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.
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DEC 11 It's the holiday season, and that means you can count on seeing some pretty crazy stuff going down at the Wal-Mart, but this story out of Marshall, Texas takes the cake. A man went in and attacked a couple of people with a hatchet. Who stopped him? A customer who started launching soup cans at him -- and connected with his noggin. The story tells us that while some folk were injured, everyone's been released from the hospital.
DEC 11 Blogger Tom Aswell joins the ranks of those looking into the "Fund for Louisiana's Future," which of course is not really aimed at improving our future. So far, it seems aimed at getting Louisiana to remove its $100,000 cap on campaign contributions, he tells us. Also, it is overseen by the same guy who tried to give us President Mitt Romney -- and he seems bent on picking our next governor.
DEC 11 Here's a post on NOLA Defender from the chef de cuisine at Delmonico's about gumbo. Chef Anthony Scanio shares childhood food memories that aren't quite a warm and fuzzy cliche -- but they certainly sound authentic. His personal story isn't just about food, it's a true New Orleans boy's upbringing. It's a cool story, and it ends with recipes for seafood gumbo and red beans.
DEC 11 Blogger Lou Gehrig Burnett writes here on Bayou Buzz about GOP efforts to mount a candidate against Sen. Mary Landrieu -- "a" being the operative word. So far, Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness are both in the race, and as long as the ultra-conservative Maness remains he poses a threat to the Republicans' hopes to unseat Mary. There's also a bit on what's up in Texas -- where Gov. Rick Perry's rejection of Medicaid money is causing other lawmakers some trouble.
DEC 11 Qualifying for New Orleans municipal races opens today, and Gambit's Clancy DuBos is most interested in people running against Sheriff Marlin Gusman, a frequent topic of Clancy's posts -- and a lot of other media posts as well. So far, the most interesting candidate expected to qualify is former sheriff Charles Foti. But Gusman's biggest enemy may be himself, given his 33 percent approval rating.
DEC 11 It may be the season of brotherly love, but John Maginnis is not falling for David Vitter's Christmas story. In this post, he poo-poos the very idea that Vitter and his family will spend the holidays in prayerful reflection so that they can decide if the Senator will run for governor. He also gives some predictions on what could happen if Vitter did get elected, throwing in a cautionary reference to the big ole egg laid by the GOP up in North Louisiana's recent Congressional race.
DEC 11 Well, knock us over with a rainbow-colored feather. The Shreveport City Council passed an ordinance granting equal protection to LGBT folks, this KSLA story reports. It basically forbids discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation. According to the story, city workers already have had that protection, since 2009.
DEC 11 That nice lady over in Denham Springs must still be mad at her neighbors for stealing her dog, because she's back up on her roof, making a big ole "one finger salute" in Christmas lights. This story in the Advocate even gives us a picture of the process underway, in case you are experiencing a similar situation and would like some finger-display-creation tips.
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