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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AUG 21 Tom Aswell is telling us about another "efficiency" contract the state has signed. This one is paying a consultant (i.e. someone with a briefcase from out of town) $140 an hour, plus tens of thousands in air fare. The agency on the receiving end of this tender care? The DMV. Well -- that's working great, then.
AUG 21 This post on The Lens brings us up to date on the ongoing process of populating the levee board that will decide if the so-called Big Oil lawsuit will move forward. Gov. Jindal has done his best to put the kibash on the suit by removing pro-suit members, but the process of replacing them is not simple, Bob Marshall tells us.
AUG 21 Here's Politico's coverage of Bobby Jindal's loss in the Common Core lawsuit this week. Interestingly, it boils down to dueling quotes from the judge who handed the administration its collective hiney and Kyle Plotkin. There's also commentary here about Jindal's flip-flop on the issue.
AUG 20 Education blogger Mercedes Schneider, as usual, is using her (not insignificant) teaching skills to give us the skinny on the recent court ruling on Common Core. Schneider gets into the details of legal strategy and argument at play here. As usual, it appears that Jindal's lawyers dropped the ball. Hey, at least they're consistent. (Or maybe Jindal didn't really want to win, he just wanted the Tea Party to think he wanted to win?)
AUG 21 Columnist Jim Beam is writing about ISIS in this post. The civilized world has to do something about this group and the atrocities its members are committing, he says. Maybe President Bush "blew it" in Iraq, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do anything more, he says.
AUG 21 Blogger CB Forgotston is continuing his habit of announcing that he won't be running for stuff in this post on the Forward Now blog. He's also poking fun at State Police Commander Mike Edmonson (and his entourage, dubbed "Dork Dynasty" by some Troopers) and the Advocate. Apparently Edmonson isn't happy with people who are keeping this boondogle in the news. Awww.
AUG 21 This post on the NOLA Defender blog talks about some things that New Orleans and Ferguson, Mo., have in common. As a white woman, author Kezia Kamenetz says it isn't her place to talk about what the African-American community should do about the violence within, but as a human she can certainly call for fairness in the criminal justice system.
AUG 21 Columnist Stephanie Riegel is writing about the scandal that has rocked the LSU Alumni Association (to wit, the executive director's "girlfriend" also was his employee; when they "broke up" he started paying her, with alumni money, to keep her mouth shut). In particular, she's looking for some lessons to learn from the mishigas.
AUG 20 This post on the Texas Observer is a good one to read if you haven't bothered to pay much attention to the Rick Perry indictment. The pundits have collectively dismissed it as partisan politics - but the special prosecutor is a Bush man, and the judge is GOP. (They didn't mention THAT, did they?) It's a pretty good round up of what we do know, and more importantly, what we don't.
AUG 20 In this post, blogger Rod Dreher takes a look at the Tea Party's horror at David Vitter's reluctance to say he hates the Common Core with every fiber of his being. He also includes some commentary on the Tea Party's inability to tell news from satire. Hey, maybe that's why Facebook has to add those labels. Mystery solved!
AUG 20 This story in the New York Times updates the rest of the nation on the Common Core issue here in Louisiana, proclaiming that it is "dividing" the state. Unfortunately for Gov. Bobby Jindal, it is only a few sentences in before the author mentions that Jindal "ardently" supported Common Core when Louisiana joined the movement a few years ago, and the implication is that he's agin it now because he wants to be president and thinks that will help.
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