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Archive for the ‘Politicians’ Category

JIM BROWN, Louisiana’s erstwhile legislator, secretary of state, gubernatorial candidate, state insurance commissioner and self-described victim of an over-zealous FBI HATCHET JOB, today has a radio talk show and publishes an Internet blog as well as dabbling in the BOOK-PUBLISHING business.

On May 6, Brown will turn 78 but as a former track star at the University of North Carolina (he was the first athlete recruited by the legendary Dean Smith), he has certainly shown no signs of slowing down.

But this isn’t about Jim Brown per se. It’s about a post by Brown that reminded me just how unfair American justice can be and how badly the FBI can screw up.

Even FBI directors and agents who screw up and are eventually promoted to director of the FBI.

Agents like James Comey and former Director Robert Mueller.

In the interest of full disclosure and as an open admission that I am not an “objective news reporter” by any stretch, I want to say it pains me greatly to write anything that puts Donald Trump, whom I detest with every fiber in my being, in a favorable light—even by comparison. I will add that I purchased Comey’s book and actually started reading it. But I put it down after a few pages of self-serving fluff about what a great kid he was growing up, how he was bullied, and how he rose above it all. It just seemed to be a little too me, me, me.

I know I will receive critical comments, and though I am no fan of Hillary Clinton, I remain firmly convinced that the accident of Donald Trump (elected with a substantial minority of popular votes) is the worst tragedy to befall this nation since the Civil War. By comparison, LBJ was a benevolent father figure, Nixon a saint, George W. Bush a towering intellect, and Bill Clinton a paragon of marital fidelity.

But here’s the thing, as Brown reminds us in his POST: Comey, abetted by his boss, then-FBI Director Mueller, literally ruined the life of an LSU professor a mere 16 years ago.

It all actually started in 2001. Mueller had been appointed FBI Director in July of that year by W. In a matter of days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the first of several envelopes containing deadly anthrax were sent to NBC News, the New York Post and the publisher of The Sun and The National Enquirer tabloids. In October, two more such envelopes were received at the Senate offices of Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. In all, 17 persons fell ill and five died from anthrax inhalation.

It didn’t take long for fingers to start pointing (incorrectly) to an obscure medical doctor named Steven Hatfill who once had worked at the Army’s elite Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), which, coincidentally, had stocks of anthrax, according to a lengthy 2010 article in THE ATLANTIC, entitled simply, “The Wrong Man.”

Hatfill immediately became the central figure in a media circus and the FBI was happy to oblige the need to find a scapegoat for the anthrax letters. He was working at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a large defense contractor, from 1999 to 2002, where he was involved in developing a brochure for emergency personnel on ways in which to handle anthrax hoax letters.

He wasn’t surprised, then, when the FBI wanted to interview him for what he thought was the agency’s pursuit of foreign terrorists. He assumed that the FBI was routinely interviewing all scientists who had worked at USAMRIID.

It didn’t seem to matter to the FBI that anthrax is a bacterium and Hatfill was a virologist who never handled anthrax.

Investigators raided Hatfill’s girlfriend’s townhouse, telling her, “Your boyfriend killed five people.” He was fired from SAIC with the official explanation being that he had failed to maintain a necessary security clearance (a disqualification that would eliminate about half of Trump’s White House staff).

And here’s where the local angle comes in. He thought he’d landed on his feet when LSU hired him as the associate director of its new program designed to train firefighters and other emergency personnel to respond to terrorist acts and natural disasters. The pay ($150,000) was to be the same as he’d made at SAIC.

But Justice Department officials, in their desperation to nail Hatfill, told LSU to “cease and desist” from using him on any federally-funded program. Accordingly, he was fired before his first day on the job. Then other prospective jobs fell through. Like the anthrax he was suspected of sending, he became toxic. One job fell through his fingers like so much sand when he emerged from a meeting with prospective employers only to find FBI agents videotaping them.

For two years, his friends were interrogated, his phone was tapped, surveillance cameras recorded his every move. (Comey recently said in his ABC-TV interview with George Stephanopoulos that if an FBI agent can’t put his investigation together in 18 months, he should be fired.)

The FBI brought in two bloodhounds from California whose handlers insisted the dogs could sniff the scent of the killer on the anthrax letters—never mind that sniffing the letters would have been lethal to the animals. When Hatfill petted the dogs, their handlers said the dogs responded “favorably,” proof that Hatfill was the killer.

If the FBI had shown even a fraction of investigative professionalism in the dog handlers’ backgrounds as they had in Hatfill’s, they might well have sent the handlers—and their dogs—packing. Defendants in California who had been convicted on the basis of the dogs’ behavior were later exonerated. In one case, a judge called the dog handlers “as biased as any witness that this court has ever seen.”

But Mueller was infatuated with the dog evidence, however, personally assuring Attorney General John Ashcroft that they had their man. Comey, asked if Hatfill might be another Richard Jewell (the Atlanta security guard wrongly accused of the Olympics bombing), was just as adamant, saying he was “absolutely certain” there was no mistake.

Well, as we all know by now, Hatfill was innocent.

Mueller and Comey’s certainty that he was the anthrax killer eventually cost the Justice Department nearly $6 million in a LEGAL SETTLEMENT. Refusing to attend the press conference announcing the resolution of the case, Mueller was less than contrite about ruining an innocent man’s life. Responding later to reporters’ questions, he said, “I do not apologize for any aspect of the investigation. He added that it would be erroneous “to say there were mistakes.”

But, Mr. Mueller…there were mistakes. There was incompetence. There was recklessness. Most of all, there was a total lack of concern for an innocent man’s life—all for the benefit of advancing the careers of ambitious men too caught up in their own careers to think of the impact their actions might have on another’s livelihood.

As much as I loathe Trump and all he stands for, I fervently hope that Mueller—and by extension, Comey—haven’t traveled down that same path in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

And last of all, but certainly not least, thanks to Jim Brown for reminding us of a dark chapter in LSU’s history, a chapter in which there should be everlasting shame, one that ranks right alongside that of the sorry saga Ivor Von Heerden’s firing over his criticism of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers following Hurricane Katrina (it turned out his criticisms were dead-on)—neither of which should ever be forgotten.

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Legislators and leaders of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) would do well to pay attention to the rumblings of discontent that began in West Virginia and rolled westward into Kentucky and Oklahoma.

Those same rumblings, though faint and indistinct for now, are being picked up by those in tune with the times.

Louisiana’s public school teachers, a group to whom I owe so very much from a personal perspective and to whom I shall ever remain loyal, are quietly receiving copies of a “Teacher Salary Satisfaction Survey” being distributed by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT).

It could just as easily be called a “Teacher Salary Dissatisfaction Survey.

The flier opens with the question: “What are you willing to do for a pay raise?” and goes on to note that education funding in Louisiana “has been frozen for the past decade. Our teacher salaries are now about $2,000 below the Southern regional average.”

How can that possibly be? How could we have allowed ourselves to neglect the most dedicated, the most heroic among us for so very long?

We gave state police huge salary increases and while I don’t begrudge their pay increases, they certainly should not have come at the expense of teacher salaries.

Teachers should never have to bow down at the sacrificial altar of political servitude, yet that is precisely what has happened.

I can still remember that little presidential wannabe Bobby Jindal telling LABI that the only reason some teachers are still in the classroom was by virtue of their being able to breathe. That was just before Sandy Hook when a teacher stood between a gunman and a student and took a bullet that ended her breathing ability but which allowed a child to go on living.

I still remember teachers at Ruston High School taking an interest in the well-concealed abilities of a poverty-stricken, less-than-mediocre student and nurturing and cultivating those latent talents into eventual college material and a career in journalism. They didn’t have to do that; they could have let him slip through the cracks. But they didn’t. Thanks, Mrs. Garrett, Miss Lewis, Miss Hinton, Mr. Ryland, Coach Perkins, Mr. Peoples, Mr. Barnes. Thanks so very much. You never knew (or maybe you did) what your compassion meant to that kid.

“Another budget crisis is looming, and yet our legislature has taken no steps to avert it,” the flier says.

True. So true. The legislature has taken no steps because legislators, for the most part, are in bed with the special interests who are slowly bleeding this state to death with overly-generous tax breaks even as benefits are being ripped from our citizens. Benefits like health care, education, decent roads and bridges, flood control, the environment—benefits that we rely on our elected officials to provide.

Oh, but they haven’t forgotten the tax breaks for the Saints, the Pelicans, the Walmarts, the Exxons, the Dow Chemicals, pharmaceuticals, the movie industry, the utilities, the banks and payday loan companies, the nursing homes, the private prisons, the Koch brothers, the Grover Norquists, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), or chicken-plucking plants.

But teachers? Nope. They don’t need raises. Besides, we have virtual academies and charter schools, so who needs public education?

“In some states,” the flier reads, “teachers and school employees have acted to demand pay raises and better funding for schools. Actions in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky had positive results for educators.”

LABI, of course, would beg to differ. After all, LABI was created back in the 1970s for the express purpose of destroying labor unions in Louisiana through passage of the right to work law. I got that straight from the mouth of Ed Steimel, one of the moving forces for the creation of LABI, shortly before his death.

But let’s back up a minute and pause for reflection before you try to label me as some ranting liberal or even worse, a (gasp) communist.

Do you approve of:

  • Your annual two-week (or whatever the length of time) vacation?
  • How about the eight-hour work day?
  • The 40-hour work week?
  • Overtime?
  • Retirement?
  • Minimum wage?
  • Health benefits?
  • The abolition of sweat shops where children as young as seven or eight are required to work 12- or 14-hour days for pennies?
  • Workplace safety reforms that have drastically reduced injuries and deaths at work?
  • Sanitation laws that have cleaned up the meatpacking industry?

Well, gee, if you approve of all that, you must be a ranting liberal yourself. Or worse, a (nah, better not say it).

But just who do you think brought about those reforms? It certainly wasn’t management. Okay, the guvmint was largely responsible for the meatpacking industry reforms but for the rest, you can tip your hat to organized labor.

“Please complete the Teacher Salary Satisfaction Survey,” the flier reads. “Let the Louisiana Federation of Teachers know what you think about salaries in our state, and what you think will help correct the situation.”

The second page is an authorization form requesting the local school board (in this case, Livingston Parish) to deduct dues for the LFT.

Legislators and LABI are being taken to class here and they’d be wise to pay attention lest they get a failing grade.

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What do Louis Ackal and Jerry Larpenter have in common?

Well, among other things:

They’re both sheriffs of parishes they run with dictatorial methods—Ackal in Iberia Parish and Larpenter in Terrebonne;

Neither will hesitate to take whatever actions they deem necessary to silence any voice of dissent—from pulling off a RAID of a critic’s home in Terrebonne to turning DOGS loose on defenseless inmates of the Iberia Parish jail;

And both reportedly have the same legal counsel.

But the similarities go even further.

An Ackal critic who had the audacity to initiate a recall effort against the sheriff found himself ARRESTED for manslaughter after a single-vehicle accident in which he was not even involved. (Those bogus charges, brought by a cooperative district attorney, were very quietly dropped after LouisianaVoice’s story of the heavy-handed techniques.)

Larpenter, meanwhile, has taken a step to make it very costly for his critic (the one whose home he raided) to obtain what anywhere else would be routine public records—records that he or anyone else is legally entitled to see.

Wayne Anderson’s home was raided and his computers seized by Larpenter after Anderson posted internet blogs critical of Larpenter. That raid was quickly ruled unconstitutional by the federal courts and the Andersons sued and won a substantial monetary settlement from Larpenter believed to be in the neighborhood of $250,000.

Anderson submitted his request that included, among other things, all invoices and copies of checks paid to the Dood Law Firm, Seth Dodd, William Dodd, Bill Dodd, “or any Dodd,” from Jan. 1, 2016 through the present date.

Dodd is the legal counsel for Larpenter and, according to unconfirmed reports, also represents Ackal.

Soon after submitted his request, Anderson received an electronic communication from Richard McCormack, an attorney with the New Orleans firm of Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore. McCormack informed Anderson that his firm had been “retained by the sheriff to coordinate the sheriff’s response to your public records request.”

 

As one with considerable experience in requesting and obtaining public records on behalf of LouisianaVoice, I can say that I find it quite unusual that the good sheriff would find it necessary to retain a high-priced legal team not to ascertain what is and what is not public record, but simply to “coordinate the sheriff’s response” when a clerical employee would be fully capable of performing such duties.

I’m just guessing here, but I would estimate their rate to be in the neighborhood of $300 per hour—and don’t think for one scintilla of a nano-second that they will put just one attorney on this project when they could put two or three and really run up the tab. From what we hear, the firm has two of its attorneys working on a way to make a routine public records request punitive.

And just what is Bill Dodd’s function, anyway? (Every time I hear that name, I think of Earl Long’s reference to another Bill Dodd during his 1959 gubernatorial campaign, the current Bill Dodd’s father, as “Big, bad, bald Bill Dodd.”)

As near as I can make out, his job was harassment, if reports coming out of Terrebonne are true. Dodd says emphatically that they are not.

When the Andersons asked the sheriff’s insurance company who issued their settlement check, things went south in a hurry. The Andersons say no one from the insurance company ever appeared on the court record on the sheriff’s behalf, leading them to believe Larpenter may have misled the insurance company about their claim.

Soon after they made their inquiry, they said Dodd called one of the couple’s supervisor and threatened to sue for tortuous interference and damage to his reputation.

Dodd, contacted by LouisianaVoice adamantly denied that. “I haven’t threatened to sue anybody,” he said. “I’ve been practicing law long enough that I don’t have to threaten to sue anyone, I just sue ‘em.”

C’mon, Dodd, you ain’t talking to someone who just fell off a turnip truck. There’s not a lawyer alive who won’t “threaten” to sue if a threat can achieve his purpose. The “threat” to sue is one of the most dependable arrows in an attorney’s quiver. I only wish I knew the number of times I’ve been “threatened” with a lawsuit if I published a story. Only twice have they followed through with an actual lawsuit and on both occasions, I prevailed.

Another big factor in both sheriffs’ success in maintaining a death grip on their jobs is a local press that seems reluctant to take them on. The Daily Iberian has denied that is less than aggressive in covering the exploits of Ackal but readers have expressed a general lack of in-depth coverage by the paper.

Unfortunately, the threads linking Ackal and Larpenter are the rule, not the exception. Those threads are strong, they link more than just these two sheriffs and that link runs straight through the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

I have just completed the manuscript for what I feel is a revealing book about Louisiana’s sheriffs and the muscle they flex in Louisiana politics.

The working title of the book is Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption.

It will probably be about a year before the book is actually published. I will keep you abreast of the schedule as I know more.

 

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Physicians Health Foundation (PHF), which for years has abetted the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners in targeting vulnerable medical practitioners in a manner reminiscent of the tactics employed by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, now finds itself in the crosshairs of State Sen. John Milkovich (D-Shreveport).

Both boards have for years flown under the radar of governors, legislators and the media but more and more, attention is being given to their near-autonomous rule by intimidation and extortion.

PHF, also known as the Healthcare Professionals’ Foundation of Louisiana (HPFL), is located on Bluebonnet Boulevard in Baton Rouge and it currently is about halfway through a three-year, $1.35 million contract with the Board of Medical Examiners to run a “Statewide Operations of Physicians Health Program.”

And, since the Board of Dentistry has been mentioned, it might be worth noting that PHF also is just over a year into a three-year, $287,000 contract with that board to “develop, create and administer the Dental Health Professional Monitoring Program.”

By its own admission in a lawsuit to be discussed later in this post, it is not a treatment facility. So, just what does PHF (or HPFL) do to earn its money?

Well, for the Board of Medical Examiners, it appears to extract huge fees from medical professionals (which includes doctors, physician assistants, podiatrists, medical psychologists, dentists and dental hygienists) who are found to have addiction problems or who the board deems to have committed other transgressions.

And since its contract with the Board of Medical Examiners includes dentists, it is unclear why there is a need for a separate $287,000 contract with the Dentistry Board.

But like the Dental Board, the Board of Medical Examiners has set itself up as accuser, prosecutor, judge and jury in investigating complaints and handing down its decisions. Again, like the Dental Board, the Board of Medical Examiners even conducts its own hearings whenever a doctor appeals one of its decisions.

And the board remains a stellar undefeated record in 20 years of reviews of its decisions that are appealed.

Which probably is the reason Sen. Milkovich feels the need for his SB 286, which would establish a Physicians’ Bill of Rights designed to protect their rights whenever they are brought under the scrutiny of the board. More about that shortly.

In addition to its ability to suspend licenses of medical professionals, the board wields a big stick in its ability to coerce licensees into signing consent agreements to enter into rehab.

And those consent agreements often come with large price tags in the form of fees and penalties. Many state regulatory boards, the Board of Medical Examiners and the Dentistry Board included, receive their budgets not from legislative appropriations but from membership fees and financial penalties assessed against members accused and convicted of violations, some of which, though minor, still carry large fines.

Doctors and other medical practitioners apparently are referred to the rehab centers by PHF (or HPFL) whose spokesperson indicated to LouisianaVoice that it has a list of approved facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, among others.

PHF’s $1.35 million contract with the Medical Board runs from Aug. 1, 2016 through July 31, 2019.

One of those rehab centers is PALMETTO Addiction Recovery Center in Rayville.

That facility became involved in a lawsuit in 2009 after one of its staff members. Dr. Douglas Wayne Cook became sexually involved with one of the center’s patients. The husband of the victim sued Cook, who is no longer with Palmetto but who does continue to have a private practice in Richland Parish.

 

Milkovich’s bill, already reported out of committee favorably, is scheduled to be brought before the entire Senate on Monday.

“Under Louisiana’s current board system, physicians often face an uneven playing field, rigged proceedings, and a stacked deck,” Milkovich said. “Licensed, dedicated and highly qualified professionals may have their licenses threatened, suspended, or revoked, based on false accusations, anonymous complaints, and spurious charges. Doctors are often administratively charged by the board without even being informed of the identity of their accusers, the evidence against them, or even the substance of the accusations brought against them. This injustice is compounded by the heavy-handed and inequitable tactics employed by some Board staff.

“We understand that there must be a fair and sound disciplinary process for physicians, to protect the public. However, the goal of board proceedings for physicians should be impartiality, fairness, and integrity—not intimidation, falsification, and inequity.

“The aim of SB 286 is to level the playing field, un-stack the deck and render the Board’s adjudication of doctors more transparent. Everyone deserves Due Process. And that includes doctors.”

The bill, according to the BATON ROUGE ADVOCATE, would require stricter communication requirements during board investigations and would require that the board provide physicians under investigation written notice of complaints within 10 days or receipt. Moreover, the bill would require that the board reveal the identity of the complainant and would prohibit ex parte communications by board members prior to a hearing on the pending investigation.

One critic of the board, Dr. Greg Stephens said criminals and terrorists receive “more due process than we give doctors.” He and his former boss, Dr. John Gianforte, said they were coerced into consenting to voluntary license suspensions and mandated substance abuse treatment without either being allowed to give their side of the story.

They were suspended following claims that Stephens allowed unqualified staff members to write and sign prescriptions in his name while serving as medical director at a clinic in Shreveport when in fact, the prescription pad was stolen by two employees and Stephens’ name forged. Gianforte said the two employees were fired and one was later charged by law enforcement authorities.

Milkovich even cited a case where a New Orleans physician practicing at Tulane Medical Center committed suicide last November. His license was summarily suspended in June following an investigation but was reinstated in October. By then, however, the doctor had lost privileges, positions and future opportunities as a result of the investigation, the senator said.

In another case, the family of another doctor filed suit against PFL when the doctor, informed that he had had tested positive for drug use, committed suicide a few hours later. The doctor’s family was told by PFL that its programs and personnel had statutorily qualified immunity from legal liability regarding their activities and that they were further protected by a release and a hold-harmless agreement with the Physicians Health Program.

RAMEY V. DECAIRE

PHF was successful in getting the Louisiana Supreme Court to rule that it was exempt under the peremptory exception of no cause of action and the family’s lawsuit was dismissed. PHF, apparently not satisfied with merely winning, then went after the family for legal sanctions, claiming their suit was frivolous and without reasonable good faith. The trial court denied PHF’s motion and PHF appealed. The First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the trial court and assessed costs against PHF.

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State Rep. Dustin Miller (D-Opelousas) has filed HOUSE BILL 724 that would provide an exception to certain provisions of the state ethics code that would allow a Louisiana Department of Health physician to skirt a conflict of interests—in other words, to circumvent the very situation ethics rules were put into place to prevent.

Miller’s bill would allow the physician, Dr. Harold Brandt, to perform in a dual capacity that has already been rejected by the ethics board in a 2016 RULING.

The ruling of July 18, 2016 informed Dr. Sreyram Kuy that he could not accept employment with a healthcare provider that accepted Medicaid payments for medical services because of her position as Medicaid Medical Director, Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Health Services Financing (BHSF) within the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), now LDH.

The decision, written by Jennifer T. Land, read, “The Board concluded…that the Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits you from being employed as a surgeon for OLOL (Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center), other Louisiana licensed hospitals and other healthcare providers that accept Medicaid payments for medical services while you serve as Medicaid Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of BHSF.”

Land cited the specific section which said the code “prohibits a public servant from receiving compensation for services rendered to the following persons: (1) those who have or are seeking to obtain a business, contractual or financial relationship with the public servant’s agency, (2) those who conduct operations or activities that are regulated by the public servant’s agency, and (3) those who have a substantial economic interest that could be affected by the performance or non-performance of the public servant’s official duty. OLOL, other Louisiana licensed hospitals and other healthcare providers that accept Medicaid payments for medical services are regulated by your agency, BHSF. Therefore, as the Medicaid Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of BHSF, you are prohibited from being employed by or from providing compensated services to these entities.”

What makes Miller’s bill particularly interesting, however, is that both Dr. Kuy’s predecessor, LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee, and his successor, Dr. Harold Brandt, each worked in that same position without bothering to request an ethics ruling, apparently falling back on the Nike slogan “Just do it.”

In fact, in the case of Dr. Brandt, LouisianaVoice has been informed that he was reappointed to the position with the proviso that Miller’s bill would be introduced in order to change the existing law to accommodate him. This despite the fact that an ethics review was requested of LDH legal to determine if such an arrangement was acceptable, and the answer was no, according to sources.

On Jan. 25, LouisianaVoice published a story in which it was revealed that Dr. Brandt previously served as Medical Vendor Administrator (Medicaid Medical Director) for LDH from April 7, 2016 to Sept. 2, 2017 at a rate of $156.25 per hour while he simultaneously served on the staff of BATON ROUGE CLINIC, which received $83,000 in PAYMENTS from LDH during Dr. Brandt’s tenure at LDH.

the Medical Director serves as chairman of the Medical Quality Review Committee, so LDH legal was asked for a second opinion whether any ethics concerns existed in regards to that capacity.

The response was the following potential issues identified under the Code of Governmental Ethics. The Medicaid Quality Committee (Committee) of the Louisiana Department of Health, Bureau of Health Services Financing, fulfills the role of the Medical Care Advisory Committee required by 42 CFR 431.12.  According to its Bylaws, the Committee provides focus and direction for Medicaid program quality activities that assure access and utilization of quality, evidence-based healthcare that is designed to meet the health needs of all Louisiana Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients through:

  • Establishing and maintaining sound business and clinical practices/benchmarks that ensure a system of internal controls and support optimal performance within established thresholds;
  • Driving meaningful and measurable collaboration between the LDH agencies BHSF, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), Office of Public Health (OPH), Office of Aging and Adult Services (OAAS), and Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities (OCDD), with a focus on demonstrating improved care and service for Medicaid recipients by using evidence-based guidelines;
  • Creating and sustaining a vibrant evaluation process for Louisiana Medicaid benefits and services and health care delivery systems that is based on integrity, accountability, and transparency;
  • Offering expertise and experience of Committee members to recommend improvements to BHSF that will serve to better meet the healthcare needs of recipients in a cost efficient manner;
  • Sharing Committee recommendations with recipients, providers and policy leaders; and
  • Forming subcommittees to address specific areas of care, as needed.

The Committee’s functions are advisory and shall include:

  • Monitoring ongoing metrics and ensuring findings are reported on a regularly scheduled basis (quarterly or annually);
  • Ensuring key quality initiatives are identified to align with regulatory and business requirements;
  • Overseeing quality improvement projects and ensuring coordination and integration of the quality improvement activities;
  • Reviewing performance results and providing feedback and recommendations to the MCO action plans; and
  • Participating in the evaluation of the Medicaid Quality Program by evaluating the quality, continuity, accessibility, and availability of the medical care rendered within Louisiana.

The Secretary of LDH appoints all non-permanent Committee members, which must include board-certified physicians and other health professionals familiar with the medical needs of low-income population groups and with the resources available and required for their care, in accordance with 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 431.12(d).  Additionally, the members of the standing subcommittees are appointed by the Louisiana Medicaid Medical Director, who serves as the permanent Chair of the Committee.

La. R.S. 42:1113B prohibits an appointed member of any board or commission, member of his immediate family, or legal entity in which he has a substantial economic interest from bidding on or entering into or being in any way interested in any contract, subcontract, or other transaction which is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such appointed member.

As such, La. R.S. 42:1113B would prohibit Medicaid providers from serving, despite 42 CFR 431.12(d) effectively requiring they be appointed to the Committee or subcommittees. LDH should consider proposing an amendment to the Code of Governmental Ethics to provide an exception for Medicaid providers appointed to serve on the Medicaid Quality Committee or any of its subcommittees.

Unconfirmed reports said that Brandt prevailed upon Gov. John Bel Edwards to write Dr. Gee to request that he be allowed to continue serving as Medical Director for LDH.

An attempt was made to reach Dr. Brandt at LDH but his phone line was forwarded to a non-working number. The Department of Civil Service has no record of his employment after last Sept. 2.

LouisianaVoice has made a public records request of LDH for all correspondence between Dr. Brandt and Edwards, between Dr. Brandt and Dr. Gee and between Edwards and Dr. Gee relative to Brandt’s employment.

LDH received an email today (April 3) from LDH to the effect that it would take 30 days to provide such records. It takes only a simple keystroke to retrieve such messages from email files, however. They can be produced in a matter of seconds.

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