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There are certain procedures that must be followed in submitting public records requests to public agencies and with many agencies, if the procedure is not followed to the letter, you will find cooperation nonexistent.

Such is the case with Dr. Arnold Feldman, a pain management physician whose license was suspended by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners which, just to be sure that he has been silenced, imposed a half-million dollar fine against him.

Dr. Feldman is unfamiliar with the proper method of making public records requests, as evidenced by a number of his requests that LouisianaVoice has obtained. For example, he has on occasion asked for general information instead of requesting specific documents.

In such cases the board, like many state agencies, is unforgiving, responding that his request is “overly broad” without explaining how—or by not responding at all.

It helps if you preface your request with: “Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.), I respectfully request the opportunity to review the following information:

Then you may wish to quote certain passages from the state’s public records statute, i.e. the penalties that non-compliance with the request carry. That puts officials on notice that you are knowledgeable about the public records statute.

And even though Dr. Feldman’s request did not follow these procedures, there are those occasions where the official response is so absurd that the official efforts to deny information becomes obvious.

For example, Dr. Feldman made one request that granted, did not follow protocol when he inquired as to whether or not Hammond attorney George M. Papale had ever been elected as a judge (he has not).

And while the request itself did not specifically ask for a public record, the board’s response in a JULY 9 LETTER by Dr. Vincent Culotta, executive director of the board, was laughable—and incorrect:

“…responses to public records requests are sometimes done with the assistance of counsel and we object to producing such information such information for your request on grounds of attorney-client and work product privileges.”

That is pure B.S. and Culotta knows it. And if he doesn’t, he should be fired because it’s part of his job to know.

Virtually every state agency, upon receiving any request for public records, runs that request by its legal counsel—meaning that practically all public records requests are done “with the assistance of counsel.”

By that line of reasoning, all public records requests could be refused.

A week earlier, in a JULY 2 LETTER, Dr. Culotta responded to Dr. Feldman:

“Specifically, you requested: ‘Has George Papale, who has been paid by this board, ever been an elected judge? Please provide me with a copy of his complete file.’

“I outline for you the objections of the Board to the scope of your request and specifically assert these objections to the production of any of the materials listed therein, if any exists, for the following, non-exhaustive reasons:”

One of the reasons given cited a state statute which provides that the “records and documents in the possession of any agency or any officer or employee thereof, including any written conclusions therefrom, which are deemed confidential and privileged shall not be subject to subpoena by any person or other state or federal agency.”

The key here is the phrase “which are deemed confidential and privileged.”

In the case of all public employees, from the governor on down, certain information is considered public information. This includes job titles, dates of hire and termination, salaries, official travel records, and expense vouchers (hotels, meals, mileage) and payments. In the cases of contract employees, copies of such contracts, terms of payment, job duties, invoices and payments are all considered public records.

How do I know this? I have made similar requests—and received documents—from many state agencies, one of the most frequent being the Louisiana State Police and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

In cases of denial of a valid request, the requester may file a lawsuit against the agency and the person making the decision to deny the records. If the requester prevails, the agency or individual making the decision can be fined up to $100 per day, plus court costs and attorney fees, for denial of each request.

How do I know this? I have been successful in three of four lawsuits over public records or illegal executive sessions of a public body.

As with the State Board of Dentistry, the Board of Medical Examiners is flexing its enforcement muscle against those who do not have the expertise or the financial resources to fight back. A half-million-dollar fine is overkill in every possible consideration. Doctors and dentists have been broken and their careers left in tatters because of similar oppressive, dictatorial actions and it’s long past the time they should be reined in.

And for the record, attorney George Papale is still under contract to the Board of Medical Examiners even after his—and his daughter’s—employment was TERMINATED by another regulatory board, the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board.

The two attorneys had their contracts terminated following widespread complaints about the board’s handling of sexual misconduct cases.

The board was ripped by lawmakers after it was learned it had failed to revoke licenses after physical therapists settled claims of sexual misconduct with patients.

Baton Rouge physical therapist Philippe Veeters was charged with sexual battery and accused of assaulting nine patients but instead of revoking his license, the board merely suspended his license for nine months, prompting State Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) to call the action a “slap on the wrist.”

Dr. Feldman should re-phrase his requests and if unsuccessful, seek a legal solution.

That’s not legal advice; it’s advice from one who has been down the same road on many occasions.

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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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Is it a mere coincidence that Louisiana has the FIFTH-WORST dental health in the nation? Or that our state has the eighth-worst oral health or the worst dental habits and care?

Could the fact that we rank dead last in the percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the past year somehow correlate with the fact that Louisiana is also dead last in the number of dentists per capita? Or second-worst in the percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition?

Or could it be that the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry is just more interested in assessing fines and penalties as a means of amassing funds to perpetuate its existence than it is in promoting good dental health?

In 2010, the Louisiana Board of Dentistry revoked the license of Dr. Ryan Haygood of Shreveport. He was forced to endure a four-day hearing he describes as a “kangaroo court,” during which he had no rights and no due process.

“While this sounds unbelievable and extreme,” he told the Senate Commerce Committee last April, “the courts have agreed.”

A three-dentist panel found him guilty on eight specifics under two separate charges. In addition to taking his license to practice, the panel assessed him with more than $173,000 in fines and legal and investigative fees.

Incredibly, the conviction included several charges that the board had already dismissed and on the other charges, the board produced no evidence against him.

It took years, but the revocation was overturned by a unanimous ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. The court, in a strongly-worded rebuke of the dental board, said, “We hold this conduct is violative of the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act and Dr. Haygood’s due process right to a neutral adjudicator and a fair hearing.

In 2011, Haygood filed suit against the board attorney, its investigator (who has since has his own private investigator’s license revoked), two unlicensed investigators and several local dentists who he said conspired with the board to take his license

Haygood, in his Senate testimony, said that in November 2013, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal cited the aforementioned Fourth Circuit ruling which suggested the potential of a corrupted investigation and a strong inference that members of the board engaged in the conduct attributed to Dr. Ross Dies (a local competitor of Haygood). If some of the allegations regarding Dies’ behavior are proved, the court added, they “would strongly suggest that Dies’ conduct was motivated less by altruistic concern for the public than animus to suppress a competitor. They would also prove that other board members agreed with Dr. Dies to engage in conduct to accomplish those objectives.

In December 2017, Caddo district court Judge Michael Pitman said:

This court reviewed many e-mails and correspondence between members of the board and the investigation team and the attorneys handling the matter before the board. I did so in-camera. Those matters are under seal because of the confidential nature of the investigation. But the things in those correspondence(s) were rather shocking with the unprofessionalism that was shown during this investigation, and I won’t go into specifics because those matters are under seal, but I was shocked at some of the things I read, some of the unprofessionalism that took place during this investigation by the board members, attorneys, so on and so forth…

The bottom line is there were—the proceedings that too place in this investigation were shocking. I just can’t think of another word to describe it. It was absolutely shocking.

Yet, despite overwhelming evidence of the board’s employment of a private investigator whose license was under threat of revocation (and eventually was revoked), despite testimony of destruction of records by the board, and despite former board employee Diana Chenevert’s meeting with investigators from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) on four different occasions during which she provided details of these, as well as citing examples of threats, extortion, and anti-competitive activities of the board, and despite having been told by OIG personnel that arrests were eminent, nothing happened.

In fact, in a January 25, 2018, letter to State Sen. Barrow Peacock, State Inspector General Steven Street said, among other things, “the evidence did not support criminal charges against any current or former Dental Board employees, board members or contractors.”

To read the full text of Street’s incredulous letter, go HERE.

Apparently, Street saw nothing wrong with the manner in which the board extorts money from dentists or the manner in which it conspired with the LSU School of Dentistry to ruin the career of one Dr. Randall Schaffer. To read his story, go HERE.

It’s not much of a stretch to say that Street has become something of a caricature of the clueless Sgt. Schultz character on Hogan’s Heroes who was best-known for his oft-repeated line, “I see nothing, I see nothing.”

Schaffer is the one who, back in 1989, realized that a joint replacement device for temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) sufferers developed at the LSU Dental School and being marketed by a Houston company named Vitek, was defective.

When Schaffer, then a resident at LSU, became aware of the 100 percent failure rate of the device, he informed Dr. John Kent, head of LSU’s School of Dentistry’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, who had developed the device.

But Kent had been given stock in Vitek and was earning royalties of 2 percent to 4 percent on the sale of Vitek products, so the word of disfigurement, excruciating pain and at least eight suicides was unwelcome news. The obvious solution was to get rid of Schaffer and shut him up.

Today, Schaffer lives in Iowa, driven out of Louisiana by the Dentistry Board which joined with LSU to persecute the messenger even as 675 patients combined as a class for discovery purposes, leaving the state exposed to about $1 billion in legal liability.

Schaffer, you see, was named as a witness and consultant in the class action case and the Board of Dentistry retaliated by launching its investigation of Schaffer

In 1992, the first case was settled for $1 million.

Meanwhile, the board continued with its unique method of imposing its own brand of justice on dentists who it deemed troublesome or a threat. And of course, the board took no corrective actions regarding Dr. Kent and his joint replacement device.

 

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Old habits die hard, especially when those old habits involve potentially criminal acts carried out under the guise of regulation of licensees whom you regulate and routinely browbeat into submission with massive fines for minor infractions—or even no infractions at all.

But those behind the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry’s unique brand of justice that involved having a single employee serve as accuser, prosecutor and judge have taken their actions to a new level that now encompasses the practices of reprisals against whistleblowers, witness tampering, and cyber stalking—all of which, by the way are felonies.

Here are links to just a few of the stories LouisianaVoice has done on the board in the past:

BOARD HARASSES DOC WHO NEVER TOUCHED A TOOTH

APPEAL COURT SLAMS LSDB TACTIC

WHISTLEBLOWER RUINED IN EFFORT TO PROTECT LSU DENTISTRY SCHOOL IN LAWSUIT

And one LouisianaVoice did not write:

TRIAL TO DECIDE IF BOARD CONSPIRED AGAINST DENTIST

There were many more stories on the board, but you get the drift. Basically, it was a board comprised of out-of-control executives, investigators and members who flexed their collective muscle to drive out competition.

In Haygood’s case, he was convinced that a direct competitor, Dr. Ross Dies, had conspired with board members to manufacture complaints against him. And the cooperative board did just that, coming up with eight violations and imposing fines of more than $173,000. Haygood moved out of state and filed suit against Dies, the board and its investigators, a couple of them, ironically enough, unlicensed investigators.

That Haygood decided to fight back must have come as quite a surprise to the board which had always bullied into submission dentists terrified of not only hefty fines, but the very real threat of license revocation.

Because the board had employed unlicensed investigators to pursue Haygood, the board negotiated a consent agreement whereby he paid substantially lower fines ($16,500) and was reinstated.

Part of the consent agreement also stipulated that Haygood, “other than presenting evidence, claims, and testimony,” he would refrain from publishing or making “any disparaging or critical remarks verbally or in writing about the board or any of the board parties.”

Well, on April 4, 2018, Haygood did just that. He gave his testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee in connection with Senate Bill 260 which dealt with…disciplinary hearings by professional and occupational licensing boards and commissions.

Also testifying before the committee were Dr. Randall Wilk, a doctor who holds a dental license but who has never touched a tooth (as more fully described in the first link above) who found himself in the board’s crosshairs, and Diana Chenevert, a former employee of the Dental Board.

Wilk was called in to a board meeting and told to pay a $5,000 fine and sign a consent decree over a false charge of his possessing no anesthesia permit or a certificate in oral surgery. Wilk refused to sign the consent decree without his attorney first reviewing the document. The board members left the room and returned with an adding machine “and told me that if I did not sign the document right then and there, that they could levy fines of over $100,000. This was a pure and simple shakedown,” Wilk said.

Board investigator Camp Morrison, who since has lost his own license as a private investigator, would show up at Wilk’s operation waiting room handing out business cards to his patients and advising them that he was the Dental Board’s investigator and that he was conducting an investigation of Dr. Wilk—even Wilk was not even a practicing dentist.

As an illustration how the board routinely extorted fines from dentists while giving them no opportunity to defend themselves, go to this LINK.

Chenevert, Haygood says, “witnessed unethical and potentially illegal informal hearing and consent decree methods, observed board members filing and directing penalties against dentists practicing in their own areas, illegal investigations and the destruction of documents.

The board’s reaction was immediate.

New complaints have now been filed against both Wilk and Haygood because of their “disparaging remarks” about the board in their Senate testimony. All three have been subjected to “additional threatening, intimidating, extortive, and retaliatory behaviors, including but not limited to: close surveillance and repetitive, unrelenting, and harassing text messages,” according to Haygood’s petition.

The board came after Wilk the very week after his Senate testimony, renewing the same charge of his lacking an anesthesia permit from the board which, to reiterate, is not required since he does not practice dentistry. The timing of the renewed charges cannot be written off as coincidence.

But the worst of those are the text messages directed at Chenevert. Whoever the despicable, disgusting, cowardly sleazebag is (and have a pretty good idea who it is), he is conducting his cyber stalking anonymously—and well he should, because what he’s doing could quite easily land him in jail. And I am fully aware that a news story should not editorialize, but this person is a special kind of lowlife, so I’ll exercise my option to call it the way I see it.

LouisianaVoice has copies of the texts, but they will not be published. But suffice it to say, besides offering her a cushy job in exchange for her recanting her testimony, the messages are explicit, vulgar, and more than a little suggestive—all designed to rattle her and intimidate her into recanting her testimony. The latest was received Monday morning (Feb. 18, 2019). I’m pretty sure the perpetrator gets his jollies writing them.

These latest actions by and on behalf of the board go way beyond the bounds of decency and are way beneath the mission of a public board appointed by the governor of Louisiana. Perhaps Gov. Edwards should just remove every single member, as well as the executive director, and start over because it’s quite clear that the board and its representatives, official or unofficial, are out of control.

State Sens. Fred Mills, Chairman of the Committee on Health and Welfare, and Danny Martiny, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce let their feelings about the board’s latest reprisals be known in a December 17, 2018 LETTER.

In their letter, Martiny (R-Metairie) and Mills (R-New Iberia) expressed their “profound disapproval of not only including a non-disparagement clause in a consent decree with a licensed dentist, but invoking that clause as a result of providing legislative committee testimony. We consider this a gross abuse of power as there is no compelling state interest in restricting the speech of a licensee simply because you find his comments derogatory to the board.”

The letter reminded the board that it was “created by legislature to protect the public,” adding that there was “absolutely nothing in this action by the board that has any semblance of public protection. Rather, it appears to be an unacceptable strong-arming of a government body for self-serving and retaliatory means.”

Board President Dr. Jerome Smith responded with his own LETTER on December 20 in an attempt to justify its latest attack against Haygood but ended by saying that “the charges pending against this dentist have been hereby dismissed since our 2018 board president has decided to turn this matter over to me.”

Amazing what getting a letter from a couple of pissed-off legislators can do.

But Haygood’s attorney Jerald Harper of Shreveport isn’t quite ready to let the matter drop so easily. His client, as well as Dr. Wilk and Ms. Chenevert have been subjected to harassment and Wilk and Chenevert, as pointed out, continue to feel pressure from the board.

In a February 13 letter to the two senators, HARPER pointed out that the “systematic, punitive” actions of the board were the result of testimony from the three. He said there “have been clearly extraordinary and plainly criminal efforts to exact a retraction from Ms. Diana Chenevert. These actions are continuing as of the date of this communication. I hope you share my concerns about protecting witnesses who voluntarily appear before the Louisiana Legislature to share their views, expertise and experience in order to permit it to properly exercise its oversight functions.”

Harper also took issue with Dr. Smith’s letter, saying he provided “false or misleading information on nearly every point provided in that letter, adding that while Dr. Smith claimed that the complaint against Dr. Haygood will be dismissed, the board “has provided no notice of this dismissal to Dr. Haygood as of this writing.”

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On Monday (Nov. 13), Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell issued a glowing PRESS RELEASE in which he announced what he described as a project to provide high-speed internet service to more than 54,000 homes and businesses in the 24-parish PSC District 5.

Yet, only two months earlier, Campbell had appeared before the Claiborne Parish Police Jury to publicly trash a proposal by Claiborne Electric Cooperative to provide even faster and more comprehensive internet service to an estimated 65,000 homes and businesses in its five-parish service area—at a comparable customer cost.

Campbell, an Elm Grove populist Democrat who lost to John Kennedy in the 2016 U.S. Senate race, who lost to Bobby Jindal in the 2007 governor’s election and who three times ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House from Louisiana’s 4th congressional district, seems to be running for something again but there don’t seem to be any other offices for him to seek.

In September, he presented his timeline of events concerning the approval process for Claiborne’s proposed high-speed broad internet service. One cooperative member who was present for that performance described Campbell’s remarks as “hyperbole,” adding that many of Foster’s claims “were outright wrong.”

“Then when he had his say, for which he caught a lot of flak from citizens in attendance, he promptly left as (Claiborne CEO) Mark Brown was given the opportunity to present his side of the situation,” the member said, pointing out that he is neither an employee nor a board member of Claiborne Electric. He asked that his name not be used.

“There was a marked difference in the points of view with Mr. Brown’s position being a lot more straightforward and fact-based,” he said. “That Campbell made his accusations and factually incorrect statements and then left without hearing Mr. Brown’s EXPLANATION was one of the rudest displays I’ve seen in a public forum.”

In his press release, Campbell said the “Connect America” program of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “is helping fiber, wireless and satellite internet providers meet the need for broadband service in unserved or underserved areas of North Louisiana.”

He said that FCC records indicate that 54,580 homes and businesses in his PSC district are eligible for high-speed internet service funded by Connect America.

That represents just a fraction of almost a million people—325,000 households—in the 24 parishes.

What Campbell describes as “high speed” internet is a download speed of 10 megabytes per second and an upload speed of one megabyte per second at an estimated cost of $60 per month per customer.

Claiborne’s proposal calls for the same $60 monthly rate for 50 megabytes to one gigabyte of service for 10,000 more customers in the five-parishes of Bienville, Claiborne, Lincoln, Union and Webster than for Campbell’s entire 24 parish district.

Campbell claims that if the Claiborne project fails, customers would be on the hook for the costs, ignoring the fact that the proposal calls for a construction phase-in that would allow the project to be scrapped if it did not meet projections.

“Foster Campbell ignores the fact the 69 co-ops around the country have already done projects like that proposed by Claiborne and none of those have failed,” the Homer member said. “He also ignores that about 75 other co-ops around the country are in the process of starting fiber optic systems.”

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Foster’s behavior is a strange reversal of traditional Democratic support for electric cooperatives begun under the administration of Franklin Roosevelt and championed by such notables as Lyndon Johnson. In fact, Foster’s rhetoric is reminiscent of Bobby Jindal’s REJECTION of that $80 million Commerce Department grant to install high-speed broadband internet for Louisiana’s rural parishes back in 2011.

In that case, Jindal was in lockstep with the AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC) which in 2010 had staked out its opposition to federal encroachment onto the turf of private business despite the fact that private business had been painfully slow in responding to the needs of rural America dating back to the early days of electric power and telephone service.

And therefore, since AT&T was a member of ALEC and since AT&T was opposed to the grant, therefore, so was Jindal. In Jindal’s case, AT&T had also made a six-figure contribution to his wife’s charitable foundation, giving Jindal another reason to take up the ALEC banner.

AT&T, in fact, even took the City of Lafayette to court to fight the city’s efforts to construct its own fiber optic high speed broadband internet system. It was a costly fight for both sides but Lafayette eventually emerged victorious despite AT&T’s best efforts.

Foster Campbell, in his press release noted that AT&T would be responsible for $17.2 million, or 79 percent of the FCC-funded broadband expansion into PSC District 5 while CenturyLink of Monroe would have responsibility for $3.9 million (18 percent) of the cost and satellite provider ViaSat would spend $1.5 million (3 percent).

So, why is Campbell now sounding so downright Jindalesque in his opposition to Claiborne Electric?

For that answer, one would have to take the advice FBI agent Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat, gave to reporter Bob Woodward during the Washington Post’s investigation of Nixon and Watergate:

Follow the money.

  • CenturyLink made two $1,000 contributions to Campbell’s various state campaign fund in 2011 and 2012, according to Louisiana Ethics Commission records.
  • Glen F. Post, III, of Farmerville in Union Parish, is President of CenturyLink. He personally contributed $11,500 to Campbell between 2003 and 2014.
  • Stacy Goff is Executive Vice-President of CenturyLink. He chipped in another $500 for Campbell in 2005.
  • AT&T gave $10,000 to Campbell in campaign contributions between 2003 and 2010.
  • William G. “Bud” Courson and James W. Nickel of Baton Rouge are registered lobbyists for AT&T. Their firm, Courson Nickel, LLC of Baton Rouge, contributed $2,000 to Campbell from 2002 to 2014.

CENTURYTEL

COURSON NICKEL

Post contributed another $3,000 to Campbell’s unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2016 and Nickel and Courson also contributed $500 and $1,000, respectively, to that campaign, federal campaign finance records show.

Altogether, Foster Campbell had at least 30,500 reasons to oppose Claiborne Electric’s proposal to provide high speed broadband internet service to its members.

Because he indisputably had skin in the game, he should have recused himself from the discussion in order to avoid any conflict of interests.

Therein lies the problem of regulators accepting contributions from those they regulate.

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