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Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

It’s really interesting—and disappointing—to see how the very ones charged with enforcing our laws can be so condescendingly smug about getting away with actions they have to know—but can’t bring themselves to admit—are wrong from a legal, moral and ethical standpoint.

To no one’s surprise, the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) is both capitalizing on what it terms as “civil unrest” and crowing about the outcome of Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC).

But the association’s braggadocio was careful to cloak an ongoing effort for yet another pay raise (the third in just over a year) in a carefully worded, three-sentence explanation.

And the election of a new commission president could present a whole set of new problems.

To bring you up to date, the LSPC accepted the recommendation that no action be taken in any investigation of wrongdoing by state troopers responsible for (a) making the decision to actively support political candidates with campaign contributions and (b) laundering the money through the bank account of LSTA Executive Director David Young. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/14/expectations-of-state-police-commission-report-on-lsta-campaign-contribution-probe-dies-with-a-pitiful-whimper/

The Code of Governmental Ethics, Section VIII of R.S. 18:1505.2 (B) lists the making of contributions or loans “through or in the name of another” as a prohibited practice. http://ethics.la.gov/Pub/Laws/cfdasum.pdf

That’s pretty specific and clear-cut. And that prohibition is equally applicable to boty civil service employees and state police, even though the two answer to different boards—state employees to the State Civil Service Commission and state troopers to the LSPC.

And if the LSPC cratered to pressure from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, with the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards serving as the official conduit, there are other ongoing investigations and one of those investigating agencies, the FBI, is not likely to succumb to pressure from the sheriffs or Edwards.

The State Ethics Board also has been asked to look into the contributions laundered by LSTA to a number of statewide political candidates since 2003, including Bobby Jindal and Edwards, both of whom received $10,000 from the association. Edwards has since returned his contributions to LSTA.

Here’s the text of an email from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn that went out Friday morning, the day after the LSPC unanimously accepted the recommendation of commission attorney Taylor Townsend that no action be taken on the investigation:

From: Hillary Moses <hmoses@latroopers.org>
Date: July 15, 2016 at 10:53:37 AM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: A Message from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn

Members, 

During this time of civil unrest, please remain vigilant in keeping yourselves and your families safe.  I only wanted to take a few moments to inform you of a few details regarding yesterday’s Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) meeting.  Most of you are aware that, many months ago, certain individuals alleged that LSTA members and David Young were guilty of misconduct related to political activity.  The LSPC began an investigation into the LSTA based on these allegations and assigned attorney Taylor Townsend to conduct the investigation.  The LSTA cooperated fully, and Mr. Townsend acknowledged his appreciation of our cooperation when he released his findings in yesterday’s public meeting.  Mr. Townsend stated that the LSPC has no authority over the LSTA or its Executive Director, facts that were previously acknowledged.  Mr. Townsend further declared that no individual trooper was guilty of misconduct. The commission then voted unanimously to take no action and announced the matter closed.  

In regard to the proposed rule changes affecting the Louisiana State Police pay plan, Rodney Hyatt testified on behalf of the department.   After some debate, Rodney and TJ Doss, our representative on the Commission, successfully persuaded the Commission to table this matter until the next LSPC meeting.  This was done to allow the department time to ascertain the effects of the rule change and make any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.    

Lastly, by vote of the six Commission members, TJ Doss was elected as Chairman of the LSPC.  Please join me in congratulating TJ.  He has proven to have the motivation and ability to lead the LSPC.  To have the other Commission members recognize his ability and leadership is an enormous, well-deserved compliment.  Thanks to all members who took time to attend yesterday’s meeting, and thank you to those who continue to support the LSTA.  The many phone calls, messages, and words of encouragement mean more than you know.  Please feel free to share this information with members who may not have an e-mail address separate from the department. Thank you, and stay safe. 

Jay 

Way to go, guys. You pulled a fast one. It’s not enough to get away with it, but you have to top it off with bombast and swagger—just to show you can. Real class. But you might do well to remember two applicable quotes: It ain’t over ’til it’s over (Yogi Berra) and Pride goeth before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

If you read O’Quinn’s email carefully, you may have noticed two other things worth reexamination.

The e-mail skimmed over (we think deliberately) the testimony of State Trooper Rodney Hyatt with the two sentence explanation that Hyatt and commission member Thomas J. Doss, himself a state trooper, persuaded the commission to table an unspecified matter for 30 days to allow times to ascertain effects of a new rule change and to make “any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.”

That unspecified matter was a pay plan, adopted last November giving troopers an automatic yearly 4 percent pay hike but rescinded last month because any rule that affects wages or hours can go into effect only upon the governor’s signature—and that signature has never been provided. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

It was Doss who insisted that a new rule eliminating the longevity pay plan be tabled for 30 days. His motion was a transparent effort to send signals to the LSTA to step up its lobbying efforts with the governor’s office to get Edwards’ signature on last November’s pay plan, effectively killing the substitute plan. Eight months apparently was not sufficient for Doss and Hyatt; they need another 30 days, it seems.

Even as state civil service employees have gone without pay increases for five years or longer, state police have already received pay raises over the past 18 months totaling as much as 50 percent for some troopers.

The proposed longevity pay plan, which gives automatic yearly pay raises (that other state employees have been denied) aside from any merit increases, could give the impression that state police under its present leadership are just a tad greedy.

Obviously that’s not applicable to all state police officers—just those at the top who are attempting this as a means of consolidating power by buying the loyalty of the rank and file troopers. It was no accident that Thursday’s LSPC meeting was attended by nearly two dozen troopers from headquarters.

It was also Doss who was chosen as the new President of LSPC. The only dissenting vote was cast by Calvin Braxton of Natchitoches who nominated and voted for Interim President Lloyd Grafton of Ruston.

With the killing of the LSTC money laundering investigation and the 30-day delay on adopting a substitute to the proposed longevity pay plan in order for the LSTA to gets its ducks (read: politicians) lined up, the election of Doss as the new president was the perfect trifecta for Mike Edmonson.

The commission’s Web page contains the traditional mission statement:

Our mission is to provide a separate merit system for the commissioned officers of Louisiana State Police. In accomplishing this mission, the program administers entry level law enforcement examinations and promotional examinations; process personnel actions; issue certificates of eligibles; schedule appeal hearings on disciplinary matters on a monthly basis and pay hearings when necessary. Review, develop and implement State Police Commission rules, perform investigations, review contracts, review and accept or denies performance appraisal programs, and issues general circulars and transmittals. To enable the Office of State Police to meet the staffing needs in a timely fashion by hiring and promoting the best qualified applicants. 

So now the following questions must be asked:

  • Could there be a conflict of interest in his serving as president of the commission that is charged with performing investigations of wrongdoing and ruling on appeals of disciplinary matters?
  • What will happen should State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson come under investigation by the commission?
  • What will be Trooper Doss’s position should one of his fellow troopers—a close friend—come under investigation for some transgression?
  • How will Doss handle appeals from trooper friends disciplined by Edmonson? Will he support his friends or go against his commander?

These are serious questions that someone should put to the State Board of Ethics.

In the seven years that Doss has served as a full-time trooper, he has received pay increases totaling 36.5 percent—from $37,500 to $59,000.

But never fear. If past is indeed prologue (William Shakespeare: The Tempest), his seat on the commission is the fast track to lucrative promotions.

We have already begun a dangerous descent on a slippery slope and that slide must be reversed. Too often and for too long we have benignly looked the other way when we are confronted with unethical, immoral and illegal behavior by our public officials.

It is no longer sufficient to simply smile and say, “Well, that’s just Louisiana politics as usual.”

It may well be politics as usual, but it’s time for the citizens of this state to unite and demand one simple thing of our public officials:

Do the right thing. Not because we say so, but because it IS the right thing. Better yet, do it when no one is looking. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.

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“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

–Alexander Pope

The so-called “investigation” by the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) into the laundering of campaign money by the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) through the association’s executive director turned into a major sham that only served to reinforce the old adage that crap flows downhill.

But the good news is state civil service employees may now pursue a method whereby they can make their own heretofore verboten political campaign contributions.

Hyped for two weeks as an investigation that would “name respondents” for the association’s deliberate circumvention of state regulations prohibiting political activity on the part of individual state troopers, the “report” of Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, hired to conduct the investigation and to make recommendations back to the commission, was a major dud in every respect.

His recommendation at Thursday’s (July 14) meeting: Do nothing. Punt. Abdicate the commission’s responsibility.

The term “deliberate” is not used lightly here. It was, after all, LSTA Executive Director David Young, in whose name more than $45,000 was contributed to various political candidates, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, who told the commission that the campaign contributions were made through him in order that “there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.” Young said he wrote the checks, dating back to 2003 and the association would reimburse him. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/15/louisianavoice-exclusive-at-long-last-it-can-be-disclosed-that-the-reason-for-all-the-problems-at-state-police-is-us/

For two weeks, word has circulated that Townsend’s report would name names and would be sharply critical of the association’s practice.

There is even word of an audio tape at a contentious meeting of association members from Troop I in Lafayette at which it was disclosed by association representatives that LSTA officers made the decision as to whom would receive campaign contributions.

That tape was never mentioned in Townsend’s brief “report” on Thursday (July 14). Nor were any names given as those directly responsible for the decision to contribute campaign money to candidates.

Instead, Townsend said the commission has no jurisdiction over the association or over Young. While that was an accurate assessment openly acknowledged before Townsend was ever brought on board, it was also acknowledged prior to his being hired that the association did have investigative and disciplinary powers over individual state troopers found in violation of state law. And while Townsend was quick to absolve the commission of any responsibility for Young and the association, he conveniently neglected to bring up the commission’s responsibility for enforcement of laws and regulations when individual state trooper actions are involved.

Because the LSTA is a 501(c) non-profit charitable organization, it is free, under certain restrictions, to make political contributions. So, by having Young make personal contributions in his name and then filing an expense report, the LSTA conveniently bypasses state law by funneling money to political candidates through Young.

Carrying his verbal report to its obvious conclusion, state civil service employees may need no longer worry about a similar prohibition against their making campaign contributions. All they have to do is form an association and get IRS approval of their status as a 501(c).

Of course, while state police have received two recent pay increases totaling 50 percent in some cases (and, by the way, they still want more), state civil service workers have been routinely denied even their paltry 4 percent annual merit increases for more than five years now, so they, unlike their fortunate state trooper counterparts, could hardly be expected to afford to make token campaign contributions.

So, the question is how is it that an investigation which only a couple of weeks ago seemed almost certain to result at least in suspensions for identical infractions that forced three of the LPSC members to resign since April was suddenly rendered impotent? https://louisianavoice.com/2016/04/14/two-more-members-of-lspc-quit-over-political-contributions-while-pondering-probe-of-lsta-for-same-offense/

To find the answer to that, one must go right to the top—the man who ran on the strength of his West Point Code of Honor.

It was John Bel Edwards who reappointed State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, most likely solely on the strength of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association insistence.

Asked by LouisianaVoice on Oct. 27, 2015, at 10:57 a.m. (before he took the oath of office) what his intentions were regarding the reappointment of Edmonson Edwards professed he had no intentions either way:

Please tell me your intentions as to the re-appointment of Mike Edmonson.

 

Tom Aswell

LouisianaVoice

 

From: John Bel Edwards

Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:50 PM

To: Tom Aswell  

Subject: Re: QUESTION

 

I don’t intend one way or the other

Being as charitable as possible, we now are forced to speculate that Edwards was being less than truthful at the time.

Edmonson was Bobby Jindal’s boy so why would Edwards feel obligated to keep him on? The LSTA even drew the line and said no to Edmonson’s request to have the association write a letter to Edwards recommending his reappointment.

Well, before he was Bobby Jindal’s boy, he was the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association’s boy. The Sheriffs’ Association wanted him to stay around because he is easily controlled and manipulated by the sheriffs.

The Sheriffs’ Association endorsed Edwards when the outcome of his runoff election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter was still in doubt. He needed that endorsement and the condition that went with the endorsement was that Edwards would keep their boy on. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/16/lsp-unable-to-locate-sergeants-critical-letter-warning-of-danger-edmonson-is-reappointed-by-gov-elect-edwards/

And don’t forget that Daniel Edwards is Sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish—and an influential member of the Sheriff’s Association—and probably has more than a little influence with his brother, the governor.

Consequently, anything that might implicate—or even embarrass—Edmonson would, by extension, embarrass Gov. Edwards and the Sheriffs’ Association. Accordingly, the report by former State Sen. Taylor Townsend had to be watered down or even killed.

In short, everyone simply circled the wagons.

And that’s now what we were led to expect from one who espouses the West Point Code of Honor.

(Note to self: Stop expecting.)

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LouisianaVoice has obtained documents which reveal that a doctor at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Alexandria, LA. was denied a license in Florida because she had previously falsified medical records while employed at a hospital in Maryland.

The records from Maryland were provided subsequent to our story on Wednesday that examined numerous complaints about Dr. Shivani Negi over her confrontations with hospital staff members and families of patients. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/29/cenla-media-ignore-elephant-in-the-room-alexandria-va-hospital-rife-with-controversy-swirling-around-one-doctor/

LouisianaVoice has also learned that the U.S. Attorney’s office, which normally would investigate and possibly prosecute cases of criminal wrongdoing, instead provided a legal defense for Dr. Negi in a civil lawsuit brought against her in federal court by the family of one patient who died in her care. That would make it all but impossible for that same U.S. Attorney to take part in any prosecution of the doctor should it be determined later that there might have been criminal neglect involved in the deaths of several patients at the hospital.

Dr. Negi has been the subject of repeated criticism for rude behavior and for the manner in which she is said to insist on the signing of “Do Not Resuscitate” orders by family members of other elderly patients.

She was denied a medical license by the Florida Board of Medicine in September 2003. LouisianaVoice reported on Wednesday that the board’s minutes reflected that the committee “discussed in length the seriousness of the issue” and that Dr. Negi “gave a brief history of events” but that the minutes failed to provide any details of the “event” or “issue.” REFUSED HER APPLICATION

(LEFT CLICK ON IMAGES TWICE TO ENLARGE)

Since then, additional documents have surfaced that show that Dr. Negi falsified medical records while working at Maryland General Hospital in Baltimore in December 2000 and then lied about her actions when confronted by an ad hoc committee formed to investigate the incident.

Saying that she exercised both bad judgment and unethical behavior when she “inappropriately altered the medical record,” she was ordered by the chairman of the hospital’s Department of Medicine to attend an education program for appropriate medical record keeping, medical ethics, and proper professional behavior. “Your participation in this program is mandatory,” said Dr. William C. Anthony in a May 1, 2001, letter to her. LETTER OF REPRIMAND

The issue arose when a nurse filed an incident report regarding the events of Dec. 6, 2000. The nurse said she photocopied the chart Administration Order Sheet “sometime after 2:30 a.m.” on that date in order to attach it to the patient’s Risk Occurrence Report that she was completing. MARYLAND HOSPITAL LETTERMARYLAND HOSPITAL LETTER PAGE 2

Several days later, the nurse, Rhonda Calhoun, reviewed the order form and noticed a discrepancy in that orders for hourly blood cultures “had been added to the physician’s order form sometime after Dec. 6, 2000, 2:50 a.m.”

She said she was certain that the orders were entered after the original order “because the order does not appear on the photocopy she made for attachment to the Risk Occurrence Report.” Moreover, she told the ad hoc committee that she was present when Dr. Negi wrote orders at 10 p.m. and that she watched Dr. Negi write orders concerning the patient’s temperature “and observed her write ‘do not call me’ and then cross it out and change it to ‘let HO know.’”

It was not immediately clear what “HO” referred to, but Calhoun told the committee she was positive that Dr. Negi did not write the order for blood cultures at that time. She insisted that the order for blood cultures was not on the order sheet when she entered the orders into the computer at 2:50 a.m. on Dec. 6.

Dr. Negi was then called before the committee and proceeded to claim “emphatically” that she wrote it at 10 p.m. on Dec. 5, the ad hoc committee report says.

She was shown a copy of the final charter order that included her order for the blood cultures and then she was shown the photo copy of the chart order form that included “all orders through December 6, 2000, 2:30 a.m., but (which) does not include any orders for blood cultures. She continued to insist that she wrote the orders for blood cultures at the same time she wrote the orders to be called by the nurse in case of elevated patient temperatures. She said he had no explanation for why the photocopy did not contain her order for blood cultures.

She was then asked if she wished to make any other commits to the committee, but she declined and was excused.

In its report, the ad hoc commit said Dr. Negi’s explanation “is not plausible. The committee believes Dr. Negi inappropriately altered the medical records after the fact by adding her order for blood cultures to the charter order sheet sometime after” 2:30 a.m. Dec. 6, 2000, and by “trying to make it appear” as though it was written at 10 p.m. on Dec. 5.

“Furthermore, the committee is dismayed by Dr. Negi’s inability or unwillingness to admit to this inappropriate alteration of the medical records. The committee unanimously agreed that this inappropriate alteration of the medical record, and the physician’s implausible response to our questioning, reflect not only bad judgment, but also unethical behavior.”

Among the grounds for denial of a medical license in Florida is “Making deceptive, untrue, or fraudulent representations in or related to the practice of medicine or employing a trick or scheme in the practice of medicine.” This apparently was the hook on which the State of Florida hung its denial of a medical license to Dr. Negi on September 13, 2003.

GROUNDS FOR DISCIPLINE

REASONS FOR DISCIPLINE

She then applied to and was granted a medical license by the Commonwealth of Virginia, one of only a handful of states which licenses graduates of foreign medical schools. That license was granted effective Nov. 13, 2003.

Dr. Negi is a graduate of Ross University School of Medicine in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. Though Illinois-based DeVry University has since taken over the school, it still is not accredited by the Association of American Medical Colleges. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-09-10/devry-lures-medical-school-rejects-as-taxpayers-fund-debt

On her Florida application, Dr. Negi was asked “Have you had any application for professional license or any application to practice medicine denied by any state board or other governmental agency of any state, territory, or country.” She checked “No” to that question.

On her Virginia application, however, she failed to even respond yes or no to a similar question: “Have you ever been denied a license or privilege of taking a license/competency examination by any licensing authority?” Instead, she wrote, “I had applied for a Florida license but changed my mind and did withdraw my application.”

VIRGINIA QUESTIONNAIRE

APPLIED FOR A FLORIDA LICENSE

Her Florida application, however, was not withdrawn until June 8, 2006, more than two and one-half years after Virginia issued her a license in November 2003 and 33 months after her Florida application was denied.

So, Dr. Negi is on record as having lied about altering medical records while employed at Maryland General in December 2000 and again when applying for her medical licenses in Virginia after having been denied a license in Florida.

All of which raises a few obvious questions that come immediately to mind:

  • Who vets doctors for vets at the VA?
  • What can be done about Dr. Negi at this point in time?
  • Given this latest information, along with what we’ve been hearing about the VA, would you allow your loved one to be treated at a VA hospital?

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For the embodiment of what has happened to the newspaper industry and to erstwhile good, hard-hitting investigative reporting, one need look no further than the Alexandria Town Talk.

It’s not that The Town Talk, one of five Gannett-owned newspapers in Louisiana and one of 123 Gannett publications in the U.S., Guam, and the United Kingdom, is necessarily the poster child for the fast-food media genre. But when a newspaper ignores a major news story all but gift-wrapped and dropped in its lap, it unavoidably becomes a microcosm for all that’s ailing the once robust medium.

So, what’s this big story that The Town Talk and other area media were repeatedly called about but chose not to pursue?

That would be the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Alexandria.

It’s not that the problems of veterans obtaining medical treatment from the VA has been hiding under a rock. It’s a national disgrace and it’s well documented that while the rest of the country is politely offering an empty, robotic “Thank you for your service” to our military, it begins to take on a hollow ring as our nation’s leaders continue to send our young men and women into harm’s way only to discard them when they return with missing limbs, closed head injuries, psychological disorders and PTSD. They’re quietly shunted aside and forgotten. The Pentagon, it seems, has little use for damaged merchandise—unless it’s a billion-dollar aircraft that won’t fly built by a defense contractor (read: campaign contributor) favored by some powerful member of Congress.

When a friend, a career soldier, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few years ago, he was promptly discharged before he could qualify for his pension. Thank you for your service.

The horror stories of long waits for treatment and refusals of benefits and medication are by now well-known and it is no different at the Alexandria VA Medical Center.

But it is at that medical center that the stories become almost macabre in nature. And they all seem to revolve around a single doctor, Dr. Shivani Negi.

Here’s what we know about Dr. Negi:

  • The families of several patients have signed affidavits attesting to her callous treatment of patients and her insistence that family members allow patients to die without attempts at resuscitation;
  • Those same grief-laden affidavits describe in detail how abusive and non-communicative Dr. Negi becomes when families refused to sign “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) forms;
  • Some family members said in their affidavits that they believed Dr. Negi allowed their loved ones to die deliberately and that she purposely removed them from the intensive care unit (ICU) to a remote room on another floor without benefit of one-on-one care normally given critical patients;
  • Other doctors and nurses have provided written statements or testified in depositions as to her inappropriate remarks in the presence of family members and patients;
  • The same doctors and nurses describe her violent temper and her threats to “kick butts” of subordinates;

The Commonwealth of Virginia granted her license to practice medicine after she testified she had never been refused a license elsewhere and that she had withdrawn her application in Florida. The only problem was Florida had actually refused her application a full two months prior to Virginia’s awarding her a license. Her Florida application, however, was not withdrawn until 2006.

The minutes of the Florida Board of Medicine’s Credential Committee of Sept. 13, 2003, provide little insight as to the reasons for the  denial of her license application but do hint at some problem in Dr. Negi’s professional past.

“The applicant (Negi) was present and sworn in by the court reporters,” the minutes begin. “The applicant gave a brief history of events. The Committee discussed in length the seriousness of the issue. Dr. Tucker made a motion to deny the (application). The motion was seconded by Dr. Avila. The motion failed with Dr. Miguel, Dr. Davies and Mr. Dyches opposing. Dr. Davies made a new motion to deny the application…and allow 14 days to withdraw. The motion was seconded by Dr. Miguel. The motion passed unanimously.” REFUSED HER APPLICATION

The Florida statutes on which the application rejection was based were identical in both motions with only the provision to allow 14 days for Dr. Negi to withdraw added to the second motion.

There was no explanation of the “history of events” given by Negi, nor the circumstances of those “events.” Nor was there any explanation of the “issue” described deemed by the committee to be a serious sticking point in the consideration of her application.

The problem, however, could have been with the medical school she attended, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica which was not accredited by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the body that approves medical programs in the U.S. as of September 2013, according to a story by Bloomberg Markets. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-09-10/devry-lures-medical-school-rejects-as-taxpayers-fund-debt

RUSM has since been taken over by Illinois-based DeVry University which Bloomberg says accepts students rejected by U.S. medical colleges. And even though it is a for-profit school, U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for about 34 to 48 percent of students who default on their student loans which average about $250,000 compared to $170,000 for graduates of U.S. medical schools.

On her Florida application, a copy of which was obtained by LouisianaVoice, there were a series of questions and blocks to check for the appropriate “yes” or “no” answers.

For the question “Have you ever been dropped, suspended, placed on probation, expelled or requested to resign from any school, college or university,” she first checked “Yes” but scratched that answer out and checked “No.”

On another page further into her Florida application, she also checked “No” to the question: “Have you had any application for professional license or any application to practice medicine denied by any state board or other governmental agency of any state, territory, or country?”

Virginia apparently asks a similar question on its application forms because Dr. Negi submitted an “Addendum to questions 14 and 15” which said, “I had applied for a Florida license but changed my mind and did withdraw my application.” APPLIED FOR A FLORIDA LICENSE

There is a problem with the timeline on that answer, however. LouisianaVoice has copies of a document from Florida Regulatory Specialist Cherise Davis which indicates Dr. Negi did not withdraw her application until June 8, 2006, nearly three years after her license was issued by Virginia.

In the case of Floyd Hamilton, Jr., a Bronze Star recipient who died in 2009, there are many questions but few answers.

Hamilton, 85 died at the hospital in 2009, nearly three years after Dr. Negi removed him from ICU to a room on another floor and far from the nurses’ station and without the ventilator support necessary, in the view of one physician who was involved in a verbal exchange with Dr. Negi when he attempted to treat Hamilton. Hamilton’s son claims his father suffered irreparable brain damage from the removal of the ventilator.

At least two other doctors at the VA hospital, as well as other staff members, have taken issue with both Dr. Negi’s medical decisions and her attitude toward patients and co-workers.

Dr. John Sams said he responded to a code for another patient on July 19, 2011, and found him “minimally breathing.” He initiated treatment and the patient’s pulse became stronger and he began to stabilize. SIGNED REPORT

“More than five minutes after I arrived, Dr. Negi made her appearance,” he wrote in his signed report. “With no assessment of the situation, she immediately ordered me to return to the (Express Treatment Unit) and rudely told me I was not to leave the ETU for CLC (Community Living Center, or VA nursing homes) codes. She was temporary Chief of Medicine at the time, my boss,” he wrote.

“I returned to ETU…and upon entering found that the patient was being rolled into a bay. He was unaccompanied by Dr. Negi, who was soon pounding on the ETU door for admission. He (Hamilton) had lost his pulse. Chest compressions were begun.

“No attempt at intubation was allowed by Dr. Negi. Finally, I reordered and received a laryngoscope tube and easily intubated the patient. During the mayhem by Dr. Negi, she verbally terrorized the ETU. While I was doing the chest compressions, Dr. Negi vulgarly stated to me, ‘Sams, you’re doing them too slow. Do them like a young married man—hard, deep and fast.’”

Dr. Sams wrote that Hamilton did not respond to resuscitative efforts and Dr. Negi “asked if anyone had any suggestions prior to ending the code.” Sams said he said he would like to obtain an arterial blood gas (ABG)—a procedure to determine how well the lungs are moving oxygen into the bloodstream. “She left the code to sit down, mocking the suggestion with a derogatory comment. She continued to shower us with her inappropriate comments until the ABG returned. The date was (sic) not helpful and resuscitative efforts were stopped. At that time, I informed Dr. Negi that never in the future would I tolerate her unacceptable behavior.”

Dr. Sams said he reported the incident in writing to his director supervisor who, instead of taking action against Dr. Negi, reprimanded Sams for responding to the CLC code.

Dr. Mark St. Cyr, an emergency room contract physician, testified in a deposition that he had a conflict with Dr. Negi from the first moment they met. He said Dr. Negi threatened to “kick my butt” after he sought permission to admit an ER patient into the hospital. His deposition was given in a lawsuit by Floyd Hamilton, III, the deceased patient’s son.

He said the younger Hamilton gave specific instructions that he wanted his father kept in ICU and that the family “wanted everything possible done” to keep his father alive—and that he did not wish to sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.

Attorney Robert Evans, III, indicated in the deposition of Dr. St. Cyr that he had been in communication with the families of several patients of Dr. Negi “who believe that their family members have died from her treatment.” COMMUNICATION WITH FAMILIES

Floyd Hamilton, III, as did family members of other patients, said Dr. Negi became incensed and abusive when her requests for DNR orders were not signed by family members. Hamilton said she even stopped communicating with him and would not return his calls.

Documents showed that Dr. Negi even sent a $50 money order to one woman in Leesville so that she could travel to Alexandria to sign a DNR order.

Dr. St. Cyr said Dr. Negi’s decision to remove a tube protecting his airway was not consistent with the family’s wishes. Asked in his deposition of removing the tube was not consistent with the family’s request to do everything possible, Dr. St. Cyr responded, “That’s a fair statement.” THAT'S A FAIR STATEMENT

St. Cyr described Dr. Negi as “aggressive” in terms of “getting patients in and getting them out” of the hospital. “(If) she doesn’t feel like something is worth it, she may not be quite as aggressive medically in terms of performing certain actions,” he said.

When asked by attorney Evans if “she might put him somewhere and take out the tube to expedite his demise,” Dr. St. Cyr again replied, “It’s a fair statement.” EXPEDITE HIS DEMISE

That line of questioning developed over St. Cyr’s description of how Dr. Negi removed the elder Hamilton from ICU to another floor at the end of a hall furthest from the nurses’ station. “Why would he (Hamilton) go to the floor, the last room at the end of the hallway (when he) can’t press a button, can’t call a nurse, or anything, and he’s not even responsive?” he asked. “You’re literally putting the person out there to die.”

Asked if any other hospital personnel were involved in the removal of the intubation of Hamilton, Dr. St. Cyr said, “No, sir. That’s solely Dr. Negi. When a person’s in the intensive care unit, Dr. Negi was in charge and you don’t go against Dr. Negi.”

Two nurses also filed written reports of the confrontation involving Dr. Negi and Dr. Sams, both claiming that Dr. Negi was yelling, belligerent, unprofessional, and throwing her gloves. “…She stated, ‘You never stop CPR,’” one of the nurses quoted her as saying. “CPR was never stopped on the vet other than when Dr. Negi was doing CPR.” The same nurse said Dr. Negi “continued to berate Dr. Sams” because Dr. Sams wanted a blood gas. Dr. Negi made the comment to respiratory, ‘Well I guess you will get to practice your collection of blood gases.’”

The Calcasieu Parish District Attorney, in a letter to his counterpart in Rapides, intimated that had the events involving Hamilton occurred in Calcasieu, “I would certainly immediately provoke an investigation by law enforcement, or possibly a grand jury, to investigate allegations against this doctor.”

D.A. John Derosier, in his Dec. 23, 2014, letter to Rapides D.A. Phillip Terrell, Jr., wrote, “Please have someone…determine whether or not there is sufficient basis to move forward with a formal investigation.”

 

LETTER TO HIS COUNTERPART

D.A. LETTER PAGE 2

Terrell, claiming his office was not equipped for such an extensive investigation, asked for assistant from then-Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office and Assistant Attorney General Arthur Ogea of Lake Charles was given the assignment.

Jeff Landry, upon taking office as Caldwell’s successor, however, fired Ogea and seized all his records on the Hamilton case. Contacted by LouisianaVoice, Ogea agreed to talk in more detail about his thoughts in the coming days but did say he felt there was sufficient evidence for a grand jury investigation and possible charges of negligent homicide against Negi.

It will be interesting to see how Louisiana’s new attorney general proceeds with this investigation.

Floyd Hamilton, III, meanwhile, kept applying pressure by picketing the hospital and by notifying members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation and VA officials.

Because he took photographs of his father that showed the stark contrast between the elder Hamilton’s condition before and after being removed from ICU, there is now a sign posted at the VA Hospital in Alexandria proclaiming an absurd—and unenforceable—rule that photographs are no longer allowed at the facility.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, conducted an investigation of “suspicious deaths” at the Alexandria VA hospital. In its executive summary dated Feb. 14, 2008, the OIG repeatedly—and predictably—said that investigators “did not substantiate” any of the allegations involving Hamilton or any of several other patients who died while in the care of Dr. Negi.

Five days later, Christina Lavine, director of the VA’s Hotline Division, wrote Hamilton’s son, Floyd Hamilton, III to say that the VA OIG had closed his father’s case. “As we advised you when we opened this case, our decision to close a Hotline case is final, and there are no appeal rights,” she wrote.

Instead of definitive, meaningful action, all we’re received so far are insincere apologies and empty promises that conditions will improve. But they never do.

A congressional subcommittee held hearings on the Alexandria VA Hospital only last week. Even though subcommittee members were well aware of irregularities pointed out by Floyd Hamilton, III, and even though he was in attendance at the hearing, he was never allowed to testify. Perhaps, to borrow a phrase from Al Gore, Hamilton’s claims constituted “an inconvenient truth” to officials who should be infuriated at the manner in which our veterans are treated upon their return from duty.

 

 

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When it comes to financial shell games and political flim-flam, it seems that the two have a lot in common, oftentimes including the same personality mixes whose names keep cropping up. Sometimes those names can materialize like a deadly vapor in proceedings separated by a couple of decades. And somehow, those years and events mysteriously converge to affect the lives of thousands—or millions—of people.

It was in late 1990 that the late John Hays, the cantankerous publisher of the weekly Morning Paper in Ruston began writing stories that raised questions about Towers Financial Corp. and its chairman, one Steven Hoffenberg.

At first, his stories attracted little interest. On paper, as the sportswriters would say, it was a mismatch. Hays, described by NEW YORK TIMES in an April 1993 story as “a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, cowboy-booted newspaper publisher” was pitted against Hoffenberg, who briefly ran The New York Post, eventually taken over by Rupert Murdoch. Hoffenberg owned two jets, a yacht, limousines, mansions, and a Fifth Avenue office. Hays drove an old van well past its prime. It quickly shaped up as an epic battle between a small-town publisher operating on a shoestring and a sophisticated New Yorker who had, it seemed, more money than God.

But investors were getting nervous in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Some of them called Hays who had a penchant for taking on phony investment schemes. Hays, as was his wont, began making calls that piqued the interest of Securities and Exchange Commission investigators as well as state regulators. He had worked with these same regulators in other scams, so he had the credentials necessary to make them sit up and pay attention whenever he called.

Hays even managed to attract the attention of major newspapers like the WASHINGTON POST

Hoffenberg had all the right political connections. He was a business ally of former Texas Gov. John Connally and with a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee. Other friends in high places included Victoria Reggie, daughter of powerful Crowley Judge Edmund Reggie and the future wife of Sen. Edward Kennedy, New York City Mayor Mario Cuomo, and Mickey Kantor, President Bill Clinton’s trade representative. Heavy hitters, one and all.

Some of his connections, however, tended to hang back in the murky shadows of a darker side of society. https://porkinspolicyreview.com/tag/steven-hoffenberg/

http://gawker.com/501354/exposed-the-leon-black-jeffrey-epstein-connection

http://www.mediaite.com/online/vanity-fair-editor-reportedly-removed-underage-girls-allegations-about-jeffrey-epstein-from-2003-story/

When a Shreveport brokerage firm started peddling high-yielding notes for Towers in 1990, Hays said he immediately wondered “if some fellow up in New York has such a good deal, what would inspire him to come down here to northern Louisiana and make the local people rich?”

He started making calls and writing stories—stories that obviously did not sit well with Hoffenberg.

If Hays was suspicious of Hoffenberg, the feeling was more than mutual. “He’s not a credible person,” Hoffenberg said of Hays. “He runs a newspaper that is full of lies. I have never heard from anybody that John Hays was somebody we should take seriously. I mean, he gives his newspaper away; he throws it on people’s driveways.” Twenty-five years later, one could close his eyes and almost hear Donald Trump talking about another candidate or some reporter covering his campaign.

(Oh, just as a heads-up, keep that Trump comparison in mind. He’ll come up later in this story.)

Hoffenberg was correct in that last statement. Hays did indeed toss about 25,000 free copies a week in the driveways of Lincoln, Union, Bienville, and Jackson parishes.

But Hays also became a national clearinghouse for information between state regulatory agencies. He was credited by Arkansas authorities as providing information to them that allowed them to keep Hoffenberg and Towers Financial Corp. out of that state.

But not all states. Hays began making calls to regulators and learned that Towers was selling notes in states where it had failed to meet registration requirements. Enter the feds. More stories followed.

So, who won the war of words?

Well, Hoffenberg eventually entered a guilty plea to running a $475 million Ponzi scheme, the largest on record until Bernie Madoff dwarfed Hoffenberg’s financial chicanery. In 1997, Hoffenberg was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for defrauding thousands of investors. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/08/business/hoffenberg-gets-20-year-sentence-in-fraud-case.html

His nemesis who he said “runs a newspaper that is full of lies” and a man he said he never heard “from anybody that John Hays was somebody we should take seriously,” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Someone once said never start a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel and newsprint by the boxcar. Apparently Hoffenberg wasn’t listening.

The Hoffenberg/Towers Investment saga was the subject of a lengthy abstract by Gene Murray, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Grambling State University. http://list.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A3=ind9710a&L=AEJMC&E=7BIT&P=1328897&B=–&T=TEXT%2FPLAIN;%20charset=US-ASCII

But let’s fast forward to 2016. John Hays has been dead for a year now, the Morning Paper stopped publication several months before his death when his cancer weakened him to the point he could no longer peddle his ads or chase down a good story.

Hoffenberg couldn’t get out of jail in 1996 because, he said, he was so broke he couldn’t post the $100,000 bail. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/money/sec-hoffenberg-pay-stay-jail-article-1.730715

Twenty years later, however, he is back in the money—and he wanted everyone to know it. It’s almost enough to make you wonder if he may have had a few dollars stashed safely offshore all that time.

The man who couldn’t make $100,000 bail a couple of decades ago has recently pledged $50 million to his super PAC set up to coordinate a marketing campaign in support of Donald Trump. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/ponzi-schemer-steven-hoffenberg-pledges-50-million-to-help-trump/article/2593931

Hoffenberg, who professes to be a born-again Christian (funny how prison can do that; just ask Chuck Colson), is also in the business of marketing something called the Christ Credit Card to more than 700,000 registered Christian churches through Towers Financial.

http://whaminc.us/investor-questions-wham-answers

In addition to pledging $50 million of his own money to his super PAC, he also says he intends for his PAC to raise more than $1 billion in support of Trump. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/convicted-ponzi-schemer-ill-conduct-50-million-marketing-campaign-for-trump-224350

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-super-pac-predicts-raising-1-billion/article/2592210

So much for Trump’s claim that he is financing his own campaign—or for Hoffenberg’s earlier claims of poverty.

The announcement by Hoffenberg was the first time he has explained why he founded the Get Our Jobs Back, Inc. PAC back in April. He is listed as treasurer and custodian of records by the Federal Election Commission. http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00616078/1070515/

Could this be déjà vu all over again? Can you imagine someone like Hoffenberg having the ear of a President Trump?

We have only a few random observations to make about this latest development, this unholy alliance between two high-rolling carnival hucksters of dubious trustworthiness:

  • Watch closely how he raises that much campaign cash.
  • Does his credit card scheme figure in the mix?
  • Old habits sometimes can be hard to break.
  • Where is John Hays when we really need him?

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