscal Office in September 2016, many of her administrative duties were taken from her by the commission through the efforts of Doss.

She said on Jan. 7 of this year she received an anonymous letter warning her that Doss, by then elevated to commission Chairman, was leading a “secret charge” for her removal. Five days later, at the Jan. 12 commission meeting, she was told that the commission had the necessary votes to remove her. They pressured her to resign, saying they would humiliate her in public.

She did resign but says in her lawsuit that she was harassed and “constructively discharged” in reprisal for her engaging in activities protected under state statute.

She is requesting a trial by jury.

Only two members, Jared-Riecke and Eulis Simien, Jr., remains from the commission membership that convened on Jan. 12. The commission’s primary function is to consider appeals of disciplinary action against state troopers. But like the administration of former Superintendent Edmonson, it has been rocked with one controversy after another which has made it nearly impossible for it to formulate any cohesive action other than damage control and finding new creative ways to embarrass the Edwards administration.

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I was in attendance at one of my grandchildren’s school Veterans’ Day programs on Thursday and unable to attend the first meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) in several months but suffice it to say something major is brewing with this newly-made over body.

And whatever it is doesn’t to appear to bode well for the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA).

It was the first meeting of the commission since August which, coincidentally, was also the last meeting for former Chairman State Trooper T.J. Doss and former Vice Chair Monica Manzella. Both have since resigned and Doss, LouisianaVoice is told, has been on extended sick leave.

Doss was succeeded to the chairman’s position by Baton Rouge attorney Eulis Simien, Jr. and Dr. Michael W. Neustrom of Lafayette replaced Manzella as vice chairman.

But most puzzling was the executive session entered into by the commission.

When the motion was made to go into closed session the belated reason given was to discuss pending litigation—even though there is no pending litigation at the present time against the commission.

Upon exiting, however, commission legal counsel Lenore Feeney amended that reason, saying the executive session was for the discussion of “allegations of misconduct,” according to some in attendance.

And upon returned from behind closed doors, commission members were said to be in a much fouler mood than when they went in, an indication there may have been something a little more intense taking place out of sight of attendees.

Simien, normally an amiable sort, immediately launched into a lecture to those there about how business would be conducted differently in the future and that decorum would strictly adhered to.

If there is to be any investigation of “alleged misconduct,” it could be on one or both of two issues: that San Diego trip taken by State Police in October of 2016 and which resulted in disciplinary action against three troopers who have appealed their discipline to the commission.

The commission voted to consolidate the three appeals into one case and also decided to discard the non-report of Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend who was paid $75,000 to investigate and report on possible illegal campaign contributions by the LSTA to various politicians.

The campaign contributions were actually made through the LSTA’s executive director David Young’s personal checking account. Young subsequently billed the association for reimbursement in an apparent effort to circumvent state law prohibiting political activity by state classified employees.

Taylor’s contract, for which he was paid $75,000, called for him to investigate the matter and submit a report of his findings to the LSPC. Instead, he simply told the commission that he recommended “no action” be taken on the matter and the board, which had a completely different makeup at that time, accepted his report.

Since then, the entire board membership, as well as its executive director, has changed dramatically, with almost all the members resigning for various reasons.

Townsend has yet to submit a report the board even though he has been asked to do so on several occasions.

Now, apparently, with a new board in place—with the exception of two positions which remain vacant—a change of heart has taken place and the commission is at least acting like it is serious about investigating the contributions.

One thing is for certain, however:

If the commission was unsure of the real reason for Thursday’s executive session, that can only mean its purpose was illegitimate to begin with. There are specific reasons for executive sessions and the law is narrowly written so as to prevent abuse of the state’s open meeting laws.

To give one reason going into executive session only to change the reason upon exiting is subterfuge in its most blatant form and an action that thumbs its nose at the law itself—from an agency whose very purpose is to ensure compliance with the law.

If there is to be an executive session, public bodies in Louisiana are required to give notice in advance, as an agenda item—in other words, in writing—and to give the reason. Anything else is a lie. They can’t make up the rules on the fly. And they certainly can’t go into closed session and decide the reason for the secrecy after the fact.

Any legal counsel who advises a public agency, body, board, or commission should know the state’s open meetings law (R.S. 42:11) and the Executive Session provision (R.S. 42:16) forward and backward. That requirement comes with the job. http://parlouisiana.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Open_Meetings_Law.pdf

We thought they had learned that in one memorable meeting several months ago when Townsend suggested an executive session and when asked the reason, said—with a perfectly straight face—“We don’t have to give one.”

Uh…yes you do. And it’s more than a little disturbing that it took a layman to inform him of the law at that meeting.

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Jacob Colby Perry has been CRAPPed (Crazed Reaction Against Public Participation), BLAPPed, (Blowhard Letter Against Public Participation) and SLAPPed (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) as reward for his efforts to obtain answers from the Welsh City Council, particularly as those answers pertain to expenditures of the Welsh Police Department which consistently (as in every month) exceeds the department’s budget.

And he’s a member of the town’s board of aldermen, whose job it is to oversee the town’s various budgets, including that of the Police Department.

Welsh, for those who may not know, is a small town situated on I-10 in the middle of Jefferson Davis Parish. Jeff Davis Parish is located between Acadia Parish on the east and Calcasieu Parish on the west and sits immediately north of the easternmost part of Cameron Parish.

The town has 3,200 residents.

And 18 police cars (one for every officer to take home from work). The budget for those patrol cars, which are not all purchased in the same fiscal year, is $169,000.

Other line items in the police department’s budget include:

  • Police Chief—$100,990 (of which amount, $76,120 is for the Chief Marcus Crochet: $55,000 salary, $4,207.50 in Social Security payments, and $16,912.50 for his retirement);
  • Police Patrol—$593,077 ($32,948 per vehicle);
  • Police Training—$8,000;
  • Police Communications—$295,342 ($16,400 per officer);
  • Police Station and Buildings—$52,300.

BUDGET

All that for a town of 3,200.

From June 2016 through February 2017, the monthly expenditures and monthly overages (in parenthesis) for the police department were:

  • June 2016: $105,681.35 ($24,345.77);
  • July 2016: $79,595.23 ($1,840.35);
  • August 2016: $71,348.81 ($10,085.77);
  • September 2016: $132,857.05 ($51,421.47);
  • October 2016: $78,881.21; ($2,554.37);
  • November 2016: $108,732.82 ($24,297.24);
  • December 2016: $77,098.58 ($4,337.00)
  • January 2017: $79,945.66 ($1,489.92);
  • February 2017: $84,139.83 ($2,704.25)

TOTAL: $818,280.54 ($82,360.32).

That’s a nine-month average expenditure of $90,920.06, or an average monthly overage of $9,484.48.

Projected out for the entire fiscal year, the police department’s expenditures would be $1,091,040.72 or a projected fiscal year overage of $113,813.72.

OVERAGES

Did I mention that Welsh is a town of 3,200 living souls?

It’s no wonder then, that Alderman Jacob Colby Perry, a mere stripling of 24, along with a couple of other aldermen have questions about Crochet’s budget, particular when it was learned that funds generated from traffic enforcement on I-10 is deposited in an account named “Welsh Police Department Equipment & Maintenance.”

An attorney general opinion directed to Crochet and dated Dec. 18, 2015, makes it clear that “a police department is not permitted to establish a separate fund for the deposit of money generated from traffic tickets.” Louisiana R.S. 33:422 “requires that the fines collected from tickets issued by a police officer in a Lawrason Act municipality (which Welsh is) be deposited into the municipal treasury and, thus, within the control of the mayor, clerk, and treasurer.”

The balance in that account is more than $178,000. That’s over and above all the line items in the police department’s budget cited earlier. And he never tapped those funds to cover his overages, instead calling on the board of aldermen to cover his expenditures.

“The mayor (Carolyn Louviere), along with her staff and the town clerk, knew months prior that the chief of police was over-budget and would continue to exceed his budget,” Perry said. “They did nothing.”

Instead, she and the board acquiesced to Crochet’s request of a 37.5 percent increase in his base pay (from $40,000 to $55,000) and his total compensation, including salary and benefits, of $76,120.

SALARIES

Perry said that after he and three other aldermen addressed the matter of the police department’s budget in a meeting at which Crochet was not in attendance, “the town clerk and the mayor immediately followed up by informing the chief of police. In the next meeting, he (Crochet) entered with an entourage consisting of at least 10 police officers in uniform, a neighboring municipality’s chief of police and financial adviser, and his wife. We were yelled at and intimidated.

Perry said he felt Crochet’s demeanor at that meeting may have served its purpose in that the board of aldermen amended the police department budget by $253,000, pushing the department’s budget to more than $1.2 million. “The Town of Welsh is in disrepair,” Perry said.

For his trouble, several things have happened with Perry, none of them good:

  • A recall petition was started against him;
  • Postcards were mailed to Welsh residents that depicted Perry and Andrea King, also a member of the Board of Aldermen, as “terrorists” (See story HERE) and that Perry violated campaign finance laws by failing to report income from a strip club in Texas of which he was said to be part owner and which allegedly was under federal investigation for prostitution, money laundering and drug trafficking (See story HERE);
  • He was removed from the Town of Welsh’s FACEBOOK page;
  • He has been named defendant in not one, not two, not three, but four separate SLAPP lawsuits.

Those filing the suits were Mayor Louviere; her daughter, Nancy Cormier; her son, William Johnson, and, of course, Police Chief Crochet. All four SLAPPs were filed by the same attorney, one Ronald C. Richard of Lake Charles. Can you say collusion?

Each of the nuisance suits say essentially the same thing: that Perry besmirched the reputations of her honor the mayor, both of her children, and the bastion of law enforcement and fiscal prudence, Chief Crochet.

The reason I call them nuisance suits is because Perry, as a member of the board of aldermen, is immune from libel and slander suits under the state’s anti-SLAPP statute.

As the crowning touch, the recall petition was initiated while Perry was in Japan on military orders, serving his annual two-week training.

But the plaintiffs, while trying to shut Perry up, have their own dirty laundry.

It has already been shown that the police chief is not the most fiscally responsible person to be handling a million-dollar budget. Eighteen police cars in a town of 3,200? Seriously? More than $76,000 in salary and benefits—not counting the additional $6,000 he receives in state supplemental pay? Consistently busting his department’s budget? Keeping traffic fine income in a separate account when it should go in to the town’s general fund?

And Mayor Louviere, who inexplicably wants to build a new city hall when the town is flat broke, is currently under investigation by the Louisiana Board of Ethics, according to the Lake Charles American Press AMERICAN PRESS. She also wants to shut down a bar that just happens to be adjacent to a business owned by her son.

And her son, William Joseph Johnson, who Perry says used his mother’s office in an attempt to shut the bar down, has a story all his own.

Johnson, back in 2011, was sentenced in federal court to serve as the guest of the federal prison system for charges related to a $77,000 fraud he perpetrated against a hotel chain in Natchitoches between October 2006 and January 2007. And that wasn’t his first time to run afoul of the law.

At the time of his sentencing for the Louisiana theft, he was still wanted on several felony charges in Spokane County, Washington, after being accused of being hired as financial controller for the Davenport Hotel of Spokane under a stolen identity, giving him access to the hotel’s financial operations and then stealing from the hotel.

The only thing preventing Spokane authorities from extraditing him to Washington, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Shane Smith said, was that “we just don’t have the funds to bring him back.” The Spokane Review, quoting court documents, said, “Police believe Johnson is a longtime con artist who has swindled expensive hotels across the country.” (Click HERE for that story.)

“William Joseph Johnson, Jr. remains on federal probation,” Perry said. “He has yet to pay back all of the restitution that he owes.

In his lawsuit against Perry, Johnson says he “has a long-standing positive reputation in his community and parish” and that he (Johnson) suffered “harm to reputation (and) mental anguish.”

So we have Perry, a student at McNeese State University, being BLAPPed (Blowhard Letters Against Public Participation) with the postcard campaign; CRAPPed (Crazed Retaliation Against Public Participation) with Crochet’s appearance with 10 uniformed officers to berate Perry at a board of aldermen meeting and an incident in which Perry said Johnson confronted him in an aggressive manner following a board meeting, and SLAPPed (Strategic Legal Action Against Public Participation) with the four lawsuits.

All this in a town of 3,200.

Former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill had no idea how accurate he was when he said, “All politics is local.”

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In the evolving efforts by public officials (mostly elected and appointed political toadies) to prevent you from having unfettered access to public records, three tactics have emerged:

  • CRAPP (Crazed Retaliation Against Public Participation).

This is the strategy employed by Sheriff Jerry Larpenter of Terrebonne Parish.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/08/30/louisiana-sheriff-jerry-larpenter-illegally-uses-criminal-libel-law-to-unmask-a-critic/?utm_term=.e2a1770cf5a0

When a local blogger posted critical stories about him and his political cronies, the good sheriff of Terror-Bonne got a friendly judge (who must’ve received his law degree from eBay) to sign off on a search warrant whereby Larpenter could conduct a raid on the blogger’s home.

All the offending blogger, who obviously was a dangerous criminal on a par with John Dillinger, Willie Sutton, and Bonnie and Clyde, had done was illustrate how the family tree of Terror-Bonne elected officials has no branches—that it’s all just one main trunk, sucking the life out of everything around it.

Deputies seized his laptops and about anything else they could lay their hands on in an attempt to discourage him from writing further disparaging comments about the fine public servants of Terror-Bonne, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution notwithstanding.

Of course, a federal judge quickly ruled the raid unconstitutional and gave Larpenter a stern lecture on Civics—not that it did any good.

And then there’s the second approach:

  • BLAPP (Blowhard’s Letter Against Public Participation).

With this method, a public body like, say, the Gravity Drainage District 8 of Calcasieu Parish, has an attorney, say Russell Stutes, Jr., to write a nasty letter to a citizen, say, Billy Broussard, who had performed extensive work for the drainage district for which he was not paid following Hurricane Rita, threatening Broussard with jail time if he persisted in making public records requests. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/12/05/hurricane-cleanup-contractor-threatened-by-attorney-over-requests-for-public-records-from-calcasieu-drainage-district/

Stutes wrote that all Calcasieu Parish employees “have been instructed not to respond to any additional requests or demands from you associated with the project,” neglecting for the moment that any citizen has a right to request any public record and that it is patently illegal for a public official, i.e., the custodian of the records, to ignore a legal request.

“Accordingly, the next time any Calcasieu Parish employee is contacted by you or any of your representatives with respect to the project, we will proceed with further civil actions and criminal charges,” Stutes continued. “A rule for contempt of court will be filed, and we will request injunctive relief from Judge (David) Ritchie. Given Judge Ritchie’s outrage at your frivolous claims last year, you and I both know the next time you are brought before him regarding the project, it will likely result in you serving time for deliberately disregarding his rulings.”

Stutes ended his asinine communiqué by writing, “Consider this your final warning, Mr. Broussard. The harassment of Calcasieu Parish employees must completely and immediately cease. Otherwise, we are prepared to follow through with all remedies allowed by law.”

I wrote then and I’ll say it again: What a crock.

  • SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation)

This is the preferred ploy being employed these days to shut down criticism—or inquiries—from the nosy citizenry.

The first two (CRAPP and BLAPP) are the acronyms created in the not-so-fertile mind of yours truly, although the events are very real as are SLAPP actions that are more and more often employed. The most recent cases involve two such lawsuits right here in Louisiana.

In the 3rd Judicial District (Ouachita and Morehouse parishes), judges, of all people, filed a lawsuit against a newspaper, The Ouachita Citizen, for seeking public records, even while admitting the records being sought were indeed public documents. https://lincolnparishnewsonline.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/judges-admit-dox-are-public-records-in-suit-against-newspaper/

More recently, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White filed a SLAPP lawsuit against a citizen, James Finney, who was seeking information related to school enrollments and statistical calculations. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedes-schneider/la-superintendent-john-wh_b_10216700.html

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit association dedicated to assisting journalists created in 1970, says SLAPPs “have become an all-to-common tool for intimidating and silencing critics of businesses, often for environmental and local land development issues.”

https://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/digital-journalists-legal-guide/anti-slapp-laws-0

The California Anti-SLAPP Project (CASP), a law firm specializing in fighting SLAPPs and in protecting the First Amendment, says protected speech and expression on issues of public interest that may be targeted by SLAPPs include:

  • Posting a review on the internet;
  • Writing a letter to the editor
  • Circulating a petition;
  • Calling or writing a public official;
  • Reporting police misconduct;
  • Erecting a sign or displaying a banner on one’s own property;
  • Making comments to school officials;
  • Speaking a public meeting;
  • Filing a public interest lawsuit;
  • Testifying before Congress, the state legislature, or a city council.

SLAPPs are often brought by corporations, real estate developers, or government officials and entities against individuals or organizations who oppose them on public issues and typically claim defamation (libel or slander), malicious prosecution, abuse of power, conspiracy, and interference with prospective economic advantage. https://www.casp.net/sued-for-freedom-of-speech-california/what-is-a-first-amendment-slapp/

CASP says that while most SLAPPs are legally meritless, “they can effectively achieve their principal purpose (which is) to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and thus diverts the defendant’s attention away from the public issue. Equally important, however, a SLAPP also sends a message to others: you, too, can be sued if you speak up.”

In 1993, Florida Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth released a Survey and Report on SLAPPs in that state. Five years later, in urging the Florida Legislature to enact a strong anti-SLAPP statute, the Attorney General wrote: “The right to participate in the democratic process is a cherished part of our traditions and heritage. Unfortunately, the ability of many Floridians to speak out on issues that affect them is threatened by the growing use of a legal tactic called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP. A SLAPP lawsuit is filed against citizens in order to silence them. The theory is that a citizen who speaks out against a proposal and is sued for thousands of dollars for alleged interference, conspiracy, slander or libel will cease speaking out. And, as demonstrated in a report prepared by this office on SLAPPs in 1993, the tactic is successful. Even though the SLAPP filers rarely prevailed in court in their lawsuits, they achieved the desired aim—they shut down the opposition.” http://news.caloosahatchee.org/docs/SLAPP_2.pdf

Fortunately, there are options for those who are victimized by SLAPP lawsuits.

The Public Participation Project and the Media Law Resource Center grade each state on the basis of existing or absence of anti-SLAPP laws.

Whereas only five states (Texas, California, Oregon, Nevada and Oklahoma) and the District of Columbia have what are considered as excellent anti-SLAPP state laws with grades of “A,” Louisiana is one of seven states (Georgia, Vermont, Rhode Island, Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas are the others) which have what are considered to be good anti-SLAPP laws on the books. These seven states were given a grade of “B.”

Sixteen states, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Ohio, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, have no such laws and are rated “F.”

A key feature of anti-SLAPP statutes is immunity from civil liability for citizens or organizations participating in the processes of government, including:

  • Any written or oral statement made before a legislative, executive, or judicial body or in any other official proceeding authorized by law;
  • Any written or oral statement made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body or in any other official proceeding authorized by law;
  • Any written or oral statement made in a place open to the public or in a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest; and
  • Any other conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue.

When a citizen or organization is sued for protected activities, anti-SLAPP statutes provide for expedited hearing of a special motion to dismiss the SLAPP suit. The burden is placed on the plaintiff to prove that the defendants had no reasonable factual or legal grounds for exercising their constitutional rights and that there was actual injury suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the defendants’ actions. No action can be taken in furtherance of a SLAPP suit unless the plaintiff first demonstrates to the court that there is a “probability” of success. Attorneys’ fees and court costs are awarded to SLAPP defendants who win dismissal.

TOMORROW: A look at how one city council member’s questions produced not one, but four separate SLAPP lawsuits in a coordinated effort shut him up.

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Title 44 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes is designed to guarantee citizens the right to examine copies of public documents at no cost and, if they wish, the right to purchase copies of documents at a “reasonable” cost, generally not to exceed 25 cents per page.

All that sounds well and good but for the unsuspecting activist or muckraker venturing off into these uncharted waters, there are undercurrents and unseen obstacles that can quickly throw you off course.

When perusing Title 44 and you scroll down to 44.4, you begin to see the subtle way lawmakers, in their infinite wisdom, managed to protect bureaucrats—and themselves—from the prying eyes of those who would hold them accountable.

R.S. 44.4 begins somewhat ominously in saying, “This Chapter shall not apply:”

There follows page upon page of exceptions.

We would expect information containing addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, medical information, student information, pending litigation and proprietary information to be off limits. It’s easy enough, after all, for scammers to obtain that information for the purposes of identity theft, without opening the doors for them.

But we did not expect to see exempted:

  • All risk-based capital reports filed with the Department of Insurance;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice medicine or midwifery;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice as a registered nurse; however, any action taken by the Louisiana State Board of Nursing, and any legal grounds upon which such action is based, relative to the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice as a registered nurse shall be a public record;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice as a dentist or as a dental hygienist; however, any final determination made by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, and any legal grounds upon which such action is based, relative to the fitness of any person to receive or continue to hold a license to practice as a dentist or a dental hygienist shall be a public record;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice as a veterinarian; however, any final determination made by the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine, and any legal grounds upon which such action is based, relative to the fitness of any person to receive or continue to hold a license to practice as a veterinarian shall be a public record;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice as a chiropractic; however, any final determination made by the Louisiana Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and any legal grounds upon which such action is based, relative to the fitness of any person to receive or continue to hold a license to practice chiropractic shall be a public record;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice social work; however, any final determination made by the Louisiana Board of Social Work Examiners, and any legal grounds upon which such action is based, relative to the fitness of any person to receive or continue to hold a license to practice social work shall be a public record;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice as a medical psychologist; however, any final determination made by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, and any legal grounds upon which such action is based, relative to the fitness of any person to receive or continue to hold a license to practice as a psychologist shall be a public record;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice as a practical nurse; however, any action taken by the Louisiana State Board of Practical Nurse Examiners, and any legal grounds upon which such action is based, relative to the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice as a practical nurse shall be a public record;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice or assist in the practice of pharmacy; however, any action taken by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, and any legal grounds upon which such action is based, relative to the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice or assist in the practice of pharmacy shall be a public record;
  • Any documents concerning the fitness of any person to receive, or continue to hold, a license to practice optometry; However, any final determination made by the board after an adjudication hearing, other than by consent order, agreement, or other informal disposition shall be a public record.
  • Any records, writings, accounts, letters, letter books, photographs, actual working papers, or copies thereof, any of which is in the custody or control of any officer, employee, or agent of the Louisiana Cemetery Board and which pertains to an investigation of the business of a cemetery authority that is under investigation; however any such record shall be public record and subject to the provisions of this Chapter when introduced as evidence before an administrative or other judicial tribunal or when the investigation is complete.

You will notice that in the cases of the practice of medicine or midwifery, there is no provision to open records once any action is taken on a complaint. Those records are closed regardless of the outcome of any complaints lodged against a doctor of midwife.

As for the Department of Insurance, it would seem in the public’s interest that we be able to examine these risk-based capital reports. After all, quite a few Louisiana policyholders were left high and dry when companies have gone under in the past because someone obviously wasn’t minding the store. Risk-Based Capital is merely a method whereby the minimum amount of capital appropriate to support a company’s business operations is determined so as to protect it from insolvency.

Just as it is important to parse any public information request precisely as to the record you wish to examine because state agencies will not assist you by opening up their records carte blanche, it is also important to notice that the various boards’ complaint records are public if—and only if—formal action is taken. That means if there are scores of complaints against, say, a pharmacist or a dentist, or a nurse, you don’t get to see the complaints unless action is taken. So: no action, no public record. The door is closed. Please go away and don’t bother us.

Unless the complaint is against a cemetery authority. In such cases, the records become public at the moment they are introduced as evidence.

That can mean only one thing: The Cemetery Board has a weak lobby.

As for the rest of them and your right to know what’s going on, fuggedaboutit.

And if you persist, there is always the growing trend toward SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) actions which LouisianaVoice will be examining tomorrow.

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