Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

The wheels of justice are prone to turn slowly. Anyone who has ever had to deal with the courts can pretty much verify that. Even routine litigation can take up to a decade—or longer—for resolution.

So, when The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal denied a motion by Mangham contractor Jeff Mercer to recuse Chief Judge Henry Brown at 10:23 a.m. on August 3, 2017, it was more than a little surprising when Judge Pro Tempore Joe Bleich of Ruston was able to whip out a three-page supporting opinion—drafted, neatly typed and filed by the clerk—two minutes later, at 10:25 a.m.

In fact, Mercer’s attorney, David P. Doughty of Rayville, is of the opinion that it’s simply impossible and that “[t]he logical explanation is that this supporting opinion was drafted prior to the hearing ever occurring,” which might indicate to those familiar with the machinations of the courts to conclude that someone within the 2nd Circuit was not quite playing by the rules.

By examining the timeline included in the link at the bottom of this story, one can see in the sixth and seventh entries that the order to deny the motion was issued at 10:23 a.m. on August 3 and Bleich’s supporting opinion filed by the clerk at 10:25 a.m. that same day.

One can also see how the principals involved probably thought Mercer would never be privy to the internal records of the court which revealed the expeditious manner in which Bleich’s supporting opinion was generated.

But they obviously underestimated the Mangham contractor who has already been forced out of business by DOTD and the 2nd Circuit and by this time, had nothing to lose by pursuing a string of public records requests which led to revelations of skullduggery on the part of Brown and his law clerk, Trina Chu.

Both Brown and Chu would be gone in little more than a year.

A little background may be in order for Bleich. His BIOGRAPHY, as provided by the Louisiana Supreme Court, notes that he was assigned in January 2016 by order of the supreme court as judge pro tempore of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal to fill a vacancy created by a retirement. He was scheduled to serve from January 14 through April 30, 2016 or until the vacancy is filled, which occurred first. But in August 2017, of course, he was still serving.

Bleich received his undergraduate degree from Louisiana Tech University and his law degree from LSU Law School and served as a district court judge for the Third Judicial District Court (Lincoln and Union parishes) from 1982 to 1996 when he was elected Associate Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court to fill an unexpired term. He “retired” later that same year when he lost his bid for election to a full term and has practiced law in Ruston and served as a pro tempore judge in various district courts.

Bleich wrote a flowery three-page supporting opinion complete with legal “research,” peppering it with effusive praise for Judge Brown, finding “not a scintilla of bias by Judge Brown.”

Most observers would agree that that’s a lot of legal research and writing to cram into two minutes.

The only problem with that, besides, of course, the dubious speed with Bleich supposedly penned his gushing respect and admiration for Brown in his supporting opinion, was that it might have been a bit premature.

Little more than a year later, Brown would be gone from the bench, forced to resign after being SUSPENDED for his alleged behavior toward colleagues who were considering an appeal involving a close female friend of Brown’s.

He received an order from the Supreme Court to vacate the appeal court building in downtown Shreveport and to not take any judicial actions after complaints were filed that he had created a hostile environment toward colleagues who were hearing the appeal of a civil lawsuit against his friend who had been found liable for more than a million dollars in her own case which was also on appeal before the 2nd Circuit.

But the story, particularly as it relates to Mercer, goes much deeper and involves several officials in the 2nd Circuit and the possible illegal access of court files, including those in the Mercer case.

Mercer was a contractor on highway construction projects in Ouachita, Morehouse, Bossier, LaSalle and Caddo parishes—projects totaling nearly $9 million. He filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) in which he claimed DOTD inspectors attempted to shake him down for kickbacks and equipment or risk not having his work pass inspection.

When his payment for his work was subsequently withheld, he sued and a 12-person jury in 4th Judicial District Court in Monroe unanimously AWARDED him $20 million on December 4, 2015. The official judgment was rendered on February 10, 2016.

DOTD appealed the decision to the 2nd Circuit and Chief Judge Henry Brown, along with Judges Jeff Cox and Jeanette Garrett composed the three-judge panel which heard oral arguments. Brown sat on the panel despite the fact that his father had worked for 44 years as a civil engineer for DOTD, a fact he neglected to disclose.

Brown even wrote the opinion of the 2nd Circuit panel which reversed the unanimous state district court verdict. That decision was filed on June 7, 2017. It was only after that decision that Mercer subsequently learned of Judge Brown’s failure to disclose his father’s employment with DOTD. He filed an Application for Rehearing and a Motion to Recuse and Vacate the Panel’s opinion.

It was that motion to recuse on which the August 3 order was issued at 10:23 a.m., followed by Bleich’s opinion of more than three pages was researched, drafted, typed and filed by the clerk within the next two minutes.

A year later, on August 22, 2018, Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Detective Doug Smith was told by 2nd Circuit Judicial Administrator Lillian Richie that she and other court employees had become aware that Trina Chu, Judge Brown’s clerk, “may have intentionally exceeded her authorization” while handling court documents on the court’s computer network.

Smith subsequently wrote a six-page report that reads more like a Trumpian chapter from the ongoing Ukraine investigation than routine court business with reports of unauthorized photocopies, access to restricted computer files, copying of confidential files onto a USB drive, and a string of emails that indicated ex parte communications (communications with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party to the exclusion of attorneys for the opposing parties) with Judge Brown’s friend Hahn Williams, the subject of the appeals case that ultimately got Brown removed from the bench.

One of those emails instructed Williams on how to transmit a document to her attorney so that it could not be traced back to her: “you can send the document to him (attorney) as is because it has no information that can be traced back to me on the document. Save it to a jump drive and give it to him so he won’t have to type much.”

Nor were the ex parte communications limited to Chu, Mercer claims, but also included Judge Brown receiving an email and documentation regarding his friend’s case. “The documents emailed to Judge Henry Brown were the confidential Second Circuit documents related to the Succession of Houston case…and actually sent to his Second Circuit email address,” Mercer says in his latest Petition to Annul (the 2nd Circuit Court) Judgment.

According to the 2nd Circuit panel’s decision, all three judges conducted a de novo review of the Mercer case on appeal. De novo appeal is an appeal in which the appellate court uses the trial court’s record but reviews evidence and law without yielding to the lower court’s ruling—as if the trial was being heard anew.

In Mercer’s case, there were nine volumes of exhibits comprising nearly 8,700 pages of required reading by each judge in a de novo review of the record.

“[t]he 2nd Circuit sign sheet for the record and exhibits, however, reveals that the panel, in making the de novo review, must have relied solely on Judge Brown’s review of the record,” Mercer claims in his petition to annul. “Judge Cox never checked out either the original or duplicate record or exhibits, and after the April 4, 2017, oral arguments, Judge Garrett never checked out the duplicate record. Therefore, it was impossible for the entire panel to have made a de novo review of all the trial testimony and exhibits that were seen and heard by the (district court) jury for almost a month,” Mercer says.

“Thus, the Second Circuit’s own records show that a full de novo review of the trial records/exhibits by all three (3) judges never occurred after the case was submitted after the April 4, 2017 oral arguments (emphasis Mercer’s). In essence, one judge (Brown) substituted his opinion for twelve unanimous jurors. Judge Brown wrote a fifty (50) page opinion for the panel, thirty-eight (38) pages of which was discussion of an alleged de novo review fact finding by the entire panel, which never occurred after the case had been submitted.”

The petition says that because of the ill practices of the court, “the June 7, 2017 decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal should be declared null and void, and the original unanimous jury verdict and judgment of February 10, 2016, should be reinstated and the Second Circuit [Court] of Appeal should be recused from any further hearing of this case.”

Mercer has also subpoenaed Lillian Ritchie for her deposition as well as digital copies of all documents obtained through forensic imaging that were copied from Chu’s computer as they relate to his case and all email messages of Jennifer Brown, Judge Brown’s former permanent supervising law clerk (and now general counsel for the 2nd Circuit) from August 26, 2016 through August 30, 2017.

If nothing else, Mercer has peeled back the layers of secrecy, for lack of a better description, that shroud the court’s procedures from the general public—procedures that citizens have the right to know about when they have business before the court.

We live in what is generally considered an open society and as such, we should know what our elected officials—including judges—do and how they do it. Secrecy should have no place here.

Mercer may have opened a tiny portal to how the system works and how more transparency should be the order of the day.

The fair administration of justice demands it.

To review the entire Mercer petition and the eye-opening exhibits, go HERE.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

When high-profile people move together in a tight circle, it’s sometimes difficult to break out of their orbit.

And no matter how often or how loudly Trump’s rabid supporters chant “Lock her up” at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton, there’s that inescapable fact that Trump and the Clintons were in that tight little circle of New York society and both Trump and Bill Clinton rubbed elbows with accused human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

That’s guilt by association and no matter what size blinders Trump’s evangelical followers choose to wear. They simply cannot get past the inconvenient fact that Trump (a) knew of Epstein’s preference for young (read: underage) girls and (b) thought Epstein was a “lot of fun” and a “terrific guy.”

For those same evangelicals to continue their blind loyalty to a man with zero morals and less than zero compassion for his fellow man is to expose them as the hypocrites of the highest order. Their devotion to such a man exposes the Big Lie: their profession to worship and attempt to emulate the one upon which their entire faith is supposedly based: Jesus.

And for Trump to continue to encourage that now all-too-familiar chant is to ignore a dark side of his character that has been exposed in the Billy Bush ACCESS HOLLYWOOD tapes and other offensive quotes as documented HERE (particularly numbers 4 and 5).

Hard-core Trump supporters, of course, will dismiss this story out of hand as “fake news” while at the same time clinging with maniacal fervor to that long-debunked ALEX JONES-perpetuated conspiracy Pizzagate theory that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were involved in child sex-trafficking through a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor.

(And just in case you aren’t an evangelical but support Trump on the basis of a robust economy he inherited from Barack Obama—after the Wall Street collapse under George W. Bush—you might do well to remember that Hitler restored Germany’s economy—and gave the world the Volkswagen Beetle—and Mussolini “made the trains run on time,” which makes your reasoning a little suspect. And if you don’t agree that Obama handed Trump a thriving economy, look it up before firing off your half-baked comments suggesting that anyone who has anything favorable to say about Obama is a “libtard.”)

But I digress. Let’s get back to Jeffrey Epstein, Trump, Bill Clinton, Steven Hoffenberg and Alexander Acosta and that tight little circle I mentioned at the outset. And please take note that I haven’t said anything about collusion or obstruction. This is a whole ‘nother matter—and it really leaves egg on the collective faces of those evangelical Trump worshipers who have adopted him as their very own false prophet (or perhaps more appropriately, “profit”).

So, just who is this Jeffrey Epstein I keep mentioning? I’m glad you asked because for the evangelicals, there’s a special Ruston connection.

Epstein is a wealthy hedge fund manager who once hobnobbed with Bill Clinton, England’s Prince Andrew, and a one-time Palm Beach neighbor—one Donald J. Trump.

Anyone who keeps up with the news is aware that Epstein was arrested Saturday in New York on new sex-trafficking charges that date back to the early 2000s and which involve accusations of his having paid underage girls for massages and for molesting them in his Florida and New York homes.

The arrest comes amid renewed examination of a one-time secret—but now out of the bag—plea deal engineered then former Miami U.S. Attorney-turned-Trump labor secretary Alexander Acosta ((I almost used the Latin term for Acosta’s career transition, but thought better of it). Under that deal, Epstein, instead of a possible life sentence, received only 13 months in jail and he was required to reach financial settlements with dozens of his one-time teenage victims and to register as a sex offender.

A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Epstein’s victims should have been consulted under federal law about the terms of the deal, an “oversight” that federal prosecutors have admitted falls short of the “government’s dedication to serve victims to the best of its ability” and that the victims should have been communicated with “in a straightforward and transparent way.”

Court records in Florida reveal that at least 40 underage girls were brought into Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion for sexual encounters after female fixers found suitable girls in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. Girls were also brought to Epstein homes in New Mexico, New York and to a private Caribbean island, court documents say.

His arrest Saturday came only days after the unsealing of nearly 2,000 pages of records in a since-settled defamation case also involving Epstein.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, in calling Epstein a “monster (who) received a pathetically soft sentence,” released a statement calling for Epstein to be held without bail pending trial. He said his victims deserve “nothing less than justice. Justice doesn’t depend on the size of your bank account.”

As a sidebar to all this sleazy mess, Law Newz, an online legal news service, reported on Monday (July 4) that Trump himself is accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Epstein’s presence in 1994.

In the Doe v. Donald J. Trump federal civil case, a witness statement is attached to the lawsuit in which the alleged witness claims to have “personally witnessed the plaintiff being forced to perform various sexual acts with Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein were advised that she was 13 years old.”

The witness statement went on to say, “I personally witnessed four sexual encounters that the plaintiff was forced to have with Mr. Trump during this period, including the fourth of these encounters where Mr. Trump forcibly raped her despite her pleas to stop.”

http://lawnewz.com/celebrity/why-isnt-anyone-paying-attention-to-the-sexual-assault-lawsuit-against-trump/

Of course, so-called witnesses can—and often do—say things under oath that are far removed from the truth. LouisianaVoice is in no position to authenticate or refute the claims but the fact that they are now part of court record gives them added significance.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3564767/Donald-Trump-furiously-denies-woman-s-claims-raped-tycoon-billionaire-pedophile-Jeffrey-Epstein-s-sex-parties.html

For his part, Trump is ON RECORD as tweeting back in 2002 about what a wonderful pal Epstein was.

Epstein’s mentor was one STEVEN HOFFENBERG, who headed up Towers Financial Corporation (TFC) which swindled millions of dollars from more than 200,000 investors from the late 1980s and early 1990s in what at the time was the largest Ponzi scheme in history (before Bernie Madoff).

Hoffenberg was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison, fined and ordered to make restitution of more than $450 million to his victims.

And just who was it who ultimately blew the whistle on Hoffenberg, exposed his racket to the feds and initiated his prosecution and conviction?

Why, none other than Ruston’s very own weekly newspaper publisher, the late JOHN MARTIN HAYS, who was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his work on a series of stories on Hoffenberg and his gigantic scam in his Morning Paper, which ceased publication only weeks before his death from cancer. Hoffenberg could never wrap his brain around the fact that a small-town weekly newspaper publisher could bring down a powerful New York scam artist.

But he did.

Hoffenberg claims that Epstein ran the show and their differences have devolved into seamy LITIGATION with each side making all sorts of claims against each other.

Though he failed to fully repay those whom he cheated, Hoffenberg did manage in 2016 to establish a super PAC for the benefit of DONALD TRUMP’S CANDIDACY and pledged $50 million of his own money in an effort to raise $1 billion on Trump’s behalf—and even managed to exchange his wedding vows in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan.

And what was Hoffenberg’s latest scheme? Perhaps the evangelicals who so adore Trump may wish to pay attention as this could involve them directly.

Thrown into the mix of this bizarre story is Hoffenberg’s latest scheme, the “Christ Card,” a special “Christian” credit card being peddled to churches across the U.S. “The Christ Card holders have the benefit of gaining discounts in all of their purchases under the Walk in Grace serving out Lord Jesus Christ as customers and as our partners in faith, in our Christ Card family,” says Hoffenberg’s pitch on his Towers Investors Group Web page, of all places. http://towersinvestors.com/portfolio-view/christ-card/

Hoffenberg claims to have been converted to Christianity while serving time for cheating investors and now he’s pushing an idea that has spawned numerous scams—Christian debt. This, of course, is not say his promotion is another scam but he does have the pedigree as one who preys on others’ and as one ready, willing and able to lighten unsuspecting victims’ wallets.

He claimed three years ago to have already completed the negotiation phase for the marketing of the card to more than 700,000 registered Christian churches in the U.S., according to another Web page of WHAM, Inc. http://whaminc.us/investor-questions-wham-answers

Perhaps he could call his latest enterprise “Credit with God, Girls from Epstein and Votes for Trump.”

 

Read Full Post »

The news release by last September said that former Gov. Bobby Jindal had been appointed to the board of directors of by Wellcare Health Plans, Inc., of Tampa, Florida.

Yawn. Ho-hum. Has LouisianaVoice become so desperate for stories that it resurrects a nine-month-old news release?

Well, things have been a little slow of late. Even the recently-adjourned legislative session failed to generate any surprises other than the usual parties, dinners at Baton Rouge’s most expensive restaurants and hobnobbing with lobbyists to the general detriment of constituents, i.e. Louisiana citizens.

But it has long been my contention that when one peels back a few layers from the cover story, one will usually find the real story. After all, a July 2016 LouisianaVoice STORY turned up a link between Jindal and a lucrative state contract for another company that had appointed him to its board.

Accordingly, I went looking a little deeper and YOWSER! Sha-ZAM!

It seems that appointment of Jindal, described in the news release as one “who has dedicated his career to public service and advancing innovative healthcare polices,” appears to have been payback for services rendered while he was governor.

Documents obtained from the Louisiana Department of Health show that CENTENE, a major U.S. health insurer, is the parent company of Louisiana Healthcare Connections, Inc., which was awarded a contract for nearly $1 billion with the Louisiana Department of Hospitals in September 2011, just a month before Jindal’s reelection to a second term.

LHCC Contract 2012

The contract called for Louisiana Healthcare Connections to perform “a broad range of services necessary for the delivery of health care services to Medicaid enrollees…”

That contract was to run from February 1, 2012, through January 31, 2015.

On January 19, 2015, the contract was renewed for another three years, to run through January 31, 2018. The contract amount was increased from the original $926 million to $1.9 billion.

LHCC Contract 2015

But just before Jindal left office, on December 1, 2015, that contract was amended from $1.9 billion to $3.9 billion, perhaps in anticipation that incoming Gov. John Bel Edwards would keep his promise to expand Medicaid under Obamacare—which he did.

In March of this year, USA Today published a STORY that Centene (Louisiana Healthcare Connections parent company, remember) would purchase WellCare Health Plans, Inc. for $17.3 billion.

It would be most interesting to see if Jindal netted a windfall from that transaction, coming as it did only six months after he was named to WellCare Health Plans’ board.

It’s unknown just how long negotiations had been ongoing between Centene and WellCare Health Plans, but the timing does open the door for speculation that the doubling of the Louisiana Healthcare Connections contract, Jindal’s appointment to the WellCare Health Plan board and Centene’s purchase of WellCare are more than coincidental.

To add a little spice to the recipe of Louisiana political gumbo, they’re also a few interesting campaign contributions.

  • On March 11, 2011, just six months before Louisiana Healthcare was awarded that initial contract for $926 million, WellCare of Louisiana, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, contributed $5,000 to Jindal’s reelection campaign.
  • On January 17, 2012, only two weeks before its initial contract took effect, Louisiana Healthcare Connections gave Jindal $5,000.
  • Louisiana Healthcare’s parent company, Centene, gave Jindal $5,000 on January 17, 2012 (the same date as Louisiana Healthcare’s contribution). Centene gave him another $5,000 on November 19, 2012 and still another $5,000 back on August 14, 2008, eight months after Jindal first moved into the governor’s office.
  • Oh, and the New Orleans law firm of McGlinchey Stafford, the registered agent for Louisiana Healthcare, gave Jindal $1,000 on September 23, 2003; $5,000 on October 30, 2003; $5,000 on April 6, 2007, and $5,000 on March 2, 2011.
  • On April 23, 2009, Centene’s then Chairman and CEO Michael Neidorff kicked in $3,000 to Jindal.

It would seem that Bobby Jindal is perfectly willing to skirt a few ethical standards in order to ensure that life after politics can continue to benefit from life while in politics.

So, you see, even the most mundane news release can carry a wealth of information if one is willing to follow a convoluted path to the ultimate source of the money.

Read Full Post »

The breadth and depth of ruthlessness and greed apparently knows no bounds with the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry.

And it’s time, past time, that Gov. John Bel Edwards stepped in and brought an end to the destructive force that the board has become.

LouisianaVoice has documented numerous instances of abuses by the board:

EXAMPLE ONE

EXAMPLE TWO

EXAMPLE THREE

EXAMPLE FOUR

EXAMPLE FIVE

EXAMPLE SIX

EXAMPLE SEVEN

EXAMPLE EIGHT

EXAMPLE NINE

EXAMPLE TEN

EXAMPLE ELEVEN

EXAMPLE TWELVE

EXAMPLE THIRTEEN

EXAMPLE FOURTEEN

EXAMPLE FIFTEEN

EXAMPLE SIXTEEN

EXAMPLE SEVENTEEN

EXAMPLE EIGHTEEN

And these are just a few of the stories we and others have done about the gestapo-like tactics of this board established to protect consumers but which has become nothing other than a means for raising funds to support the salaries of board executives, staff, attorneys and investigators, not to mention rent in luxurious office spaces.

Because it receives no funding from the state General Fund, the board, like the State Board of Medical Examiners, relies on back-breaking fines that are completely out of proportion to the offenses for which doctors and dentists are fined by a board that acts simultaneously as accuser, investigator, prosecutor and judge.

In short, there can be no semblance of due process with kangaroo courts like these.

There have been efforts in the legislature to rein in the runaway boards, but those efforts have met with little success.

In the case of Dr. Ken Starling of Slidell (see Examples 3 and 18), the arrogance of the board and the ineptness of the Office of Inspector General have to be particularly galling.

Starling did everything the board asked of him, including entering and completing a rehab program at a costly facility in Rayville. But that apparently was not enough, for when Starling petitioned the board, sitting in god-like judgment of him, for reconsideration of adverse sanctions assessed against him, he only met with more maddening bureaucracy compounded by the ineptitude of the Office of Inspector General, which appears to have less justification for existence than just about any other state agency.

The PROCEDURES for reconsideration of an adverse disciplinary decision by the board says nothing at all about referring a dentist’s petition to the Office of Inspector General. Yet, that’s precisely what the board did, punting its responsibilities to another equally-bumbling agency.

LouisianaVoice has tracked some of the performance claims of the OIG and found that its claims of recovery of millions of dollars in restitution from felonious state employees were misleading because they basically piggy-backed federal prosecutors who actually led all the leg work.

As tor the OIG itself, it has provided little evidence of being an effective investigative or enforcement agency. In other words, taxpayer dollars wasted on useless inertia.

At any rate, the dentistry board, relying of all things, on the results of an OIG “investigation,” rejected Starling’s petition. Inspector Clouseau would have been a better choice.

The board, in a classic case of the blind leading the blind, noted that the OIG “reported to the Board that it found no irregularities or improper conduct associated with the investigation in 2009-2010 or the Consent Decree of March 5, 2010.”

Of course not. The OIG could not find its posterior with both hands, so it was a safe call by the dentistry board to refer the matter to OIG. You might say it was a classic Catch-22 that would do Joseph Heller proud while sealing Starling’s fate.

The board didn’t even extend the courtesy of sending a letter to Starling notifying him of its decision, relying instead on an email:

From: Rachel Daniel
Date: May 21, 2019 at 2:25:58 PM CDT
To: Kenneth Starling

Cc: Arthur Hickham <ahickham@lsbd.org>

Subject: Request for Reconsideration of Adverse Sanctions

Dear Dr. Starling:

Your petition for reconsideration of adverse sanctions was addressed by the members of the Disciplinary Oversight Committee and by the full board on March 15, 2019 in accordance with LAC 46:XXXIII.116.  While the committee found that your petition should be presented to the full board, the board voted unanimously to refer your case and your concerns to the Office of the State Inspector General of Louisiana (OIG).

After the OIG’s investigation, the OIG reported to the Board that it found no irregularities or improper conduct associated with the investigation in 2009-2010 or the Consent Decree of March 5, 2010.  Therefore, your petition of adverse sanctions was addressed again by the members of the Disciplinary Oversight Committee on May 7, 2019 in accordance with LAC 46:XXXIII.116.

Please be advised that the committee found that your request for reconsideration of adverse sanctions on May 7, 2019 lacked substantial merit and was denied.  Attached please find board rule .116 which outlines the time delay before which you can seek further relief.

Should you have any questions regarding this correspondence, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

 

Arthur F. Hickham, Jr.

Executive Director

Louisiana State Board of Dentistry

P.O. Box 5256

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70821-5256

225.219.7334  Phone

225.219.0707  Fax

www.lsbd.org

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: