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Archive for the ‘Fraud’ Category

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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There is only one word to describe the courts in the 4th judicial District: rancid.

It was bad enough when it was revealed that:

  • ALLISON CAMPBELL, a clerk for 4th JDC judges, had mis-filed, shredded, or otherwise destroyed records (52 different writ applications missing for more than a year turned up as being used as an end table in Campbell’s office.
  • Or that when the Ouachita Citizen sued to obtain public documents from the court, the court’s judges sued the newspaper and its publisher Sam Hanna, Jr. to prevent having to make the documents available.
  • Or that Campbell’s sister is a prominent Monroe attorney, Catherine Creed, her father George Campbell was an executive with Regions Bank and was married to the daughter of attorney Billy Boles.
  • Or that a “duty” or on-call JUDGE (Larry Jefferson) would alter bond instructions, allowing an inmate charged with five counts of aggravated crimes against nature to walk out of jail and disappear.
  • Or that Monroe attorney and former Monroe city council member ARTHUR GILMORE, JR., was sentenced to 24 months in prison and temporarily permanently disbarred by the Supreme Court for violations of the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The disbarment was handed down as permanent but he petitioned and was approved for readmission in January.

But now, we learn that the Louisiana Supreme Court has suspended the law license of Monroe attorney DANIEL J. HUNTER for one year after an investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Council found that Hunter had mismanaged his client trust account.

(Yawn). So what, you say? Happens every day. Some lawyer dips into the account for a quick trip to the casino with every intention of repaying the money—until he loses it and then loses again in an attempt to win it back. Sometimes it’s for more sinister purposes. Many times it’s just sloppy bookkeeping and funds get co-mingled. Mismanagement could be many things but you get the idea.

But wait. Daniel J. Hunter isn’t just any old attorney.

He is the brother of current 4th JDC court judge and former Louisiana State Rep. Marcus Hunter.

Daniel and Marcus are the sons of former Louisiana State Sen. Willie Hunter.

Daniel Hunter also just happens to be employed by 4th Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew as an assistant prosecutor. He was recently demoted to prosecuting misdemeanor offenses.

So, there you have your state judicial district court in Ouachita and Morehouse parishes.

Be proud.

Remember the adage that you get the government you deserve.

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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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Emails sent to the medical staff by the CEO of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center (OLOL) Scott Wester and the CEO of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health Systems (FMOL) Dr. Richard Vath attacked what Vath described as “a troubling article” by the Baton Rouge Business Report which Wester said included “a number of negative allegations about Our Lady of the Lake, and me in particular.”

The Business Report article, by Editor Stephanie Riegel, was published on April 24 and described in detail administrative and financial problems encountered by OLOL and FMOL and hinting at a connection between the firing of former FMOL CEO Michael McBride and the embezzlement of $810,000 from the foundation involving its former chief fundraiser John Paul Funes.

McBride, brought in to shore up FMOL, lasted a year. An outsider, he attempted to oust local power Wester but was himself shown the door.

If all that isn’t confusing enough, consider this: the two emails by Vath and Wester went out on April 23, the day before the article’s online publication.

Damage control isn’t unusual but damage control in advance of a “troubling article” is less common, to put it mildly. Especially in light of a paragraph in Riegel’s story: “Attempts by Business Report to reach Wester for comment were unsuccessful and OLOL officials declined to make him available for an interview for this story.”

It just seems to me that if you’re not going to avail yourself to an opportunity to tell your side of the story, you waive any rights to attack the messenger—especially the day before the story’s publication.

Which, of course, raises the question of just how did Vath and Wester get their hands on an advance copy of the story?

Something about the timing of all this just doesn’t pass the smell test.

For those who might need a refresher or for those living out of the Baton Rouge media coverage area, FMOL and OLOL were rocked late last year by the revelation that $810,000 had been embezzled from a foundation, established by OLOL to raise funds for projects like the new OLOL Children’s Hospital.

Chief fundraiser Funes, whose salary was listed at $283,000, subsequently fired.

But Riegel’s story went further by quoting McBride as saying the Funes scandal “was a symptom,” not the cause, of bigger problems at OLOL. McBride was quoted as attributing low OLOL employee morale to the “good ol’ boys’ network,” adding, “It is no coincidence that seven-plus years of stealing went unreported until new senior leadership was in place.

She described inroads into the Baton Rouge market by Ochsner Health Systems of New Orleans, quoting sources as implying that OLOL’s fees are currently about 25 percent higher than its competition at Ochsner and Baton Rouge General.

Those were the points with which the two emails obtained by LouisianaVoice appear to disagree, although neither email addressed any specific errors in the story, both choosing instead to deliver a “feel good” message aimed at lifting morale and deflecting from points made by Riegel.

“I believe the article paints an inaccurate picture,” Wester wrote. “I could easily make the case about why the ministry is strong and how the Sisters and System’s leadership have us on the right path. Instead, I want to apologize.”

Vath took a similar approach, writing, “The article is misleading and inaccurate in several ways and attempts to use recent leadership transitions as the starting point for several lines of attack against our ministry.”

“When reading the emails, it was impossible to know what Mr. Wester and Dr. Vath were talking about unless one received the Baton Rouge Business Report in published form,” said one OLOL employee.

“Both of the emails are camouflaging and obfuscation, and don’t address any facts or specifics of the article—nor of anything going on at the hospital.

“Just from the form and tone of the two emails, I was pretty confident that I’d agree with over 50 percent of the article even before I actually read it the next day,” the employee said. “Now that I’ve read the article, I agree with almost 100 percent of it—at least the parts I know about from working at OLOL.

“I’d love to have Mr. Wester and Dr. Vath tell us which parts of the article are not factual and/or untrue.”

 

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Try for a moment to imagine that:

  • You were born in England of Indian parents, moved to Louisiana at the age of 10 with your parents and twin brother;
  • You graduated from the prestigious Louisiana School for Math, Science & and the Arts and the LSU School of Dentistry;
  • You’ve practiced dentistry for the past 16 years in Monroe;
  • You have devoted your entire adult life to serving those less fortunate;
  • The Dean of the LSU School of Dentistry recommended you for a seat on the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry;
  • You were appointed to the board by the governor of the State of Louisiana in January 2019;
  • Three months later, you learned your appointment had been abruptly rescinded because the incumbent board member pitched a hissy fit and called in political favors.

If your name is Dr. Jeetendra S. Patel, you don’t have to imagine because that scenario is all too real to him.

Along the way, he has learned several valuable lessons they don’t teach in high school civics classes:

  • Power is bestowed upon those who best know how to abuse it;
  • Once in possession of that power, they are quite reluctant to relinquish it;
  • Not everything in politics is done above-board—far from it;
  • Without the right connections, there are no slam-dunks;
  • There are many avenues to obtaining power but conniving, back-stabbing, deception, treachery and outright lies are the preferred methods.
  • Power is never achieved for the purpose of doing good; it is for one purpose only: crushing your opponents, both perceived and real;
  • The simultaneous possession of power and idealism are incompatible;

But, hey! That’s the new reality. You study hard, make good grades, do well in college, work hard, provide for your family, help the underprivileged, get involved in your kids’ schools, cheer for your favorite team and then see you idealism, your dreams smashed against the cold, hard rocks of political favoritism, back-room deals, good ol’ boy cronyism, and big-money politics.

In short, your American Dream has morphed into an American nightmare—and you never saw it coming.

That’s the story—the disillusionment, really—of Dr. Jeetendra S. Patel.

In an April 12 (Friday) email to State Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi), Patel wrote:

The Louisiana State Board of Dentistry has been in the hot seat the last several years. The board needs diversity and some fresh faces. On Monday, October 1st, 2018, I was nominated to be on the board and to represent Electoral District 4. Dr. Richard Willis (who has already served a 5-year term) and Dr. Robert Spatafora were also nominated. These nominations were submitted to the Governor. On January 18th, 2019, I was appointed to the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry by the Governor. As of today, I have been on the state board almost 3 months and have already participated in the first meeting of 2019 as well as reviewed a board complaint case against a dentist. I have had the pleasure of meeting all the board members.

Unfortunately, I found out from a colleague today that I will not be confirmed by the Senate. Please help me understand why this is the case. I have been practicing dentistry in Monroe for 16 years and have attended most Northeast Louisiana Dental Association (NELDA) meetings since 2003. On September 18th, 2018, Dr. Willis sent an email out to all practicing dentists in our district stating that there would be a nominating meeting for the District 4 vacancy (a vacancy that did not exist). The meeting was to be held at his practice/office. How is this fair?  He had all his friends, most of whom were older dentists, come to the meeting.  A few of the dentists present don’t even practice dentistry anymore and I have never seen them at a meeting. Most of the dentists that came to his office usually are not present at our association meetings. Dr. Willis also had all 3 of his dental partners present. Nowhere in the bylaws, is there a ballot vote required. I questioned Dr. Willis that night about this unfairness in voting and his words were that’s what we are going to do.

This whole situation was handled poorly and with bias. Our first NELDA meeting of 2019 was held at The Taste of India on Thursday, January 17th. Dr. Willis was present that evening and was to give a state board report to all dentists who were present. When he found out that I was going to be appointed the next day, he stormed out of the restaurant and never gave his report. To make matters worse, he had one of his associates call me the following week to see if I would step down from the board. On Monday, April 1st, 2019, an anonymous email went out to all 4th district dentists asking for a new vote on the state board member appointment. This was a survey that any person could vote on. To make matters worse, the email stated that “At our recent legislature dinner, our local legislators requested a new vote on the state board member appointment.” The very next day, the Alternate Director to the LDA and the President of NELDA, sent out an email stating that this was not discussed.

So, basically, here’s what we have:

  • Willis has completed a five-year term on the board;
  • By law, the governor’s office solicits three names for nomination to succeed him;
  • The names of Patel, Willis and a third dentist were submitted;
  • Patel was selected from the three and nominated to the board—and has even attended a board meeting;
  • Willis didn’t want to go;
  • Willis tries an end-run around the governor’s office to call a new vote, a vote which state regulations do not allow;
  • An anonymous email was sent out (apparently on Willis’s behalf) announcing that a new vote had been requested by area legislators. This time, unlike the first, anyone who had a body temperature of approximately 98.60 would be eligible to vote;
  • Those in attendance of a meeting at which Willis walked out say no such discussion was ever held;
  • Patel’s nomination, nevertheless, was yanked and now Willis is scheduled for Senate confirmation within the next few days.

The words ruthless come to mind here.

And unless Gov. Edwards intervenes in this power play and reinstates Patel, this could become a campaign issue. It’s at least the second such case of a board appointment suddenly being rescinded by the governor’s office and if this is indicative of a trend, it’s an ugly one.

Many state boards in general and the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry and the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners in particular have become tight little cliques and outsiders need not apply.

It’s far past time that once and for all, the unequivocal point needs to be driven home that the memberships of these boards are not for personal enrichment or to destroy competition, but to serve the citizens of the State of Louisiana.

That point has been lost somewhere along the way.

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