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Archive for the ‘Contracts’ Category

The Republican governor of Nevada has done what Bobby Jindal for eight interminable years refused to do and what Gov. John Bel Edwards should have already done.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, saying, “There’s something not right here and it needs to be fixed,” ordered Nevada’s state dental board on Nov.8 to address—and fix—problems of corruption, bullying and extortion rampant in the board’s patient-complaint/resolution process.

A STORY in the Las Vegas Review-Journal sounded eerily familiar to a number of LouisianaVoice stories dating back to March 2014 about abuses perpetrated by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry through harassment, intimidation, and exorbitant penalties—including ruined careers—for minor infractions and sometimes none at all.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/07/state-board-employs-intimidation-harassment-to-generate-funds-to-pay-for-lucrative-contracts-worth-millions-of-dollars/

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/18/like-dental-board-louisiana-board-of-medical-examiners-survives-on-fines-and-incentive-to-punish/

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/23/appeal-court-slams-lsdb-tactics-in-reversing-kangaroo-court-license-revocation-board-attorney-rules-on-his-own-objection/

And should Edwards take it upon himself to rein in the rogue dental board, he may well also wish to take a long hard look at a few other boards that have gone off the reservation over the years.

  • Here are just a few that warrant a closer look:
  • The State Board of Cosmetology;
  • The Auctioneers Licensing Board;
  • The State Board of Medical Examiners;
  • The State Board of Examiners of Psychologists

Each of these boards has been the subject of considerable controversy over the manner in which they investigate complaints and assess penalties without giving their targets the benefit of the same due process to which accused criminals are entitled under 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Several dentists and dental hygienists protested a $500,000 increase in the contract for the Nevada dental board’s outside legal counsel, John Hunt and their testimony quickly escalated to shouting a crying by those who said Hunt coerced them to acknowledge wrongdoing and to pay money to the dental board.

Several of them accused Hunt of benefitting from money collected by the board.

As we said earlier, eerily familiar.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/11/16/dentistry-board-facing-difficult-future-because-of-policies-contracts-with-attorney-private-investigator-are-cancelled/

At least in Nevada, complaints by victims of the dental board led to action.

A legislative audit of the board concluded that the board imposed excessive penalties on those it was investigating and also took issue with the board’s handling of Hunt’s contract. The board’s handling of patient complaints, it said, left targets of investigations with the belief that they either had to accept a settlement agreement or risk steeper punishment if found guilty in a final board hearing.

“That’s where the allegation of extortion comes in,” State Assemblyman Glenn Trowbridge, a member of the subcommittee that conducted the audit, said in June. “Either pay me now or we’ll look into it deeper and you’ll pay me more.”

Again…eerily familiar.

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/18/case-of-slidell-dentist-illustrates-unbridled-power-of-dentistry-board-to-destroy-careers-for-sake-of-money/

Sandoval appoints the members of the dental board. He said the time has come for the 11-member board to address the problem. Citing his experience with other state boards during his political career, he said, “I’ve never seen …people as upset as they are.”

The board, following Sandoval’s scolding, postponed action on Hunt’s contract amendment.

1980 U.S. Supreme Court specifically addressed the issue of excessive penalties in the case of U.S. Secretary of Labor v. Jerrico, Inc.

In that case, the Supreme Court reduced a $103,000 penalty to $18,000 in that the higher penalty constituted an unconstitutional risk of bringing “impermissible factors into the prosecutorial decision.”

In an earlier, even more pointed decision, the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that “board members’ pecuniary interest disqualified them from passing on issues.”

In citing an Alabama case in which the Board of Optometry revoked the licenses of all optometrists employed by corporations such as Lee Optical, the court said, “Because the Board of Optometry was composed solely of optometrists in private practice for their own account, the District Court concluded that success in the board’s efforts would possibly (contribute) to the personal benefit of members of the board, sufficiently so that in the opinion of the District Court, the Board was disqualified from hearing the charges filed against the appellees.

“It is sufficiently clear from our cases,” the court continued, “that those with substantial pecuniary interest in legal proceedings should not adjudicate these disputes.”

As simple to understand as that ruling is, one must wonder why, 43 years later, the Louisiana Board of Dentistry and other licensing boards in the State of Louisiana are still allowed to operate their own respective fiefdoms with carte blanche.

Are their legal counsels not able to read and understand the law?

Is there not a single board member among them with the decency to say, “This isn’t right”?

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There are those who will label this post as sour grapes.

That’s okay. You can call it Tinker Bell, Rambo or anything you choose. I don’t care because it won’t change the fact that the Louisiana Supreme Court is dominated by gutless hypocrites.

There’s a guy in New Orleans who will agree with me even if no one else does.

His name is Ashton R. O’Dwyer, Jr. and he is an attorney. Or at least he was.

You see, like me, he sounded off to and about the wrong people—judges, to be precise—but unlike me, he was in a vulnerable position in that he was a partner at the prestigious New Orleans law firm Lemle & Kelleher. As such, anything he said about the judiciary could be—and was—met with instant retaliation.

O’Dwyer’s sin was that he had the idea to file a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its lack of adequate preparedness for Hurricane Katrina. For good measure, in case it should be determined that the Corps was immune from litigation, he also named the State of Louisiana as a defendant for its pitiful oversight of the various politically inept and corrupt levee boards.

But other attorneys who were politically connected to the presiding judge wanted to be the plaintiff attorney. The judge eventually disqualified O’Dwyer and the rival attorney filed his suit. The only problem is the other attorney also represented the state so he could not, because of the obvious conflict of interests, file against the state.

It was little consolation to O’Dwyer that the Corps of Engineers was, as feared, determined to be immune from being sued which left the other attorney with no case. O’Dwyer was furious and went slightly ballistic.

He was eventually terminated by Lemle & Kelleher and things escalated quickly. Jailed on a questionable charge of making threats, he was held for mental evaluation. It was his second stint in jail. The first came because he refused to leave his St. Charles Avenue home during Katrina—even though a network news crew was allowed to remain in a house next door during the storm.

The courts were far from finished teaching him a lesson. Subjected to monitoring of his emails for years, suspended from the practice of law after being fired, he was later disbarred altogether. http://www.tulanelink.com/stories/o’dwyer_11a.htm

Today, O’Dwyer is not only fired, suspended and disbarred, but also bankrupt—all because he refused to hold his tongue. And today, he still won’t shut up.

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2010/12/disbarred_attorney_not_as_craz.html

After all, what else can they do to him?

Fast forward to November 7, 2016.

Among the writ applications denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court was Case No. 2016-C -1263 (TOM ASWELL v. THE DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATION, OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA AND KRISTY NICHOLS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE COMMISSIONER OF ADMINISTRATION). http://www.lasc.org/news_releases/2016/2016-065.asp

I filed my writ after the First Circuit Court of Appeal in an equally cowardly act, struck down the penalties against Nichols while acknowledging that the state was negligent in complying to our public records request in a timely manner.

As a refresher, here’s what happened. With the Division of Administration under Nichols already dragging its feet with several pending requests we had submitted, we decided to conduct a test to see if we were being targeted via slow compliance.

In October 2014, we submitted a detailed request for information pertaining to a complicated third party administrator contract between the Office of Group Benefits and a California bill processing firm. On the same day, we had a friendly legislator (who asked not to be named) submit an identical request through the House Legislative Services Office.

The House member received the requested information the very next day. Again, that was in October 2014. In January 2015, I still had not received the documents so I filed suit. Kristy Nichols then had a CD containing the information delivered to my attorney, J. Arthur Smith, III, the day after the suit was filed.

By our calculations, with state law providing penalties of $100 per day for failure to comply to the state’s public records law (remember: Bobby Jindal was touting the state for its “gold standard of transparency), the Division of Administration owed us about $40,000, including that request as well as others that were still outstanding.

District Court Judge Mike Caldwell, in his infinite wisdom, awarded us something on the order of $1200 and Kristy appealed. The First Circuit gutted even that award and we applied for writs to the Supreme Court.

Among those on the Louisiana Supreme Court who would have granted my writ were Jeannette Knoll of the Third District, Jeff Hughes of the Fifth District and John Weimer of the Sixth District. For that, I thank them.

The brain-dead justices who declined to do the right thing, who distorted the state’s public records law to their own satisfaction and who showed they possess no moral compass insofar as the public’s right to know is concerned were Chief Justice Bernette Johnson of the Seventh District, Greg Guidry of the First District, Scott Crichton of the Second District, and Marcus Clark of the Fourth District. For that, I thumb my nose at them.

Let’s recap: I’m not an attorney, I’m retired, and for the moment, the First Amendment, which guarantees my freedom of speech, is still firmly intact. Moreover, since Supreme Court justices are elected, that makes them politicians first, and judges second, which means their title of justices takes on about as much significance as a justice of the peace as far as I’m concerned. They are no more or any less human than anyone else who toils at an occupation. They are mortals endowed with no greater wisdom than my grandfather who had a sixth-grade education. (In fact, truth be known, he was probably light years ahead of most lawyers in terms of moral wisdom.)

In short, the Supreme Court jusrtices can’t do a damned thing to me for calling them imbecilic morons.

Now, lest you think this diatribe is about me, be assured it most definitely is not. It also is not about LouisianaVoice. Nor is it about $1200 in penalties—or even $40,000. The $1200 awarded by Judge Caldwell will neither make me nor break me.

This boneheaded decision, from district court all the way up to the Supreme Court’s decision to deny writs, is about something much larger than me, LouisianaVoice or $1200.

This is about the public’s right to request—and obtain—information about what its government is doing, how it is spending the taxpayers’ dollars, and how its government is meeting—or failing to meet—its responsibility to the public it is supposed to be serving. This rant also raises the obvious question: what purpose do laws serve if they are not enforced? Indeed, what use are judges (other than to look wise when photographed in their robes for their official portraits—at taxpayer expense, of course) when they selectively ignore the law?

With the manner in which our litigation was mangled by the judiciary, governmental agencies and those who run them—from the governor down to the mayors of Shongaloo and Paincourtville—may now take their cue from Case No. 2016-C -1263 (TOM ASWELL v. THE DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATION, OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA AND KRISTY NICHOLS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE COMMISSIONER OF ADMINISTRATION) and provide as much—or as little—as they choose in the way of public records without fear of financial penalties.

The only recourse we have at this point is to find another friendly legislator to write—and a friendly governor to support—new legislation tightening and re-defining the public records laws and the public’s right to know what its elected and appointed officials are doing in the name of representation of constituents.

We have the friendly governor, we believe, as evidenced by John Bel Edwards’s office prompt response to the public records requests we have submitted to him and to the Division of Administration.

So now, like Diogenes, we are seeking an honest man in the form of a legislator who will take on a difficult, if not impossible task.

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There are times when we have to dig pretty deep to uncover wrongdoing, conflicts of interest, favoritism, and outright corruption. There are other times when the information just seems to drop into our lap.

Such is the ongoing reports of kangaroo court proceedings conducted by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry. And how was a witness in a case against a fellow dentist rewarded with a seat on the board? And how is that dentist/board member allowed to serve as an insurance claims analyst in determining payments to other dentists in the same geographic area of his own practice?

It’s probably a good idea to provide something of a refresher to bring new readers up to speed. The State Dentistry Board previously had a contract with a private investigator who had a nasty habit of deciding that a dentist was in violation of some obscure regulation and then going about his investigation with the intent of proving his pre-set theory.

Investigator Camp Morrison, who racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in billings while contracted to the board for more than two decades (he even was provided rent-free office space in the Dentistry Board’s office suite on Canal Street in New Orleans), appeared to have an unlimited expense account.

And why not? He roamed the state under color of law, harassing dentists to self-generate his own fees which were more than paid for by the six-figure fines levied against dentists not in the board’s favor.

Of course, he couldn’t have done all that without the aid of the board’s general counsel, who often served in dual capacity as board counsel and board prosecutor, a violation of legal ethics rules and common sense. Because he only had a duty to his client the board of dentistry to act in its best interest, anyone that he prosecuted was denied due process. The same would be true if a police force handled its own prosecutions without an independent prosecutor; there would be no fundamental perception of fairness.

Attorney Brian Begue was also known to hide behind the cloak of administrative law in denying defendants’ rights afforded under the US Constitution. Because he self-generated his own fees, he had apparently selfish financial motives for seeing dentists prosecuted. In 2012, he was found by the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to have violated the due process of a Louisiana dentist. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/11/16/dentistry-board-facing-difficult-future-because-of-policies-contracts-with-attorney-private-investigator-are-cancelled/

This investigator and attorney were perhaps given cover by a few complicit board members and staff to carry out their harassment and extortion schemes.

Take Dr. Isaac “Ike” House of Haughton in Bossier Parish. http://www.lsbd.org/boardinfo.htm

In a highly questionable move by the Jindal administration after he testified as a witness in a hearing in which a Louisiana dentist alleged the board participated in criminal conspiracy and unfair trade practices against him by revoking his license to practice in Louisiana.

Was that appointment his reward for his testimony against the dentist?

Dr. Ike, it seems, wears many hats: he’s a dentist, a witness, a board member, and more recently, it has been learned, an analyst for dental insurance claims for a Baton Rouge dental insurance company.

IMAG2140

DENTAL INSURANCE CLAIM ANALYSIS PERFORMED BY DENTAL BOARD MEMBER DR. ISAAC “IKE” HOUSE (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

            That last position might appear to some as something of a conflict. As one who performs evaluations of claims for an insurance company serving dentists in his geographic area, he has direct input on their financial reimbursement from the company.

But conflicts of interest have never been a deterrent to the board in the past. The questionable practices of Begue and Morrison is ample evidence of that.

One former Shreveport dentist, Dr. Ryan Haygood, fought the board for several years and finally settled with the board early last month.

Dr. Haygood settled for a fine of $16,500, a fraction of what the board unjustly cost him in its ongoing persecution. Haygood’s attorney told him the facts of life about a board hearing that was cancelled at the last moment after the settlement agreement was reached: the deck was stacked against him and he would lose at the hearing—and it would cost him much more than the $16,500. The board was raising the same issues as before and daring him to appeal. He said he did not have the $300,000 necessary to go through with the appeal, only to lose since the board itself decides all appeals of its decisions.

He said there was no confidentiality clause in the agreement but two of the stipulations of the agreement were that he would take his Internet blog down and that he would sign a “non-disparaging clause.”

LouisianaVoice, however, is not bound by any such restrictions and our blog is still up and we will continue to disparage when deemed appropriate.

Haygood, however, is moving forward with his civil lawsuit against the board which will ultimately be determined in a court of law and not in the Dentistry Board’s hearing room by an attorney who acts as accuser and judge.

Meanwhile, rumors of state and federal investigations persist. http://theadso.org/federal-racketeering-laws-may-finally-bring-the-dental-board-to-its-knees/

It would be most refreshing if investigators could offer a valid explanation of how certain boards’ powers to run roughshod over licensees has been allowed to go unchecked for so long

If there’s corruption, this must be Louisiana (with apologies to the 1969 movie If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium).

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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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