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Archive for the ‘Commissions’ Category

Physicians Health Foundation (PHF), which for years has abetted the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners in targeting vulnerable medical practitioners in a manner reminiscent of the tactics employed by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, now finds itself in the crosshairs of State Sen. John Milkovich (D-Shreveport).

Both boards have for years flown under the radar of governors, legislators and the media but more and more, attention is being given to their near-autonomous rule by intimidation and extortion.

PHF, also known as the Healthcare Professionals’ Foundation of Louisiana (HPFL), is located on Bluebonnet Boulevard in Baton Rouge and it currently is about halfway through a three-year, $1.35 million contract with the Board of Medical Examiners to run a “Statewide Operations of Physicians Health Program.”

And, since the Board of Dentistry has been mentioned, it might be worth noting that PHF also is just over a year into a three-year, $287,000 contract with that board to “develop, create and administer the Dental Health Professional Monitoring Program.”

By its own admission in a lawsuit to be discussed later in this post, it is not a treatment facility. So, just what does PHF (or HPFL) do to earn its money?

Well, for the Board of Medical Examiners, it appears to extract huge fees from medical professionals (which includes doctors, physician assistants, podiatrists, medical psychologists, dentists and dental hygienists) who are found to have addiction problems or who the board deems to have committed other transgressions.

And since its contract with the Board of Medical Examiners includes dentists, it is unclear why there is a need for a separate $287,000 contract with the Dentistry Board.

But like the Dental Board, the Board of Medical Examiners has set itself up as accuser, prosecutor, judge and jury in investigating complaints and handing down its decisions. Again, like the Dental Board, the Board of Medical Examiners even conducts its own hearings whenever a doctor appeals one of its decisions.

And the board remains a stellar undefeated record in 20 years of reviews of its decisions that are appealed.

Which probably is the reason Sen. Milkovich feels the need for his SB 286, which would establish a Physicians’ Bill of Rights designed to protect their rights whenever they are brought under the scrutiny of the board. More about that shortly.

In addition to its ability to suspend licenses of medical professionals, the board wields a big stick in its ability to coerce licensees into signing consent agreements to enter into rehab.

And those consent agreements often come with large price tags in the form of fees and penalties. Many state regulatory boards, the Board of Medical Examiners and the Dentistry Board included, receive their budgets not from legislative appropriations but from membership fees and financial penalties assessed against members accused and convicted of violations, some of which, though minor, still carry large fines.

Doctors and other medical practitioners apparently are referred to the rehab centers by PHF (or HPFL) whose spokesperson indicated to LouisianaVoice that it has a list of approved facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, among others.

PHF’s $1.35 million contract with the Medical Board runs from Aug. 1, 2016 through July 31, 2019.

One of those rehab centers is PALMETTO Addiction Recovery Center in Rayville.

That facility became involved in a lawsuit in 2009 after one of its staff members. Dr. Douglas Wayne Cook became sexually involved with one of the center’s patients. The husband of the victim sued Cook, who is no longer with Palmetto but who does continue to have a private practice in Richland Parish.

 

Milkovich’s bill, already reported out of committee favorably, is scheduled to be brought before the entire Senate on Monday.

“Under Louisiana’s current board system, physicians often face an uneven playing field, rigged proceedings, and a stacked deck,” Milkovich said. “Licensed, dedicated and highly qualified professionals may have their licenses threatened, suspended, or revoked, based on false accusations, anonymous complaints, and spurious charges. Doctors are often administratively charged by the board without even being informed of the identity of their accusers, the evidence against them, or even the substance of the accusations brought against them. This injustice is compounded by the heavy-handed and inequitable tactics employed by some Board staff.

“We understand that there must be a fair and sound disciplinary process for physicians, to protect the public. However, the goal of board proceedings for physicians should be impartiality, fairness, and integrity—not intimidation, falsification, and inequity.

“The aim of SB 286 is to level the playing field, un-stack the deck and render the Board’s adjudication of doctors more transparent. Everyone deserves Due Process. And that includes doctors.”

The bill, according to the BATON ROUGE ADVOCATE, would require stricter communication requirements during board investigations and would require that the board provide physicians under investigation written notice of complaints within 10 days or receipt. Moreover, the bill would require that the board reveal the identity of the complainant and would prohibit ex parte communications by board members prior to a hearing on the pending investigation.

One critic of the board, Dr. Greg Stephens said criminals and terrorists receive “more due process than we give doctors.” He and his former boss, Dr. John Gianforte, said they were coerced into consenting to voluntary license suspensions and mandated substance abuse treatment without either being allowed to give their side of the story.

They were suspended following claims that Stephens allowed unqualified staff members to write and sign prescriptions in his name while serving as medical director at a clinic in Shreveport when in fact, the prescription pad was stolen by two employees and Stephens’ name forged. Gianforte said the two employees were fired and one was later charged by law enforcement authorities.

Milkovich even cited a case where a New Orleans physician practicing at Tulane Medical Center committed suicide last November. His license was summarily suspended in June following an investigation but was reinstated in October. By then, however, the doctor had lost privileges, positions and future opportunities as a result of the investigation, the senator said.

In another case, the family of another doctor filed suit against PFL when the doctor, informed that he had had tested positive for drug use, committed suicide a few hours later. The doctor’s family was told by PFL that its programs and personnel had statutorily qualified immunity from legal liability regarding their activities and that they were further protected by a release and a hold-harmless agreement with the Physicians Health Program.

RAMEY V. DECAIRE

PHF was successful in getting the Louisiana Supreme Court to rule that it was exempt under the peremptory exception of no cause of action and the family’s lawsuit was dismissed. PHF, apparently not satisfied with merely winning, then went after the family for legal sanctions, claiming their suit was frivolous and without reasonable good faith. The trial court denied PHF’s motion and PHF appealed. The First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the trial court and assessed costs against PHF.

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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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Louisiana residents victimized by floods and hurricanes don’t need a reminder of the frustrating-ineptness of the Feeble Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or of the soul-crushing corruption of the Department of Housing and Urban Discrimination (HUD).

FEMA trailers, more appropriately designed as egg incubators than dwellings for human beings, stand as mute testimony to mismanagement on a grand scale. At a COST of $150,000 to $170,000 per trailer, including purchase and set-up following the 2016 flood, only to SELL the units for as little as $5,000 each a year later, it’s difficult to imagine even the Pentagon being able to match FEMA in a waste-for-waste competition.

With 144,000 trailers PLACED following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike, and another 4,500 (upgrades vastly superior to the earlier models but still little better than a tent) following the 2016 floods, one can readily see how FEMA now claims to be broke.

Another reason? Try this: Following Hurricane Katrina, The Shaw Group was contracted to place tarpaulins over damaged roofs at a rate of $175 per square (one hundred square feet per square) after Katrina. That’s $175 for draping a ten-foot-by-ten-foot square blue tarpaulin over a damaged roof. Shaw in turn sub-contracted the work to a company called A-1 Construction at a cost of $75 a square. A-1 in turn subbed the work to Westcon Construction at $30 a square. Westcon eventually lined up the actual workers who placed the tarps at a cost of $2 a square.

In normal circumstances, MIKE LOWERY, an estimator for an Austin, Texas, company, said, his company would charge $300 to tarp a 2000-square-foot roof in Austin. For that same size job, the government is paying $2,980 to $3,500, or about 10 times as much, plus additional administrative fees that couldn’t be readily calculated.

FEMA ISSUED 81,241 blue roof tarps across Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said spokesman Aaron Walker ($14.2 million total cost: $8.1 million for Shaw as opposed to $162,000 for those who did the actual work).

But if you think that’s bad, consider this: “Overall, Restore Louisiana (the program set up to assist flood victims) has awarded $207 million of the $1.3 billion allotment from the federal government to homeowners,” according to a story in the Baton Rouge ADVOCATE. Of that amount, only $60.5 million has actually been paid to those driven out of their homes by the floods. The remaining $147 million is being paid in increments to contractors as work progresses.

At the same time, however, the state has shelled out $75 million to IEM, the contracted administrator for environmental reviews and program management. That means administrative costs are 23.4 percent higher than the amount actually spent helping flood victims. Said another way, the amount spent on actual work is only 80 percent of administrative costs so far.

IEM’s total contract to administer the $1.3 billion Restore Louisiana program is for an eye-popping $308 million. That computes to administrative costs that are 19.25 percent of the total contract but which appear to be running closer to 26.6 percent at the present time.

Contrast that, if you will, with contracts the Ruston firm of Hunt, Guillot has received to date to administer Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for the recovery of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike and to administer CDBG funds for the Restore Louisiana program set up immediately following the 2016 floods.

Hunt, Guillot received a contract for $18.2 million to administer the disbursement of $7.5 billion in grant funds for LOUISIANA. That contract ran from Oct. 31, 2007, to Oct. 30, 2010. The firm was given an additional contract of $3 million for the period of Feb. 1, 2011, through June 3, 2011 for Katrina and Rita recovery grant funds. IEM’s $308 million contract is 14.5 times the size of Hunt, Guillot’s $21.2 million in contracts even though Hunt, Guillot oversaw the disbursement of nearly six times the amount in federal grants that IEM is responsible for.

IEM’s contract was not without CONTROVERSY, but it probably didn’t hurt that IEM and the company’s CEO, Madhu Beriwal, combined to contribute $15,000 to the campaign of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

But even putting aside all the outrageous administrative costs that are eating up dollars intended to help flood victims, here is the one overriding factor that leads writers like Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) and others to write INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS about the incestuous relationship between natural disasters and corruption?

Could it be that 19 months after thousands of Louisiana residents were forced out of their homes in South Louisiana, only $207 million of a total allocation of $1.3 billion for reconstruction has been approved and checks written for only $60 million even as administrative costs mount?

Could it be that a visit to observe activities at Restore Louisiana headquarters reminds visitors of the organizational skills of a sack of rats in a burning meth lab?

Could it be the frustration encountered by State Rep. Rogers Pope who, first told he qualified for an SBA loan of $250,000 (even though he never applied) but later told it was actually for a lesser amount, responded that he was not interested in a loan of any description but that $50,000 was nevertheless deposited in his bank account by the SBA—and when he insisted again that he did not want the money, was charged $384 in interest for the week that it was in his bank account? (for those of you who may be wondering, that computes to an annual interest rate of 40 percent.) And get this: Pope is a member of the Restore Louisiana Task Force and even he can’t deal with the feds.

Could it be that an applicant who applied for assistance was told that because he had obtained an SBA loan of $124,000, he was ineligible for a grant? The person in question here was yours truly and I was told that the loan was considered a benefit. I’m a 74-year-old retiree on a fixed income, with a brand-new $124,000 mortgage and I’m supposed to consider that a benefit?

What’s more, I’m told, even if I had been offered the loan, and turned it down, I’d still be ineligible because it was offered. (I think that’s what’s called a Catch-22.) And just to add insult to injury, I was told (after at least four separate on-site inspections by FEMA, Restore Louisiana, and Shelter at Home) I was only allowed $60,000 for reconstruction (someone needs to tell my contractor who charged what I considered to be a reasonable fee of $90,000 to make my home livable again—the remainder went to replace furniture and appliances).

I was told at the time of receiving the news of my ineligibility that I could, of course, appeal. “But the appeal won’t do any good,” the nice man said, “because we’re only going by the rules established by FEMA and HUD guidelines.” (A Catch-22 variable.)

It’s the kind of FUBAR guvmint that can send you to a padded room where you’re allowed only crayons as a means of communication.

And if you think I’m angry, consider the frustration level of Stephen Winham of St. Francisville.

Winham, often a LouisianaVoice guest columnist, for 12 years was the state’s budget director, serving under three governors, so he, of all people, should be accustomed to navigating the confusing waters of state bureaucracy. He was, nevertheless, finally moved to send the following email to an official of Restore Louisiana:

I have NEVER seen as poorly run a program as Restore Louisiana and I have seen some poorly run programs in my 21 years of state budget analysis.  If the contractor for whom you work represents the benefits of privatizing public services we are in deep manure, particularly since our worst governor ever, Bobby Jindal, moved us to new heights in that direction.

I have talked on the phone and communicated with your company many times.  I did not initially apply because I knew I was not eligible.  I allowed one of your employees to talk me into applying anyhow, so I did – I assume this was done to get the numbers up.  In subsequent steps, it was confirmed I was never eligible and should never have bent to the pressure put on me to apply.  In other words, I was officially ruled ineligible months ago.

This correspondence and any phone conversations I might have with you would be a waste of my time – your company is apparently going to get its money no matter what so I have no interest in saving you money.  Your company has spent $75 million on itself so far and only disbursed $60 million to the people who really need it – the homeowners.  Do you not see a problem with that?

Although I am not eligible, I have a sister-in-law who is.  My wife and I have tried to help her work through the many meaningless steps necessary to get her Restore Louisiana grant and she has not gotten a dime yet.  My wife has hauled her down to Celtic Studios more than once.  She has had visits from what I assume are project managers/coordinators many times.  She has completed the necessary paperwork at every step.  She has been advised of the amount of her “award” (her part of the $207 million in reported awards, $147 million of which apparently remain undisbursed), but has gotten ZERO.  The people who live across the street from my East Baton Rouge property just started LAST WEEK on work to restore their home pursuant to their Restore Louisiana “award”

I think your company is taking the public for a ride – oh, I know, this is federal money – I am doing my federal taxes today – I guess that never was my money to begin with, or something.  These things should be block granted.  If the eligible recipients take their grants down to a convenient casino and blow it rather than fixing their homes, that’s their problem and it is also better than creating what to me is essentially a pyramid of contractors and sub-contractors each getting their golden crumbs as the grants trickle down to the people who should be getting the money.

Sorry for taking this out on you and you probably haven’t even read this far, but on the off chance you have, LEAVE ME ALONE and devote your attention to eligible recipients many of whom have been waiting over a year and a half for relief.

Your federal—and state—guvmint hard at work for you, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer. The best we can hope for is that we never need the their “help” in the future.

(Editor’s note: for the record, a class-action lawsuit is being considered because of the discriminatory policies of HUD and FEMA. More details on that as they are forthcoming.)

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Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature could probably learn a thing or two about building budgetary surpluses from the St. Landry Parish Fire Protection District No. 2—except at least one St. Landry Parish citizens thinks the surplus may be the result of smoke and mirrors and a little voodoo tax millage assessment.

On the other hand, the State Ethics Board appears to be taking its cue from the Attorney General’s office in stonewalling tactics.

The district had a bank balance of more than three times its annual budget at the end of 2016, according to a state AUDIT of the its books. The audit showed nearly $8.4 million in the bank as of Dec. 31, 2016, after expenses of $2.6 million.

And a formal complaint made to the Louisiana State Board of Ethics last May against the district and its secretary-treasurer has produced only a letter of acknowledgement but no results after nine months.

Despite annual revenues of nearly $3.7 million for both 2015 and 2016, the district’s board seemingly felt it could not afford to hire a qualified employee to apply generally accepted accounting principles in recording the districts financial transactions or preparing its financial statements, the audit indicated.

“A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the entity’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis,” the audit said. “we identified certain deficiencies in internal control that we consider to be material weaknesses.”

Nor did the board seem to feel it was in a position to hire additional firefighters in order to cut back on more expensive overtime pay. Board members paid themselves nearly $16,600 in 2016 and paid out $1.2 million in salaries. An additional $329,677 was paid in overtime (listed as “extra shifts and call out time”).

Auditors recommended that the board examine the following options and implement policies and procedures in order to reduce excessive payroll expenditures:

  • Establish set annual/monthly salaries for management-level positions in order to eliminate overtime paid;
  • Hire additional firefighters in order to decrease overtime pay;
  • Better utilize volunteer firefighters in an effort to minimize costs.

While Edwards and the legislature might be scratching their heads if they knew of the district’s fiscal wizardry, a closer look at a curious tax millage might clear things up.

It seems that district voters may have once approved a 17.5 mill property tax but the district somehow managed to collect two identical millages of 17.5 mills each until January 2018, when one of the assessments expired.

St. Landry Parish resident and local taxpayer Charles Jagneaux, who filed the complaint with the state ethics board, which has been basically toothless since it was gutted by Bobby Jindal in one of his first acts as governor in 2008, has a theory about that dual tax millage.

“My understanding is that the second millage was passed by calling it a renewal when in fact, it was a second identical millage,” he said. “The board attempted to put the expiring millage on the ballot (for a renewal) this year but the parish council would not let them since there was a multi-million-dollar surplus.”

The ethics complaint was filed against Johnny Ardoin, secretary-treasurer of the district’s board. Ardoin, it turns out, is also a member of the Port Barre TOWN COUNCIL, which would appear to be a case of dual office-holding, illegal under Louisiana law.

As a point of clarification from a reader who is in a position to know, dual office holding falls under (drum roll, please…) the attorney general’s office, not the ethics board so the ethics board would not address that matter,

A second, more serious ethics violation, however, seems to arise from Ardoin’s membership on the fire district board.

The Port Barre Town Council appoints two members of the fire district’s board of commissioners.

That would seem to constitute a built-in conflict of interest for Ardoin. Given his position as a member of the town council, he is in the unique position to appoint himself to the fire district’s board of commissioners.

That ethics complaint, like most complaints to the state ethics board these days, is in all likelihood, a dead-end street, particularly as it regards dual office-holding. But even in cases when ethics fines are assessed, which is seldom, they often are ignored and never collected, thanks again to Bobby Jindal and his ethics reform agenda.

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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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