LouisianaVoice is having a birthday. We are now five years old.
The onset of Bobby Jindal’s privatization crusade (employees of the Office of Risk Management were the first casualties) in 2011 was the defining moment that gave birth to this blog.
In the ensuing quinquennium, we have logged 1.5 million words, not counting the upcoming book Bobby Jindal: His Destiny and Obsession, which will be available in mid-April. We have made several elected officials and appointed officials angry and uncomfortable—angry and uncomfortable because in the past, they had been unaccustomed to having to account for their actions.
No agency has been exempt from scrutiny, from the governor’s office to various state agencies, boards and commissions, and sheriffs’ offices.
Along the way, our efforts were recognized by the Washington Post which, in 2014, named LouisianaVoice and Bob Mann’s Something Like the Truth as two of the top 100 political blogs in the nation.
But after all is said and done, we have an admission to make.
We should never have been necessary but sadly, we were and we are.
Like it or not, we get the kind of government we deserve. We have the power of the ballot but when only 40 percent of voters exercise that right, what does that tell us about our state, our country? And when that 40 percent responds by marching like so many robots into the voting booths to obediently choose who the lobbyists, PACs, the blaring TV ads and slick campaign mailers tell us without so much as an whimper of protest or an independent thought as to the actual merit of those for whom we are voting, then we have abdicated our right to expect good government.
That’s also why we are faced with dreadful choices in this year’s presidential fiasco. Contrary to most pundits, it’s not voter anger that has created the current political atmosphere.
It’s voter apathy and just take a look who those who have stepped into the leadership void to proclaim themselves as the protectors of democracy. And we did it to ourselves on a national level just as we did it to ourselves on the state level first in 2007 and again in 2011.
And don’t for a moment think this is limited to Bobby Jindal. He had enablers. They called themselves legislators. With few exceptions, we call them leeches.
Try this: Attend any House or Senate committee meeting and watch the members of the committee as witnesses testify. If more than two or three members are actually listening, I’ll eat my Louisiana Tech baseball cap. They’re sitting up there, elevated above the audience, laughing and talking, leaving the hearing room to take a call or get a cup of coffee—just going through the motions of hearing public concerns.
We (and this is a collective “we,” as in just about every citizen in this state) have done a lousy job of holding our elected officials to a high standard of ethical behavior.
And as they say, the sewage flows downhill because those elected officials in turn have failed just as miserably in holding their subordinates to any kind of standards at all.
And we have no one to blame but ourselves.
At first, it came as something of a surprise to learn that two members of the State Police Commission and eight members of the Board of Dentistry had never taken the annual one-hour online ethics course required by law of every public servant, elected or appointed, salaried or not.
It’s not as though they can claim ignorance. They are told of the requirements and they each sign an oath of office.
Nor have six members of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME) bothered to take the simple one-hour course, according to records provided by the State Board of Ethics. They include Drs. Michael Burdine, Kenneth Farris, Kweli Amusa, Joseph Busby, Roderick Clark, and former Board President Mark Henry Dawson who said LouisianaVoice was being “played for a fool” by plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the board.
Informed of the Board of Medical Examiners members who have not taken the course, one reader said, “As a physician, if I didn’t complete my required 40 hours of CME for the previous year, the LABME would not allow me to renew my medical license. Shouldn’t the members of the LSBME be held to the same standards they hold us to? And if they profess ‘ignorance’ on this matter, shouldn’t that be even more of a reason to have them removed?”
But wait. There’s more.
Also failing to take the course are Auctioneer’s Licensing Board Chairman Tessa Steinkamp, Secretary-Treasurer Darlene Levy, and licensing board legal counsel Larry Bankston.
And you also get recently retired (following a State Police “investigation” that cleared him of any wrongdoing) Angola Warden Burl Cain. http://theadvocate.com/news/15271102-172/former-angola-warden-burl-cain-cleared-of-misconduct-allegations-reports-say
Those having contracts with the state also are required to take the online ethics training.
Wade Shows, senior partner of Shows, Cali, & Walsh, a Baton Rouge firm with more than $3.4 million in contracts, has never taken the course and another attorney who has profited greatly from contracts with the Jindal administration, Jimmy Faircloth, took the course in 2012, but has not taken it since.
It should be pointed out that physicians and attorneys are required to take their own ethics courses provided by their professions.
But that does not change the fact that the State of Louisiana since 2012 has required that all public servants (elected officials, appointed officials, board and commission members, and contractors) take the on-line, one-hour course on an annual basis.
From time to time, we will be taking looks at other officials and state contractors to check for compliance with the requirement.
It may seem like a small thing but it becomes a very big thing when these people are not held to the same standards that rank and file state employees must meet.
We have not held the politically powerful accountable and they have not held those answerable to them accountable.
But most of all, we have not held ourselves accountable.