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Archive for the ‘Contract’ Category

Gov. Bobby’s ill-fated, self-serving decision to opt out of a Medicaid expansion for Louisiana is beginning to pay off in an ever-expanding crisis in medical care for the indigent population of Louisiana—on at least two fronts.

An occasional admission of error could go far in establishing a politician’s credibility but it is downright exasperating when this governor is so blind, so stubborn, so obnoxious, so obstinate, so pig-headed, and so disconnected that he cannot bring himself to cross Grover Norquist, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or the tea party—even when his decision endangers the health and even the lives of more than a quarter of a million of his constituents.

http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-more-evidence-medicaid-20141027-column.html

Of course it was only a matter of time before the chickens would come home to roost but Gov. Bobby, Timmy Teepell, Kristy Nichols, et al, figured they would long gone and on their way to the White House before the fecal matter hit the oscillating air circulation device.

They were wrong and now they’re covered with the metaphoric filth of their own making with no one to blame but themselves.

The details of the latest developments are so horrific as to defy logic but tragically, they are true.

When Gov. Bobby decided to privatize the state’s charity hospital system (which, by the way, accounts for most of the state employee cuts he loves to crow about on Faux News, in his op-ed pieces, and speeches to his right-wing zealot faithful), he closed Earl K. Long Medical Center (EKL) in Baton Rouge.

That, of course, forced many low-income residents in the northern part of East Baton Rouge Parish to go to Baton Rouge General’s Mid-City medical center for emergency room treatments.

The only problem with that was Gov. Bobby had entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement with Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL) in south Baton Rouge. Consequently, OLOL was—and is—one of only two facilities in East Baton Rouge Parish receiving payments from the state. The other is Woman’s Hospital. Neither of the Baton Rouge General facilities (Mid-City and Bluebonnet), Ochsner Medical Center, nor Lane Memorial in Zachary received a dime from the state.

Because of that, Baton Rouge General recently announced that its Mid-City facility would cease operating its emergency room, effective March 31, because of the financial strain placed on it by the overflow from EKL.

When Gov. Bobby announced the cooperative endeavor agreement with OLOL in January of 2010, he was quite specific in saying the agreement to pay OLOL something on the order of $34 million ($14 million as per the agreement, plus the $24 million already appropriated for the LSU Medical Center which previously had trained its residents at EKL; some estimates put the state’s payments as high as $100 million) would “improve and expand access to health care services for the poor and enhance graduate medical education for Louisiana’s doctors, nurses and health care professionals.” (Emphasis ours.) http://dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/88

Moreover, the cooperative endeavor agreement with OLOL says on pages 7 and 8:

  • WHEREAS, LSU is obligated by Louisiana law to provide free or reduced cost care to certain patients who qualify for such care;
  • WHEREAS, the State’s purpose of this initiative, which is recognized by OLOL and LSU, is to provide Medicaid recipients with integrated, coordinated care, management of chronic disease, improvement in access to preventive and diagnostic services for children and adults, improve recipient satisfaction with access to care and the care experience and provide the State with improved budget predictability;
  • WHEREAS, in the interest of advancing the State’s goal of improving integration and coordination of health care services for the low-income populations, and recognizing the opportunity presented by the integration of outpatient and community-based services provided by LSU, inpatient and outpatient services provided by OLOL, and a payment mechanism being made available by DHH (Department of Health and Hospitals) that integrates all services through a prepaid model, the State, OLOL, and LSU intend to participate as a coordinated care network within Medicaid as proposed by DHH;
  • WHEREAS, in order to successfully meet their respective purposes, OLOL, LSU, and the State intend to enter into this public/private collaborative whereby certain residency positions in the LSU GME (Graduate Medical Education) programs and patient care services will be relocated to the OLOL campus. (Emphasis ours.)

Click here to read the CEA.

But wait. Could there be a loophole in that agreement?

Apparently OLOL thinks so.

LouisianaVoice has learned that OLOL is taking the position that its only obligation under terms of the now infamous cooperative endeavor agreement is for residency training of LSU medical students. Apparently care for the indigent is off the (examination) table.

That should come as no surprise. After all, OLOL had already dug in its heels and had begun refusing to take indigent transfers from Baton Rouge General Mid-City’s emergency room if they were not already in the LSU system—and some, apparently, who were.

Woman’s also is refusing to take indigent patients.

Of course, it was also to the state’s advantage that OLOL and Woman’s not treat indigent patients or accept indigent transfers from Baton Rouge General because as long as those patients never see the inside of the OLOL emergency room or Woman’s treatment center, the state does not have to pay for their treatment (as in the decision to lower health insurance premium rates for state employees—not so much to help the employees as to lower the state’s premium share which in the long run only resulted in the depletion of Group Benefit’s $500 million reserve fund. Are we seeing a pattern here?).

All of which raises the obvious question: could all this be by design?

Obviously, no one would admit to any conspiracy.

But how could OLOL refuse indigent patients if it is the only facility in East Baton Rouge Parish receiving payments from the state for treating indigent patients?

Good question and the answer to that goes a long way in the decision by Baton Rouge General to shut down its Mid-City emergency room, leaving indigent patients with no apparent place to go for emergency treatment—in flagrant violation of clause in the agreement that says the state is obligated by Louisiana law to provide free or reduced cost care to certain patients who qualify for such care.” (Emphasis ours.)

Sometimes those WHEREASes can come back to bite you.

LouisianaVoice also has learned that Gov. Bobby’s latest round of budget cuts may have figured in the decision by Children’s Hospital in New Orleans to delay taking over operations of the state’s new billion-dollar University Medical Center New Orleans (UMCNO) from May 15 to at least August. http://www.umcno.org/about-us

Gov. Bobby’s budget cuts, necessitated mainly by his squirrely fiscal policies, leaves all of the LSU hospitals across the state woefully short of the funding needed to keep them open under the various agreements the state has entered into with private hospitals for their management. http://theadvocate.com/news/11751470-123/state-hospital-operators-say-jindal

In the case of UMCNO, built to replace the old Big Charity that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the state is coming up $88 million short of needed funding, according to Children’s CEO Gregory Feirn.

“If the state does not restore the funding, then the state is deciding not to allow for care for the people of New Orleans, deciding not to open their state-of-the-art facility that is nearly finished and striking a crippling blow to medical education in Louisiana,” he said in a prepared written statement.

Strong words indeed, but then Gov. Bobby long ago, with his decision to opt out of the Medicaid expansion, made that decision.

Rep. Walt Leger (D-New Orleans), House Speaker Pro Tem, was especially critical of Gov. Bobby. “The budget is in such a mess,” he said. “We keep hearing from (Commissioner of Administration) Kristy Nichols that they are in negotiations to work matters out.

“We expect to operate a world-class facility that we invested a billion dollars in but now we learn that the date for Children’s Hospital to take it over has been pushed back,” he said.

State Treasurer John Kennedy, appearing on a New Orleans radio talk show, said the news concerned him. “Feirn is a very able administrator and I think they’ll be able to manage that facility better than the state could. We’ve invested and we’ve got to make that facility work. We do not have a choice,” he said. http://www.wwl.com/Garland-Is-the-University-Medical-Center-ready-to-/10773584?pid=461170

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Senator Daniel R. Martiny's Picture

STATE SEN. DAN MARTINY

C.B. Forgotston may have opened a can of worms…with the unwitting help of State Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie)—and much to Martiny’s chagrin.

Forgotston, you see, is an independent old cuss who used to work for the legislature and he has been serving for a number of years now as an unofficial overseer of all things state government and few events escape his skeptical critique of the actions and motives of elected officials, particularly legislators, or as he calls them, leges.

Called “King of Subversive Bloggers” by no less an expert on cynicism than Baton Rouge Advocate columnist James Gill, Forgotston is beholden to no one and any leges who crosses swords with him does so at his own peril.

Martiny may have found out the hard way when he sent this email to Forgotston Sunday around 4:16 p.m. informing C.B. that his emails to the good senator were no longer welcomed:

From: “Martiny, Sen. (Chamber Laptop)” <dmartiny@legis.la.gov>

To: “C.B. Forgotston” Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2015 16:16:34 -0600 Subject:

Re: Where’s Buddy?

Take me off your list until u do something positive about anyone.

Martiny was responding to Forgotston’s “Where’s Buddy” post in which he took Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to task for the AG’s reluctance to do his job in telling the Caddo Parish Commissioners they are in violation of the Louisiana State Constitution by virtue of their illegal participation in the Caddo Parish retirement system.

Forgotston noted that Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has done his job in saying commissioners’ participation in the retirement system is illegal but Caldwell, as has been his M.O. since taking office, has been strangely quiet on public corruption.

And while there is certainly nothing wrong in going after free-lance pharmaceutical salesmen (drug dealers), child pornographers and the like, Caldwell has displayed an obvious dislike for making waves in the political waters and has steadfastly run from public corruption cases.

And we know that while the 1974 State Constitution took much of the prosecutorial duties from the attorney general, the AG is still the legal adviser for all state agencies and if nothing else, Caldwell should step forward and whisper in officials’ ears when they are seen skirting the edge of the law. (Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols’ open violation of the state’s public records law comes immediately to mind. So does Auctioneer Board attorney Larry Bankston’s advice to the board to actually refuse to release public records.)

But we digress.

If you notice, Martiny’s message for C.B. to delete future mailings to him was written on his Senate chamber laptop, which some might interpret as an unwillingness on his part to hear from citizens on matters that concern them.

“My periodic mailings address issues of concern to me primarily about state and local government,” Forgotston said on Monday.

“The mailings are sent to each lege via a public server owned by taxpayers. The address to which it is sent is also provided by the taxpayers.”

Forgotston said that after a “gentle reminder,” Martiny, an attorney, relented and acknowledged the provisions of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Other leges may not be as familiar with the First Amendment as is Martiny,” he said. “As a public service, here is some background on the First Amendment which leges might find useful in dealing with members of the public.

“The First Amendment states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’” (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

The right to freedom of speech, he says, “allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

“The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances guarantees people the right to ask the government to provide relief for a wrong through the courts (litigation) or other governmental action. (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

“Not only do we have a right to contact the leges regarding matters of government, they are prohibited from interfering with our exercise of that right,” Forgotston said. “That includes the blocking of emails as some leges have done in the past.

“Any lege not wishing to receive my communications, please forward me a copy of your letter of resignation from the lege and you will be promptly removed from all future mailings.”

Now, just to give you a little background on Sen. Martiny, who:

  • Fought a bill by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) which would have prevent legislators from leaving the House or Senate and taking six-figure jobs in order to boost their state retirement. It’s worth noting that several legislators had been appointed to cushy state jobs by the Gov. Bobby administration. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro was named second in command at the Louisiana State Department of Insurance at $150,000 per year; Jane Smith of Bossier City was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Department of Revenue ($107,500), though she admitted she knew nothing about taxes or revenue; Troy Hebert of Jeanerette was named Commissioner of the Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board ($107,500); Kay Katz of Monroe, named to the Louisiana Tax Commission ($56,000); former St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis named Director of Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness ($165,000), and former St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was appointed Director of Hazard Mitigation and Recovery ($150,000).
  • Pushed through an amendment that gutted Senate Bill 84 by Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), a bill originally designed to protect vulnerable borrowers from predatory payday lenders. Nevers sought to cap payday loan annual interest rates at 36 percent which was an effective way to rein in those lenders who were charging annual percentage rates of up to 700 percent. Martiny’s amendment removed the APR cap and instead simply limited borrowers to 10 short-term loans each year.
  • Pushed through a bill that was subsequently signed by Gov. Bobby which prohibited state contractors from entering into agreements with labor unions, prohibited public entities from remaining neutral toward any labor organization, and prohibited the payment of predetermined or prevailing wages.
  • Introduced a bill that was subsequently signed by Gov. Bobby which re-created 17 state boards, offices and commissions. Louisiana already has far more boards and commissions than any other state but apparently no one saw a need for reducing the number.
  • Introduced a bill subsequently signed into law by Gov. Bobby that gave judges on state district courts, courts of appeal and the Louisiana Supreme court pay raises ranging from 3.7 percent to 5.5 percent—even as Louisiana civil service employees were forced to go without a pay raise for the third straight year.
  • Introduced but later withdrew a bill that would have allowed the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (DED) the authority to offer air carriers a rebate of up to $500 annually for each incremental international passenger flying to or from a state airport for a period of up to five years.
  • Introduced a bill allowing DED to offer tax credits refundable against corporate income and corporate franchise taxes for businesses agreeing to undertake activities to increase the number of visitors to the state by at least 100,000 per year. (We’re beginning to see the problem with the state’s economic incentive tax breaks here).
  • Introduced a bill to provide tax credits for solar energy systems of up to 50 percent of all costs.
  • Introduced a bill that would have allowed the Commissioner of Insurance to fire the Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Advocacy without cause.

Let’s examine that very last one again. Louisiana law provides for the appointment of a deputy commissioner of consumer advocacy by the Commissioner of Insurance.

This is important, provided that person is wholly independent of Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon who gets the bulk of his campaign finances from insurance companies he is supposed to regulate.

Donelon, obviously, cannot be expected to ride herd over his benefactors. That’s just not the way politics works in Louisiana. So a consumer advocate in the department is critical—especially after all those stories about Allstate and State Farm denying legitimate claims from Hurricane Katrina and other tactics such as the Delay, Deny, Defend strategy as taught the insurance companies by Gov. Bobby’s former employer, McKinsey & Co.

The law provides that the consumer advocate may be terminated only for cause.

But Martiny wanted to change that and though the bill did not pass, one has to wonder about his motives.

To learn that, you’d probably have to email him at dmartiny@legis.la.gov

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Friday traditionally is a slow news day around the State Capitol and observers know that most controversial announcements or bad news releases by the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal will be issued late on Fridays in the hope that most reporters have gone home for the day.

The timing of the mundane and not-so-good news releases also is such that people just don’t follow events as closely over the weekend.

Accordingly, LouisianaVoice has pulled together some of the stories that are not likely to make the local six o’clock news or cause much stir in the state’s daily newspapers. But they are, nevertheless, stories that we feel deserve at least some attention, so here we go:

Mike Edmonson Retirement Redux

Regular readers will remember our story of last July 11 which launched the major controversy coming out of last year’s legislative session. That was the story about Senate Bill 294 (SB 294) by State Sen. Neil Riser that was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal as Act 859 which gave State Police Superintendent Mike Edmondson that otherwise illegal hefty retirement boost of about $55,000.

The LouisianaVoice story created quite an uproar and culminated with a judicial ruling on a lawsuit by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) that the requirement increase was unconstitutional, which seemed at the time to end the matter.

But not so fast. Claitor, not altogether trusting the system to prevail, has pre-filed a bill which he hopes will tie up any remaining loose ends.

Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) by Sens. Claitor and Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City) have pre-filed the bill which “repeals provisions for payment to certain DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) participants of a retirement benefit calculated as if the person had not participated in DROP.”

The very title of the bill puts Edmonson—along with one other state trooper who by sheer coincidence qualified for the increase under the Riser bill amendment that was snuck through an unsuspecting legislature on the last day of the 2014 session—squarely in the crosshairs of the Claitor-Peacock bill.

The Riser amendment created one of the uglier moments of the entire legislative session as slowly details leaked out of how Riser, acting on the directions of Gov. Bobby Jindal, attached the amendment to the bill that ostensibly dealt with police disciplinary procedures and once passed, was quickly signed into law by Jindal.

Had the amendment gone undetected, it would have bumped Edmonson’s retirement from $79,000 per year to $134,000 yearly.

Here is the link to the Claitor-Peacock bill by title, followed by a link to the actual bill:

https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?i=226443

STATE POLICE BILL

Exceptional Jindal profile by Tyler Bridges

And speaking of Jindal, it appears that the national media are beginning to catch on to the Jindal Traveling Road Show, prompted it seems, by his hysterical claim of Islamic enclaves of “no-go” zones in Europe, followed in quick fashion by a silly response to the mention by blogger Lamar White that the governor’s official portrait in his fourth floor office gives the appearance of something like 50 shades of white. It turns out that portrait is a loaner and not the “official” portrait. The “official” portrait gives of a decidedly pinkish hue, making it appear that the white one got a bit too much sun.

Be that as it may, Tyler Bridges, a New Orleans writer, has penned an excellent piece on Jindal’s failed fiscal policies (much more important in the long run than his skin tones) for Politico, a Washington, D.C. news service widely read by political junkies—especially in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where Jindal hopes (almost to the point of desperation, it seems) to make early headway in his clumsy efforts to grab the GOP presidential nomination. Here is the link to that superb piece by Bridges:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/02/bobby-jindal-campaigning-114948.html?ml=m_t1_2h#.VNTyL005Ccy

LR3 Contract with Economic Development

Last February we dissected the events surrounding the awarding of a $717,000 no-bid contract awarded to LR3 Consulting LLC of Baton Rouge by the Louisiana Office of Economic Development (LED).

That contract, which runs through Sept. 30 of this year, calls for the “development, establishment and/or delivery of a database of potential trainees for continued pre-hire training using a customized assessment instrument to determine skills proficiencies based on individual company requirements.”

We are not altogether sure why a $717,000 contract needed to be awarded to a firm to perform the same duties already being done by the Louisiana Workforce Commission but hey, who are we to question good government?

The contract was broken down into three yearly amounts—$169,999 for the first year (Oct. 12, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013) and $249,999 for each of the ensuing two years. This was done, according to an LED spokesman, so as to avoid the necessity of issuing a request for proposals (RFP) and thus avoid “competitive bidding or competitive negotiation.”

The issuing of service contracts is permissible so long as the “total contract amount is less than $250,000 per twelve-month period,” according to Title 39, Section 1494.1 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes which then goes on to say, “Service requirements shall not be artificially divided so as to exempt contracts from the request for proposal process.” Hmmm. Seems to us a real proponent of good government would want competitive bidding.

Nevertheless, it has come to our attention that LR3 may well not be a viable entity and thus, ineligible to contract with the state.

A check of the Secretary of State’s corporate web page reveals that LR3 Consulting LLC is “not in good standing for failure to file (an) annual report.”

With nearly eight months left on the LR3 contract, the loss of standing with the Secretary of State should be a concern to Lionel Rainey, III, the agent and sole officer of LR3:

The term “not in good standing” means that a limited liability company is delinquent in filing the annual report required by R.S. 12:1308.1.

The statute goes on to say that each limited liability company which is not in good standing “shall be prohibited from engaging in commercial business operations with the state or its boards, agencies, departments, or commissions.  Any contract between the state or its boards, agencies, departments, or commissions and a limited liability company which is not in good standing may be declared null and void by the board, agency, department, commission, or the division of administration.”

Here is the link to the Secretary of State’s corporate records page which shows that LR3 is not in good standing:

https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearchDetails.aspx?CharterID=1001456_F5D52

Our favorite news blog, too?

And speaking of corporate records, one of our favorite political web blogs also turns up as “inactive,” according to the Secretary of State.

We particularly enjoy The Hayride, a Jindal support group blog run by Scott McKay for the off the wall advertisements that are featured daily on his blog. Recently, we’ve seen ads for products that feature a cure baldness almost immediately, a cure for cancer through a Biblical verse, a cure for Alzheimer’s, and even tips on how to invest in gold “form the former director of the U.S. mint,” for a military grade “steroid alternative,” and of course, secret weight loss measures.

But alas, the Secretary of State now tells us that Hayride Media, LLC is no longer active as a corporate entity.

That won’t change the flow of wonderful material coming from the blog, but it does remove any legal protection from litigation that might be lurking in the bushes, ready to pounce on any actual error by The Hayride. We’re just sayin’…

Here is The Hayride’s corporate record entry on the Secretary of State’s web page:

https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearchDetails.aspx?CharterID=878951_J6D52

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What should Louisiana citizens know about a $12 million real estate deal in Iberville Parish between the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (LED) and a Russian Oligarch involving a proposed fertilizer plant on property surrounding a Louisiana National Guard facility?

Apparently nothing, if one judges from the status updates coming from the Jindal administration since the deal was made back in June of 2013.

Throw in a curious buy-back clause contained in the agreement between the state and EuroChem Louisiana LLC, an option for EuroChem to purchase a second tract in St. John the Baptist Parish, and talk about environmental emission credits that were supposedly promised to Eurochem but then appear to have evaporated into…well, thin air, and you have the makings of political intrigue with an international flavor.

Readers may remember our post last October 20 in which we revealed what appeared to be a sweetheart deal between the state and Vantage Health Plan whereby Vantage was allowed to purchase the former Virginia Hotel in Monroe for $881,000 without having to bother with a pesky public auction and sealed bids.

That transaction was made possible (even though there was another party interested in purchasing the building that had been serving as the State Office Building in Monroe) by Senate Bill 216 (SB 216) by Sens. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), Rick Gallot (D-Ruston), Neil Riser (R-Columbia), and Francis Thompson (D-Delhi).

Well, it turns out there was considerably more to SB 216 (which became Act 127 upon the signature of Gov. Bobby Jindal). We saw the bill in its entirety at the time we wrote our story last October but did not understand the significance of a part of the bill entitled Section 3.

Until now.

Section 3 called for the sale of 2,150 acres of land within the town of St. Gabriel in Iberville Parish to a then unidentified “business entity that enters into a cooperative agreement” with the Department of Economic Development.

Not only was the prospective buyer not named in the bill (contrary to the other part of the bill that clearly identified Vantage Health and the purchase price of the Virginia Hotel), but the bill also contained no mention of a purchase price for the Iberville property. Neither the name EuroChem nor a purchase price is contained anywhere in the bill.

It is understandable that the buyer’s name might be left out of the bill, especially if the sale is still pending and nothing has been finalized. But when considering a proposal to dispose of a 2,150-acre tract of property for industrial purposes, one might be reasonably expected to ask how much money is involved before casting a vote on such a measure.

The bill passed the House by a 96-1 vote and by a 31-1 vote in the Senate. Voting against the bill in the House was Rep. Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe) while the lone dissenting vote in the Senate was cast by Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge). Seven senators and eight House members were absent or did not vote.

The Senate vote was on April 24, 2013, and the House approval followed on May 22. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the bill on June 5 and the cooperative endeavor agreement was signed on June 14 by LED Deputy Secretary Steven Grissom—even though the bill did not become law until Aug. 1, 2013. PTDC3577

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

The name of the Eurochem representative on the state documents obtained from LED was Ivan Vassilev Boasher, identified only as “Manager.”PTDC3576

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

EuroChem, founded in 2001, is a Russian company owned jointly by Melnichenko (92.2 percent of shares) and CEO Dmitry Strezhnev, who owns the remaining 7.8 percent. It was Strezhnev, and not Melnichenko, who joined with Jindal in announcing plans for the $1.5 billion facility.

To secure the project, the state offered the company a competitive incentives package that includes a $6 million performance-based grant to offset the costs of site infrastructure improvements, the announcement said. In addition, EuroChem will receive the services of LED FastStart—the state’s workforce training program. “The company also is expected to utilize Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs,” Jindal said in making the announcement on July 10, 2013.

“EuroChem is evaluating two final sites for its Louisiana plant,” he said. The Iberville Parish property had been on the market for more than two years through the Office of State Lands, and EuroChem deposited $12 million in an escrow account to buy the property. At the same time, EuroChem also secured an option to purchase a 900-acre, privately-owned tract in St. John the Baptist Parish. “Both Mississippi River sites are being evaluated for construction and logistics suitability, and the company will make a final site decision within the next year,” Jindal said. http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=4141&printer=1

Well, a year has come and gone and the option on the St. John property, identified by sources as the Goldmine Plantation in the Mississippi River’s east bank near the town of Edgard, which was for 330 days, has expired and was not renewed. No documents requesting permits have been filed with the parishes of St. John or Iberville, the town of St. Gabriel or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Meanwhile, during the 2014 legislative session—a year after approval of the sale of the Iberville Parish land to an unknown buyer for an undisclosed price—State Rep. John Bel Edwards apparently decided the deal was not a good one in light of the Ukraine crisis which erupted after approval of the cooperative endeavor agreement.

Edwards pushed through House Concurrent Resolution 209 (HCR 209) which requested that LED Secretary Stephen Moret “reevaluate and explore rescinding the cooperative endeavor agreement with the Russian-based company EuroChem.”

Of course the administration promptly ignored the resolution.

The 2,150 acre parcel in Iberville Parish is surrounded on three sides by the Mississippi River and the tract in turn surrounds the Carville Historic District that houses the National Hansen’s Disease Museum, the Gillis W. Long Military Center (Louisiana National Guard facility), and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Carville Job Corps Center. There are no exiting shipping terminals on the tract and the property is prone to flooding during times of high water.

One Iberville Parish official told our sources that he did not believe the project was going to move forward because of relations between the U.S. and Russia over the Ukraine crisis and because of current restrictions in Iberville on air emissions from existing plants which limits the amount of air emission credits available.

And it is those air emission, or carbon, credits that appear to be the key in the entire deal.

One person close to the St. John transaction, told our source that while the prospect of Eurochem’s building a plant in Louisiana is “still alive,” the purchase of the Iberville property “had to do with environmental credits.”

The credits, he said, were available from another company at the time they purchased the Iberville tract but are now gone. He refused to identify the company from whom credits were supposed to be available nor did he say what happened to those credits. “One was the deal (for construction) and one was about emission credits,” he said. “They purchased the Iberville land and continued to do business with us like it never happened.”

A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality explained that there are basically two geographic categories when considering air quality standards for permitting: attainment or nonattainment. When an area is considered to be in the nonattainment area, DEQ works with businesses to lower emissions to meet standards through “emissions credits.”

These “credits,” which are provided by the state, are gained by companies that make improvements to their current physical plants in order to reduce oxide and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. The credits can be bought and sold much like a commodity on the open market, he explained.

The credits also have to be acquired from companies within that particular designated geographic area that is considered in the nonattainment area.

Because Iberville Parish is within a nonattainment area, Eurochem would have to acquire the credits if planning to make an application for construction and would be required to demonstrate it had sufficient oxide and VOC credits to meet the application approval.

While no one is making any accusations, there is a flourishing international black market for emissions credits that has come under scrutiny by several investigative agencies, including Interpol, which calls carbon trading the “world’s fasting growing commodities market.” Guide to Carbon Trading Crime

http://www.interpol.int/en/News-and-media/News/2013/PR090/

Larry Lohmann, writing for New Scientist, says that the larger carbon markets are “poised on the edge of breakdown.” https://www.academia.edu/3152549/Regulation_as_Corruption_in_the_Carbon_Offset_Markets

Deloitte Forensic, Australia, calls carbon credit fraud “the white collar crime of the future.”

carbon_credit_fraud

Carbon credits also have become a favorite vehicle for money laundering schemes, according to investigative agencies. http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/08/06/itv-series-fraud-squad-investigates-carbon-credit-criminals/

http://www.marymonson.co.uk/fraud-solicitors/carbon-credit-fraud/

There are too many unknowns about the Iberville Parish land sale, according to retired Gen. Russel Honoré, leader of the Louisiana Green Army coalition. “The state is broke and we’re making deals with foreign entities who are polluters in their own countries,” he said of the Iberville Parish land sale as well as a recent deal with a Chinese company that has had a poor environmental record.

“As much pollution problems and erosion problems as we have in this state, we don’t need to be bringing in these companies from other countries unless they have clean safety and environmental records,” Honoré said.

Still another unanswered question concerns that buy-back clause in the cooperative endeavor agreement between Eurochem and LED. The side of the ledger favoring EuroChem is the $6 million grant the state gave EuroChem, along with all the other tax incentives it is receiving—should the plant be built. But on the plus side for Louisiana is the clause that says if the fertilizer plant is not built, the state has the option of buying the land back at a reduced price or approving the buyer for re-sale.

 

 

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Having laid off about all the personnel he can, after cutting higher education and health care to the bone, and after selling all the state property he can and privatizing state agencies and hospitals to benefit political allies, Gov. Bobby Jindal has finally turned to his only recourse in making even deeper cuts in the state budget to cover an ever-widening deficit: state contracts.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that a Jindal “policy advisor” recently appointed as an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Environmental Quality will remain in that post only about nine months before enrolling in law school.

Chance McNeely, who has served as a $65,000-a-year policy analyst for the governor’s office since last March, began in his new position of Assistant Secretary for Environmental Compliance this month but is already making plans to leave.

Jindal, you may recall, has issued two hiring freezes and two expenditure reductions and even issued a directive last April that “no agency use employee transfers, promotions, reallocations or the creation of new positions in such a manner as to exceed a ceiling” imposed by the administration.

State Treasurer John Kennedy and others have been calling on the governor to cut contract expenses across the board as a means of saving money for the state but those calls have largely been ignored by Jindal who no doubt will now claim this decision as his own.

The state issued 3,576 contracts or contract amendments in Fiscal Year 2014 (July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014) totaling a little more than $3.6 billion, according to figures provided by the Office of Contractual Review.

The Office of Group Benefits accounted for 17 contracts totaling nearly $1.5 billion, the most of any state agency. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana has a $1.1 billion contract to administer the health benefits program for state employees, retirees and dependents, which accounts for most of that $1.5 billion figure.

The governor’s office, through the Division of Administration, was second highest with 807 contracts or amendments costing more than $744.2 million.

The Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) normally has the highest amount of active contracts in terms of value at any given time, but the 730 contracts/amendments approved by DHH during Fy-14 accounted for $454.9 million, third highest among state agencies.

In fiscal 2007 (July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007), the year before Jindal took office, there were 6,621 active contracts totaling $3.3 billion, up from the $2 billion in contracts during the 2005-06 (FY-07) fiscal year because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita that year. The next year’s total increased to $4.72 billion. Jindal took office in January of 2008, halfway through that fiscal year. In and to $5 billion in FY-2008-09. The number of contracts decreased from 7,286 to 6,781 that year but the cumulative amount of those contracts increased to $5 billion.

The number of state contracts continued to decline through the 2013-14 fiscal year but they increased to a high of $6.55 billion in 2011-12 even though the actual number of contracts continued to decrease to fewer than 4,800.

Across the board cuts will most likely not work as some state contracts necessarily must remain intact. Those would include contracts funded in whole or part by federal dollars in such areas as highway construction, Medicaid benefits and community development projects.

But in many other contracts it will be interesting to see if the cuts will be carried out since many of the contractors are major contributors to the campaigns of Jindal and other state politicians.

Jeez, how will the administration decide which contracts to cut?

Those contractors who don’t pony up with campaign cash are the obvious candidates.

Then there are those who give only token contributions to the governor’s political campaigns. Cuts, yes, but perhaps not so much.

But those who open up their wallets and bank accounts? No way. Gotta dance with who brung you (apologies to the late University of Texas coach Darrell Royal).

A random check by LouisianaVoice turned up 26 companies with state contracts totaling nearly $1.4 billion which, either through the companies themselves or through corporate representatives, have combined to pour more than $283,000 into one or more of Jindal’s state campaigns. That means that for every dollar contributed, the donor receives a contract of nearly $4,947. A 10 percent net profit on those contracts would mean a bottom line return of $495 for every dollar contributed—a nice investment by anyone’s standards.

Having said that, let’s take a look at some major contractors, the amount of their contracts and their campaign contributions (in parenthesis) to Jindal:

  • CSRS, Inc.: $5 million ($10,000);
  • DB Sysgraph, Inc.: $1.2 million ($5,000);
  • United Healthcare: $14.86 million ($20,000);
  • Coastal Estuary Services: $18.87 million ($18,000);
  • Vantage Health Plan: $45 million ($11,000);
  • Louisiana Health Service (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana): $1.1 billion ($7,500);
  • Alvarez & Marsal: $7.4 million ($5,000);
  • Acadian Ambulance: $4.3 million (13 contracts) ($15,000);
  • Van Meter & Associates: $8.7 million ($17,500);
  • Fitzgerald Contractors: $655,400 ($2,500);
  • Global Data Systems: $1.74 million ($5,000);
  • Sides & Associates: $4.4 million ($6,000);
  • GCR, Inc.: $10 million ($2,000);
  • GCI Technologies & Solutions: $32.5 million ($5,000);
  • SAS Institute, Inc.: $630,000 ($6,000);
  • Hammerman & Gainer, LLC: $67 million ($20,000);
  • Rodel, Parson, Koch, Blanche, Balhoff & McCollister: $3.7 million ($26,500);
  • CH2M Hill: $3 million ($13,500);
  • Burk-Kleinpeter, Inc.: $7 million ($17,500);
  • CDM Smith, Inc.: $6 million (two contracts) ($2,500);
  • Eustis Engineering Services: $3 million ($1,000);
  • Sigma Consulting: $3 million ($21,250);
  • MWH Americas, Inc.: $3 million ($5,000);
  • McGlinchey, Stafford, PLLC: $2.8 million ($17,000);
  • Faircloth, Melton & Keiser, LLC: $4.1 million ($19,000);
  • Adams & Reese, LLP: $1.33 million ($3,350);

In addition to the contributions to Jindal, four contractors also contributed to the Louisiana Republican Party: DB Sysgraph ($5,000), GCR, Inc. ($6,000), CGI Technologies and Solutions ($5,000), and Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($2,000). Blue Cross also contributed $15,500 to Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and $2,500 to Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles).

Vantage Health also contributed $10,000 to Donelon and $3,500 to Kleckley and United Health Care contributed $3,000 to Kleckley.

Another firm, Hunt-Guillot of Ruston, held a three-year, $20 million contract to perform grant management activities in connection to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. That contract expired last June 30. Hunt-Guillot also held a five-month, $3 million contract in 2011 for additional grant management of recovery projects related to Katrina and Rita.

Hunt-Guillot made two contributions totaling $4,750 to Jindal’s campaign in 2007. Additionally, Hunt-Guillot principal Trot Hunt made two contributions of $2,500 each to Jindal during his 2007 campaign for governor.

And Jindal made a $5,000 campaign contribution to Hunt-Guillot principal Jay Guillot during his successful run for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2011, campaign finance records show.

As the vise tightens around Jindal, who is striving desperately to hold things together until he leaves town a year from now in his quest for the presidency, hard decisions will have to be made. He can’t keep firing employees and he’s run out of state property to sell.

After seven years, it may be in Jindal’s final year that the legislature finally stands up to his amateurish manner of handling the state’s finances. Speaker Kleckley, heretofore one of Jindal’s staunchest allies in the House, has come out publicly in opposition to any additional cuts to higher education. The Public Service Commission earlier refused to surrender its automobile fleet to Jindal who wanted to sell them at auction. It’ll be interesting to see who will be the next to grow a pair.

Jindal is rarely in the state these days and when he is, he is too busy taking potshots at President Obama and planning prayer meetings when he should be minding the store and doing the job to which he was twice elected. There is more than ample evidence by now that Jindal is having trouble holding things together by remote control.

To continue on his course of self-promotion at the expense of four million Louisiana citizens is the worst kind of duplicity and deceit and he most certainly deserves his near certain future of political obscurity.

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