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Eight Louisiana towns, each in a separate parish, may be on the brink of having to shut down basic operations because of significant debt, insufficient utility rates and/or loss of a major industrial taxpayer, according to the Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Additionally, four municipalities, are facing serious concerns of operation of their rural water infrastructure systems. One of those is facing the double whammy of concerns about both ongoing operations and about its rural water system.

The 11 are among 18 considered by the state auditor’s office as being “fiscally distressed municipalities, including three whose latest financial statements indicate a negative fund balance.

Those over which the auditor’s office issued a concern for ongoing operations and their parishes include:

  • Grambling (Lincoln);
  • Tallulah (Madison);
  • Baldwin (St. Mary);
  • Basile (Evangeline);
  • Lake Providence (East Carroll);
  • Newellton (Tensas);
  • Washington (St. Landry), and
  • Epps (West Carroll).

Baldwin was also among four municipalities about which concerns were raised over rural water infrastructure committees. Others with rural water infrastructure concerns were:

  • Melville (St. Landry);
  • Tullos (LaSalle), and
  • Powhatan (Natchitoches).

Vidalia in Concordia, Winnsboro in Franklin, and Waterproof in Tensas were also flagged over concerns that their latest financial statements indicate a negative fund balance, or deficit.

Additionally, auditors could not issue an opinion for the most recent year for LeCompte in Rapides Parish and a fiscal review committee is monitoring the town of Clinton in East Feliciana Parish.

The auditor’s office was unable to issue an opinion for the most recent year for the towns of Ball in Rapides Parish and Jonesboro in Jackson Parish.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said the purpose of the list was to provide the public and elected officials at the state and local levels notice of the municipalities’ financial plights so that remedial measures could be undertaken.

“Our goal is to work with each municipality’s elected officials and to provide recommendations to place the municipality on a path to fiscal stability,” the Baton Rouge Business Report quoted Purpera as saying.

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Some weeks ago, I stopped counting political brochures arriving in my mailbox by sheer numbers, choosing instead to measure them by the pound.

Republic Services has probably had to put another truck or two into service just to cart away the political mail-outs cluttering the mailboxes on my street alone. They’re too slick to use for the bottoms of bird cages, so they serve no real purpose other than to attest to the fact we are needlessly killing far too many trees.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they actually offered anything new but, to paraphrase a line uttered by Frasier on the sitcom Cheers, they’re redundant, they repeat themselves, they say the same things over and over—and still they don’t tell us a thing about the candidate except perhaps in the case of one Edith Carlin, who insists she’s the male version of Donald Trump, a rather dubious self-accolade, if there ever was one.

Carlin describes herself in her fliers as “an outsider like President Trump.” (And yes, she does underscore the word outsider.) She goes on to say, “Just like President Trump, Edith Carlin is a self-made person…”

Really? Did she begin drawing millions from her father while still a child? Did her father purchase her way into the Wharton School of Business? Did she hire undocumented workers, not pay them, and default on billions of dollars of loans from banks into order to become “self-made”? Did she become “self-made” by declaring bankruptcy half-a-dozen times? Is she “self-made” from cheating thousands of students in a fraudulent “university” that was under investigation until making a big campaign contribution to the attorney general who was investigating the school? Is that what she means by “self-made”?

She should be so proud.

She says she “will hold the government accountable in a way politicians can’t.” Really? How does she plan to do that? That promise has been made thousands upon thousands of times by thousands upon thousands of candidates but nothing seems to change. But she’s different, I suppose. She’s proposing to waltz into a 39-member body and single-handedly convince her fellow senators and 105 House members that they’ve been wrong all along and they will obligingly repent of their evil ways.

That’s about as absurd as every four years, the candidates for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish vow to make public education better when in reality, the mayor’s office has zero to do with the school board. Zero.

Well, one of the things Carlin says she’ll do is “fix I-12 issues without raising the gas tax.” Well, Ms. Carlin, it would be most interesting to hear just how you plan to go about doing that.

“After billions of dollars in tax increases,” she says, “the government now admits taking too much from us.” I suppose she’s referring to the $300 million – $500 million surplus of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration. But personally, I much prefer a surplus of $500 million to the eight years of $1 billion deficits of the best-forgotten Jindal administration.

She is running against State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, a fellow Republican, who is term-limited and who is running for the seat of former State Sen. Dale Erdy, also term-limited. Pope is a former Livingston Parish school superintendent who brought our school system up to among the best in the state. Pope’s big sin is he doesn’t always vote the party line, choosing instead to vote his conscience, an attribute many claim as their voting philosophy but which few can back up. But when you cross party lines, you cross the party and the party is the party is the party and the party doesn’t forget.

Carlin claims politicians “haven’t fixed our drainage problems,” that “80 percent of our district flooded.” True. I flooded, as did thousands of others. And of course, Carlin’s hero, Trump, dragged his feet in getting the requirements for assistance approved by HUD. It’s been three years and many still have received nothing from FEMA. As for fixing our drainage problems, she says we need an engineer to fix those problems. She is an engineer.

But guess what? Rogers Pope was an educator. Do you think they assigned him to the House Education Committee? Nope. That would make far too much sense. They tucked him away where he wouldn’t be a nuisance to Jindal and John White. Does Carlin think she’ll fare any better? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, she says she’ll work to improve drainage problems but she’s against taxes. It’s going to be interesting to see her just snap her fingers and make our problems vanish.

But to really understand the candidate Carlin, it’s always best to follow the money to see who is the power behind the politician (and she is now officially a politician, her denials notwithstanding).

So, I went onto the campaign finance records to see who her backers are.

The results were eye-opening, to say the least.

To narrow the field, I looked only at contributions of $500 or more. I found 65 contributions totaling $68,500 since January 1, 2019, including a couple of multiple contributions by the same donor, namely Republican power broker Lane Grigsby, who also backed Jindal and who is backing Eddie Rispone for governor.

I also noted a $2,500 contribution from Koch Industries.

But the real story is that of those 65 contributions, is that exactly 11 were from Livingston Parish while 32 were from East Baton Rouge Parish, 14 from other parts of the state and eight were from out of state. That’s 11 from Livingston and 54 from elsewhere.

Those 11 Livingston Parish contributors (actually, only 10 because one person contributed on two different occasions) accounted for $14,500 (including $4,500 from just three persons) while the 32 East Baton Rouge Parish donors ponied up $37,500. The 14 from other areas of the state gave $17,500 and out-of-state contributors chipped in $13,500.

So, Livingston Parish contributors gave just 21 percent of Carlin’s total while backers in Baton Rouge put up 54.7 percent of her total.

Livingston Parish voters may wish to ask themselves why so many people in Baton Rouge are involving themselves in a race in Livingston Parish. Well, let’s see who they are:

  • EastPac, NorthPac, WestPac, and SouthPac, all arms of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), combined to give $19,267. Since there are limits as to how much a political action committee may give, LABI simply bent the rules by creating not one, not two, not three, but four PACs.
  • Lane Grigsby: $2,500.
  • Todd Grigsby: $1,000.
  • ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) Pelican PAC: $2,500.
  • The Louisiana Homebuilders Association PAC: $2,500.
  • TransPac (a trucking industry PAC): $1,500.
  • Investment portfolio manager Meagan Shields: $3,000 (two $1,500 contributions).
  • Louisiana Student Financial Aid Association (LASFAA) PAC: $1,000.

Besides Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas, out-of-state contributors included:

  • Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C.: $2,500.
  • Chevron, San Ramon, California: $2,500.
  • Stand for Children PAC, Portland, Oregon: $2,000.
  • Weyerhaeuser, Seattle, Washington: $1,500.
  • Marathon Petroleum, Findlay, Ohio: $1,500.
  • Tanner Barrow, Worthing, South Dakota: $1,000.
  • Micham Roofing, Sparta, Missouri: $500.

Louisiana contributors not from Livingston or East Baton Rouge Parish who contributed were from Bossier City, Slidell, New Orleans (2), Shreveport (2), Raceland, Jennings, Mandeville, Alexandria, Prairieville, Covington, Ponchatoula, and Gray.

So, those who haven’t already voted early may wish to ask themselves why the Republican party has turned on one of its own in such a vicious manner—but mostly why so much outside money is being poured into Edith Carlin’s campaign.

You may also wish to ask yourself whether she will be beholden to the people of Livingston Parish or to the faceless PACs of Baton Rouge, Washington, and elsewhere.

She may call herself a political outsider, but from here, she looks more like a puppet with the potential to be controlled by political insiders from outside Livingston Parish.

 

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The breadth and depth of ruthlessness and greed apparently knows no bounds with the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry.

And it’s time, past time, that Gov. John Bel Edwards stepped in and brought an end to the destructive force that the board has become.

LouisianaVoice has documented numerous instances of abuses by the board:

EXAMPLE ONE

EXAMPLE TWO

EXAMPLE THREE

EXAMPLE FOUR

EXAMPLE FIVE

EXAMPLE SIX

EXAMPLE SEVEN

EXAMPLE EIGHT

EXAMPLE NINE

EXAMPLE TEN

EXAMPLE ELEVEN

EXAMPLE TWELVE

EXAMPLE THIRTEEN

EXAMPLE FOURTEEN

EXAMPLE FIFTEEN

EXAMPLE SIXTEEN

EXAMPLE SEVENTEEN

EXAMPLE EIGHTEEN

And these are just a few of the stories we and others have done about the gestapo-like tactics of this board established to protect consumers but which has become nothing other than a means for raising funds to support the salaries of board executives, staff, attorneys and investigators, not to mention rent in luxurious office spaces.

Because it receives no funding from the state General Fund, the board, like the State Board of Medical Examiners, relies on back-breaking fines that are completely out of proportion to the offenses for which doctors and dentists are fined by a board that acts simultaneously as accuser, investigator, prosecutor and judge.

In short, there can be no semblance of due process with kangaroo courts like these.

There have been efforts in the legislature to rein in the runaway boards, but those efforts have met with little success.

In the case of Dr. Ken Starling of Slidell (see Examples 3 and 18), the arrogance of the board and the ineptness of the Office of Inspector General have to be particularly galling.

Starling did everything the board asked of him, including entering and completing a rehab program at a costly facility in Rayville. But that apparently was not enough, for when Starling petitioned the board, sitting in god-like judgment of him, for reconsideration of adverse sanctions assessed against him, he only met with more maddening bureaucracy compounded by the ineptitude of the Office of Inspector General, which appears to have less justification for existence than just about any other state agency.

The PROCEDURES for reconsideration of an adverse disciplinary decision by the board says nothing at all about referring a dentist’s petition to the Office of Inspector General. Yet, that’s precisely what the board did, punting its responsibilities to another equally-bumbling agency.

LouisianaVoice has tracked some of the performance claims of the OIG and found that its claims of recovery of millions of dollars in restitution from felonious state employees were misleading because they basically piggy-backed federal prosecutors who actually led all the leg work.

As tor the OIG itself, it has provided little evidence of being an effective investigative or enforcement agency. In other words, taxpayer dollars wasted on useless inertia.

At any rate, the dentistry board, relying of all things, on the results of an OIG “investigation,” rejected Starling’s petition. Inspector Clouseau would have been a better choice.

The board, in a classic case of the blind leading the blind, noted that the OIG “reported to the Board that it found no irregularities or improper conduct associated with the investigation in 2009-2010 or the Consent Decree of March 5, 2010.”

Of course not. The OIG could not find its posterior with both hands, so it was a safe call by the dentistry board to refer the matter to OIG. You might say it was a classic Catch-22 that would do Joseph Heller proud while sealing Starling’s fate.

The board didn’t even extend the courtesy of sending a letter to Starling notifying him of its decision, relying instead on an email:

From: Rachel Daniel
Date: May 21, 2019 at 2:25:58 PM CDT
To: Kenneth Starling

Cc: Arthur Hickham <ahickham@lsbd.org>

Subject: Request for Reconsideration of Adverse Sanctions

Dear Dr. Starling:

Your petition for reconsideration of adverse sanctions was addressed by the members of the Disciplinary Oversight Committee and by the full board on March 15, 2019 in accordance with LAC 46:XXXIII.116.  While the committee found that your petition should be presented to the full board, the board voted unanimously to refer your case and your concerns to the Office of the State Inspector General of Louisiana (OIG).

After the OIG’s investigation, the OIG reported to the Board that it found no irregularities or improper conduct associated with the investigation in 2009-2010 or the Consent Decree of March 5, 2010.  Therefore, your petition of adverse sanctions was addressed again by the members of the Disciplinary Oversight Committee on May 7, 2019 in accordance with LAC 46:XXXIII.116.

Please be advised that the committee found that your request for reconsideration of adverse sanctions on May 7, 2019 lacked substantial merit and was denied.  Attached please find board rule .116 which outlines the time delay before which you can seek further relief.

Should you have any questions regarding this correspondence, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

 

Arthur F. Hickham, Jr.

Executive Director

Louisiana State Board of Dentistry

P.O. Box 5256

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70821-5256

225.219.7334  Phone

225.219.0707  Fax

www.lsbd.org

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When four Southern University professors filed suit against the school over the manner in which the school’s system-wide grievance committee handled their grievance hearing, it didn’t take long for the name of James H. Ammons, Ph.D., to surface as the prime antagonist in the decision to fire, demote or cut the pay for the professors.

A trial was held on Monday of this week after the three, along with yours truly, filed suit for what we are claiming to be an illegal executive session called by the committee to handle the professors’ claims.

At issue is the university’s handbook which gives the committee final say over whether the hearing would be open to the public or closed versus state law which gives the professors the right to request—and be granted—an open meeting.

Also challenged in the lawsuit was the announcement by committee chair Marla Dickerson that the committee had voted prior to opening the meeting to enter into executive session.

The state’s Open Meetings Law expressly says that all such votes shall be taken in open session and the votes recorded in the minutes, neither of which occurred. A decision on the lawsuit, heard by 19th Judicial District Judge Chip Moore, is pending.

The grievances were filed against University Executive Vice President/Executive Vice Chancellor Ammons, whose decision it was to terminate or demote the professors.

Investigation by LouisianaVoice into Ammons’ professional background revealed a checkered past during his tenures at two other universities prior to his being hired by Southern in January 2018.

While serving as chancellor at North Carolina Central University in Durham, he was implicated in a satellite campus CONTROVERSY which skated the edge of violating state rules on program establishment and conflicts of interest.

Briefly, that involved the establishment of an unauthorized satellite campus in an Atlanta, Georgia, megachurch that had donated $1 million to the university.

The New L.I.F.E. College Program was established at the church of Eddie Long, a North Carolina Central University graduate who had been named to the university’s board of trustees two years earlier. Ammons, when questioned about the campus, professed to not remembering specifics, but said, “I accept full responsibility.”

He agreed to REPAY the federal government more than $1 million of the $3 million dispersed in financial aid for ineligible programs.

His next stop was at Florida A&M and more controversy.

At the same time his ouster was gaining momentum following the 2012 hazing death of the school band’s drum major, Robert Champion, he was negotiating $356,000 taxpayer-funded low-interest business LOANS to a company run by Ammons and his son, James Ammons, III.

At the time of the loan through the state’s Black Business Loan Program, he had just accepted and then walked away from the provost’s position at Delaware State University.

Corporate records listed Ammons as manager of Ammons Food & Beverage, LLC, and his son as registered agent. After rejecting the Delaware State job as the school’s number-two administrator, he signed a new contract to remain at FAME as a faculty member.

The loan represented the largest made through the program, representing more than 15 percent of the $2.225 million approved by the Florida Legislature to assist Florida’s black small business owners.

As pressure mounted for Ammons to resign, including a call from the governor that he step down, Rufus Montgomery, a member of the FAMU Board of Trustees, said, “This is not about hazing. This is about leadership or lack of leadership at FAMU. There have been more than 30 issues over the past year that have come before this board.

“This all came under the watch of the current president,” Montgomery said. “We have the FAMU students on trial this fall, we have no band this fall, we have a drop in enrollment coming and I read the other day that the Florida Senate is investigating the school.”

J.L. CARTER, writing for the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Digest on Ammons’ appointment as Southern’s new executive vice-president, said, “The last thing the (Southern) system seemingly wanted to do was to add a reason for negative speculation. But with Dr. Ammons, it did just that.”

In retrospect, his words, more than a year later, appear somewhat prophetic.

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On Thursday, WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge posted a story that was welcome news to the August 2016 flood victims, yours truly included.

The gist of the story was that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had waived the duplication of benefits provisions, clearing the way for flood victims who had to settle for SBA loans to rebuild their homes to receive compensation from FEMA through Restore Louisiana.

Until that provision was waived, anyone who did not receive FEMA funding was forced to accept the SBA loans. In some cases, as with me, victims were directed by FEMA reps to the SBA table to apply for loans. This was done without FEMA’s bothering to tell flood victims that if they accepted—or if they were even offered and declined—an SBA loan, they were automatically ineligible for other federal assistance.

So, as you might surmise, news of the waiver of the duplication of benefits stipulation was welcome news.

That story by WAFB-TV was posted at 8:41 a.m.

At 5:57 p.m., a scant eight hours later, I received my first scam call about my eligibility for federal assistance.

The call from Morgan City, my caller ID said. I know no one in Morgan City, but I answered anyway, thinking perhaps it may be someone with a tip for a story for LouisianaVoice.

Instead, it was a woman asking for me by name, although it took me about three or four tries to understand whom she was asking for. Then she launched into her spiel about my application, saying she need to confirm certain information. It took several times for that information to get through, which was just as well as it gave me time to wonder why someone would be calling from Morgan City about my FEMA application.

After asking her to repeat herself several times, the call was suddenly disconnected. When I tried to call back, I got the usual message on robo calls that the call could not be completed.

So, there you have it, folks. The scam artists are already busily scheming to prey on flood victims, some of whom still are not back in their homes and some, like me who, at 75, is saddled with a brand-new 30-year $125,000 mortgage.

The purpose of this is not to whine about my misfortune because to be honest, we fared better than many flood victims: we got an excellent general contractor who did everything he promised to do at the price he quoted—and he did excellent work.

The purposed of this is to put other victims on notice that the scammers are actively trying to steal your identity to bilk you out of anything you may have coming to you. You need to be alert to these people and NEVER divulge any personal information, including your Restore Louisiana application number, your social security number or anything else.

And just because my call showed up on caller ID as being from Morgan City (Area Code 985), that doesn’t mean diddly. They steal numbers so that it appears you are getting a local call. Your call may be from Hammond, Lafayette or anywhere, and from any area code.

DO NOT BE A VICTIM!

 

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