By Elliott Stonecipher
It is now much easier to make the case that Governor Bobby Jindal knows his chances of winning the presidency in the 2016 election are securely in his past. In fact, given the record he is now so feverishly and self-destructively building, it is difficult imagining the governor winning another – any – statewide election in Louisiana. In making that case, Exhibits #1 through #50, at least, are on display in Jindal’s bafflingly deliberate and long-running defiance of orders issued by Baton Rouge state district court Judge Janice Clark in a key public records case.
Over five months ago, on April 25th, Judge Clark emphatically ruled in favor of plaintiff newspapers, the Advocate and Times-Picayune, and ordered the LSU Board of Supervisors to “immediately produce” the documents identifying all those who sought the combined job of LSU President and Chancellor. F. King Alexander was selected for the job, and Jindal does not want citizens to know who the other candidates were. Thus he directed his go-to lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, to burn a trainload of taxpayer money by stiffing the citizenry and Judge Clark … repeatedly … and proudly.
The rarity of observing such a months-long political train wreck was underscored by Lori Mince, the attorney representing the two Louisiana newspapers, in an article yesterday by Mike Hasten of Gannett News. Ms. Mince noted, “This is the first public records case I’ve had when the public body refused to comply.” No one else with whom I have spoken or emailed can remember another such instance, either. Such makes sense because once a public records case goes all the way to court, and a judge orders the documents produced, public officials have every reason and need to, well, produce the documents. That is precisely what happened when a group of us in Shreveport sued the highway department for documents, went up against Jindal / Faircloth’s initial opposition, and headed to Judge Clark’s court. When our hearing came up, the requested documents appeared as Faircloth did the opposite.
To grasp how bizarrely foolish the Jindal / Faircloth / Board of Supervisors argument is, it began with Faircloth arguing that the only word in the related law which mattered was “applicant,” and that there was only one of those, the winner, F. King Alexander. Note that Faircloth made this argument to Judge Clark even though Blake Chatelain, the member of the iLSU Supervisors who led the search committee, said in his subject court deposition that he and his committee began their work with about 100 prospects, cut that to 35 keepers, then down to “six or seven,” before picking Alexander. All of this was managed via a web portal belonging to a Dallas consultant hired for such purpose, a reported key in the Jindal plan to maintain secrecy throughout the process. (Thanks to Gordon Russell, then writing for the Times-Pic, for his April report.)
It is anyone’s guess as to what Jindal is hiding – was/is Alexander qualified? was he the best candidate? who did Jindal really want and why didn’t that person get the job? – but those of us who have been down this road with the man and his team, especially Faircloth, know that the explanation may be much simpler: Jindal has never believed the rules and law and constitution apply to him.
As if it is not mind-bending enough to argue that there was only one “applicant” for the job, the one who got it, and that the other 99 were “contenders” or “candidates” or some other such label rendering them non-existent for Jindal’s purposes, Faircloth has confected a back-up crazoid: according to him, nothing Judge Clark is doing is fair or just or right or legal because he / LSU / Jindal have not yet filed a “full appeal” of Judge Clark’s decision with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. Now, take a moment to get this one: yes, it is true and factual that both the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal AND the Louisiana State Supreme Court have already rejected LSU requests to overturn Judge Clark’s order, but that does not stop Jindal, et al, in their loud protestation that they have been denied what they deem a “full appeal.” No independent legal source I have found confirms such a view, so this seems certain to be yet another Faircloth / Jindal time- and money-burning ruse.
For a bit more context, we should remember that other than its student member, members of the LSU Board of Supervisors “paid to play,” that is, contributed serious money – over $60,000 in one instance – to Jindal’s various campaigns to obtain those seats. Most recently, even with 50 pages blank, the Board acted to approve the contract which hands the state’s LSU Medical Center in Shreveport to the Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF). BRF is not in the hospital business, and never has been, but is well-wired into All Things Jindal, with its top officer, Dr. John George, also a member of – yes, you guessed it – the LSU Board of Supervisors. (Thus, no one should be surprised if that deal proves to be a political insiders’ bacchanal rather than a continuation of the quality healthcare North Louisiana indigents and other poor have long been provided.)
As to Faircloth, we may remember that he was the legal guru Jindal picked to do the dirty deed in gutting the enforcement capability of the Louisiana Ethics Administration in 2008. In a move only Rasputin could respect, Team Jindal named the op the “ethics gold standard.” Faircloth joined key legislators with pending ethics cases against them already in the pipeline and raised the standard of evidence in such cases to the prosecutorial equivalent of criminal law. No state’s ethics regime – a civil law code and process – is staffed or otherwise qualified to present cases within that standard. The cherry on top for Faircloth and Jindal was putting an unclassified state employee who answers directly to the governor in charge of picking the administrative law judges who now adjudicate ethics cases.
Judge Clark has had enough. As reported today by Joe Gyan and Ryan Broussard of the Advocate, and by Diana Samuels of the Times-Picayune, something has to give, or else. Clark has threatened defendants with contempt charges, then ordered the parish sheriff to go get the list and bring it to her court. Nothing has worked. What she has gotten is a steady line of bullstuff from Faircloth, and she’s fed-up enough to order him to shut that up. With word of a possible compromise in the makes for a Monday roll-out, the eyes of all who are interested remain focused on her honor. With her political and judicial reputation at issue, it is difficult to believe she will not find a way to get the list of all candidates for the job and release it to the public as soon as possible.
When the smoke clears, regardless of what happens with the list, Governor Jindal will have drawn a bright line under, through and around his inexplicably open willingness to act contrary to law. Some of us remember the “government of laws, not of men” posit by John Adams, and the importance of a balance of governmental powers among and between the three branches. A fair inspection of Jindal’s actions as Louisiana’s executive will find much which suggests he has only passing, if any, respect for such governmental niceties. Since a quick internet search brings up national news coverage of this and all Jindal stories these days, the governor’s ways and means are now much, much easier to identify and analyze than in the past.
Though Governor Jindal may harvest some semblance of a political crop by merely keeping up a presidential candidate act, it is indeed difficult to believe he still sees himself a viable candidate for President of the United States. Even nowadays.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the unedited sharing of his work is requested and appreciated.