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Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

Something’s not quite right over at the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC).

Conflicting dates of employment of an unclassified employee, the awarding of a contract to a vendor whose bid was nearly twice that of two competitors, and appearances on behalf of a state contractor at a Florida convention by a state legislator have flown under the radar until now.

Wes Hataway is Director of the Office of Workers Compensation Administration but the question is just when did he join LWC?

Department of Civil Service records and minutes of the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council simply do not match up.

Civil Service records indicate that Hataway was hired as an unclassified Assistant Attorney General on Jan. 25, 2010 at $93,600 per year and 13 months later, on Feb. 21, 2011, moved over to LWC as an unclassified Assistant Secretary to then advisory council Chairman Chris Broadwater at an annual salary of $105,000.

Here is what we received from the Department of Civil Service:

“See information below on Wes Hataway. Let me know if you have any questions or need more information.”

Begin Date End Date Agency Job Title Annual Pay Rate
1/25/2010 2/20/2011 Office of the Attorney   General Unclassified Asst Attorney   General 90,000.04 (begin)93,600.26 (end)
2/21/2011 Present LWC-Workforce Support &   Training Unclassified Assistant   Secretary 104,998.40

And indeed, there is a paper trail that appears to support that time frame. A two-page score sheet that evaluated proposals for a fraud detection contract with LWC dated June 22, 2010, includes the signature of Hataway and identifies him as one of the four-member team that evaluated and made recommendations for the contract. It also identifies him as representing the Attorney General’s Office—six months after he was ostensibly named as legal council for the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC).

(To enlarge, left click on image):

PTDC0124

PTDC0125

But another document dated Jan. 28, 2010, casts doubts as to Hataway’s status at LWC.

Minutes of the Jan. 28, 2010, meeting of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council contain an entry on the fourth and final page which says, “Director Broadwater introduces newly hired AG attorney, Wes Hataway. Wes will serve as General Counsel, and also work on the prosecution of fraud cases.”

MinutesAdvisoryCouncilJan2810

Hataway has since replaced Broadwater as Director of OWC but he regularly consults with Broadwater on pending matters coming before him, according to court documents, according to legal documents.

Broadwater, a Republican from Hammond, was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2011 but continues to represent workers’ comp insurance companies before the Office of Workers’ Compensation, the agency he once ran.

Broadwater also appeared in a four-minute video at an SAS Institute conference in Orlando, Florida. In that video, he praised the work of the company, which won that 2010 contract with a high bid of nearly $4.3 million.  http://www.allanalytics.com/video.asp?section_id=3427&doc_id=269491#msgs

The three-year contract, which was officially approved on Oct. 7, 2010 retroactive to Aug. 31, 2010, ended last Aug. 30.

The SAS bid was nearly double the bids of IBM and Ultix, each of whom had bids of $2.2 million.

Broadwater, Vice Chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, said in a letter to LouisianaVoice, “My service as vice chair of the Labor & Industrial Relations Committee in no manner alters my duties or the constraints placed upon me under the Code of Governmental Ethics.”

And while claiming that he is prohibited from receiving compensation “from a source other than the legislature for performing my public duties,” he admitted in a legal deposition that he represented insurance clients before OWC and he even admitted that he discussed with Hataway the pending appointment of his former law partner and that he has discussed with Hataway on several occasions matters pending before OWC.

Broadwater also related that Hataway had sought his advice on whether or not he (Hataway) had the authority as director to issue a stay of pending cases without involving the judges to whom the cases were assigned. Broad said in his deposition that he was of the opinion that Hataway did have such power.

Broadwater and Hataway are friends of long standing but that does little to explain why Broadwater would introduce him to council members as a new hire a full year before Civil Service Records and the RFP evaluation and recommendation form reflect any change from his employment status at the Attorney General’s office.

Calling the conflicting dates a clerical error doesn’t fly but then again, it could be just another aspect of the current administration that defies explanation.

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From time to time at LouisianaVoice, someone will ask us how we get the information we use for our stories.

The answer is quite simple, really.

Instead of listening to what elected officials, political appointees and attorneys are saying, we listen to what they’re not saying.

And then we find out where the appropriate public records are and we go get them, sometimes finding it necessary to take legal action to obtain what rightfully belongs to the citizens of Louisiana. Our driving obsession is that public records are not the exclusive domain of whomever happens to be holding office at any given time.

The public’s right to know should be uppermost in any government—unless that government or a particular politician or bureaucrat has something to hide and we feel that having something to hide is the only reason for not releasing public records, deliberative process be damned.

And so, we choose to ask one more question. We know the politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers are going to put the best possible spin on any issue, so we must ask one more question and if we’re not satisfied with the answer, there are always the public records.

That’s the beautiful thing about a democracy; there’s always a paper trail when the politicians and their lawyers quit talking—or when they talk and we hear what they don’t say loud and clear.

And so it was when Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson fired off that six-page letter to State Treasurer John Kennedy in which she chose to attack Kennedy for his political aspirations as much as to defend her client, State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge), that we listened.

Dorsey, in 2007, pushed through the legislature a $300,000 appropriation for the Colomb Foundation in Lafayette which Kennedy in July of this year listed as one of three dozen non-government organizations (NGOs) that owed the state some $4.5 million for non-compliance in reporting on how their grant money was spent.

The Colomb Foundation received its funding to design and build a community center in Lafayette Parish.

The Colomb Foundation is run by Sterling Colomb who is married to Sen. Dorsey.

Pierson, however, went for Kennedy’s jugular when she dropped her bombshell in her letter: Dorsey and Colomb were not married until 2010, three years after the issuance of the grant, she said.

It was one of those “aha” moments that attorneys love. A “gotcha,” as it were, the implication being that there could be no conflict if Dorsey was not married to Colomb at the time.

Advantage, Dorsey.

But wait.

There was something in Pierson’s declaration about their marriage date that was not said—like how long had they known each other or how long had they been in a relationship? Could Dorsey have used her position to funnel $300,000 in state funds to her future husband?

We listened but all we could hear was crickets chirping. So, we embarked on a little paper chase that took only a few minutes and a couple of clicks of a computer mouse. And what do you suppose we found?

On Jan. 5, 2007, one Sterling Colomb contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Sen. Yvonne Dorsey, according to records obtained from the Louisiana Ethics Commission. And while the $300,000 grant to the Colomb Foundation was indeed approved three years before their marriage, the campaign contribution from her future husband came approximately four months before the opening of the 2007 legislative session during which the grant to his foundation was approved—a little more than three years prior to their marriage.

Aha.

Your move, counsellor.

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The heretofore one-person debate over state funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has been ramped up a notch with Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson’s six-page letter to State Treasurer John Kennedy that challenged Kennedy’s contentions that the Colomb Foundation owes a refund in lieu of an additional accounting of how it spent a $300,000 grant awarded the foundation in 2007.

The Colomb Foundation in Lafayette, run by Sterling Colomb, received its “public purpose” grant to “design and build a much needed community center that will house social services activities and programs that will be directed toward improving the quality of life through advocacy in crime prevention, distribution of health information and in an effort to decrease mortality rates among the at-risk population, and enhancing youth education through reading,” Pierson quoted from the foundation’s grant application.

Colomb is the husband of State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton rouge) but Pierson noted the two were not married until 2010, three years after the issuance of the grant.

The Colomb Foundation is one of three dozen NGOs that Kennedy said in July owed the state more than $4.5 million because of non-compliance in reporting how grant money is spent.

Several of the recipient NGOs no longer exist and the whereabouts of many of the NGO officers and representatives are unknown.

The state Capital Outlay Bill (Act 24) is peppered with local NGO projects that consume tens of millions of dollars of state taxpayer funds at a time when the state faces repeated annual budgetary shortfalls and while the number and amounts of NGO funding projects has diminished, their presence is still felt. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=858547&n=HB2 Act

Included in this year’s construction spending bill were such items as:

  • $200,000 for a sports complex in Princeton in Bossier Parish;
  • $500,000 for a water system in Bienville Parish;
  • $245,000 for planning and construction of a community and recreational center in Ascension Parish;
  • $380,000 for the purchase of the Lamar Dixon Development in Ascension Parish;
  • $450,000 for planning and construction of a multipurpose community center in Avoyelles Parish;
  • $300,000 for an airport industrial park in De Soto Parish;
  • $1 million for development of an industrial site in East Carroll Parish;
  • $500,000 for a new industrial facility in Evangeline Parish;
  • $1.3 million for an activity center in Franklin Parish;
  • $185,000 in first year expenditures for a recreational complex in Iberia Parish;
  • $3 million for a new hospital in Iberville Parish;
  • $2 million for a community center in Iberville Parish;
  • $300,000 for street lighting and security upgrades for the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority;
  • $5.2 million for recreation and achievement center in Jefferson Parish;
  • $3.5 million for construction of Parc des Familles in Jefferson Parish;
  • $735,000 for the Woodmere Community Center in Jefferson Parish;
  • $400,000 for the Avondale Booster Club and Playground upgrades in Jefferson Parish;
  • $17 million for a new hospital in St. Bernard Parish;
  • $220,000 for civic center planning and construction in St. Martin Parish;
  • $300,000 for recreational improvements at Kemper Williams Park in St. Mary Parish;
  • $125,000 for the St. Mary Parish Tourist Commission;
  • $980,000 for a community health center and livestock facility addition in St. Tammany Parish;
  • $400,000 for a multipurpose livestock and agricultural facility in Tangipahoa Parish;
  • $180,000 for a recreation complex in Vernon Parish;
  • $180,000 for improvements to rodeo arena in Vernon Parish;

Also funded were various local court houses, jails, water and sewer systems, local airports, fire districts, parish road improvements, councils on aging, and municipal projects too numerous to list here.

For a list of 2013 NGO funding requests, go here: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/NGO/NgoSearch.aspx

A spokesperson for Sen. Dorsey has contended all along that the organization is in compliance but Pierson’s letter of Wednesday, Nov. 20, was the first time that an attorney has weighed in on the issue.

An addition to her letter which she said she was sending to news outlets (LouisianaVoice was not among those to whom she sent copies of her letter—and yes, we feel slighted—although she did include a couple of long-retired reporters in her list of 24 media contacts) “because of all the fanfare you (Kennedy) have caused and the press coverage you demanded through your press releases, Pierson attached 10 exhibits—just like a lawyer in a real trial—which contained another 61 pages of receipts, emails and letters.

Among the exhibits were receipts from retail outlets for supplies, emails from the Legislative Auditor’s office indicating that office had found no irregularities, and even emails and letters from Kennedy’s office indicating its satisfaction with documents provided by the foundation.

“I suspect that the compliance by the foundation does not fit into your apparent political agenda for re-election or, even better, a campaign for governor,” Pierson wrote.

“On behalf of the Colomb Foundation, I demand it be deemed in compliance and that this matter be closed…and a letter be sent to Mr. Colomb ‘notifying him of the closure,’” her letter said.

“Failing the closure of the matter by your office on or before noon on Dec. 2, 2013, I have advised Mr. Colomb and the Foundation that a suit for mandamus may be filed, directed to you to compel you to perform the only remaining ministerial duty of closing the file because there is no further accounting to be done for any legitimate purpose,” she said.

And of course, her letter contained the requisite threat to sue for damages: “In addition, your prior actions, performed under the color of state law, have caused substantial damage to the Foundation and Mr. Colomb, if the matter cannot be amicably resolved by that date a claim for said damages will also be filed.”

kennedy letter

kennedy letter EXHIBITS

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“This race was never about why not to vote for Neil Riser. It was about why to vote for Vance McAllister.”

—Vance McAllister (R-Monroe), Saturday night after defeating heavy favorite State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) for the 5th District congressional seat.

Nothing.

—The comment/concession from the Riser campaign. (Ouch!)

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The results of the 5th District congressional race are in and the message has been sent loud and clear—surely loud enough to be heard in Baton Rouge.

With political newcomer Vance McAllister walloping State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), the heir-apparent to Rodney Alexander’s 5th District seat not by a comfortable but by an astounding and resounding 60-40 margin (an actual vote count of 54,449 to 36,837), the Louisiana Tea Party and Bobby Jindal have to be reeling and wondering what the hell happened. And Riser especially has to be feeling quite flummoxed and embarrassed at this juncture—particularly given the fact that he could muster only 3,800 more votes than he got in the Oct. 19 primary while McAllister pulled in an additional 36,000 votes, a margin of nearly 10-1 in the number of votes gained.

Actually, when you break it all down, there was more than one message sent in this election that Riser entered as the odds-on favorite to walk into office on the strength of the fast one that the Jindalites tried to pull off, not the least of which is that the Duck Dynasty’s political clout appeared to eclipse that of the governor (Gotta give credit where it’s due). Jindal clumsily overplayed his hand when he maneuvered Alexander into “retiring” halfway into this two-year term of office so that he could take a cushy state job as head of the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs at $130,000 per year, a job that stands to boost his state pension (he was a state legislator before being elected to Congress) from about $7,500 per year to something north of $80,000 per annum.

Then, as part of the bargain, Riser formally announced the day after Alexander’s announcement that he would seek the position and miracle of miracles, large—no huge—Riser campaign signs literally (as in the day after Riser’s announcement) appeared overnight in Ruston. Political pundits all over the state all but conceded the seat to Riser but then who would bet against him given the fact the job was all but handed to him on a platter? Or so it seemed at the time.

One message was that voters resent being taken for granted, considered a pesky afterthought as it were. Since when does the coronation precede the decision of the electorate in this country? As comic Ron White is fond of saying, you can’t fix stupid and assuming the job was his by Divine Right was stupid—even if that Divine Right was the coveted Jindal anointment.

A second lesson that should sink in on the fourth floor of the State Capitol: instead of flitting around the country like a hummingbird on crack, perhaps Jindal should stay home and do the job to which he was elected—you know, Bobby, that of governor, the job you said you wanted. Forget Iowa. Forget New Hampshire. Forget Faux News. Forget those op-eds for the Washington Post. Do your damned job. Don’t worry about Obama; my grandfather always told me, “If you do your job and quit worrying about the other fellow doing his, you’ll find your own path much easier to walk.” Being absent from the state the equivalent of two of the first 10 months of the year just doesn’t cut it when there is plenty to do right here.

And while Riser was wearing his “guns for felons” NRA mantle like the breastplate of righteousness (Isaiah 59:17), Vance McAllister had the guts look to look beyond that easy position and to say that Medicaid should be extended in Louisiana because of the 400,000 citizens of this state who have no health insurance. And, the message that was apparently lost on Jindal, Riser and the rest of the Tea partiers, is that not all of those are deadbeats; many of them are the working poor—those working but earning too little to afford health care.

And they vote.

A lesson that the remaining 143 members of the Louisiana Legislature might do well to ponder: Despite recent evidence to the contrary, Louisiana apparently is not for sale. When the light is shone on privatization, campaign contributions, health care, inept and unqualified appointees such as Superintendent of Education John White and general mismanagement of the state’s finances, people don’t like what they’re seeing.

As the count mounted Saturday night, two stars—that of Neil Riser’s hopes to move on to Washington and that of Jindal’s already fading aspirations of occupying the White House—were for all intents, snuffed out, obliterated, imploded like a supernova. Jindal, instead of being sought after by the right wing talking head zealots, should now be shunned given that he can’t even deliver votes for a congressional candidate (or for a Republican candidate for governor of Virginia).

Legislators need to take a long, hard look at Jindal’s record of late. It’s really not all that impressive. He has lost court case after court case over retirement reform, vouchers, budgetary matters and public records even as he paid a single attorney more than a million dollars to defend those dogs. The FBI is looking into contract irregularities between DHS and CNSI. He fires anyone who disagrees with him, including members of a levee board who wanted to hold oil companies accountable for the egregious coastal erosion so that he could protect big oil (but he can’t fire the local political leaders in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes who followed with litigation of their own).

Those legislators would do well to understand that we the citizens of Louisiana are starting to take an interest in what goes on in Baton Rouge. Using campaign funds for such things as installment payments, gasoline and insurance on personal vehicles, paying for “campaign work” when there was no campaign, paying for roof repairs, purchasing LSU football tickets and pricey tabs in the Senate dining hall are perks not available to the great unwashed and we kind of resent that abuse. And make no mistake about it, it is abuse. You are not royalty; you work for us. Never forget that.

Accepting a hundred or so contributions from political action committees tends to drown out the voices of the school teacher, the retail store clerk, the truck driver, and hundreds of thousands of others who cannot afford to go up against those well-heeled corporate lobbyists who ply lawmakers with meals during the legislative session each year. It raises the question of just whom do you represent, the voters or the fat cats who pour money into your campaign so that they will have your ear when push comes to shove in Baton Rouge on key issues while the interests of those who elected you are ignored?

And finally, to Vance McAllister: Congratulations. Enjoy the moment because once you take office, you will be inside the Beltway and somehow that becomes intoxicating and those who go there with good intentions often fall victim to the lure of the siren song of power and influence.

Don’t let that happen because we will be watching and if you screw up, LouisianaVoice will treat you no differently than it treats any other crooked politician (I hate redundancy) who violates the public trust.

Perhaps it is fitting in this, the 100th anniversary of Sam Rayburn’s taking the oath of office in 1913 to begin his 48-year tenure in Congress, that we give McAllister the same advice Rayburn’s father gave him as he departed Texas for Washington following his first election:

Be a man.

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