Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office, which overstepped its authority in replacing Lafayette attorney Elaine Abell as chairman of the governing board for the planned teaching hospital in New Orleans, appears to be behind an unannounced social event for the board yesterday. It was the first time the group had gathered, and it's unclear whether the function violates the state's open meetings law.
The event, which hosted nine of the 11 members and two of Jindal’s top aides and was held at the posh Windsor Court, came two days after the LSU System released a statement saying Bobby Yarborough of Baton Rouge — who is Jindal's campaign treasurer — would replace Abell as chairman of the board of the University Medical Center Management Corp. LSU System President John Lombardi, whom the UMC constitutional documents confirm has the unequivocal authority to name the chairman, had appointed Abell last Thursday. The governor’s interference in the process has been harshly criticized — with LSU Board of Supervisors member Tony Falterman among the most vocal. “If Gov. Jindal undoes everything the President does, shouldn’t the LSU Board just ask Gov. Jindal what he wants done on every issue and put Dr. Lombardi back in the classroom?” Falterman said in a statement reported by The Advocate Wednesday. The Independent Weekly was unable to reach Falterman for comment today, and Abell has declined to discuss the matter, saying only that she hopes the board can get its work done without this kind of political influence.
Yarborough, who is a recent appointee to the LSU Board of Supervisors, and Jindal’s legal adviser, Stephen Waguespack, billed the gathering as a social event that was not convened to discuss the business of what is projected to be a $1.2 billion medical complex, according to Thursday’s Times-Picayune. The paper appropriately raised the issue of whether the function, which was not attended by Abell and another member of the governing board of the planned medical complex, constitutes a violation of the state’s open meetings law:
On the one hand, neither Yarborough nor Waguespack could say whether they believe the law requires the University Medical Center corporation to meet openly.
The corporation was created as an affiliate of Louisiana State University, suggesting that it is a political subdivision of the state whose meetings should be open. But there has been some question in the past whether such entities, like the Tiger Athletic Foundation at LSU, are public or private, and state leaders have said throughout the planning that the hospital is meant to be an “independent entity” whose debts do not obligate taxpayers.
Yet the emphasis on the meeting as a “social gathering” appears to reflect an awareness that Louisiana court precedent gives some wiggle room for public bodies to hold “chance meetings and social gatherings” without public notice or access. If UMC is not subject to the sunshine law at all, exceptions would be irrelevant.
The social gathering exception dictates that no business is discussed.
Participants in the meeting could be heard from the hallway mentioning the formulation of bylaws, hospital bed counts and ground-breakings, though it was not clear whether those points pertained specifically to UMC.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.