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Archive for the ‘Public Records’ Category

It turns out that Southern University is indeed a public body.

And so are any of its committees assigned to carry out or to recommend university policy, according to a ruling by 19th Judicial District Judge Richard Moore, III, denying Southern’s Exception of No Cause of Action.

A no-brainer, right?

Well, not if you accept the argument of attorneys representing the university in a pending lawsuit over the decision by the university’s system-wide Grievance Committee to enter into an executive session without benefit of an official motion or vote by the committee members and despite the request of the four Southern employees that the meeting be open to the public.

Southern’s motion was filed as a result of a lawsuit by Dr. Christy Moland, Dr. Elaine Lewnau, Dr. Terrilynn Gillis and Dr. Marilyn Seibert, four university professors either fired, demoted or reduced in pay, and LouisianaVoice publisher Tom Aswell after the plaintiffs claimed that a CLOSED-DOOR MEETING by the grievance committee on March 18 was illegal.

In Monday’s hearing on the motion, Southern’s attorneys put up a rosy argument, saying that according to what Arthur Smith, III, attorney for the four professors, was saying, anytime an individual is assigned by the administration to carry out any function, their actions would constitute a public body.

Had Southern prevailed, then any public body, from the governor’s office down to the smallest town council, could hide behind that maneuver in order to keep the public uninformed of its actions.

But the grievance committee is not an individual. In fact, it is comprised of more than a dozen “individuals” who sit as a committee to hear grievances and to make recommendations to the university administration.

As such, the committee’s recommendations constitute official actions designed to set policy or official actions for the university to carry out.

At the March 18 hearing, all four professors requested that the hearing be conducted in an open forum but then, without a motion or vote to do so, Dickerson called an executive session, saying the hearing was not a public meeting and the committee was not a public body even though any decision it may make is clearly defined as an official action by a public body under state law. Dickerson’s saying otherwise does not change that.

Louisiana Revised Statute 42;4.1 THROUGH 42.13, the state’s Open Meetings Law, clearly defines a “Public Body,” and then goes on to say “A committee formed by the public body is considered a public body, e.g., an executive committee.”

Having established that point, the next issue would be the state’s OPEN MEETINGS LAW, which says, “In order for a public body to enter into an executive session, a vote of 2/3 of members present at an open meeting, for which proper notice was given pursuant to R.S. 42:19, is necessary — along with an accompanying statement of the reason for entering into the executive session. The vote of each member on the motion to enter into executive session along with the reason for entering the executive session must be recorded and entered into the minutes. (emphasis added)

So, the “Grievance Committee” violated the state’s open meetings statutes which require public hearings of grievances should those filing grievances request a public hearing, which all four in fact, did request.

The same section says:

Further, the public body may not enter into executive session for the purposes of this discussion, if the individual requests that the matter be discussed in an open meeting. (emphasis added).

Committee chairperson Marla Dickerson, in calling the closed session, ejected not only LouisianaVoice, but also the four professors and their legal counsel (Smith) as well as the legal counsel for the university itself (Winston Decuir), thus preventing legal counsel for each side from hearing any testimony by witnesses.

In his ruling, Judge Moore said, “…the Grievance Committee…is making recommendations to the President-Chancellor as to whether employment should be maintained and, if so, the amount of compensation. The…type of committee action is too important to be made in a dark room, where no one other than committee members know what factors are being considered. The actions taken by the Grievance Committee served to slam the door on…(the) Louisiana Constitution and our democratic process. For all these reasons and considerations, the exception of no cause of action filed by Southern University is overruled.”

 

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As reports of financial improprieties in the LSU BASKETBALL program, the SCHOOL of VETERINARY MEDICINE and a children’s foundation at a Baton Rouge HOSPITAL compete for headlines, another scandal has been quietly brewing across town that thus far has managed to fly under the radar of news reporters and investigators.

It’s nothing on the magnitude of the pay to play story that has rocked higher education at the nation’s elite universities, but it is indicative of a growing problem of a deterioration of trust, integrity and morality behind the walls of academia.

Once considered paragons of virtue, propriety, and incorruptibility, our colleges and universities have become politicized by draconian budgetary cuts to the point that schools find themselves searching for their collective moral compasses even as they strive for funds to remain afloat.

But budgetary cuts alone can’t account for the some of the shenanigans we see taking place on our college campuses. Sometimes it’s just outright contempt for the rules of common decency.

Take Southern University, the state’s largest predominantly black university, for example.

The school has, with nobody taking notice, become embroiled in a dispute involving the firing of four faculty members in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology/Audiology.

The firings occurred when the faculty members refused to go along with:

  • The creation of a so-called shadow, or non-existent curriculum to benefit a single student;
  • The falsifying of another student’s grade from F to B so that she could graduate even though she failed to attend the class;
  • Allowing a student to enroll despite her being under suspension from the university;
  • Permitting a major course to be offered as an independent study when the department does not have independent study, again to benefit a single student;
  • Nepotism;
  • Bullying and threatening behavior by administration officials when faculty members questioned the legality or propriety of their actions;

The four, Dr. Elaine Lewnau, Dr. Christy Moland, Dr. Terrilynn Gillis, and Dr. Marilyn Seibert, are represented by Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith, III.

During Monday’s hearing by the Southern University System-wide Grievance Committee, committee chairperson academic counselor Marla Dickerson consistently interrupted Smith with a barrage of questions despite Smith’s repeated requests that he be allowed to complete his statements to the committee.

The entirety of Monday’s hearing was the very definition of a kangaroo court as the four faculty members were also interrupted time and time again as they attempted to give their opening statements.

Then, without a motion or vote to do so, Dickerson called an executive session, saying the hearing was not a public meeting and the committee was not a public body even though any decision it may make is clearly defined as an official action by a public body under state law. Dickerson’s saying otherwise does not change that.

The state’s OPEN MEETING STATUTE, R.S. 42:16 (A)(25) reads:

In order for a public body to enter into an executive session, a vote of 2/3 of members present at an open meeting, for which proper notice was given pursuant to R.S. 42:19, is necessary — along with an accompanying statement of the reason for entering into the executive session. The vote of each member on the motion to enter into executive session along with the reason for entering the executive session must be recorded and entered into the minutes. (emphasis added)

So, the “Grievance Committee” violated the state’s open meetings statutes which require public hearings of grievances should those filing grievances request a public hearing, which all four in fact, did request.

The same section says:

Further, the public body may not enter into executive session for the purposes of this discussion, if the individual requests that the matter be discussed in an open meeting. (emphasis added)

Dickerson, in calling the closed session, ejected not only LouisianaVoice, but also the four professors and their legal counsel (Smith) as well as the legal counsel for the university itself (Winston Decuir), thus preventing legal counsel for each side from hearing any testimony by witnesses.

The grievance was filed against Dr. James Ammons, executive vice president and executive vice chancellor of Southern University.

For the 2018 Spring Semester, a shadow curriculum consisting of three courses, was approved for a single student, even though there is no record of a syllabus for such courses and no record of student performance in the courses for which she received a grade of A. “This is grade fraud,” Smith said, because “The department chair did not know that these courses were being given to the student” and “there is no record of ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) certification standards achieved in any of the courses.

“Because these courses were put into (the student’s) schedule without any knowledge of the department chair (or) graduate program director, in other words, illegal courses, and taught by…illegally appointed department chair and graduate program director, respectively,” Smith said. The previous department chair and graduate program director were removed by Ammons without reason, in violation of school policy, Smith said.

Smith said a major course was offered to a single student as an independent study in the 2018 Fall semester even though the Speech Pathology Department does not offer independent study, which Smith said violates the accuracy of the ASHA accreditation report where no independent study has ever been reported. Again, Smith said this constituted grade fraud.

Further, Smith said Dr. Stephen Enwefa removed Dr. Lewnau from her duties of teaching the course without reason and appointed his wife, Dr. Regina Enwefa, to teach the course. “This is nepotism despite the insistence by Dr. Ammons and President (Ray) Belton’s general counsel that the university is not in violation of the state’s nepotism laws.”

The student was to have completed an unauthorized clinic in the 2018 Spring semester, Smith said, but neither the site nor the clinical hours were approved by the Clinical Education director. The student was given an F because she attended only two weeks of the eight-week clinic, but Ammons changed her grade to a B. “The grade of B that was authorized by Dr. Ammons is fraudulent,” Smith said.

“Because Dr. Moland refused to give credit for something of which she had no record; because she would not falsify records for this student and lie, Dr. Ammons fired her,” Smith said.

Likewise, Dr. Gillis said she was fired for refusing to violate the ASHA professional ethics and because she “refused to submit to the illegal orders of Dr. Ammons.”

Dr. Seibert said she entered into an agreement with Southern whereby she would be paid $20,000 for teaching in the Speech-Language Pathology Department during the 2018 Fall semester but was subsequently paid only $7,500.

Dr. Lewnau added, “As chair of the admissions committee for the master’s degree program in speech-language pathology, Dr. Gillis had been contacted several times about the admission of 6 students who had applied and been denied because they did not meet the minimum admissions requirements.

“These contacts came from various offices on campus, including the President’s office, the Board of Supervisors’ office and the office of the Executive Vice President/Executive Vice Chancellor and someone who claimed to be a member of the Southern University Alumni Association, for the purpose of trying to get these students into the master’s degree program.

“Dr. Gillis had to repeatedly stated that the students just did not qualify for admissions. After Dr. (Donna) Dejean and Dr. Lewnau were removed from their administrative offices and replaced by the husband and wife team of Drs. Stephen and Regina Enwefa, and Dr. Gillis was given a letter of termination from the University, effective May 2019, these students were admitted to the master’s degree program by the Enwefas.

“Bear in mind, these students were admitted by the Enwefas who together and without any input from the rest of the faculty admitted them and without re-opening the admissions process to other students who might interested.

“The invitation was extended to these students who had been supported by individuals from the offices cited above. We believe that this was a contributing factor to Dr. Gillis’ being terminated. She refused to bow to the pressure placed upon her in the matter of these admissions. Since then all admissions, undergraduate and graduate, are administered by Stephen and Regina Enwefa; there is no longer an admissions committee as there had been in the past. Once again, nepotism!”

 

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The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office, as required by law, issued its Report on Fiscal Deficiencies, Inefficiencies, Fraud, or Other Significant Issues Disclosed in Governmental Auditors for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2019 last October.

And now, six months down the road, it’s a pretty good bet that no more than a handful of legislators, at best, have even glanced at the five-page REPORT that nine state agencies and one local agency for 17 deficiencies or irregularities totaling more than $245.7 million. Some of the deficiencies reported go back as far as 2008.

In fact, the smart money says that no more than a half-dozen of the 28 House members and 19 Senators who comprise the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget have even picked up a copy of the report.

After all, there are campaign funds to be raised and lobbyists to be kept happy and one must have priorities.

And these are the ones who are charged with watching the purse strings on the state budget:

Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB)

HOUSE
Henry, Cameron                           Chairman                          
Abraham, Mark                           Member                          
Abramson, Neil C.                           Member                          
Amedée, Beryl                           Member                          
Armes, James K.                           Member                          
Bacala, Tony                           Member                          
Bagley, Larry                           Member                          
Berthelot, John A.                           Member                          
Billiot, Robert E.                           Member                          
Carter, Gary                           Member                          
Chaney, Charles R.                           Member                          
Edmonds, Rick                           Member                          
Falconer, Reid                           Member                          
Foil, Franklin J.                           Member                          
Harris, Lance                           Member                          
Hodges, Valarie                           Member                          
Leger, Walt III                           Member                          
McFarland, Jack                           Member                          
Miguez, Blake                           Member                          
Miller, Dustin                           Member                          
Pylant, Steve E.                           Member                          
Richard, Jerome                           Member                          
Simon, Scott M.                           Member                          
Smith, Patricia Haynes                           Member                          
Zeringue, Jerome                           Member                          
Jackson, Katrina R.                           Interim Member                          
Stokes, Julie                           Interim Member                          
Barras, Taylor F.                           Ex Officio                          

 

SENATE
LaFleur, Eric                           Vice Chair                          
Allain, R. L. Bret                           Member                          
Appel, Conrad                           Member                          
Barrow, Regina                           Member                          
Bishop, Wesley T.                           Member                          
Donahue, Jack                           Member                          
Fannin, James R.                           Member                          
Hewitt, Sharon                           Member                          
Johns, Ronnie                           Member                          
Martiny, Daniel R.                           Member                          
Morrell, Jean-Paul J.                           Member                          
Tarver, Gregory                           Member                          
White, Mack “Bodi”                           Member                          
Chabert, Norbèrt N. “Norby”                           Interim Member                          
Morrish, Dan W. “Blade”                           Interim Member                          
Thompson, Francis C.                           Interim Member                          
Walsworth, Michael A.                            Interim Member                          
Alario, John                            Ex Officio                          
Long, Gerald                           Ex Officio                    

 

I base my opinion on the premise that had any of them read the report, they would—or should—be raising holy hell over such things as:

  • For the sixth consecutive report, the Department of Environmental Quality has not fully implemented effective monitoring procedures over the Waste Tire Management Program (WTMP) to ensure that waste tire date used to calculate subsidized payments to waste tire processors is reasonable. “We first reported weaknesses in controls over payments to WTMP processors in our engagement that covered fiscal years 2008 and 2009,” the report says. For the period from July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2017, DEQ paid out $99.4 million in subsidies to six waste tire processors.

Other major deficiencies cited included:

Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (Hazard Mitigation):

  • Expense reimbursements not supported by invoices, receipts, lease agreements, contracts, labor policies, time records, equipment logs HUD settlement statements, appraisals, elevation certificates, duplication of benefits verification, engineer plans inspection photographs or other documentation: $1.8 million;
  • Contracts and purchases did not comply with applicable federal and state procurement requirements: $1.47 million.

Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (Public Assistance):

  • Completed work not within the scope of an approved project: $2.3 million;
  • Expense reimbursements not supported by invoices, receipts, lease agreements, contracts, labor policies, time records, equipment logs, inventory records or other documentation: $40.1 million;
  • Contract and purchases did not comply with applicable federal and state procurement requirements: $11.95 million;
  • Work reflected in the expense reimbursements did not comply with applicable FEMA regulations: $9.4 million;
  • GOHSEP’s cost estimating tool and/or expense review form either omitted or contained duplicate and/or incorrectly categorized expenses: $956,000.

Attorney General:

  • The AG did not deposit money into the Fraud Fund in fiscal year 2016 in accordance with state law: $713,000.

Louisiana Department of Health:

  • LDH did not deposit money into its Fraud Fund between fiscal years 2012 and 2017 in accordance with state law: $2.8 million;
  • LDH incorrectly deposited money into the Medicaid Fraud Fund in fiscal year 2012 that should have been deposited into the Nursing Home Residents’ Trust Fund: $323,000;
  • LDH spent money from the Medicaid Fraud Fund in fiscal year 2017 for salaries that do not appear to meet the intended purpose of the Fraud Fund: $477,000;
  • LDH spent money from the Medicaid Fraud Fund in fiscal 2012 on software that could not be implemented due to system compatibility issues: $643,000.

Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (Oil Spill):

  • Amounts requested/invoiced not supported by invoices, receipts, lease agreements, contracts, labor policies, time records, equipment logs

It’s somewhat puzzling when people like Reps. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) and Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia) try to fight the governor’s budgetary proposals at every opportunity (including his attempt to increase teachers’ pay) but you never hear a peep out of them about a paltry $245 million.

And Henry just happens to be chairman of the JLCB and Barras just happens to be Speaker of the House.

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

 

 

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On March 27, 1998, barely two years after receiving his cadet appointment to the State Police Academy, Ben Johnson was terminated by State Police Superintendent Col. W.R. “Rut” Whittinton following a long string of disciplinary actions for infractions, including his off-duty altercation with a sheriff’s deputy over a woman Johnson was dating.

He next landed at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Pineville as a police officer.

In March 2009, a WARRANT was executed for his ARREST for attempted forcible rape of a woman in Natchitoches. Here is a page from the POLICE REPORT.

And while he was stripped of his position as police officer for the VA, he still is employed there—in the Human Relations Department where he supposedly has access to employee personnel records, including home addresses and telephone numbers.

In October, the attempted forcible rape, a felony charge, was reduced to a misdemeanor by then-10th Judicial District Attorney Van H. Kyzar. Kyzar is now a JUDGE on Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal.

On November 13, 2009, Johnson SIGNED OFF off on an agreement that the charges would be dismissed upon the satisfactory completion of a pre-trial intervention program. (emphasis added.)

Several district attorneys’ offices were consulted and each one that responded said its policy is that those with felony charges are ineligible for pre-trial intervention programs. Click HERE to see the policies of one of those offices.

Of course, having a policy and adhering to that policy may well be two different propositions for some jurisdictions where favors are routinely awarded to friends of or contributors to the local power structure.

The pre-trial intervention (PTI) program must have been fast-tracked like no other in the history of PTIs, because he apparently managed to complete the crash course that same day. According to a DISMISSAL letter from district attorney investigator Danny C. Hall to to Barbara Watkins of the Veterans Medical Center in Pineville, charges against Johnson were dismissed that same day. Hall is no longer employed by the Natchitoches DA’s office.

One former district attorney said it was unheard of to dismiss charges on the same day an individual was assigned to a PTI, especially when the dismissal was contingent upon completion of the program. Moreover, he said, there was no way anyone could have completed such a program in a single day. “The person would have to know somebody,” he said.

A sitting judge said much the same thing. “He knew someone. It usually takes six months or longer for a case to be dismissed that way,” he said. At the same time, he said the district attorney could have seen it as a weak case, particularly in light of the fact the victim waited several days to report the incident. (The victim told police she was “embarrassed and ashamed,” and initially “just wanted to forget about the entire day” but her best friend convinced her to talk to police.)

An undated document signed by Johnson ACKNOWLEDGED that he had been arrested and charged “with the crime of attempted forcible rape, a felony,” that I freely admit my guilt and misconduct” and that the PTI program was established “to divert me from further criminal conduct.” (emphasis added.)

The victim told police that at one point prior their struggle, he told her she was safe with him because he was a POLICE OFFICER.

Johnson was first hired by Louisiana State Police on December 3, 1995 but by March 27, 1998, he was terminated because of repeated disciplinary problems.

Beginning in July 1996, barely seven months into the job, and virtually every month thereafter until his termination, he was reprimanded by his superiors for such things as:

  • Failure to be in his assigned parish for patrol;
  • Altering accident reports with white correction fluid;
  • Sloppy and error-plagued paperwork and accident reports, including incorrect dates, incorrect mileposts and even incorrect parishes and incorrect judicial districts;
  • Unauthorized attendance at a Northwestern State University football game in uniform while off-duty;
  • Altercations with fellow state troopers;
  • Rude treatment of females stopped for traffic violations;
  • Logging incorrect dates he worked on his time sheets;
  • Losing citations that he had written;
  • Allowing his patrol unit to run out of gas and then attempting to claim mechanical problems;
  • Losing his State Police badge and badge/identification card holder;
  • Failure to search and handcuff a prisoner later found to be in possession of a pocket knife;
  • Possession of radar equipment in his patrol car that had been missing and which caused considerable concern in efforts to locate the equipment.
  • Patrolling in the city limits of Alexandria and Pineville against troop regulations;
  • Calling in traffic stops before violations actually occurred;
  • Inability to locate accident he was directed to even though both vehicles were in the roadway;
  • Untimely submission of paperwork;
  • A five-day suspension for leaving his assigned parish to travel nearly 20 miles off his assigned route.
  • On April 27, 1997, barely four months after his designation as a State Police Trooper, he became embroiled in a confrontation with a Rapides Parish sheriff’s deputy after the deputy allegedly made disparaging remarks about him to a woman Johnson was dating. Johnson appeared at England Air Park where the deputy was assigned while off duty but in his state police vehicle and threatened the deputy with physical harm.

Normally, a State Trooper who resigns in lieu of dismissal can land a job with another law enforcement agency. But Johnson did not resign, he was fired, which makes it difficult to understand how he wound up as a police officer for the VA unless the VA did a rather slipshod of vetting his qualifications—or, a more likely bet, he had connections there.

And it’s equally difficult to understand how he retained his employment, his demotion notwithstanding, after such a serious offense as attempted forcible rape.

Even more baffling is why such a serious felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and then how did he manage the “satisfactory completion” of a pre-trial intervention on the same day he was assigned to the program, allowing the charges go away instantly?

 

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Trying to decipher which was the first to employ Gestapo-like extortion as a means of controlling licensees is like solving the chicken-or-the-egg riddle, but there’s no question that the methods employed by the Louisiana Board of Dentistry and the Louisiana State Medical Licensing Board are eerily similar.

Both employ highly questionable investigative methods, both impose stiff fines followed by even more outrageous fines if the licensee displays any will to resist what may even be bogus charges, and both make generous use of the most effective punishment: revocation of licenses—taking away the victim’s very means of earning a livelihood.

And both also occasionally force recalcitrant dentists and physicians to attend costly rehab clinics either in addition to or in lieu of license revocations. And those rehab clinics can cost as much as $30,000 a month.

Sometimes, a professional is sent to a facility that has its own abuse problems. Take the case of Slidell dentist KENNETH STARLING, who, in addition to having to pay an $8,000 fine, was sent by the dental board to a place called Palmetto Addition Recovery Center in Rayville in Richland Parish in 2010.

But PALMETTO, it turned out, was involved a 2009 lawsuit after one of its staff members, Dr. Douglas Wayne Cook, became sexually involved with one of the center’s patients.

And even while at Palmetto, the dental board continued targeting him. Could that be because he practiced in the same town as influential board member Dr. Edward Donaldson?

And while the practices of the dental board have been publicized often by LouisianaVoice, the state medical board essentially plays by the same rules. And, just as with the dental board, the name of Palmetto Addiction Recovery Centers surfaces on a regular basis in report after report, along with Pine Grove Recovery Centers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Physicians’ Health Foundation of Louisiana.

I have chosen to delete the names and locations of the following examples, but the cases serve as examples of an uneven playing field, often dependent upon on the physician in question:

  • Following his arrest on charges of distribution and possession of controlled and dangerous substances in 2005, Dr. ________submitted to substance abuse evaluation at Palmetto. “Apparently, the physician had submitted to chemical dependency treatment on two prior occasions. Upon his discharge from Palmetto, he underwent residential treatment at Pine Grove. His license was reinstated in 2009 but in 2013, the board received information indicating that the physician “had returned to the use of controlled or other mood-altering substances.” In 2018, after being placed on indefinite probation in 2014, his license was “reinstated without restriction.”
  • ___________entered a plea of guilty to one count of Medicaid fraud in 2002 and subsequently underwent in-patient chemical dependency evaluation for cocaine abuse. Following completion of his criminal penalty, he was referred to Physician Health Foundation’s Physician Health Program (PHP). Following his reinstatement in 2008, he was disciplined again in 2018, this time placed on probation for unspecified violations.
  • _________________ was diagnosed in 1999 with cocaine and alcohol addiction and in 2000 was referred to Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta, Georgia through Physicians’ Health Foundation and later to Fontainebleau Treatment Center in Mandeville. His license was reinstated in 2006 but in 2007, he again came under scrutiny for drug abuse and was again referred to a PHP monitoring program and he was placed on probation by the board for a 10-year period in 2008. He was reinstated “without restriction” in 2018.
  • ________________ entered a plea of guilty to one count of health care fraud in 2009. In addition to criminal penalties, the board suspended his license for 90 days, placed him on probation for five years, and fined him $3,000. Following his reinstatement in December 2009, it was subsequently learned in 2011 that he had been issuing prescriptions of narcotics, including OxyContin, from his home and vehicle since May 2009 under the auspices of a practice site not approved by the board. The board again suspended his license, this time for six months and he was placed on probation for 10 years.
  • _________________ voluntarily entered into a two-week program at DePaul Hospital in New Orleans for cocaine dependency in 1995 and 1996 before transferring to Talbott Marsh in Atlanta. The board in 1998 ordered him into additional treatment in PHP at Palmetto and placed him on probation for five years. In 2003, he was again placed on five-year probation for failure to comply with requirements set forth in the 1998 order. His license was reinstated “without restriction” in 2018.

But when a Lafayette NEUROSURGEON becomes involved in suspected arson and subsequently enters a plea of guilty to one count of felony obstruction of justice, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners is strangely silent.

Dr. Nancy Rogers was arrested in 2012 in connection with the fire at Levy-East Bed & Breakfast in Natchitoches, a blaze that caused $500,000 in damage to the unoccupied building. No motive has been given for the fire, but investigators determined it to have been intentionally set.

But in the case of Dr. ARNOLD FELDMAN of Baton Rouge, the board came down especially hard.

In a terse December 20, 2018, LETTER TO FELDMAN, board Executive Director Vincent Culotta, Jr., wrote, “Per the decision and order of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners dated April 13, 2015, the amount due is as follows:

  • Cost of proceeding—$456,980.60
  • Administrative fine—$5,000
  • Total: $461,980.60.

This is not intended as a treatsie on Feldman’s guilt or innocence, but it’s rather difficult to fathom what “proceedings” could cost nearly $457,000 but that’s the way the dental and medical examiners boards operate. While members of both boards are appointed by the governor, they are apparently accountable to no one and able to set fines and costs at whatever amounts they wish.

Feldman served briefly as a member of the Physicians’ Health Foundation until he started asking questions that made certain people uncomfortable. Four months later, he found himself in the board’s crosshairs. But during his short tenure, he learned that the medical board funnels about a million dollars a year into the foundation. Apparently, there is no accounting for those funds.

Moreover, he said, the so-called “independent judges” hearing cases for possible board disciplinary action are paid by the board investigator’s office, which creates something of a stacked deck going into the process—not to mention an obvious conflict of interest.

Physicians aren’t the only ones to encounter an uncooperative medical board. The Legislative Auditor was forced to SUE the board in order to obtain board records so that it could perform its statutorily-mandated job of auditing the board’s financial records.

Senate Bill 286, the so-called physicians’ Bill of Rights, passed the SENATE by a unanimous 36-0 vote last year but never made it to the floor of the House after being involuntarily deferred in committee.

But a rare unanimous DECISION by the U.S. Supreme Court exactly two months later, on February 20, could impact the way these boards mete out exorbitant fines.

Even though the high court’s ruling on Timbs v. Indiana is considered a blow aimed at criminal justice reform, particularly in the so-called policing for profit through asset forfeiture, its effects could spill over into the way civil fines are handed down by regulatory bodies.

The ruling, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, falls back on the Eighth Amendment that guarantees that no “excessive fines” may be imposed, a concept that dates back to the Magna Carta and later embraced by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.

It will be interesting to see if any dentist or physician victimized by either of these boards files legal action based on the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling.

If someone does, it could be a game changer.

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