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Archive for the ‘Fraud’ Category

Anyone remember Allyson Campbell?

If not, that’s understandable. After all, it’s been a couple of years since we had a STORY about her exploits in the 4th Judicial Court in Monroe. She’s the Monroe News-Star society columnist who showed up occasionally at her supposed full-time job as law clerk for 4th JDC Judge Wilson Rambo (gotta love that name; wonder if they have a judge named Rocky?).

On Wednesday, 12 of the 13 judges of the First Circuit Court of Appeal (only Judge Curtis Calloway did not hear arguments) dealt the self-promoting columnist/clerk a major setback when it ruled in an en banc (full court) decision that she does not enjoy “absolute immunity” from her actions in destroying court files and that a lawsuit against her may go forward.

But it was the dissenting opinion of one of the three judges who gave written opinions that makes for the best reading.

The ruling comes nearly two years after Louisiana Inspector General STEPHEN STREET found there was no “sufficient cause” to bring charges against Campbell for what witnesses said were repeated instances of her destroying or concealing trial briefs. For that matter, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Attorney General’s office also declined to pursue the matter, leaving only one state official, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, with the integrity and courage to call Campbell out for her actions.

She was also the central figure in:

  • The controversy that erupted when the Ouachita Citizen made a legal request for public records from the court—and was promptly sued by the judges for seeking those same public records.
  • The filing of a lawsuit by Judge Sharon Marchman against four fellow judges and Campbell over Campbell’s claiming time worked when she was actually absent—including time when she was in restaurants and/or bars for which she claimed time—and the four judges who Judge Marchman said were complicit in covering for her.
  • A complaint by Monroe attorney Cody Rials that Campbell had boasted in a local bar that she had destroyed Rials’ court document in a case he had pending before Judge Carl Sharp so that Sharp could not review it. One witness interviewed by Judges Sharp and Ben Jones quoted Campbell as saying that she had “taken great pleasure I shredding Rials’ judgment” and that she had given Rials a “legal f—ing.”

Now a DECISION by the First Circuit Court of Appeal, in overturning a lower court’s 2015 decision, has held that a lawsuit by Stanley Palowsky, III, against Campbell for damages incurred when she “spoliated, concealed, removed, destroyed, shredded, withheld, and/or improperly handled” his petition for damages against former business partner Brandon Cork may proceed.

At the same time, the First Circuit ruled that the five judges he added as defendants—Stephens Winters, Sharp, Rambo, Frederic Amman and Jones—for allowing Campbell “free rein to do as she pleased and then conspiring to conceal (her) acts” enjoyed “absolute immunity” from being sued and were dismissed as defendants despite their repeated denials that any documents were missing from the Palowsky file.

Palowsky argued that Campbell undertook her acts with malice and to obtain advantages for his opponents in the lawsuit. Moreover, he argued that Campbell’s supervising judges, Amman and Rambo, “did not just sit back quietly and let Campbell commit such acts, they actively worked and schemed to cover up her actions.”

Palowsky also said that Campbell’s wrongdoings “have been reported time and again by different attorneys in different cases and investigated time and again by defendant judges but have nevertheless been allowed to continue. It is now painfully apparent that not only has Campbell been unsupervised and uncontrollable for years, but defendant judges have actively schemed to allow her conduct to continue unabatedly (sic).”

Campbell, who doubles as a society columnist of sorts (if one really stretches the definition of the term) for the News-Star, is obviously her own biggest fan—unless you count her stated infatuation for Cork’s attorney Thomas Haynes, III, about whom she wrote in one of her columns that he…had the “IT” factor, “a somewhat undefinable quality that makes you and everyone else around stand taller when they enter the room, listen a little more closely, encourage you to take fashion or life risks, make each occasion a little more fun and generally inspire you to aim to achieve that ‘IT’ factor for yourself.”

If they taught that method of courtroom coverage in my Louisiana Tech journalism classes, I must have been absent that day.

Needless to say, the First Circuit upheld the lower court in expunging that paragraph from Palowsky’s petition.

In fact, the lower court struck 46 paragraphs from his lawsuit against Campbell and the five judges, but the First Circuit restored 21 paragraphs to the petition. The 25 it allowed to remain removed involved matters not directly related to Campbell’s alleged destruction of files, the judges said.

In 2014, Campbell published a column entitled, “A Modern Guide to Handle Your Scandal,” in which she wrote, “Half the fun is getting there, and the other half is in the fix.” She then went on to advise her readers to “keep the crowd guessing. Send it out—lies, half-truths, gorilla dust, whatever you’ve got.” She told readers, “You’re no one until someone is out to get you.”

(There’s a line in there somewhere about Trump, but it’s just too easy.)

In July 2015, she wrote in her column, “It’s not cheating if it’s in our favor.”

That paragraph was removed from Palowsky’s petition as was one that noted that on one occasion, 52 writ applications went missing for more than a year before it was discovered that Campbell had used the applications as an end table in her office.

Say what?!!?

One paragraph left in the petition was one in which Palowsky pointed out that the five judges might not be out of the woods yet, if the Louisiana Judiciary Commission does its job. The Louisiana State Constitution provides as follows: “On recommendation of the judiciary commission, the (Louisiana) Supreme Court may censure, suspend with or without salary, remove from office, or retire involuntarily a judge for willful misconduct relating to his official duty, willful and persistent failure to perform his duty, persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, conduct while in office which could constitute a felony, or conviction of a felony.”

It would appear in consideration of the judicial protection of Campbell, a case could be made that the judges are guilty at least of slipshod management at best and criminal malfeasance at worst.

All the judges in the 4th JDC recused themselves when Palowsky sued and his case was heard by Ad Hoc Judge Jerome Barbera, III, who cited in his Dec. 11, 2015, ruling dismissing the five judges as defendants an 1871 ruling that said, “It is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”

Even though Palowsky was claiming that the judges protected Campbell despite their full knowledge of what she had done, Barbera said, “Allegations of bad faith or malice are not sufficient to overcome judicial immunity.”

Another way of putting it is that the judges are untouchable and that their edicts, like those of the Pope, are infallible, divinely inspired.

Barbera extended the immunity to Campbell but the First Circuit opinion, written by  Judge Page McClendon, overturned Barbera on that point. While two of the Appeal Court judges, Vanessa Whipple and Guy Holdridge upheld immunity for the five district court judges in their written opinions, all three rejected the idea of immunity for Campbell and all three voted to reinstate 21 of the paragraphs in Palowsky’s petition.

But it was that third judge, William Crain, who wrote that none of the defendants deserved immunity from events in the 4th JDC.

“Judicial immunity is of the highest order of importance in maintaining an independent judiciary, free of threats or intimidation. But it is a judge-created doctrine policed by judges.” (emphasis mine)

He also said that when judicial actors “perform non-judicial acts, they are not protected by this otherwise sweeping immunity doctrine.

“The duty to maintain records in cases involves many non-judicial actors and can only be considered a ministerial, not judicial act,” he wrote.

“For the same reasons (that) the law clerk is not immunized for her non-judicial acts related to maintaining court records, the judges are not immunized for allegedly aiding, abetting, then concealing those acts. Failing to supervise a law clerk relative to a non-judicial act is not a judicial act for purposes of immunity.

“The doctrine of judicial immunity does not shield judicial actors from civil liability for criminal acts (and) while later cases suggest judicial immunity extends even to judicial acts performed with malice, those cases do not immunize judicial actors from criminal conduct grounded in malice or corruption.

“Extending the doctrine of judicial immunity to include civil liability for alleged criminal conduct, as in this case, risks undermining the public’s trust in the judiciary, which I cannot countenance.”

So, how, you might ask, has Campbell managed to withstand the barrage of charges of payroll fraud, absenteeism, records destruction, and critical audit reports and still keep her job?

And continue to flaunt her actions in a newspaper column?

That can be explained in one word: Connections.

Campbell’s father is George Campbell, an executive with Regions Bank. George Campbell is married to the daughter of influential attorney Billy Boles who was instrumental in the growth of Century Telephone and who is a major contributor to various political campaigns.

Allyson Campbell is also the sister of Catherine Creed of the Monroe personal injury law firm of Creed and Creed. Christian Creed, Campbell’s brother-in-law, contributed $5,000 to Attorney General Jeff Landry’s 2015 campaign, which could explain, in part, why the AG backed off its investigation of Campbell the following year.

In a town the size of Monroe, those connections are sufficient, apparently.

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Where to start.

There are so many inconsistencies and short circuiting of the system by the State Ethics Board regarding those four state troopers who went sightseeing to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas en route to San Diego in October 2016 that one has to wonder if the board exists in some sort of parallel universe.

The ethics board last month CLEARED the four troopers of any wrongdoing even though they knowingly went several hundred miles out of the way to make their side trip—for which they claimed to be on the clock and were paid overtime.

First of all, the board concluded that they four were instructed by their then-boss, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson to take the “northern” route in their drive to San Diego, the route that took them on their taxpayer-paid sightseeing vacation.

But regardless of whether Edmonson so instructed or not, the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Policy and Procedure Manual addresses the very issue of carrying out orders that are contrary to state law.

It’s right there in black and white on page 360:

  • “A commissioned officer shall promptly obey and execute any and all lawful orders of a superior officer. A “lawful order” is any order or assignment issued either verbally or in writing by a superior or ranking officer.” (emphasis mine)
  • “A commissioned officer shall not obey any order which he knows, or should have known, would require him to commit an illegal act. If in doubt as to the legality of an order, officers shall request the issuing officer to clarify the order.” (emphasis mine)

Of course, the decision—or perhaps non-decision would be a better description—sets up the four for a strong appeal of their discipline imposed by Edmonson’s successor, Col. Kevin Reeves.

In demoting Rodney Hyatt and Derrell Williams and reducing their pay, Reeves admonished them for “indifference” to what he called the “common sense notion” that it is not proper to claim pay for time when they were sightseeing or sleeping. Hyatt was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant and Williams from major and head of LSP’s Internal Affairs, to lieutenant.

Their appeal claims that their discipline was improper on procedural grounds because LSP took too long to complete its internal affairs investigation. They say the agency violated its owns policies by failing to request an extension of the internal investigation within 60 days.

But wait.

Back on June 8, retired state trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet appeared before the State Police Commission and advised commissioners of his belief that LSP was not adhering to commission rules regarding timely conducting investigations.

That was during the time that the commission seemed to be deliberately dragging its feet in its investigation, presumably on the pretense that there were vacancies on the commission and it was desired that new members coming onto the commission should have an opportunity to participate in the investigation.

In response to Millet’s concerns, Lt. Col. Mike Noel specifically said it was permissible for an employee to agree to an extension of time in accordance with the police officer’s Bill of Rights—and that the employees in question (Hyatt and Williams) “have agreed to the extension,” (emphasis mine) according to OFFICIAL MINUTES of that June 8 meeting published on the commission website.

State police are in a unique position in that they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the State Civil Service Commission but instead come under the moribund State Police Commission which is more prone to rubber-stamping recommendations to not investigate political activity by the Louisiana State Troopers Association.

Millet was told by the Board of Ethics on April 24, 2017, that the board declined to investigate as activity by two commission members because the LSTA “is not a public entity subject to the ethics code which includes the whistleblower statute.”

Yet, the ethics commission fined LSTA and its executive director David Young $5,000 for the LSTA’s action of funneling political contributions to political candidates, including but not limited to Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards, through Young’s personal bank account.

Some observers might call the claim that it had no jurisdiction over LSTA because it “is not a public entity” and the $5,000 fine inconsistent.

But hey, to be fair, consistency has been the hallmark of both the State Police Commission and the Ethics Board. They both have been consistently weak. Consistently able to avoid doing their jobs. Consistently ineffective and irrelevant. Consistently useless.

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…And we thought that Attorney General Jeff Landry was a horn-tooting self-promoter, who loved to tout his prosecutorial “accomplishments” while conveniently ignoring more blatant wrongdoing.

Turns out Landry should be watching State Inspector General Stephen B. Street and taking notes on how to fool all the people all the time—or at least make a pretty decent effort at doing so.

Street has just released his 29-page 2017 ANNUAL REPORT and network television must already be poring over it as the possible basis for a weekly series on crime fighting. Or maybe a sitcom. Either way, with all the tax breaks for movie and television production being given away by the state, the show is certain to be profitable while making Street a star in the process.

Eleven photographs are included in the annual report and Street’s smiling face is included in every single one. Here’s what one observer said of the photos: “…only one other staff member, an investigator, gets in one. Boy he must have done something really special to merit being the single staff member to be picked to be in a picture with the boss in the annual report. I am sure this did wonders for office morale.

“Street couldn’t even see the way clear to have a group picture of the whole staff in what only can be considered his annual report? I guess he couldn’t get the, as described very limited, 14 staff members in the same room to have one taken (probably has a shortage of meeting space also).”

Street, who undoubtedly wears a large red “S” on his chest, chronicles how his office beat back efforts by legislators in 2012 and 2016 to shut his office down for ineffectiveness—although his office, like most other agencies, has endured appropriations cutbacks.

Of those efforts to shut him down, Street, somewhat smugly philosophizes: “The 2016 OIG funding fight in Louisiana was simply the latest reminder of what comes with the territory in the Inspector General business. If you do the job aggressively – and we have — folks will come after you. It’s absolutely guaranteed. It was also a great reminder that the public is overwhelmingly supportive of Inspectors General, and we should never forget this.”

So, let’s review just how he has done his job “aggressively” to see who it prompted to “come after” him.

Street’s office, in response to a November 2016 public records request from LouisianaVoice, provided a list of FUNDS RECOVERED totaling more than $5.3 million since July 1, 2013, for which he claimed credit. No one on that list who might “come after” street—just low-hanging fruit. Easy pickings don’t often “go after” anyone.

Of course, the recovery of funds is quite different from orders of restitution, which was what each of these cases was. An order of restitution means little if there are no funds to be recovered.

“We have no information regarding amounts collected by those office and we receive none of the funds,” said OIG General Counsel Joseph Lotwick in a letter to LouisianaVoice.

In the case of Deborah Loper, for example, most of the million dollars ordered repaid had long since disappeared into slot machines at area casinos so any real chance of restitution is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. Still, Street listed that as a recovery of funds.

The LouisianaVoice request was made pursuant to Street’s claim for an accounting of public funds recovery stemming from OIG investigations.

Moreover, what Street’s office did not say, the difficulty of actually collecting notwithstanding, is that the OIG’s role in many of the above investigations was secondary to the U.S. Attorney’s role and restitution payments, if any, are made through either U.S. Probation or, in the case of the state’s being the lead prosecutor, to Louisiana Probation and Parole.

Nor did Street happen to mention the investigations by his office that either blew up in his face or simply did not occur. Even though most, if not all, actually occurred prior to 2017, they’re still worth mentioning:

  • The Murphy Painter fiasco, orchestrated by Bobby Jindal and Steve Waguespack, which resulted in the federal criminal trial of Painter who was cleared of all charges and the state had to pony up his legal fees of $474,000;
  • The illegal raid on the home and offices of Corey DelaHoussaye under the mistaken assumption (Street’s an attorney: attorneys should never “assume”) that DelaHoussaye was contracted to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) when in fact, he was contracted to the Livingston Parish Council where he had no jurisdiction (embarrassing). DelaHoussaye was subsequently exonerated of all charges.
  • Likewise, it was Street’s office that investigated and found no wrongdoing in the case of two assistant district attorneys in CADDO PARISHwho applied for a grant to obtain eight automatic M-16 rifles from the Department of Defense’s Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO). The two claimed on their application that they, as part of a Special Investigations Section (SIS), “routinely participate in high-risk surveillance and arrests (sic) activities with the Shreveport Police and Caddo Sheriff.” Persons interviewed from both agencies, however, refuted the claim that SIS employees took part in such operations.
  • Street also failed to follow through on an investigation into widespread abuses by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry. The board, with the aid of its investigator who employed questionable methods, was imposing excessively high fines against dentists for relative minor infractions and even bankrupted one dentist who blew the whistle on faulty jaw implants developed by a dentist at the LSU School of Dentistry.
  • Retired State Trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet said he filed a formal complaint on February 19 with Street’s office against the four State Troopers who drove the state vehicle to San Diego last October but never received an acknowledgement from Street. “I know he received because I sent the complaint by certified return receipt mail,” Millet said. Of course, it turned out that what Street’s office could not or would not do, the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Jim Mustian, New Orleans TV investigative reporter Lee Zurik and LouisianaVoice did—and we know the outcome of that.
  • Street said there was nothing to investigate when a gravity drainage district in Calcasieu Parish refused to pay contractor Billy Broussard a million dollars for work he did in dredging canals after hurricanes in 2005 and 2006. Broussard performed the work he was asked to do and the district refused to pay him, yet Street said there was nothing to investigate.
  • And he’s done nothing toward investigating possible human trafficking in the baby adoption racket in Louisiana, despite the persistent efforts of Craig Mills to get both Street and Landry involved in the investigation.

Of course, in listing the successful prosecutions (again, low-hanging fruit—people who are a lock not to “go after” him), Street is careful to see to it that his office is cited in all 10 reports—even if he had to insert the recognition himself, which he does in eight of the cases. Five of the reports were actually press releases from the U.S. Attorney’s office but Street piggy-backed them in his annual report.

But perhaps the best indicator of the effectiveness of Street’s office turns up in the report on 2017 travel expenses for his office.

That report shows that the office spent only $57.13 for in-state travel to conferences and just $509.11 on instate field travel (investigations).

But the office spent $2,564.46 on out-of-state travel to conventions and conferences.

Of 376 complaints received in 2017, OIG opened 60 investigations. The 2016 numbers showed 42 investigations opened on 401 complaints.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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