Archive for the ‘Regents’ Category

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden has formally announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor to succeed Jay Darden in next fall’s election. And even though the field for the state’s second highest office is starting to get a little crowded, it’s expected to attract little attention.

That’s because all eyes will be focused on the battle to succeed Bobby Jindal as governor. Already, we have Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, and State Sen. John Bel Edwards vying for the state’s top job with more anticipated between now and next year’s qualifying.

Whoever your favorite candidate for governor, you may wish to reconsider wishing the job on him. In sports, there is a saying that no one wants to be the man who follows the legend. Instead, the preference would be to be the man who follows the man who followed the legend.

No one, for example, could ever have stepped in as Bear Bryant’s immediate successor at the University of Alabama and succeeded. That person was former Alabama receiver Ray Perkins who in his four years, won 32 games, lost 15 and tied one. He was followed by Bill Curry who went 26-10 in his three years. Gene Stallings was next and posted a 62-25 record that included a national championship over seven years before he retired.

Then came in rapid succession five coaches over the next nine years who combined to record a composite losing record of 51-55 before Nick Saban came along in 2007 to pull the program from the ashes.

No one in his right mind should wish to follow Jindal. It is not because of Jindal’s success as governor; just the opposite. When he walks out of the Governor’s Mansion for the final time, Jindal will leave this state in such a financial and functional mess that no one can succeed in righting the ship in a single term—and that may be all the patience Louisiana’s citizens will have for the new governor. Bottom line, voters are weary of seven years of budget cuts and depleted services. Ask anyone waiting and DMV to renew their driver’s license.

The electorate, at least those who pay attention to what’s going on, are bone tired of a governor who is never in the state but instead is flitting all over the country trying to pad his curriculum vitae for a run at the Republican nomination for president.

They are jaded at the hypocrisy of a first-term Gov. Jindal who kept popping up in Protestant churches (he’s Catholic) to pander the Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals when he was facing re-election compared to a second-term and term-limited Gov. Jindal who has not shown his face in a single Protestant church anywhere in the state.

Some, though admittedly not all, are unhappy with the manner in which he has consistently rejected federal Medicaid expansion and $80 million in federal grants for broadband internet and $300 million for a high-speed rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans—money state taxpayers have already paid into the system and now have to chance to recoup that money. (It’s sort of like refusing your federal tax refund because you feel it’s not free money. Well, no, it’s not free money but it is money you’ve already paid it in and now you have a chance to get some of it back.)

And there are those who are not at all pleased with the salaries paid Jindal appointees (not to mention raises they’ve received while rank and file employees have gone five years without raises). The administration has been free and loose with salaries paid top unclassified employees in every state agency, from Division of Administration on down. Those salaries are a huge drain on the state retirement systems. That’s one of the reasons there was so much controversy over Jindal’s attempted backdoor amendment to an obscure Senate bill that would have given State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an annual retirement increase of $55,000—more than many full time state employees make.

With that in mind, we have what we feel would be a meaningful proposal for some enterprising gubernatorial candidate. It’s an idea that we feel has considerable merit and one we feel would resonate with voters.

With the state facing a billion-dollar shortfall for next year, the suggestion is more symbolic that a real fix, but what if a candidate would pledge publicly that he would draw on the pool of retired educators and executives for his cabinet? And what if he purposely avoid appointing anyone with political ambitions such as Angelle, who went from Secretary of Natural Resources to Public Service Commission and who is now an announced candidate for governor?

If a candidate said he could immediately save the state in excess of $2 million a year by hiring retired executives to head state agencies at salaries of $1 per year each, that would strike a chord with every registered voter in the state—or it should.

If a candidate would say, “I will not appoint any member of my cabinet who is dependent upon the position for his living, nor will I appoint any member who has aspirations of public office for himself,” what a refreshing breath of air that would be, vastly different from the standard hot air rhetoric of the typical political campaign.

Where would he find these types of people willing to give of their time? That would be for the candidate himself to recruit but James Bernhard would be a good start. Bernhard certainly has the experience, having founded and built up the Shaw Group to the point that he was able to sell the company for $3 billion while selling off some of his personal company stock for another $45 million.

That spells success by every definition of the word. And Bernhard certainly would have no need for a salary. He would be a logical choice for Commissioner of Administration.

And then there is his father-in-law, retired Louisiana Tech University President Dan Reneau. What better choice could a governor have for Commissioner of Higher Education?

There are scores of others, from retired doctors and hospital administrators, to retired military personnel like Gen. Russel Honoré to head up the Department of Veterans Affairs to retired federal and state law enforcement personnel to retired scientists and educators, and the list goes on and on.

This would by no means be a guaranteed ticket to success for Jindal’s successor; there is just too much mess he will be leaving behind.

But it would be a huge psychological advantage for anyone wishing to take on that unenviable job of being the one to follow Jindal.


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Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, wants people to know he’s serious.

He has already pre-filed SB 41, which calls for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot which, if approved, would make the state superintendent of education and elective position as opposed to the current appointive one.

Kostelka also wants it understood that he wants current Superintendent John White to go.

He says he has seen enough of bloated contracts granted to politically-connected firms. He has seen his fill of contracts like the one that teaches kids how to play at recess. He has heard quite enough about contracts awarded to PR hacks to work out of their homes in other states for outlandish figures like $12,000 per month.

Most of all though he has grown weary of trying to obtain information and records from the secretive Louisiana Department of Education—and repeatedly encountering a brick wall of resistance.

And he is more than a little concerned about the approval of vouchers for schools which have no classrooms, no teachers and no desks—like New Living Word in Ruston.

And while he didn’t say so, he seemed to take some bit of pleasure in knowing that his bill has come under fire from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief apologist, Jeff Sadow.

Kostelka claim that the bill would make the superintendent answerable to the people instead of a rubber-stamp Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) was described by Sadow as a “curious mix of ignorance and illogic.”

Sadow chose to fall back on the argument that most of the BESE members are already elected and “answerable to the people,” apparently choosing to ignore the fact that most of the elected members’ seats were bought by out of state contributions from such people as Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, the Walton family and K-12.

Sadow also says Kostelka seems to have forgotten the “policy-making mess” that existed under the elected superintendent structure that existed prior to 1988. In saying that, Sadow appears to be overlooking the ever-evolving “policy-making mess” that is indicative of today’s DOE under a superintendent who doesn’t seem to have a clue where he intends to go or what he intends to do when he gets there.

“People like Mr. Sadow say I want to return to old-time politics,” Kostelka said. “To that, I would have them look at the political contributions to the BESE members and then explain to me what has changed under the present system.”

“They say my bill would cost the state the expense of another election, but it wouldn’t. I’m calling for the election to be held in the fall of 2014 at the same time as the Congressional elections, so there would be no additional costs. If approved, the elected superintendent would take effect with the 2015 gubernatorial election and White could leave with Jindal,” he said.

Kostelka is well aware that he has run afoul of the petulant Jindal and is certain to incur the governor’s wrath. His punishment could range from a loss of committee assignments to vetoes of key projects in Kostelka’s senate district. All one has to do is harken back to last year’s session when Jindal vetoed a major construction project in Livingston Parish after Rep. Rogers Pope and Sen. Dale Erdy had the temerity to buck Jindal on legislative matters important to the governor.

If that isn’t old-time politics, we don’t know what is.

But Jindal has proved beyond any doubt that he is not above such tactics.

But, at long last, those tactics appear to be coming back to bit him in the backside.

He has demoted legislators, fired a BESE member, an LSU president, doctors, various department and agency heads, appointed legislator buddies (Noble Ellington, Troy Hebert, et al) to six-figure deadhead jobs and in at least one case—that of Hebert—that appointment appears to be a major embarrassment to the administration.

But even after all of that, nothing compares to the damage done to his political stock as the recent dust-up with the Board of Regents.

Send in the clowns

As is his M.O., Jindal attempted to distance himself from the action—perhaps as a means of attempting to maintain deniability, a ploy that has consistently served him badly—by dispatching an emissary to do his dirty work. In this case, it was Taylor Teepell, brother of Timmy Teepell who seems to be running his OnMessage political consulting operation from the governor’s fourth-floor offices in the State Capitol.

What was Taylor’s mission? Nothing less than to demand the firing of Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. James Purcell. Purcell, you see, committed the unpardonable sin of criticizing Jindal’s repeated cuts to higher education. There is no run for dissention on Team Jindal.

But Taylor Teepell got a major surprise. Regents Chairman W. Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry, Jr. sent Teepell back to Jindal with a message: “Dr. Purcell works for the Regents.”

Whoa. Herr Jindal is not accustomed to such spunk from his subordinates. The governor does, after all, appoint the Regents members and he expects all appointees to toe the line, not draw a line in the sand.

Of course, Jindal could fire the entire board and replace the recalcitrant members with more compliant sycophants. But his brazen attempt to oust Purcell for the sin of independent thinking probably did more harm to Jindal than anything else he has done in his five-plus years in office. This attempt, coming as it did on the heels of three major court reversals of his education and retirement reforms and the word last week of a federal investigation into a contract with the Department of Health and Human Resources, has left him politically crippled.

And his blatant, quixotic pursuit of the presidency would be laughable were it not such a pathetic sight to behold. It somehow makes him look even smaller, more the little boy, in his ill-fitting suits.

Seeing his presidential aspirations slip away raises yet another spectacle that he would probably rather no one would know about. When he encountered occasional crises during his tenure as head of the University of Louisiana System, rather than facing the problems head-on, his solution of choice was to retreat to his office where he is said to have played video games virtually non-stop.

One must be wondering what video games he prefers these days. League of Legends, perhaps?

As one observer recently said, the Jindal waters appear to be circling the drain.

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“Thank you for your correspondence to Senator Riser regarding state cuts. Please know that Senator Riser appreciates hearing from you and will keep your thoughts and concerns in mind as they go thru the legislative process.”

–Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), in his response to several specific questions from a constituent regarding efforts by Gov. Piyush Jindal to gut higher education, help private entities profit from charter schools and online courses, to take absolute control of LSU and to dismantle the state’s system of health care for the state’s indigent population. By this canned response, obviously not written by Riser but by a legislative assistant, Riser has demonstrated that the concerns of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of which he is a member, are given more attention than those of his constituents.

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Reports out of the State Capitol on Tuesday has yet another state employee about to become a victim of the ongoing Piyush Purge.

LouisianaVoice has learned of plans by the administration to fire LSU System Office General Counsel Raymond Lamonica.

If true, Lamonica would be the third LSU official to be teagued by Jindal in less than six months. System President John Lombardi was fired in April by the LSU Board of Supervisors acting on directions from the governor and last month, Dr. Fred Cerise, head of the LSU health care system similarly dismissed.

Reached at home Tuesday, Lamonica acknowledged that he had heard the reports but had no additional comment. “Not yet, anyway,” he added.

Lamonica was appointed as United States attorney for the middle district of Louisiana in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. President Bill Clinton appointed L.J. Hymel to replace him in 1994. Prior to that, Lamonica worked as executive counsel to Gov. Dave Treen.

If the reports are accurate, Lamonica would be only the latest in a growing line of rank and file state employees, agency directors and cabinet secretaries who Jindal has either fired outright or, in the case of two legislators, demoted from committee assignments.

Besides members of board and commissions who are routinely replaced by governors with political allies and campaign contributors, Jindal has replaced, in order:

• March of 2008—Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Executive Director Jim Champagne, who opposed Jindal’s campaign promise to repeal the motorcycle helmet law;

• September of 2008—Department of Social Services Secretary Ann Williamson, after criticism of shelter conditions following Hurricane Gustav and problems with a post-storm food stamp program;

• June of 2009—Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Tammie McDaniel, after she disagreed with some of the administration’s public education policies;

• October 2009—Melody Teague, a social services grant reviewer, after testifying in opposition to Jindal’s plan to streamline government;

• February 5, 2010—Department of Transportation and Development Secretary William Ankner, after a company that contributed $11,000 to Jindal’s campaign was awarded a $60 million highway contract despite not having the low bid;

• August 13, 2010—State Alcohol and Tobacco Control Secretary Murphy Painter, after being accused of sexual harassment and fired after rejecting a permit application to SMG, the New Orleans Superdome management company, that would allow Budweiser to erect a large tent and signage in Champions Square. Budweiser had offered $300,000 to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District to sponsor the tent for tailgating parties at Saints home games;

• April of 2011—Office of Group Benefits (OGB) Director Tommy Teague (husband of Melody Teague), after failing to display sufficient enthusiasm over Jindal’s plans to privatize his agency;

• June of 2011—Tommy Teague’s successor Scott Kipper, after apparently irritating his boss, Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater over the number of OGB employees he would recommend to be laid off;

• March of 2012—Office of Elderly Affairs Executive Director Mary Manuel, after testifying she was never informed of Jindal’s plans to move her agency from the governor’s office to the Department of Health and Hospitals;

• March of 2012—State Rep. Harold Richie (D-Bogalusa), demoted from his vice-chairmanship of the House Committee on Insurance after voting against a tax rebate for those who donate money for scholarships (vouchers) to private and parochial schools;

• April of 2012—LSU System President John Lombardi, after publicly criticizing massive budget cuts imposed on higher education by Jindal;

• June of 2012—Secretary of Revenue Cynthia Bridges after it became obvious that an alternative fuel tax credit law signed by Jindal which granted tax credits for the purchase of certain fuel-efficient automobiles would cost the state upwards of $100 million;

• June of 2012—State Rep. Jim Morris (R-Oil City), was removed from his vice-chairmanship of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee after resisting efforts by Jindal to use one-time money to fund recurring expenses in the state’s General Budget;

• August of 2012—Dr. Fred Cerise, head of the LSU health care system, after criticizing Jindal budget cuts which gutted the LSU medical system of hundreds of millions of dollars.

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What is the difference between “Louisiana Believes” and Believe in Louisiana?

Basically, the former is a catchy slogan employed by the Louisiana Department of Education to promote a myriad of educational reforms initiated by Gov. π-yush Jindal while the latter is a 527 tax-exempt political organization about which precious little is known.

Believe in Louisiana appears to be little more than a tax-exempt propaganda machine for Jindal’s legislative package, particularly as it pertains to education. In fact, it would seem that not much originality went into coming up with the slogan “Louisiana Believes.”

The Academy of Training Schools, Nature’s Best, Progressive Buildings and Progressive Merchants, all located at the same address as several other businesses owned by Chester Lee Mallett of Iowa, combined to contribute $9,000 to Believe in Louisiana, founded by Baton Rouge Business Report Publisher Rolf McCollister.

McCollister was Jindal’s campaign chairman in his successful 2007 run for governor and served as chairperson of Jindal’s transition team. Julio Melara, president of the Baton Rouge Business Report, was appointed by Jindal to the Louisiana Stadium Exposition District (Louisiana Superdome) Board in February 2008, a month after Jindal first took office.

Mallet, for his part, was recently named by Jindal to the LSU Board of Supervisors.

Though not legally required to reveal the identities of its contributors, Believe in Louisiana, in a self-proclaimed nod toward transparency, lists more than 400 persons or organizations who contributed more than $1.6 million in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

Of that amount, some $512,000, or 32 percent, was contributed by persons or entities outside Louisiana. The largest such contribution was $225,000 by Advocates for School Choice of Washington, D.C.

Other major contributors to Believe in Louisiana include:

• Ashbritt, Inc. of Pompano Beach, Florida ($75,000);

• ABC Pelican PAC ($25,000);

• FVE Investments of Alexandria ($25,000);

• Louisiana Manufacturers PAC of Baton Rouge ($25,000);

Even more revealing, however, is the list of expenditures by Believe in Louisiana.

Of the $1.5 million spent by the organization, $1.3 million, or 86.7 percent, was spent out of state.

That’s 86.7 percent of all expenditures that an organization ironically calling itself Believe in Louisiana spent out of state.

How is it that an organization can refer to itself as Believe in Louisiana while keeping only 13.3 percent of its costs in-state?

The best explanation might lie in the fact that of that $1.3 million spent outside Louisiana’s borders, almost $1.2 million went to an outfit called OnMessage of Alexandria, Virginia, and Crofton, Maryland.

Last October, OnMessage announced that Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s re-election campaign manager and his former chief of staff, was joining the consulting firm as a partner and head of its new Southern office in Baton Rouge.

To date, OnMessage has no Baton Rouge address nor does it have a local telephone listing. Moreover, Teepell has maintained a high profile in the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol and even retains a reserved parking spot in the Capitol rear parking lot.

From Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, 2011 (after Teepell left the governor’s office), Jindal’s campaign paid Teepell more than $50,600 in four separate payments.

During that same period, Jindal’s campaign paid OnMessage more than $110,000.

In March of this year, however, Believe in Louisiana paid OnMessage $456,551, ostensibly for such expenses as media production, media buys and polling and research.

Skeptics might be prone to wonder why nearly a half-million dollars in polling, research, media production and media buys would be necessary six months after Jindal’s re-election. But not us. We would certainly never suggest that this was a ruse to disguise payments to Teepell. The most ethical administration in Louisiana history would certainly never stoop to such tactics.

Contributors to Believe in Louisiana who also contributed to Jindal’s political campaigns—with their corresponding contributions to Jindal’s political campaigns in parentheses are as follows:

• Allen Dickson of Shreveport: $5,000 ($77,000 by Dickson, family members and his wholesale pharmaceutical company);

• Aubrey Temple of Deridder: $5,000 ($15,000);

• Bob Perry of Houston: $50,000 ($15,000);

• Brentwood Health Management of Shreveport: $5,000 ($15,000);

• Brookwood Properties of Baton Rouge: $5,000 ($5,000);

• Centene Management Co. of St. Louis: $50,000 ($5,000);

• Central Management of Winnfield: $42,000 ($5,000);

• Dave Roberts of Prairieville: $10,000 ($10,000);

• David Voelker of New Orleans: $25,000 ($50,000 by Voelker, family members and Voelker’s companies;

• E.G. Beebe of Ridgeland, Mississippi: $20,000 ($20,000);

• Edward Diefenthal of Metairie: $100,000 ($30,000 by Diefenthal, his wife and his company, The Woodvine Group);

• Florida Marine of Mandeville: $10,000 ($5,000);

• Gary Chouest of Cut-Off: $20,000 ($91,500 by Chouest, family members and various businesses;

• Donald Bollinger of Lockport: $125,000 ($62,850 by Bollinger, family members and various businesses;

• Joseph Canizaro of New Orleans: $100,000 ($45,000);

• Keith Van Meter of New Orleans: $10,000 ($17,000);

• Lane Grigsby of Baton Rouge: $10,000 ($7,000);

• Lee Domingue of Baton Rouge: $100,000 ($7,000 from Domingue and his business, AppOne);

• Madden Contracting of Minden: $25,000 ($37,500);

• Nexion Health in 13 different locations: $3,250 ($71,000);

• Phyllis Taylor of New Orleans: $50,000 ($15,000);

• Robert Yarborough of Baton Rouge: $7,700 ($33,584);

• Rolfe McCollister of Baton Rouge: $4,100 ($21,000);

• Ryan Corp. or Dallas: $50,000 ($25,000);

• Southern Recycling of New Orleans: $10,000 ($25,000);

• USAA of San Antonio: $25,000 ($10,000);

• Bill Dore of Lake Charles: $100,000 ($25,000).

• Amedisys Medical Services of Baton Rouge: $25,000 ($11,000);

Besides the contributions to both Believe in Louisiana and contributions to Jindal’s campaigns, some of the contributors, professional associates or family members have been rewarded with plum committee and board appointments. These include:

• Lee Mallett, LSU Board of Supervisors;

• Yarborough, LSU Board of Supervisors;

• Charlotte Bollinger of Lockport, Board of Regents for Higher Education;

• Paul Dickson of Shreveport, University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors;

• Dave Roberts, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome) Board;

• Julio Melara of Baton Rouge, president of the Baton Rouge Business Report, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Board;

• Bill Windham of Bossier City, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Board;

• Aubrey Temple of Deridder, Coastal Protection and Restoration Financing Corp.

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