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Archive for the ‘Contracts’ Category

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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Corruption.

As the March 12 opening day of the critical 2018 regular session approaches, and with the looming possibility of the call of a special session to address fiscal Armageddon, it’s an important word for Louisiana citizens to remember.

Corruption.

In a state where administrators, legislators, and judges all seem to be in it for personal enrichment, it’s a word that has become synonymous with political office—from small town mayors, city councils and police chiefs to the highest levels of state government.

Corruption.

Like a cancer, corruption metastasizes until it adversely affects every aspect of our lives: education, economics, environment, health, and not least, trust in our elected officials.

Michael Johnston and Oguzhan Dincer, both former fellows at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, recently collaborated to conduct their fourth Corruption in America Survey, an undertaking first initiated in 2014 and repeated annually.

Since 2016, the survey has been hosted by the newly-founded Institute for Corruption Studies, an independent research institute within the Illinois State University’s Department of Economics.

More than 1,000 news reporters/journalists covering state politics and issues related to corruption across 50 states participated in the survey. Reporters from every state except North Dakota and New Hampshire participated.

Click HERE to read the complete results.

To no one’s surprise, Louisiana ranks among the worst states in terms of executive, judicial, and legislative sleaze—in both legal and illegal corruption.

What, exactly, it meant by legal and illegal corruption? After all, corruption is corruption, is it not?

Well, yes and no. Illegal corruption was defined by Dincer and Johnston as “the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.”

How Gauche. Everyone knows that in Louisiana the preferred method is legal corruption, which the two researchers defined as “the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”

For evidence of that, one need look no further than the LouisianaVoice STORY of Aug. 28, 2016, to see how Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and a gaggle of legislators fell all over themselves in protecting the big oil and gas companies from their responsibilities to clean up after themselves. Here is a more detailed look at .

Who better to serve as director of the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority than former State Sen. Robert Adley of Bossier Parish, the top recipient of OIL AND GAS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS?

And Bobby Jindal handed out appointments to the most influential boards and commissions to his biggest campaign contributors like candy on a Halloween night and even upgraded a major highway in South Louisiana to benefit a company run by another large contributor.

Dincer and Johnston said that official legal corruption is moderately to very common in both the executive and legislative branches of government in a “significant” number of states, “including the usual suspects such as Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York,” but that “Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana are perceived to be the most corrupt states” in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Illegal Corruption

Only 13 states were found to have moderately common to very common illegal corruption in their executive branches. Louisiana was one of those 13.

Only four states had illegal judicial corruption deemed to be moderately common (Alabama and Louisiana) or very common (Arkansas and Kentucky). Dincer and Johnston wrote that even a finding of only slightly common in illegal judicial corruption “is still worrying since it is the judicial branch of the government that is expected to try government officials charged with corruption.”

“State legislators are perceived to be more corrupt than the members of the executive branches in a number of states,” the researchers said.

To illustrate that, the survey found just six states with legislative illegal corruption that was very common (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana) or extremely common (Oklahoma and Pennsylvania).

Legislators were found by LouisianaVoice to have leased luxury vehicles for family members, purchased season tickets to college and professional athletic sports teams, hired family members as campaign staff, paid personal income taxes and state ethics fines—all with campaign funds and all of which were illegal.

One legislator even profited by conveniently investing in Microsoft just as his committee was pushing through approval of one of the company’s software programs at the same time other states were taking similar action. The simultaneous approvals gave Microsoft stock a significant boost.

Legal Corruption

“Legal corruption is perceived to be more common than illegal corruption in all branches of government,” the report said, with Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin scoring highest in legal corruption “in all branches of government.”

Those same three states, along with Arkansas, topped the list in legal corruption in the judicial branch where legal sleaze “is perceived to be ‘very common,’” it said, noting that in all four states, judges are elected as opposed to states where judges are chosen on merit and in which judicial corruption is not as common.

“…We expect our courts to rise above the day-to-day pressures and expectations of politics,” the report said. “That they apparently do not raises serious questions about the ways judges are elected in many states, how their campaigns are financed, and whether conflicts of interest arise as those who contribute to judicial campaigns are allowed to appear before those same judges as cases are tried.”

Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin were joined by Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York as states where legal executive corruption was found to be either “very common” or “extremely common.”

Legal legislative corruption was found to be “extremely common” in 12 states: Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas.

Aggregate Corruption

Across the board, in terms of legal and illegal corruption in all three branches of government, few states do it better than Louisiana, results of the survey reveal, with the state ranking in the upper tier of corruption in all six listings.

That finding prompted the authors of the report to say that corruption in state government “is not just a matter of contemporary personalities and events, but is rather a result of deeper and more lasting characteristics and influences.

Nowhere, it would seem, is that truer than in Louisiana. Following is just a partial list of Louisiana public officials who have come face-to-face with corruption charges of varying degrees:

 

Louisiana Executive Corruption

Sherman Bernard: The first Louisiana Insurance Commissioners to be convicted, he served 41 months for extortion and conspiracy.

Doug Green: The second State Insurance Commissioner to go to jail, he was convicted on three counts of money laundering, 27 counts of mail fraud, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jim Brown: The third consecutive Louisiana Insurance Commissioner served six months for lying to the FBI.

Richard Leche: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison for accepting kickbacks on the purchase of 233 state trucks.

Edwin Edwards: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison after his conviction of extortion in connection with the awarding of state riverboat casino licenses.

Charles Roemer: Commissioner of Administration under Gov. Edwin Edwards, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to violate federal racketeering laws, violating the statute and engaging in wire and mail fraud as a result of the FBI’s Brilab operation which also resulted in the conviction of New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello. Roemer served 15 months in federal prison.

Jack Gremillion: Louisiana Attorney General of whom it was once said by Gov. Earl K. Long, “If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a law book,” was sentenced to three years in prison for lying to a federal grand jury about his interest in a failed loan and thrift company.

Gil Dozier: Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner, initially sentenced to 10 years in prison for extortion and racketeering but had eight years added after presiding federal judge learned Dozier had attempted to tamper with a juror and to hire a hit man for an unidentified target.

George D’Artois: Shreveport Public Safety Commissioner was implicated in the 1976 murder of Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie but he died in surgery before he could be tried.

Cyrus “Bobby” Tardo: former Sheriff of Lafourche Parish sentenced to 29 years, five months after pleading guilty in 1989 to solicitation for murder, conspiracy, possessing an unregistered destructive device and using an explosive to damage a sheriff’s car. His victim? His successor and the man who defeated him for reelection as sheriff, Duffy Breaux.

Duffy Breaux: Lafourche Parish Sheriff sentenced to four years, nine months in prison for conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice in 1995.

Eugene Holland: The first of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to be convicted of a federal crime, sentenced to 16 months in prison for the theft of public funds to cover his utility bills and to pay for renovations to his house and barn. Pleaded guilty in 1996.

Chaney Philips: The second of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to serve prison time after his conviction on nine counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, engaging in illegal monetary transactions, theft involving a federally-funded program, money laundering, and perjury—all related to his time not as sheriff but as parish assessor before being elected sheriff. Sentenced to seven years.

Ronald “Gun” Ficklin: Third consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriff to be convicted of federal criminal charges. Sentenced to five years, three months for trafficking cars with altered vehicle identification numbers, altering VINs, mail fraud, helping convicted felon possess a fun. Pleaded guilty in 2007.

Jiff Hingle: Plaquemines Parish Sheriff pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Bodie Little: Winn Parish Sheriff convicted in 2012 of drug trafficking, sentenced to 13 years, four months in prison.

Royce Toney: Ouachita Parish Sheriff, pleaded guilty in 2012 to hacking a deputy’s email and phone records and then trying to cover up his snooping. Sentenced to four years’ probation.

Walter Reed: St. Tammany Parish District Attorney (22nd JDC) sentenced to four years in prison in April 2017 for conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements on tax returns. Sentence on hold during appeals process.

Harry Morel, Jr.: St. Charles Parish District Attorney (29th JDC) pleaded guilty in April 2016 to obstruction of justice in FBI inquiry into whether he used his position to solicit sex from women seeking official help. Sentenced to three years in prison.

Aaron Broussard: Former Jefferson Parish President pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiring to accept bribes from a parish contractor. Sentenced to 46 months in prison. While parish officials other than district attorneys and sheriffs are not generally listed here, Broussard is because of his high national profile following Hurricane Katrina.

Ray Nagin: New Orleans Mayor convicted in 2014, sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, tax evasion for illegal dealings with city vendors. As with the case of Broussard above, mayors not normally included in this list because of the sheer volume. But because of his high profile following Katrina and as mayor of state’s largest city, it was decided to include him.

 

Louisiana Legislative Corruption

Larry Bankston: Former chairman of the Senate Judiciary B. Committee that handled gambling legislation was convicted in 1997 on two counts of interstate communications in the aid of racketeering involving alleged bribes from a Slidell video poker truck stop owner. Sentenced to 41 months in prison. Re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar by State Supreme Court. Currently suing State Attorney General for the cancellation of his contract to represent a state agency.

Gaston Gerald: State Senator convicted in 1979 of extorting $25,000 from a contractor. Sentenced to five years in prison. Re-elected while in prison and put a prison acquaintance on Senate payroll as an aide before he was expelled from the Senate in 1981.

Sebastian “Buster” Guzzardo: State Representative among more than 20 persons, including the leader of the New Orleans Marcello crime family and three reputed New York mobsters, convicted in the Worldwide Gaming investigation. Conviction was for conducting an illegal gambling business and for aiding a mob-controlled video poker company. Sentenced in 1996 to three months in prison.

Girod Jackson, III: State Representative who pleaded guilty in 2013 to tax evasion and tax fraud in connection with his business dealings with the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority. Sentenced to three months in prison, nine months of home detention despite recommendations of 12 to 18 months imprisonment.

William Jefferson: 18-year veteran of U.S. House of Representatives convinced in 2009 on 11 of 16 felony counts for taking bribes in connection with a Nigeria business deal. Seven of the 11 counts on which he was convicted were overturned on appeal. Sentenced to five years, five months after appeals. In 2006, following Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson interrupted rescue operations by using a Louisiana National Guard detachment to recover personal effects from his home. (His sister, Orleans Parish Assessor, also sentenced to 15 months in prison after admitting to funneling $1 million in public funds to her family’s bogus charities.)

Charles Jones: State Senator from Monroe, convicted in 2010 of filing false tax returns and for tax evasion, sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution. Was re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar on Monday (Jan. 29, 2017).

Harry “Soup” Kember: State Representative was sentenced to five years in prison after his 1986 conviction of mail fraud for pocketing part of a $150,000 state grant he secured for a constituent’s company.

Derrick Shepherd: State Senator sentenced to three years in prison in 2010 after admitting that he laundered money for a corrupt bond broker, netting $65,000 for the scheme.

Rick Tonry: Served only four months as a U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District after pleading guilty in 1977 to receiving illegal campaign contributions, promising favors in return for contributions and for buying votes in the 1976 Democratic primary.

 

Louisiana Judicial Corruption

Ronald Bodenhimer: The 24th Judicial District Judge was among four judges to be caught up in the FBI Wrinkled Robe investigation of Jefferson Parish Courthouse corruption and one of two to receive jail time. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2003 to planting drugs on a critic of his New Orleans East marina, for bond splitting, and for attempting to fix a child custody case on behalf of Popeyes Chicken Founder Al Copeland.

Wayne Cresap: The 34th JDC Judge for St. Bernard Parish was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to accepting more than $70,000 in bribes and for letting inmates out of jail without paying their bonds.

Alan Green: Another of the four Judges of the 24th JDC in Jefferson Parish. Sentenced to 51 months in prison after his 2005 conviction of a $10,000 mail fraud scheme to take bribes from a bail bonds company.

William Roe: The 25th JDC Judge for Plaquemines Parish was sentenced in 2010 to three months in prison for unauthorized use of movables for pocketing more than $6,000 in reimbursements for legal seminars that he attended as judge. The money should have been deposited in a public account instead.

Thomas Porteous, Jr.: Only the eighth federal judge to be removed from office by impeachment in the Republic’s history, he was convicted in 2010 by the U.S. Senate on four articles charging him with receiving cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors, and deliberately misled Senators during his confirmation hearings. As if to underscore the gravity of the charges, all 96 senators present voted guilty on the first article which addressed charges during his time as a state court judge and his failure to recuse himself from matters involving a former law partner with whom he was accused of granting favors for cash.

There are scores of other examples, including city and parish elected officials, local police chiefs, and even a legislator who resigned rather than be expelled for spousal abuse. And former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Warden Burl Cain retired in 2016 under an ethics cloud even though he was official cleared of ethics charges. His son, Nate Cain and Nate’s former wife, Tonia, were indicted in August 2017 on 18 federal fraud charges over purchases he was said to have made with state credit cards during his tenure as warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport.

Additionally, LouisianaVoice over the past three years documented numerous instances of abuse of power and outright corruption from troop commanders all the way up to the upper command of Louisiana State Police.

There were dozens more not listed and sadly, there will continue to be corruption in all three branches of state government so long as the people of this state continue to look away and ignore the widespread malfeasance and outright skullduggery.

And by ignoring the problem, we are necessarily condoning it.

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Before Louisiana voters trek to the polls in record low numbers on Oct. 14, there are a few things to consider about State Sen. Neil Riser, one of four candidates for the job of state treasurer, who, besides failing to help landowners being fenced out of their hunting lands, actually took campaign cash from a family member of the one erecting the fences.

Riser, author of that infamous bill amendment in the waning minutes of the 2014 legislative session that would have given State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an additional $100,000 or so per year in retirement benefits, has received some other interesting contributions as well.

The Louisiana Safety Association of Timbermen gave $2,500 to his senate re-election campaign in March 2014 and only 18 months later filed for BANKRUPTCY on behalf of its self-insurance worker’s compensation fund, leaving quite a few policy holders in the lurch.

Several nursing homes have contributed $2,500 each to his treasurer campaign. The nursing home industry, heavily reliant on state payments on the basis of bed occupancy, consistently benefited from favorable legislation by the Louisiana Legislature over the past decade that discouraged home care for the elderly.

But by far the biggest beneficiary of Riser’s legislative efforts is Vantage Health Plan, Inc., of Monroe which contributed $1,000 in 2015 to his Senate re-election campaign and another $1,000 to his treasurer campaign in March of this year.

Vantage has received six state contracts totaling nearly $242 million during the time Riser has served in the State Senate.

But it was Riser, along with Sens. Mike Walsworth of West Monroe, Rick Gallot of Ruston and Francis Thompson of Delhi, who pushed Senate Bill 216 of 2013 through the Legislature which cleared the way for the state to bypass the necessity of accepting bids for the purchase of the state-owned former Virginia Hotel and an adjoining building and parking lot. That was done expressly for the purpose of allowing Vantage to purchase the property for $881,000 despite there being a second buyer interested in purchasing the property from the state, most likely for a higher price.

By law, if a legislative act is passed, the state may legally skip the public bid process to accommodate a buyer. This was done even though a Monroe couple, who had earlier purchased the nearby Penn Hotel, wanted to buy the Virginia and convert it into a boutique hotel. Thanks to Riser and the other three legislators, they were never given the opportunity.

And Vantage, from all appearances, really got a bargain. The building was constructed in 1925 at a cost of $1.6 million and underwent extensive renovations in 1969 and again in 1984, according to documents provided LouisianaVoice, all of which should have made the property worth considerably more than $881,000. Read the entire story HERE.

Internal documents revealed concerns by Vantage that if the building were to be offered through regular channels (public bids), “developers using federal tax credits could outbid Vantage.”

Another document said, “VHP (Vantage Health Plan) fears that public bidding would allow a developer utilizing various incentive programs to pay an above-market price that VHP would find hard to match.”

Finally, there was a handwritten note which described a meeting on Nov. 1, 2012. Beside the notation that “Sen. Riser supports,” (emphasis added) there was this: “Problem is option of auction—if auction comes there is possibility of tax credits allowing a bidder to out-bid.”

All of which raises the obvious question of why did the Jindal administration turn its back on the potential of a higher sale price through bidding, especially considering the financial condition of the state during his entire term of office? We will probably never know the answer to that.

One might think that that kind of effort on its behalf would be worth more than a couple of thousand in campaign cash to Vantage. Vantage could have at least shown the same gratitude as the relative of the owner of 55,000 of fenced hunting property in Riser’s district.

When landowners in Winn, Caldwell and LaSalle parishes felt they were being fenced out of their hunting rights back in 2013, they did what any citizen might do: they went to their legislator for help–in this case, Riser, who paid the obligatory lip service of expressing concern for landowners Wyndel Gough, Gary Hatten, and Michael Gough but who, in the end, did nothing to assist them.

Instead, as so often happens today in politics, he sold out to the highest bidder.

One the $5,000 contributors to Riser’s campaign is none other than Hunter Farms & Timber, LLC, of Lafayette. An officer in that firm is Billy Busbice, Jr., of Jackson, Wyoming.

William Busbice Sr., one-time chairman of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, and Junior’s father, is a partner in Six C Rentals Limited Partnership of Youngsville, LA. Which purchased and proceeded to fence in some 55,000 acres of prime hunting land a few years back.

The original LouisianaVoice story on that dispute can be read HERE.

All of which only serves to underscore the long-held perception that we in Louisiana, by continually electing the type of public officials who are interested only in the next big deal, get the kind of representation we deserve.

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Ha·be·as cor·pus

[ˌhābēəs ˈkôrpəs]

NOUN

A writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.

Habeas corpus is the legal procedure that keeps the government from holding you indefinitely without showing cause. It’s been a pillar of Western law since the signing of the Magna Carta in England in 1215. The Founders of our nation believed habeas corpus was so essential to preserving liberty, justice, and democracy that they enshrined it in the very first article of the United States Constitution.

 

Ex·tor·tion

[ikˈstôrSH(ə)n]

NOUN

The practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.

 

RICO

[ˈrēkō]

ABBREVIATION

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

 

Trudy White has been a judge in the 19th Judicial District of Louisiana since 2009. The district encompasses East Baton Rouge Parish. Before being elected a state district judge, she served for 10 years as a Baton Rouge city judge.

Cleve Dunn, Jr., served as Chairman of Judge Trudy White’s Campaign Committee, according to a campaign finance report filed on March 19, 2014 (scroll down to the second page of White’s campaign finance report by clicking HERE).

Cleve Dunn, Sr., who was paid $250 by Judge White’s campaign on Nov. 14, 2014, for marketing, is the operator of Rehabilitation Home Incarceration (RHI). RHI (see corporate filing record  HERE) has profited by its association with Judge White and is now a named defendant, along with Dunn and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, III, in a class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Louisiana’s Middle District.

REHAB PETITION

RHI is one of several private companies that offer pretrial supervision services for the court but is the only approved on Judge White’s website, the petition says. Judge White also assigns defendants a company called Street Crimes Alternatives for pretrial supervision, but, the petition says, that company is also run by Dunn.

A check by LouisianaVoice, however, revealed two other vendors for home incarceration on Judge White’s web page: Home Bound Monitoring Pretrial and Probation Services and Criminal Justice Service. There was no indication as to when those two were added to Judge White’s WEB PAGE.

Additionally, Judge White paid Frederick Hall and his wife, Gloria Hall, $250 each for campaign support activities on the same date as her campaign’s payment to Dunn. Hall is a former employee of RHI and, with his wife, now owns a bond company to which RHI routinely refers defendants, the lawsuit says.

Lead plaintiffs in the litigation, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, are Henry Ayo and Kaiasha White (no relation to Judge White).

Ayo was arrested for attempted theft of an air conditioning unit and Kaiasha White for simple and aggravated battery following an argument. Both appeared before Judge White on August 8, 2016.

“Since Judge White’s re-election … in 2014, she has assigned arrestees to supervision by RHI,” the lawsuit says. “White does so without conducting in open court an individualized determination of, or providing an opportunity for arrestees to be heard on, the need for, or the conditions of, RHI supervision.”

The lawsuit said that Judge White appears to make the RHI assignments before the defendants even appear in her court nor does she inquire of arrestees whether or not they can afford to pay bond or RHI’s initial or monthly fees. White, the petition says, usually sets the duration of RHI’s supervision at 90 days or for an indefinite time, “irrespective of the supervisee’s next court date.”

White does not typically impose specific supervision terms for RHI to enforce nor does she order a curfew, house arrest or payment of the initial or monthly fee as a condition of release from the parish prison. RHI takes it upon itself to set all those conditions in an arbitrary manner, the suit says.

RHI demands an initial fee of $525 and arrestees typically learn of this only when they or family members attempt to post bail or at their first meeting with RHI at the prison. Those who cannot immediately pay the initial RHI fee may wait in jail for days or weeks until they can pay despite their having already posted bail.

Through an agreement with RHI, the lawsuit says, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Gautreaux and Parish Prison Warden Dennis Grimes “created and enforce a policy that the prison will not release arrestees from the prison until it receives permission from RHI—permission that comes only after RHI is satisfied with the initial payment made.”

Upon their release, they are required by RHI to sign a contract setting forth RHI’s future fees and conditions of supervision which require the arrestee to pay a monthly fee of $225 to their assigned RHI officer, or “monitor,” during their supervision term. The contract also sets a curfew for supervisees, restricting them from spending the night anywhere other than at their reported residential address.

“RHI monitors and Dunn himself threaten supervisees with re-arrest if they fail to make financial payments or comply with RHI’s costly supervision conditions—without affirmatively inquiring into their ability to pay,” the suit says. “Accordingly, supervisees pay (or attempt to pay) the fee out of fear of re-arrest and bond revocation by scraping together money from friends or family.”

Ayo was told his fees were in part to pay for an ankle monitor even though he was never provided one. When he and his wife were unable to make timely payments, RHI would assess him with late fees.

The federal RICO statute is invoked in the lawsuit because, it says, “Dunn has conducted the affairs of RHI through a pattern of racketeering to achieve the common purpose of unlawfully extorting money from plaintiffs Ayo and White and the proposed class. These racketeering acts are an integral part of RHI’s regular course of business.”

The petition says that Dunn “has committed multiple, related predicate acts of extortion by refusing to authorize the release of plaintiffs and the proposed class from the prison until they paid money towards the RHI initiation fee. Additionally, by unlawfully using the fear of arrest and jail by East Baton Rouge law enforcement or RHI officials, Dunn on numerous occasions extorted from plaintiffs and the proposed class a monthly supervision fee, along with fees for classes or other requirements imposed at the discretion of RHI employees.”

It said Dunn’s use of RHI to extort money from arrestees assigned by Judge White “constitutes a pattern of racketeering activity.”

The lawsuit listed a number of questions for the proposed class:

  • Whether RHI, independent of Judge White, sets terms for an arrestee’s release and the fees for its supervision services;
  • Whether Dunn, RHI, and Gautreaux, in his official capacity, have an agreement that individuals assigned to RHI by Judge White may not be released from the prison until they have paid RHI’s initial fee and RHI notifies the prison of such payment;
  • Whether RHI and Gautreaux, in his official capacity, enforce such agreement against the proposed class without determining whether individuals can afford to pay RHI’s initial fee;
  • Whether Gautreaux has a policy, practice, or custom of detaining arrestees until obtaining RHI’s permission to release them;
  • Whether RHI’s standard contract provides for an initial fee and monthly fees;
  • Whether RHI’s standard contract provides for arrest and jailing for failure to pay its fees;
  • Whether Dunn directs RHI employees to threaten to arrest and jail individuals who do not pay the monthly supervisory fees and other mandated fees to RHI
  • Whether Dunn’s operation of RHI through a pattern of racketeering activity, specifically, extorting money from (arrestees) by unlawfully detaining them in the prison until they pay RHI’s initial fee, then threatening them additional jailing if they fail to pay RHI monthly fees once released, violates the Louisiana and federal RICO acts;
  • Whether Gautreaux and RHI’s practice of detaining individuals because they could not pay RHI’s initial fee violates arrestees’ rights under the 14th Amendment to due process and equal protection;
  • Whether Gautreaux and RHI’s detention of arrestees after they posted bonds constituted an unreasonable seizure in violation of the 14th Amendment, and
  • Whether RHI lacks any legal authority or right to collect fees from arrestees.

 

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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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