Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A sinking feeling

This post will by my 1818th entry on The American Zombie since the first on July 4th, 2006.

In the past month I have found myself reflecting, heavily, on this thing I've done....this blog.  At times I've been extremely proud and other times I've felt like it was an enormous burden, even a threat to myself and my family.  Truth is, in the past few months it's felt like an exceptional burden.

It started it as an experiment.  Upon the completion of the documentary, Left Behind, I made with Dr. Vince Morelli, I came to the conclusion that the root of this City's problem was its education system and the root of our education system's problem was corruption.  I discovered there was not a lack of money in the Orleans Parish School System but that the funds were simply being stolen at nearly every turn to the great detriment of our children.

I figured the blog was a way to possibly expose the entrenched corruption that exists within so many layers of New Orleans/Louisiana government.  I was naive enough to think that I could affect change simply by exercising the powers of the First Amendment.  

From that original "thunk" I have devoted an enormous amount of time, energy and money into this experiment and there's not a day that goes by I don't think about it....wondering if it's worth it...feeling guilty because I've neglected one or more stories...thinking about how much more effective it might be if I devoted all of my time to it....worrying about who I might have pissed off and if it would affect my income stream....wondering how it will affect my children as they become adults....

.....it weighs on me a lot.  Lately it has weighed on me more than usual.

I have to admit that I've reached a point where I don't think my efforts are actually affecting social and/or governmental change and if I'm not doing that I don't think it's worth the effort.  As my father used to tell me, "Don't half-ass do anything, Son.  Otherwise you're just pissing in the wind."

Truth is, I feel hopeless.

When I started AZ I was writing under the assumption that our justice system was...just.  I believed that if I simply told the truth and exposed criminal activity, city, state and federal law enforcement officials would pay attention and rectify the problems.

I believed justice was truly blind and the rule of law was real, the system simply needed people to exercise the First Amendment in order to set the wheels in motion.

What I believed, in the beginning, was that there was an avenue for recourse if the average citizen just woke up from their slumber (hence "The American Zombie") and cast a a light on the corruption that existed in their community.

Now, I'm not so sure.

The corruption within this state is intrinsic...hereditary even.  It is so prevalent, we have come to simply accept it as the modus operandi.

Any reform we saw on a local level, in post-Katrina New Orleans, is a faded dream.  Even the dreamers were defiled.

Pay to play has woven itself into the fabric of our government for so long it's now categorized on the "insiders'" sliding scale of significance.  On the national barometer of corruption, we've actually managed to go so far off the reservation we can't even be quantified....we're an anomaly.

The collusion between the oil and gas industry, the trial attorneys who would have us believe they are fighting for the public's best interest and the politicians who take both of their money is an unholy trinity promising salvation at every turn. 

They lie.  They fucking lie. But we keep buying their bullshit.

If you read this blog...even if you don't...what I hope you will understand is that none of these people have the public's best interest at heart.  It doesn't benefit any of them....any of them....to create a healthy, educated, populous in an environmentally safe Louisiana.  They want idiots and this state is ripe by design.  Idiots more concerned about what two grown men choose to do with their sexuality than a Congressman fleecing a public university.

We are losing everything that is near and dear to our hearts in this state...our higher public education system, our public hospital system, our coastline.....yet we bicker about partisanship instead of actually holding our public officials accountable.

We are trapped inside a juvenile interpretation of the Hegelian Dialectic.

The corruption in this State and City is insulated, obscured, behind the political dichotomy of left/right.  In New Orleans, democrats are protected from prosecution by the local political machine while on the state level republicans' transgressions are overlooked and written off as "minor issues".

They are all stealing public money.  All of them.  They are all using tax dollars as their own 0% interest, no money down, no principle owed...bank.

Bill Cassidy stole money from the state of Louisiana.  Diana Bajoie stole money from the state of Louisiana.  One is a republican, the other a democrat.  Neither one has been prosecuted or even officially investigated.
         
Patrick Juneau illegally billed the state of Louisiana.  He is not a democrat or republican, he's just an opportunistic old man that will do whatever either reigning "party master" asks him to do in order to enrich his own bank account.

We are standing on the deck of ship, floating in a sea of corruption with no rudder, no mast, no sail, holes in the hull, arguing about the weather while our politicians take the cargo and sail off in lifeboats.

In the matters I listed above, I think the evidence is clear on all fronts, at least enough to justify investigations by our state regulatory officials...the state auditor , state inspector general, state attorney general.

Thing is, I've busted my own ass on at least two of these stories and liberated information on the third while many other reporters busted their ass to do the same.  The Fourth Estate has fulfilled it's duty, not just my small contribution but the body, whole.  The evidence is convincing, overwhelming on the issues listed above.

LSU would never conduct an honest audit on Cassidy.  No university would.  Not Loyola, Tulane, or even UNO as it fades into obscurity.  They are all deeply entrenched in political interests on both city and state levels.  University employees will not talk to their own institution's investigators for fear of losing their job.   These things need to be audited by our state regulatory agencies....it's their job, it's their duty. 

For these regulatory agencies to ignore even one of these issues, much less all three, is a bellwether as to the state of our State.

This...these moments....are where we traditionally fail, Louisiana.  Let's not fail again.  Let's not kick the can down the road and allow business as usual.

We have a problem here.  It's systemic.  It's destructive.  Please.  Please.  Please....investigate.




          

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Double Bill - Comment Bump, December 4, 2014

Wesley1066


There are three questions being waved around.

1. Did Bill Cassidy lie to the House Ethics Committee on the number of hours he would be working for LSU?
2. Did Bill Cassidy submit timesheets to LSU for time he didn't work, ie was in DC voting instead of working for LSU?
3. Did Bill Cassidy fail to meet the terms of his continued employment for LSU?

Let's look at these:
1. He told the Ethics Committee that he would work a maximum of 16 hours a month. The timesheets presented average 13.7 hours per month. No issue there, and despite what the blogger here says, Bill Cassidy did not BILL LSU for 30 hours a month.

2. The list of conflicts show 21 days in question, but 4 of those specifically state the LSU work was phoned in. Of the remaining 17, 10 were roll call votes after 6:00pm which only leaves 7 of these that even warrant further investigation. Since the blogger has referenced CenLamar's article discussing the meetings with Dr. Claude Pirtle, we will discuss these. Pirtle is described as "a resident physician of internal medicine at LSU New Orleans", so describing meetings with him as "resident supervision" would not be an immediate problem. But let's further examine the implications of CenLamar's article. Pirtle is quoted as saying that he met with Cassidy "2 or 3 times a week" in a month that Cassidy only claimed work on 2 days. Either Pirtle is overstating the meetings he had with Cassidy or many of those meetings were not counted as "resident supervision". That leaves us with one day of meeting with Pirtle that CenLamar's only cause for alarm is that Pirtle supports Cassidy, therefore the meeting must be something other than "resident supervision".


3. I have seen nothing yet that indicates correspondence from Bill Cassidy to LSU, the only evidence provided so far is that somebody asked somebody else what the expectations were for Bill Cassidy and that Bill Cassidy took an 80% cut in pay from LSU. 

1.  The issue in respect to his submission to the House Committee on Ethics is not the hours he reported to LSU, it's that he told the Committee that he would only be working:

16 hours a month

He told the Committee this one full year after he had agreed with LSU to work twice that amount:

30 hours a month

The issue is that he told the Committee he was ONLY spending 16 hours a month on his moonlighting job with LSU.  He lied...period.  He had already billed more than that to LSU repeatedly by the time he stated his monthly hours to the Committee.

He misled the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics as to the nature of his work with LSUHSC.

If we are to believe the terms of his employment were only defined in the emails, he absolutely knew he had agreed to 30 hours a month...a full year... before he told the Committee he was only working 16 hours a month.

In other words....he lied.  He lied to United States House of Representatives.  

2.  Let's start from the top...THERE ARE NEARLY 50 MISSING TIME SHEETS.  He only turned in 16 of 63 timesheets.....Ya heard?  So before you start splitting hairs on the signatures.....which I'm happy to do because that's a scandal unto itself....about 80% of the salary he received is UNDOCUMENTED.  This is not only an issue the State Legislative Auditor's office needs to investigate the Department of Labor needs to investigate it as well.  The fact that it almost certainly involves Medicare/Medicaid funds would also beg the attention of the FBI.

On that note, I am currently chasing down sources as to whether the guy even showed up, physically, for the work he claimed he did "non-virutally".  That's coming man...it's coming...don't think this election is going to stop that snowball from turning into an avalanche.

The Pirtle issue is laughable but even if he billed 1 hour with Pirtle, I would question how discussing "Obamacare" in his office could remotely be billable to LSUHSC.  Shortly after those conversations on the Hill, "Dr. Pirtle" launches a web development company, Nodus Studios, and lands a contract with LSU...what a renaissance man Claude is, eh?  Was that contract publicly bid?

3.  You haven't seen anything because THERE IS NO CONTRACT.  How was Dr. Cassidy's pay rate, hours worked, tenure, medical malpractice insurance, time sheet reporting process, pension plan......showing up for work and proving it......established if there was nothing in writing?  There is no fucking contract.....it's just a series of emails.  You're pointing out that he received an 80% cut in his previous salary, I'm asking you how the hell he was still receiving 20% of his previous salary without a contract.   What did he do?  Did he show up to do it?

He pulled down over $100,000 in public money from a public institution WITHOUT A CONTRACT.

So forget everything we've talked about.....how did a public entity, LSUHSC, pay someone over $100,000 in taxpayer's money without a goddamn contract?  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Louisiana: citizen seeking recourse

Aside from all of the hullabaloo the antics of Double Bill Cassidy has created in respect to the upcoming election, I am only concerned that the actual issue of him potentially defrauding LSUHSC and hence the State of Louisiana of taxpayers' money be investigated.  I am also very concerned that DHECC Claims Administrator Pat Juneau's billing to the State for time spent expediting a private company's (based in Houston, TX) claim in the GCCF be examined as well.

So...I have drafted a letter to the Louisiana State Legislative Auditor asking his office to do just that.  I believe criminal activity may have occurred on both of these issues and it is the Legislative Auditor's responsibility to track down the truth on matters such as this.  Here is the letter I have sent them and I would encourage everyone who reads this post to contact their office and ask them to launch an investigation into both, or even one, of the two issues I have written about here on AZ:


Dear Mr. Purpera,

Hello, my name is Jason B. Berry, I am an independent investigative reporter from New Orleans.  I am the author of a blog, The American Zombie, where I have attempted to expose public corruption within New Orleans and the state of Louisiana over the past seven years since the levee failure in the wake of Katrina crippled my beloved city.  

I have uncovered two separate instances within the past month regarding potential fraudulent billing to state entities that I believe warrant the Louisiana State Legislative Auditor’s attention.  I am writing to you to implore you to please investigate both of these issues with an equal level of vigilance and integrity despite the political influence of both Louisiana public figures involved in the potential wrongdoing.  

The first issue is in regard to the current Claims Administrator of the Deepwater Horizon Economics Claims Center, Patrick Juneau.  While the DHECC is not a public or state entity, Mr. Juneau was contracted by the State of Louisiana prior to his tenure with the DHECC as a consultant to the state in respect to its legal claim against the oil company, BP, for damages incurred during the Deepwater Horizon oil rig accident and subsequent oil spill which blanketed the the Gulf of Mexico and devastated the region’s ecosystem and economy.

As per Mr. Juneau’s own billing records, he billed the state for time he spent with state officials and for phone calls to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), the entity that preceded the DHECC, in order to help expedite and facilitate a private company’s claim within the GCCF queue.  The company he lobbied for is Omega Protein, a company incorporated in Houston, Texas and is wholly private.  I implore your office to investigate why Juneau, under contract with the state of Louisiana, billed the state to do work for a private company based in Houston.  I think the public deserves to know why this contractor was billing the State of Louisiana to use his power and influence to lobby the GCCF on behalf of a private company in Texas.  

The second issue that I have uncovered is in respect to Dr. Bill Cassidy, U.S. Representative of the 6th District of Louisiana, and his billing practices to the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) after he ascended to his position as a U.S. Congressman.  

It appears Mr. Cassidy was retained by LSUHSC after he was elected to Congress at a salary of       approximately $20,000 /year for 5 years.  His work obligation was for 30 hours a month or 7.5 hours a week.  Mr. Cassidy was supposed to supply the University with time sheets documenting his hours in order to collect his $1666/month.  Upon a public records request, only 16 of 63 timesheet were produced by LSUHSC and some of the signatures on the 16 time sheets do not seem to match Dr. Cassidy’s.  LSU has stated they can not locate the missing 50 time sheets which is of great concern regarding the documentation of what work Dr. Cassidy actually did to continually receive his salary.

Both of these stories can be referenced on the American Zombie blog at the following links:

Pat Juneau’s billing to the state for work done on behalf of Omega Protein:

http://www.theamericanzombie.com/2014/11/dhecc-cheap-fish-swim-deep.html


There have been numerous other articles written about Dr. Cassidy’s billing to LSUHSC that I would encourage you to investigate including these:

http://cenlamar.com/2014/11/25/double-bill-cassidy-for-years-bill-cassidy-billed-lsu-while-working-in-congress/





Thank you for your consideration on behalf of the citizens of the State of Louisiana and myself.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.  

Sincerely,



Jason B. Berry
The American Zombie

Here is the letter as a .pdf if you want to download it and include it as an attachment to any letter you may want to send to the Legislative Auditor's office.











If you just want to put pressure on them to investigate, send an email to Mr. Daryl G. Purpera

Thank you AZ readers for paying attention....together we're heavy.  



DHECC - McGladrey audit Part 1

Here's the 1st part of the McGladrey audit that I mis-linked in the previous post, I have corrected it there as well:

McGladrey audit Part 1

Friday, November 28, 2014

Varney writes political blog, calls AZ political

I don't even know why I'm reposting this moron but I broke my cardinal rule and tried to comment on Nola.com....of course it wouldn't let me.  Here's the comment I tried to post:

" I am not a political blogger.  YOU are a political blogger.  I am an actual journalist...you should learn the difference, dipshit."

He didn't even get the story right.....I have no idea why he thinks it's only about $20,000.  It's about lying about his medical malpractice insurance, it's about $100,000 over 5 years while only turning in 16 of 63 timesheets, it's about being tenured at LSU as a part-time employee when that is specifically against their policy, it's about whether or not he actually did the work he got paid for, it's about him lying to The House of Representatives Committee on Ethics.

I don't know what is more hypocritical, Cassidy running on an anti-government platform while sucking the public teat or Varney stating I am nothing more than a "political blogger" while writing a very blatant political push piece to try and water down the seriousness of this issue.

Comment Bump - November 20something, 2014 - 495

I'm trying to catch up guys and I will correct the links to the McGladry reports but in the meantime, I want you guys to see In Hale's comment and statistics regarding the effects of 495:


$ 795 MILLION DOLLARS IN CLAIM OFFERS VAPORIZED.

When concrete turns to quick sand.

While everyone's attention was diverted with the CA and BP’s quest to seek justice by SCOTUS a little adjustment was made at the claim center reported numbers. 

Prior to and at the Fairness Hearing we were told the settlement was clear, transparent and working as negotiated. 

"I guess you can call that the hook so that claimants wouldn’t OPT OUT." 

MR. GODFREY: 10:04 am Fairness Hearing Transcript.

The settlement is working as we anticipated and as we negotiated with Mr. Rice and Mr. Fayard.

Mr. Roy: 12:34 pm Fairness Hearing Transcript.

We did not want a hundred-plus-thousand claimants being subjected to what many people perceived were subjective claim reviews, like at the GCCF, or some kind of star chamber subjective evaluation that they just didn't -- that wasn’t transparent.

Mr. Roy: 12:35 pm Fairness Hearing Transcript.

So transparency was critical. To have it transparent, you had to have your compensation and your
causation calculation formulas objectively ascertainable. They are. That's what this settlement does.

Now for the slide of hand and a wave of the magic wand presto change oh. 
In comes Policy 495 generated by captured data submitted to the claim center.

That's right last week $ 795 MILLION DOLLARS in Eligibility Offers were pulled back from the BEL class.

VAPORIZED RIGHT FROM UNDER YOU NOSE! 

Out of this amount $ 684 MILLION was Accepted Offers pending payments most with signed releases.

NO LONGER VALID OFFERS OR APPEALS WON WAITING FOR PAYMENT.



IN-HALE

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

DHECC - TP hires clairvoyants

This is pretty amazing.  I was still downloading these reports of the McGladrey audit shortly after they were made public but apparently Times-Pic reporter Jennifer Larino had already read and assessed the whole thing.

I'd like to ask Larino two questions....1. Did you actually read the entire audit?  2.  Did you write this story from personal analysis or primarily from a press release you were given by either the Claims office or one of the PSC attorneys?

For those of you who would like to read the entire thing and do the homework....here they are:

Part 1  

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5 

More to come but pay particular attention to the "documentation deficiencies" regarding BEL and seafood claims.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bill Cassidy's questionable billing - Lamar fills in more blanks

Paging Dr. Cassidy.....

Every election cycle I always get one or two stories fed to me that are clearly coming from opposition research done by one candidate on another.  I usually don't bother with them and just try to stick to the longer term stories I've been working on but last week I was delivered a dossier on current U.S. Representative for Louisiana's 6th district, Dr. Bill Cassidy, that called into question his tenure and billing practices to LSU's Health and Sciences Center...

....quite frankly....it irked me.

Here are some documents I received.  I haven't had the chance to scan them all yet but they are public so use them at will:

Cassidy LSU timesheets...or lack thereof

Cassidy LSU workforce documents

Cassidy hours overlapping with time spent as congressman

This particular report was so well researched and sourced....it was hard to ignore.  I read it from top to bottom and I still don't understand all the ethical issues but there are many.

Who is Bill Cassidy?   

Cassidy, an Illinois native (Chicago suburb),  has been employed by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center  (LSUHSC) since before he won his House seat in 2008.  He won that seat by beating out Don Cazayoux for the 6th District seat.

Shortly after Bill Cassidy made his way into the Beltway, the terms of his employment and tenure at LSUHSC began to be called into question by LSU accountants and administrators.  It seems top-level folks in the LSUHSC were confused at to Dr. Cassidy's position with the public institution and exactly what he was being paid for.

Cassidy wrote a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics to approve his position with LSUHSC.  He wanted to keep some level of income flowing from his LSU employment to supplement his salary as a congressman....$174,000/year.

I don't blame him.....he'd been employed by LSUHSC, prior to his election to Congress, at a base salary of $96,156.  That may not sound like much but he was also pulling in an additional $238.581 ( taxpayer generated income...) through various public/state revenue streams.  

A U.S. Rep can hold "side-jobs" as long as the House Committee on Ethics approves the situation and the congressman meets the rigid standards required by Committee laws to ensure there are no conflicts of interests or opportunities for kickbacks by employers, contractors, institutions, etc.

There should be no quid pro quo directly or by circuitous route.

Can congressmen moonlight?

Cassidy's side work for LSUHSC was, in fact, cleared by the Ethics Committee in May of 2010:

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics approval on Dr. William Cassidy's employment at LSUHSC

The response from the House Ethics Commitee (public record) spells out a number of regulations specific to Cassidy's situation including a mandate that Congressmen may not exceed an annual earned income limit of $26,550.  The letter also addresses the amount of time Cassidy would spend working on his side-job and the physical commitments it would require for him to serve as both a practicing physician for LSUHSC vis-a-vis a congressman representing the Gret Stet.

Aside from addressing the potential conflicts it would raise for LSUHSC, the letter from the Ethics Committee states that Cassidy's position with LSUHSC "... requires a time commitment of approximately 16 hours per month and pays a monthly stipend of $2,000."

One can only assume this was the time and amount listed by Cassidy himself in his original letter to the Ethics Committee when requesting approval.

The problem is that his declaration of time/money may not be true.

Time ≠ Money?

Here's where all the trouble starts and this is why I decided to write this post...after looking at these records it appears that Bill Cassidy may be, yet, one more Louisiana politician sucking the public teat without actually doing that much, if anything.  Let me lay it out for you and you be the judge.

From LSUHSC's standpoint, it looks like they bent over backwards and even bypassed their own regulations to keep Cassidy on salary.  They even granted him tenure.

The dossier contains a chain of emails between LSUHSC administrative officials attempting to sort out exactly how much they are going to continue to pay Cassidy and how many hours he will work.

LSUHSC email chain regarding Rep. Cassidy's position after being elected to Congress

Of note in this email correspondence is the query LSUHSC Business Manager, William T. Livings, sent out to LSUHSC brass trying to find out exactly what Dr. Bill was doing for the institution and what they were paying him for....:
" I could make up some semblance of what I think his duties could be, but, in this case, given his status as a U. Congressman, I think it would be prudent from our perspective if I knew exactly what it is yall expect from him for his one day per week (20%). Is he to provide simple clinic services, GI services, endoscopies, HIV services, etc.? What happens to his clinical trials? Is he to provide services at the private clinic? I wouldnt think so given that I cant reimburse him for those services anyway since those collections payments would put him over the 25,000 threshold and auditors are going to want to know exactly what it is he is doing for us (EKLMC; LSUHSC) for the 20,000 Base pay we give him annually. We are going to really have to spell out exactly what it is he does for us for his remuneration from us. Believe me, this scenario will be a very auditable item and I feel they will really hone in on this situation to make sure we are meeting all federal and state
regulations. Thanks." What exactly was he doing for LSUHSC that warranted the 24 thousand bucks a year for 5 years? I've reached out to Cassidy's campaign to try and get an explanation but so far he hasn't responded to me.

What's really interesting is that he told the House Ethics Committee that he was only working for LSUHSC for...

- 16 hours a month/ 4 hours a week

...but he billed LSUHSC for "roughly" ...

- 30 hours a month/7.5 hours a week

....twice the amount of hours he told the House Ethics Committee he was working.  

It appears he told the House Ethics Committee a lie. I don't know for sure but in order for him to accommodate the minimum amount of hours he needed to work for LSUHSC and make his $1,666/ a month, he may have had to lie about his work hours to Congress. It appears he either lied to LSU or to the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics in order to pull down that extra Louisiana taxpayers' cash...I hope he will explain this to the public.  

What's more important to me is that even if he did lie to the House Ethics Committee it looks like LSU bent over backwards to accommodate him as an official staff member and pay him for doing....something on the internet...for 8 hours a week. WTF?  

LSU even maintained his tenure in spite of the fact that he was working at a 20% "LOE" (level of effort). According to LSU's rules, Cassidy should have lost his tenure when he took on the job as a congressman. They either held their nose or, even worse, genuflected in order to keep "Dr. Bill" on staff and on payroll.

There's still a ton of shady stuff going on with his billing to LSU vis-a-vis his time spent on the floor of the House that I haven't gotten to yet. I'm looking into but I don't have all the documents and I need to understand it more before I post.....stay tuned...I'm working on all of this and more importantly so is my brutha Cenlamar.  

This ain't no partisan hit, btw...this is an autopsy.