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Archive for the ‘OGB, Office of Group Benefits’ Category

In the parlance of the criminal justice system, money laundering is sometimes called “washing” or “scrubbing.”

But dirty money is always dirty money, no matter what efforts are taken to make it appear legitimate.

The same is true of politics. Having just gone through a gut-wrench senatorial campaign, we’ve seen up close and personal how political ads come in all manner of misleading half-truths and outright lies. Case in point: the absurd promises of State Sen. Bodi White (R-Central), who ran ads during his recent unsuccessful campaign for Mayor-President of Baton Rouge about how he was going to improve schools, cut the dropout rate, and attract better teachers.

The problem? Neither City Hall nor the mayor have squat to do with public education; that’s the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board’s turf. What’s more, White was fully aware of this, so his ads amounted to nothing more than pure B.S., or, to be more blunt: bald face lies.

And now, thanks to Stephen Winham, our human Early Warning System who often tips us off to interesting stories, we have the laundering of Bobby Jindal’s image by some groupie/writer for the National Review named Dan McLaughlin.

The scrubbing, however, comes a tad early; even in Louisiana, the citizens aren’t likely to forget the carnage wreaked by Jindal so quickly.

McLaughlin, it seems, is an attorney who practices securities and commercial litigation in New York City. He also is a contributing columnist at National Review Online (Go figure). He is a former contributing editor of RedState (No surprise there), a columnist at the Federalist and the New Ledger. During his spare time he is a baseball blogger at BaseballCrank.com.

McLaughlin has written at least a dozen or so insipid pro-Jindal pabulum-laden claptrap-filled columns, all of which could just as easily have been written by Timmy Teepell.

In his most recent contribution to National Review (the entire story is not contained at this link because I’m too cheap to subscribe), McLaughlin WRITES that “Jindal took on the enormous challenge of cutting government in a state that is culturally deep-red but economically populist, and he paid a great political cost for his efforts.”

Apparent, he wrote that garbage with a straight face.

There’s more from McLaughlin who wrote in an earlier column for RedState that Jindal was the BEST CANDIDATE for the Republican presidential nomination and that (get this) Jindal ruled in one of the presidential debates (never mind Jindal never got past the undercard debates in which all participants were weak also-runs).

McLaughlin wrote that Jindal’s low approval ratings “and the desperate wails of his Democratic successor over the condition of the state’s budget seem to support” the view that Jindal left the state in financial disarray.

Seriously? McLaughlin conveniently overlooks the fact that the “view” that Jindal’s leaving the state in disastrous shape took shape long before John Bel Edwards and long before Jindal abandoned his post for his delusional pursuit of the presidency.

McLaughlin made no mention of Jindal’s administration coming up with a contract to give away two of the state’s learning hospitals that contained 50 blank pages.

He ignores the matter of how Jindal doled out plum board and commission positions to big contributors to his campaign, how he rolled over anyone who disagreed with him by either firing or demoting them, how he took tainted campaign contributions from felons and refused to return the money, or how he gutted the reserve fund of the Office of Group Benefits in order to try to close gaping budget deficits that occurred every single year of his governorship.

“The path to smaller government requires persistence, backbone, and a willingness to accept compromises and a lot of defeats,” he wrote.

Correction, Mr. McLaughlin: the path to Bobby Jindal’s version of smaller government requires ruthlessness, vindictiveness, and unparalleled selfishness.

While one might justifiably think that Jindal’s political career is dead and buried, is it even remotely possible that he might be plotting a comeback?

Already, there are the first rumblings that Jindal is eying the 2019 gubernatorial campaign.

Just in case, perhaps someone should send McLaughlin a copy of my book, Bobby Jindal: His Destiny and Obsession. Not that he would change his mind, but at least he would have no excuse for not knowing.

And just in case you’ve not ordered your copy yet, click on the image of the book at upper right and place your order immediately.

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Once again, and for the sixth consecutive year, State Civil Service employees are being forced to go without a pay raise.

And on the heels of this, the Office of Group Benefits is raising premiums by about 7.5 percent.

But not to worry: what Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent Mike Edmonson couldn’t accomplish two years ago via what was literally a last-minute amendment to an obscure legislative bill, State Police Maj. Jason Starnes has done for him—and for himself and other high-ranking troopers, as well.

The tactic was pulled off so quickly and with such surprise that it could be considered a variation of the old smash and grab move where you strike suddenly, grab what you can and make a fast getaway.

Edmonson got a healthy salary increase of $43,100 (32 percent), from $134,350 to $177,450, effective Aug. 1, LouisianaVoice has learned.

Edmonson says several sheriffs, national guard officers and some State Police majors were making more than he did and that the increases were needed to make state police salaries more competitive.

But Edmonson also receives free housing, meals and furnishings, free butler, cooks and lawn care (courtesy of prisoners of the Louisiana Department of Corrections), a state vehicle and fuel—all at taxpayer expense.

So, just how competitive does he need to be?

Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy also got a 14.5 percent raise, from $140,900 to $161,300, a jump of $20,400.

Starnes, promoted to LSP Chief Administrative Officer on Aug. 15, received a $21,850 (17 percent) raise, from $128,900 to $150,750.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning received a raise of $33,500 (32.2 percent), from $104,000 to $137,500.

The Baton Rouge Advocate, which broke its story an hour before ours went up and which cited the same sources (State Civil Service), listed two other LSP Deputy Superintendents who received raises: Glenn Staton and Murphy Paul, who got raises from $140,890 to $150,752 (7 percent). http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_4b9471c4-76e0-11e6-ab44-ffb987ff581f.html?sr_source=lift_amplify

It’s also worth noting here, since we’re talking about getting the records from Civil Service, that The Advocate also made a request to LSP for the records on Sept. 1 and The Advocate is still waiting. It’s not certain when The Advocate made its request to Civil Service but LouisianaVoice made its request to Civil Service about 3:30 p.m. on Friday (Sept. 9) and the records were produced within an hour. LSP, meanwhile, was busy doing the Kristy Nichols Shuffle, i.e. delaying providing the most basic of information. The Advocate story said the official LSP position was that it was still checking for redactions. Paraphrasing former New Orleans and Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Jim Mora, we can only respond with incredulity, “Redactions?! REDACTIONS?! Are you kidding me? REDACTIONS? Don’t talk to me about redactions! We’re not thinking about redactions; we just want basic information.”

Starnes, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the LSP ranks, apparently is the one who usurped legislative intent by signing off on the raises of Edmonson, Dupuy and Browning, each retroactive to Aug. 1.

http://www.forward-now.com/2014/08/09/louisianavoice-tracks-careers-of-key-edmonson-associates/

You’ll remember that in 2014, in the closing minutes of the regular legislative session, State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) tacked an amendment onto a bill that would have given Edmonson an additional $50,000 or so in retirement benefits. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/11/generous-retirement-benefit-boost-slipped-into-bill-for-state-police-col-mike-edmonson-on-last-day-of-legislative-session/

Here is a copy of Amendment 4, which was passed but subsequently struck down in Baton Rouge state district court pursuant to a lawsuit filed by State Sen. Dan Claitor. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=911551&n=Conference

Earlier this year, the Legislature, through passage of House Bill 1, set the salaries of statewide elected officials and the governor’s cabinet members. Edmonson’s salary, like that of the governor, was set at $134,400.

But thanks to even more creative maneuvering by Edmonson (he continues to insist he had nothing to do with that retirement gambit but it’s our contention the amendment didn’t write itself and since it applied only to Edmonson and one other trooper….well, you do the math), certain select LSP personnel are getting generous pay bumps over and above last year’s two separate raises that amounted to 30 percent or more across the board.

Edmonson said last year that pay raises would not be going to troopers of ranks higher than major but with this latest round, which went into effect on Aug. 1, that promise appears to have been conveniently forgotten—as was Edmonson’s salary, supposedly set by HB 1.

The whole affair appears to have stemmed from Edmonson’s determination to promote Starnes. He first attempted to move him into the position of Interim Undersecretary to succeed Jill Boudreaux who retired (for a second time) earlier this year. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/02/29/dps-undersecretary-jill-boudreaux-retiring-for-real-this-time-6-years-after-taking-incentive-buyout-at-governors-directive/

But retired State Trooper Bucky Millet filed a formal complaint, claiming the appointment was illegal. The move, Millet’s complaint said, was in violation of Rule 14.3(G), which says:

  • No classified member of the State Police shall be appointed, promoted, transferred or any way employed in or to any position that is not within the State Police Service.

Edmonson subsequently pulled the appointment. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

But last month Edmonson came before the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), the equivalent to the State Civil Service Board, with a proposal to create a new classified position, Chief Administrative Officer, apparently with the same duties and powers as the unclassified—and still vacant—Undersecretary position.

On Thursday (Sept. 8) of this week, the formal approval of the new position came before the LSPC, which immediately went into an illegal executive session.

Upon emerging from that closed-door session, Townsend recommended no action on Millet’s complaint and explained away Millet’s complaint by claiming Edmonson never actually appointed Starnes because that can only be done by the governor. Townsend failed to explain how the “non-appointed” Starnes’ appointment was posted briefly on the LSP Web page before quietly being taken down after Millet filed his complaint.

First of all, LSPC legal counsel Taylor Townsend (who has become a major disappointment as a $75,000 contract investigator who twice in as many “investigations,” has recommended no action by the commission  while conducting no interviews and without introducing any pertinent recordings in his possession and writing no reports of his “findings”) said the executive session was to discuss “personnel matters” when in fact, the smart money says it was to discuss the legality of Edmonson’s move. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/09/08/calling-out-the-hayride-pseudo-investigations-backdoor-contracts-and-executive-sessions-cloistered-in-subterfuge/

Here are the guidelines for an executive session to discuss “personnel” matters:

La. R.S. 42:17 Exceptions to open meetings

  1. A public body may hold an executive session pursuant to R.S. 42:16 for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) Discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person, provided that such person is notified in writing at least twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, before the scheduled time contained in the notice of the meeting at which such executive session is to take place and that such person may require that such discussion be held at an open meeting. However, nothing in this Paragraph shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body or, except as provided in R.S. 39:1593(C)(2)(c), for discussing the award of a public contract. In cases of extraordinary emergency, written notice to such person shall not be required; however, the public body shall give such notice as it deems appropriate and circumstances permit.

The closed-door meeting was illegal on at least three levels:

  • To our knowledge, there was no discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health” of Starnes.
  • If that was what was discussed, the commission again violated the law by not complying with the requirement that “such person is notified in writing at least twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.” By failing to notify Starnes, he was denied the opportunity to say whether or not he desired a closed meeting.
  • Moreover, the public meetings law says, “Nothing…shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body or, except as provided in R.S. 39:1593(C)(2)(c), for discussing the award of a public contract.”

Besides Townsend, the commission has one other full-time attorney who sits at the table during LSPC meetings. Between the two, someone should advise the commission of it legal obligations when trying to conduct its business away from the eyes and ears of the public.

Here’s the short version: Guys, there’s no app for that.

But then it was Townsend who in August attempted to tell LouisianaVoice (incorrectly, it was pointed out to him at the time by LouisianaVoice) that the commission was not required to give a reason for an executive session. And this from a man who once served in the Louisiana Legislature where our laws are written.

For Mr. Townsend’s enlightenment, here is that law:

La. R.S. 42:16 Executive Sessions

A public body may hold executive sessions upon an affirmative vote, taken at an open meeting for which notice has been given pursuant to R.S. 42:19, of two-thirds of its constituent members present. An executive session shall be limited to matters allowed to be exempted from discussion at open meetings by R.S. 42:17 (see above-quoted statute); however, no final or binding action shall be taken during an executive session. The vote of each member on the question of holding such an executive session and the reason for holding such an executive session shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the meeting. Nothing in this Section or R.S. 42:17 shall be construed to require that any meeting be closed to the public, nor shall any executive session be used as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of R.S. 42:12 through R.S. 42:2 (Emphasis added).

 

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It was only last Nov. 20 that a joint meeting of the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Finance was told that the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) was in improved financial condition.

By April 21 of this year, however, serious discussion had begun about a premium increase for state employees and retirees even as state workers have been told they will not get merit pay raises for the sixth straight year.

OGB Executive Director testified before the joint committee last November that the agency’s fund balance, nearly depleted by the reckless fiscal policies of Bobby Jindal, had recovered to $122 million at the end of the 2015 fiscal year (June 30, 2015) and was projected to be $146 million by the end of the current fiscal year. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Video/VideoArchivePlayer.aspx?v=house/2015/Nov/1120_15_AP_SenFinance

Neither amount, of course, is anywhere close to the $500 million fund balance accrued by former OGB Executive Director Tommy Teague before he was teagued in April 2011. (for those who may have forgotten, the term coined by a reader for those who dared disagree with Jindal who were quickly fired or demoted).

It is, however, a significant increase from the low balance that came perilously close to double digits in 2014.

Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro), at the time a member of the House and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee though he had already been elected to the Senate, asked West what the OGB “burn rate” (the amount paid out monthly in benefits in excess of premiums) was.

“It was $16.3 million,” West replied. “It’s now $7 million. Changes that were made have had a positive impact on the fund balance.”

She said OGB has held no public hearings “because there are no planned benefit changes for 2016.”

But wait. Her testimony does not quite jibe with the April presentation of OGB consulting actuary Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. in that OGB ESTIMATING CONFERENCE

At that estimating conference, Gallagher said a 7 percent rate increase would increase the fund balance to $156.9 million by the end of fiscal year 2017 (June 30, 2017), which it said was “within the target range” of $130 million to $240 million.

Gallagher recommended that the new rate increase go into effect in January 2017 “for ease of communication and administration due to annual enrollment timing.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards, then a state representative, openly opposed the 2014 OGB rate increase plan proposed by West and then Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/25/louisianavoice-learns-of-jindal-plan-to-force-state-retirees-out-of-ogb-by-raising-members-premiums-cutting-benefits/

Edwards even went so far as to request an attorney general’s opinion on the method by which Nichols and West were attempting to implement the new premium increase and when the Jindal administration learned in advance that the AG’s opinion would be detrimental to its premium increase plan, Nichols quickly shifted gears in saying that the state would go through the required rule-making process spelled out in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

That move only served to further invoke Edwards’ ire because, he said, the changes had already been implemented without the required public hearing. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/09/23/smackdown-attorney-general-opinion-on-ogb-proposals-hands-jindal-administration-another-stinging-legal-setback/

Now Edwards finds himself in the ticklish position of having to either uphold his original position of opposing a rate increase, which originally brought him to the attention of state employees as their White Knight, or backing his OGB Executive Director.

As our late friend C.B. Forgotston was so fond of saying: You can’t make this stuff up.

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What happens when a former governor’s privatization plan goes terribly wrong?

Okay, perhaps we need to be a little more specific, given so many things have gone so terribly wrong with so many of Bobby Jindal’s half-baked privatization schemes.

In the case of the Office of Group Benefits, the answer is plenty and none of it is good.

As chronicled in several posts, LouisianaVoice told of then-Commissioner Paul Rainwater first saying OGB would be sold, then saying it would not be sold, and in the end, its operations were turned over to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana, throwing about 150 OGB employees to the curb.

Tommy Teague, who had taken over the debt-ridden agency and transformed it into a smooth-running outfit which managed to build a $500 million fund balance from which it paid claims promptly, giving state employees and retirees and their dependents little cause for concern, is a case in point.

For his trouble, he was fired (teagued) because he didn’t fall immediately in line with Jindal’s Milton Friedman-inspired doctrine of privatization. Teague’s successor lasted barely six weeks before he threw in the towel and departed for another state.

Along the way, the administration went against the advice of its own expensive consulting firm and lowered premiums to OGB members. That looked good for the covered employees but what the move really accomplished was the state’s being obligated for a lowing matching amount. The state pays 75 percent of the employee premium and by lowering the premium, it simultaneously reduced the state’s obligation and the money saved was used to patch one of those gaping holes that appeared in the state budget every single year of the Jindal administration. It was, in short, a shell game run by a con artist with one eye on the big score—the presidency.

Of course, that also had the effect of creating a heavy drain on that $500 million reserve fund, since premiums could no longer keep up with the cost of claims.

Accordingly, the $500 million evaporated to something around $100 million and Rainwater’s successor Kristy Nichols tried to implement a plan to simultaneously raise premiums and lower benefits to build the reserve back up—a plan that was revealed first by LouisianaVoice and which met instant opposition from employees, retirees and legislators.

The administration backed off that plan somewhat but the final compromise version left some retirees who lived out of state without coverage.

It also drove other retirees to other plans like People’s Health where premiums were cheaper and benefits better.

And that’s where the latest snag rears its ugly head.

Because the agency has been gutted of those employees who made it into such an efficient operation, things—big things—are starting to fall between the cracks and the plan apparently is to blame retirees and OGB’s fiscal collection department.

What has happened, according to word received by LouisianaVoice, is that OGB has failed to cut off coverage for retirees who self-pay for their coverage (through other programs) and who are “delinquent” in their premium payments.

It seems that OGB has not put “stop flags” on self-pay accounts that are in arrears for months but continued to pay claims. “Group Benefits has dozens of people who are late and they (OGB) are still paying claims to doctors and hospitals for X-Rays, MRIs, surgeries and prescriptions,” our source told us, adding that OGB initially told its fiscal collection department to ignore the delinquencies.

Now, though, OGB is sending out letters demanding payments for unpaid premiums.

OGB LETTER

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

One such letter provided to LouisianaVoice demanded payment of $10,511 in premiums dating back to October 2014 and pharmacy benefits of $425.

The Feb. 18, 2016, letter to the retiree said coverage “on OGB-administered health plans will terminate in October 2014 for non-payment of the full premium. During this period our records show that you continued to use the health and pharmacy benefits of the plan.”

Notice that the letter was dated Feb. 18, 2016 but said coverage “will terminate” in October of 2014.

No reason was given for a 2016 letter warning of pending termination of coverage in 2014. But that is somehow typical of any holdover from the Jindal years.

The individual was told if the plan was to be retained, the retiree would owe $10,511.29. “Should you not wish to retain your coverage through OGB, any medical claims incurred by you since Nov. 1, 2014, will be re-adjudicated and you may receive bills from your providers for services rendered,” the letter said.

“Pharmacy benefits cannot be re-adjudicated; accordingly, OGB will recoup costs incurred…by you,” it said, adding that the cost of pharmacy benefits “wrongfully used by you” is $425.49.

“Please consider this as demand to pay the respective amounts in full to OGB by March 4, 2016,” the letter said. “Should we not receive full payment on or before March 4, 2016, we may initiate further action to collect this sum, including but not limited to referral of this matter to the Office of Debt Recovery, the Attorney General, and/or other collection means.”

Below that was an ominous warning in boldface and all capital letters that read, “THIS IS A DEMAND FOR PAYMENT OF MONIES DUE. PLEASE TAKE NOTICE AND GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.”

Our source said that OGB administrators plans to place the blame for the latest fiasco on retirees and its own fiscal collection department. “They have a plan to hide this because they are scared the public, the commissioner of administration (Jay Dardenne) and the governor will find out.” The collections department, the source said, has maintained a paper trail which will absolve it of any fault in the matter.

“OGB is trying to get money back on the sly,” the source added. “They (OGB) are mismanaged and there are a lot of people in this condition who were allowed to keep insurance and paid no premium for years.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: We would love to hear of any similar difficulties you may have had with OGB. Send your stories to:

louisianavoice@yahoo.com

 

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I am certain that I will not agree with every move John Bel Edwards makes as governor. The re-appointment of Mike Edmonson as Superintendent of State Police comes immediately to mind. Such is the nature of politics. No man alive can please everyone every time.

And when I do disagree, as in the Edmonson re-appointment, I will say so. I believe Edwards understands and respects that.

In the meantime, I am willing give him a chance. He has a monumental task before him in his efforts to help the state overcome eight years of Bobby Jindal’s reign of error. He must form coalitions with Republicans in the legislature in order to even approach a successful administration. But I certainly don’t expect legislators to be the whipped puppies they were during Jindal’s misrule.

I gave Jindal that same benefit of the doubt. If I am to be honest, I have to admit that I voted for Jindal not once, but twice. I voted for him in 2003 when he lost to Kathleen Blanco and again in 2007 when he won. I honestly thought he meant it when he said he supported state employees and that he stood for transparency and a high ethical bar. I believed him when he said his appointments would be based on “what you know, not who you know.”

Well, we all know how that went down. He tried to gut state retirement, he destroyed the Office of Group Benefits, gave away the state charity hospital system, drove higher education to the brink of exigency (bankruptcy), and worse, he set a new low in the areas of transparency and ethics. And one only has to examine his appointments to the myriad state boards and commissions. They are dominated (and that’s putting it lightly) with major donors to his various political campaigns. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bobby-jindals-biggest-donors-benefited-from-his-administration_55e9e976e4b002d5c075fb17

https://louisianavoice.com/category/campaign-contributions/

Moreover, “what you know” didn’t go too far in other areas, either. The number of state employees and legislators he teagued for daring to disagree with him is a very long list. And his “deliberative process” catch-all denial of public records threw a heavy blanket on any hopes of transparency.

So, it was with some surprise that I read Rolfe McCollister’s diatribe in his Baton Rouge Business Report this week. https://www.businessreport.com/article/publisher-whats-big-secret

Of all the ones to whine about any lack of transparency on the part of the governor-elect who has yet to even take office, Rolfe stands alone as the singular standard-bearer of double standards.

He contributed $17,000 to Jindal’s campaigns in 2003, 2006, and 2008. He was treasurer of Jindal’s 2007 gubernatorial campaign and served as chairman of Jindal’s transition team after his 2007 election. He served as director of Jindal’s first fundraising organization, super PAC Believe in Louisiana, and most recently served as treasurer of Believe in Louisiana as it raised funds for Jindal’s presidential campaign.

His Louisiana Business, Inc. partner, Julio Melara also was a player. Melara and his wife contributed an additional $8,500 to Jindal campaigns

And what did Rolfe and Julio get in return for all that?

Well Julio wound up with a pretty nice appointment to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome Board), complete with all the perks that go with the appointment.

McCollister was named to the LSU Board of Supervisors and that’s where the hypocrisy really boils to the surface. Board members get choice tickets to LSU sporting events (including a private suite in Tiger Stadium). http://forgotston.com/2013/07/16/need-a-lsu-tuition-break/

And until the quota was reduced earlier this year, each member could award up to 20 tuition-free scholarships to LSU. Even after the reduction, they still get 15 scholarships each. http://theadvocate.com/news/11898955-123/lsu-board-revamps-number-of

Those perks could mean more than $100,000 per year per board member. In 2012 alone, the board handed out $1.3 million in scholarships to their friends—even as college tuition was skyrocketing for the average student with no contacts on the board. http://thelensnola.org/2013/07/11/lsu-board-of-supervisors-awards-1-3-million-through-little-known-scholarship-program/

Rolfe didn’t invent the perks and though he tied with two other members for the fewest scholarships awarded—five. But you never heard him raise a single objection to their abuse.

Rolfe, as publisher of the Business Report, purports to be an objective chronicler of political news. You would think that as such, he would champion all efforts to obtain records of a public body.

You would think wrong. He, along with four other members, did not respond to an email from reporter Tyler Bridges, then writing for The Lens of New Orleans, seeking comment. How’s that for transparency?

He certainly came off as a bit petulant this week when he went on a rampage about Edwards’s education transition team’s meeting in private “at least four times.”

There’s more. “McCollister notes it was Edwards who proclaimed at a Public Affairs Research Council forum in April that his administration would be more transparent than previous administrations, saying ‘a scope of secrecy’ has been allowed to exist,” his staff wrote today (Wednesday, Dec. 23). https://www.businessreport.com/article/publisher-gov-elect-edwards-transition-committees-discussing-public-education-big-issues-behind-closed-doors?utm_campaign=dr_pm-2015_Dec_23-15_05&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dr_pm

“But what does conducting all of the discussions of the transition committees behind closed doors in secret do for the citizens? What I haven’t seen yet is an editorial from The Advocate or The Times-Picayune objecting to the discussion of ‘public’ education in private. Why not? I thought transparency was their big issue.

Rolfe has a very short memory. I can’t recall the Jindal transition team over which Rolfe presided ever holding a public meeting prior to Jindal’s taking office. And when The Advocate, the Times-Picayune and the LSU Reveille were demanding the release of the names of all the candidates for the LSU presidency, where was he?

It’s hard to tell because the very one who should have been front and center in championing the right of the public to know who those candidates were, was strangely mute.

Not a peep out of Rolfe who was in a unique position to reason with the boy blunder to release the names.

Likewise, when the LSU Board agreed to that hospital privatization contract with the 50 blank pages, he should have been the first one on his feet shouting that a blank contract was not just questionable, but also not a legal document. Instead, he sat quietly as the contract was approved, laying the groundwork for the litigation over state hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe now winding its way through the courts.

Likewise, not one word of protest when the contract was awarded to a foundation in Shreveport whose CEO was…(wait for it)…a fellow member of the LSU Board.

“The public knows very little in specifics about what Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards will propose and how far he will take some issues,” McCollister wrote. “Transition teams are made up of a majority of his friends, advisers and supporters—or those who think like he does (and Jindal’s wasn’t, Rolfe?). While this exercise is often ceremonial, it can reflect the views and direction of the new governor—and his closest friends and allies who will be whispering in his ear for the next four years (and of course, you never once “whispered in Jindal’s ear, right?). The public education committee has had five meetings in secrecy. What did they talk about, and who said what? We won’t read or hear about it in the media because they weren’t allowed inside—and the press never uttered a peep (Perhaps they learned from your example on the LSU Board, Rolfe.).

To those who don’t know your history, you sound like a champion of pure, open government.

Unfortunately, your words fall far short of matching your actions. Those indignant protests would carry a lot more weight if you had the track record to back them up.

That’s called hypocrisy, Rolfe. And that’s unfortunate, though not necessarily unexpected.

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