The LSU Board of Supervisors’ decision to replace the newly appointed chairman of the New Orleans University Medical Center Management Corporation Board only days after she was named to the key post by LSU System President Dr. John Lombardi stinks to high heaven. And it's got the Jindal administration's finger prints all over it. Still, we can’t quite figure out the series of events or motivation that replaced Lafayette attorney Elaine Abell with Robert Yarborough, a Baton Rouge businessman who is the most recent Jindal appointee on the board.
On Thursday the LSU System announced Abell’s appointment to chairman of the LSU-affiliated medical center board, which will oversee the ambitious $1.2 billion 424-bed facility that is replacing Charity Hospital and the temporary LSU Public Hospital that opened after Hurricane Katrina. But by Monday, the LSU System put out a tersely worded release, one that deviated in format and style from its earlier releases, saying the “board leadership heard from a majority of the LSU Board of Supervisors, who expressed a preference for having a Board of Supervisors member serve in the position of chair of the Academic Medical Center board.” Abell, an LSU Law Center graduate and current member of IberiaBank’s board of directors, served on the LSU Board of Supervisors from 1988 to 1994, including one year as chairman.
Monday’s release also cited “input from the Governor’s office,” in announcing that Yarborough, who also is Jindal's campaign treasurer, had been appointed chairman. The UMC Management Corp. is a private, not-for-profit entity affiliated with LSU under state law. The new medical facility, which will be paid for in part by approximately $800 million in money previously appropriated by the state and a judgment against FEMA, is intended to be operated with “best practices” management to provide a world-class academic medical center for Louisiana. To complete the project, the state must secure another $400 million to $500 million in financing by year’s end.
In accepting the appointment as chair, Abell was ready to hit the ground running, saying the first meeting of the new board would be held in August. “One of the first actions of the board will be to determine the feasibility of obtaining $400 million to complete the project,” she said. If all goes as planned, the facility could be open by late 2014.
Monday’s release does not identify the “majority” of board members, whether they were polled (which would constitute a "walking quorum" and be a violation of the state’s open meetings law), or who in the governor’s office intervened. The LSU Board of Supervisors is, in essence, Lombardi's boss. The release also made no mention of the fact that the governance agreement or bylaws for the medical center board, which consists of four LSU seats, gives Lombardi the authority to name the chairman from his four appointees. All four appointees were approved by the Board of Supervisors July 16. The agreement also gives Tulane and Xavier one representative each on the board, with the seventh seat rotating among Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans and Delgado Community College. Jindal also named four board members not affiliated with the universities who must be confirmed by those seven members.
LSU System Vice President for Communication Charles Zewe said he did not know the names of the board members compromising the majority, nor does he know how they made their positions known. “You are going to have to get that from our board chairman, Mr. [Blake] Chatelain,” Zewe says. Chatelain, who is president of Red River Bank in Alexandria, is out of town and not available for comment, his office said.
Asked about the appropriateness of the governor’s involvement in these types of matters, Zewe, who has headed communications for the LSU System for five years, responded: “You’re asking me a loaded question. I’m not going to comment on that.”
Kyle Plotkin, Jindal’s press secretary, issued the following statement in response to The Independent’s request for more information: “We think Bobby will do a great job as Chairman. The important thing now is that all board members start working together to quickly establish a world class academic medical center that provides first-rate care, trains the medical workforce of the future and attracts more research funding to our state.” Plotkin, however, did not address a question about why Jindal’s office would exert this kind of influence when specific legal authority had been granted to Lombardi.
At least two other members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, Rod West of New Orleans and Alvin Kimble of Baton Rouge, told the Times-Picayune they were not part of any discussions about Yarborough’s appointment (West and Baptist Community Ministries President Byron Harrell of New Orleans are the other two Lombardi appointees to the medical center board). Kimble said he was unaware of the move till he was told by the T-P. Kimble said Lombardi had made board members aware of Abell’s appointment before last Thursday. “I’m sure Mr. Yarborough will do a fine job, but this is highly unusual,” Kimble told the New Orleans paper.
Abell would not comment on the matter, beyond saying she hopes the board can continue its vital work without these types of unnecessary distractions. “I don’t have any comment at this time. I just hope the board can come together and help develop a world-class academic center for the people of New Orleans and this state. I would hope that there is not too much political interference in all this but that may not be possible.”
The T-P also noted precedence for Jindal’s pressure in the LSU Board of Supervisors’ affairs.
In 2008, Kimble was in line to be elected chairman of the LSU board until Jindal’s chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, maneuvered an 8-8 deadlock between Kimble and Shreveport physician John George. As a compromise, Jindal shifted his support to Chatelain, then one of the board’s newest members, as Yarborough is now.
Teepell, who has a heavy hand in the governor’s affairs, is taking a three-month leave from the governor’s office to help with gubernatorial races in other states. His leave, however, didn’t start till Aug. 1. That was Sunday, which means he had plenty of time to stir up this current mess.
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.