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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JUL 22 The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is "a lock" to win the Sun Belt Conference in football, Fox Sports opines in this post. There's a rundown of the other teams in the conference, but ULL is predicted to win the conference, thanks in large part to an "explosive" offense. Is it football season yet?
JUL 22 Columnist Stephanie Grace says Gov. Bobby Jindal may be meeting with state education officials (hey - you mean HIS education officials, don't you, Steph?) but it is clear he's not looking for a solution in the Common Core fracas. Bobby wants an issue he can take on the road, and this one seems to be it, she says.
JUL 22 Columnist Jim Beam finds recent news out of Baton Rouge depressing. It seems every time you turn around there's another mess being uncovered or announced in state government, he says. Say what you want about Congress; in Louisiana we have nothing to brag about, either, he says.
JUL 22 Blogger Tom Aswell reports here that several legislators plan to ask for an investigation of the last-minute action that bumped State Police Commander Mike Edmonson's annual retirement income by $30K. One is gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards, who says he did vote for the amendment, but didn't read it - as he rarely does during the last hours of session.
JUL 22 This is a fascinating piece in the Picayune about the murder of a doctor in her St. Charles Avenue home 50 years ago. It's fascinating because of the mysteries and myths that have swirled around the incident for those decades, and because of the possible connection to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There are a lot of interesting names in here, including Ochsner and Marcello, and as usual the comments below the story are nearly as entertaining as the story itself.
JUL 22 LaPolitics examines the news that a bipartisan group of legislators filed court papers Monday asking a judge to decide if BESE followed proper procedure in installing Common Core as the curriculum to be followed by state teachers. The allegation is that BESE didn't do that, by failing to open a comment period and shirking legislative oversight. Great, but where were these guys back when the decision was actually made?
JUL 22 Here's a love letter from New York Daily News' Alex Palmer to Louisiana. In some ways it is the typical tourism article (with pronunciation guides and food definitions) but in another way it goes beyond that to list lesser-known spots to visit for food or tours.
JUL 22 This post on Gambit is an interesting look at an age-old discussion among people who live and work in urban areas - is graffiti property damage or public art? There are a lot of voices in this story, covering a lot of the bases of this conflict.
JUL 21 Education Week's EdWatch blog takes a look at our current snafu over Common Core in this post. To anyone outside the state, we certainly look like a bunch of dummies who can't agree on something as critical as what to teach our kids. That's good - right?
JUL 21 Rob Marciano, a former meteorologist at KPLC in Lake Charles, has been named senior weather guy at ABC, this post on TVNewser reports. In between those gigs he worked for CNN and Entertainment Tonight.
JUL 21 This story on The ABC out of Australia gives Louisiana some international notoriety that we really don't want. According to this story, Louisiana is one of the fastest-disappearing land masses on the planet. The planet. So, obviously we need to hold off on that levee board suit, because making Big Oil mad is much more serious than this.
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