LIVE WITH QUIN HILLYER: HEALTHCARE FOLDS

Thursday, 23 October 2014 11:00
Jindal appointees jump rudderless Louisiana ship as he floats to Washington?
Written by 

 Jindal-collageby Tom Aswell, Publisher of LouisianaVoice.com

Nearly seven years into his administration, it’s no surprise that Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa/New Hampshire/Florida—anywhere by Louisiana) would be losing many of his top appointees. After all, the ride is nearly over and they have to be looking for opportunities beyond the inevitable unemployment line once Jindal’s term ends in January of 2016.

 

A few left early on, barely two years in, causing raised eyebrows among some political observers. Lobbyist Luke Letlow bolted early from his position as Special Assistant and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs as did Ethics Administrator Richard Sherburne and Department of Transportation and Development (D)TD) Secretary William Ankner. Sherburne’s departure came after Jindal stripped the State Ethics Board of its adjudicatory authority, giving those responsibilities to a set of administrative law judges who have proved largely ineffective. Ankner left after a controversy arose over the awarding of a $60 million contract for a highway construction to high bidder Boh Brothers Construction.

Others, like Department of Health and Hospitals DHH) Secretary Bruce Greenstein and Office of Group Benefits (OGB) CEO Tommy Teague were shown the door—Teague for his reluctance to jump on board Jindal’s privatization train that ultimately carried OGB to the brink of bankruptcy before a controversial restructuring of OGB’s benefit package and Greenstein under the cloud of a federal investigation over the awarding of a contract by DHH to Greenstein’s former employer, CNSI. That cloud has since turned into a nine-count state grand jury indictment brought against Greenstein for perjury.

Still others bided their time until the right opportunities came along. Michael DiResto, a Jindal budget spokesman, left nearly 14 months ago to become Vice President for Economic Competitiveness for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and DNR Secretary Scott Angelle resigned to run for—and win—a seat on the Public Service Commission and recently announced he would be a candidate for governor next year.

And then there are those who walked for no apparent reason other than to get away from a struggling administration that has been virtually rudderless, thanks to a largely absent and detached governor. Jindal seems to be more preoccupied with running for president than completing his job, which he repeatedly called “the only job I ever wanted” before beginning his second term in 2012 and redirecting his attention from the Governor’s Mansion to the White House.

His first Commissioner of Administration, Angéle Davis, left shortly after attending a meeting in which Jindal’s then Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell directed Teague to draft a “tightly written” request for proposals (RFP) for a state employee health coverage plan in such a way that only one vendor would be qualified to bid. Vantage Health Plan of Monroe ultimately was awarded the $70 million contract.

Her successor, Paul Rainwater, was eventually moved over to serve as Jindal’s Chief of Staff but he, too, resigned last February without giving a reason other than to say he wanted to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

Another recent departure who did not explain her reason for leaving was Division of Administration (DOA) Executive Counsel Liz Murrill. Unconfirmed reports have surfaced, however, that she has confided to friends that she felt she could no longer legally carry out some of the duties assigned to her as the DOA attorney.

Over the ensuing 15 months left in Jindal’s floundering administration, there are certain to be other departures as appointees begin jockeying for positions in the private sector or attempt to latch onto the campaigns of candidates who have already announced for governor in the hope of landing another prestigious job in the next administration.

Among those we might expect to see jump ship between now and January 2016 include Jindal’s Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin, the governor’s Communications Director Mike Reed and Deputy Communications Director Shannon Bates, and perhaps even a few cabinet-level appointees, including Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols.

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