Random observations Requiring Answers!

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blood tests for elected officials, ATC,
questionable meeting, action by Jindal’s LSU Board

Louisiana Voice-Btnby Tom Aswell

We’ve come across a few odds and ends lying around that we feel might warrant a second look.

Caldwell blood sample?Accident Graphic

When Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell, aka Elvis impersonator par mediocre, was involved in that one-vehicle accident in Madison Parish last week, did it occur to state police to perform a check for blood alcohol as is the standard procedure for all single-vehicle accidents?

By Caldwell’s own admission, he may have passed out before veering off the road and playing chicken with a tree. The investigating trooper did say that the attorney general did not appear to be impaired but that explanation in and of itself is hardly a reason not to conduce at BAC (blood alcohol content) test when such tests are considered routine procedure.

Oh, well….

ATC moves in with State Police, not so the ATC director

Highway Patrol Police Car Next to Alcoholic Drink and KeyThe Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control has been moved from its former headquarters at United Plaza on Essen Lane in Baton Rouge to the Louisiana State Police compound on Independence Boulevard, ostensibly to save money.

ATC Director Troy Hebert and his administrative assistant Jessica Starns, however, were allowed to remain at the United Plaza offices and to even rent additional space for Hebert’s office.

What’s with that? Shouldn’t an agency director be physically located at the same address as his employees and not several miles across town? We’re just sayin’.

Cerise Memo: LSU Board quorum?

Remember our story last week about that July 2012 meeting in the LSU President’s conference room where former Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine pitched the privatization plan for LSU’s 10-hospital system?

There was a key sentence then-head of the LSU Health Care System Dr. Fred Cerise included in his memorialization of that meeting regarding Levine’s presentation:

LSU-BOS-guilt-by-association“The LSU board members present indicated they want LSU’s management to pursue this strategy,” the Cerise Memo said.

But wait. The LSU Board of Supervisors consists of 15 voting members, all appointed by the governor, and one student member who has no vote.

The Louisiana Open Meetings Law, R.S. 42: 4.2, headed “Public policy for open meetings; liberal construction,” reads thusly:

  • “Meeting” means the convening of a quorum of a public body to deliberate or act on a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power. It shall also mean the convening of a quorum of a public body by the public body or by another public official to receive information regarding a matter over which the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.
  • “Public body” means village, town, and city governing authorities; parish governing authorities; school boards and boards of levee and port commissioners; boards of publicly operated utilities; planning, zoning, and airport commissions; and any other state, parish, municipal, or special district boards, commissions, or authorities, and those of any political subdivision thereof, where such body possesses policy making, advisory, or administrative functions, including any committee or subcommittee of any of these bodies enumerated in this paragraph.
  • “Quorum” means a simple majority of the total membership of a public body.

LAWSUIT FILEDThe statute further stipulates that “every meeting of any public body shall be open to the public unless closed pursuant to R.S. 42.6, R.S. 42:6.1 or R.S. 42:6.2.”

First of all, R.S. 42:6 clearly states that a public body “may hold executive session upon an affirmative vote …of two-thirds of its constituent members present.”

R.S. 42:6.1 simply lists the reasons an executive session may be held which you may explore in greater detail here: http://www.lawserver.com/law/state/louisiana/la-laws/louisiana_revised_statutes_42-6-1

R.S. 42:6.2, re-designated as R.S. 42:18 in 2010, applies only to the Legislature. http://www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?doc=99494

But let’s return to R.S. 42:4.2, that pesky little law about quorums.

Remember, the Cerise Memo said that the “LSU board members present” indicated their desire for the LSU administration to move forward with the Levine proposal.

Remember also, the LSU Board of Supervisors is comprised of 15 voting members.

But there were only four members of the LSU board present at that meeting, according to Cerise’s notes. They included Rolfe McCollister, Bobby Yarborough, Dr. John George and Scott Ballard.

Hardly a quorum.

But then, it was the likely intent of those present to avoid having a quorum because a quorum (eight voting members, in this case) would necessitate public notices of such a meeting and making said meeting open to the public.

Obviously, that was not the wish of the board members who did attend. They wanted, above all else, to avoid a full quorum so that the meeting could be conducted in secret.

If you check out our masthead, we recently added an anonymous quote:

  • It is understandable when a child is afraid of the dark but unforgivable when a man fears the light.

Shirking_is_unlAWFULFormer U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (Nov. 13, 1856-Oct. 5, 1941) is credited with coining the phrase, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

But in avoiding the necessity of opening up that July 17, 2012, meeting to the public by purposely skirting the requirement of a quorum so as not to qualify as an official meeting, those four board members were legally barred from taking any official action.

Yet, that minor point of law did little to deter them from directing the LSU administration to pursue Levine’s plan.

Yes, we are fully aware that the four board members not only spoke for the entire board but for Gov. Bobby Jindal as well. As Elliott Stonecipher recently noted in his blog Forward Now, state ethic laws prohibited Levine from conducting business with the State for two years after his departure as DHH Secretary. http://forward-now.com/?p=8403

Levine’s last day at DHH was July 16, 2010. The meeting at which he presented his plan to LSU administrators and board members was on July 17, 2012.

And we don’t believe in coincidences. And anyone who doesn’t believe Levine was in constant contact with the administration in the days, weeks and months leading up to that July 17 meeting is…well, a fool.

Such is the Gold Standard of Ethics that Jindal has bestowed upon the people of Louisiana.

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