Cockroaches and politicians: you can’t get rid of either one; an up close examination of some recent political patronage
February 8, 2012 by tomaswell
The obvious similarity between a cockroach and a career politician is that you can never get rid of either one.
Take Noble Ellington, for example.
Or Jane Smith.
Or Ricky Hardy.
Or Henry “Tank” Powell.
Or M.J. “Mert” Smiley.
Or what seems like the entire Teepell family or anyone connected to Timmy Teepell.
If the supporters of Piyush Jindal don’t realize that he is every bit the political opportunist that any of his predecessors were, that his political morals are no better than any other Louisiana politician who ever got himself elected, then there is little to no hope for this state.
We’ll get back to the governor’s appointees but first let’s take a look at the $150,000 man with no qualifications and no experience.
Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon on Tuesday announced that Ellington, who spent 24 years in the state legislature, flip-flopping from state senator to state representative as term limits dictated, joined the department as its number-two man last week at a salary of $150,000 per year.
Ellington served on the Louisiana House Insurance Committee for the past four years, “but that is the extent of his insurance involvement to my knowledge,” said Donelon.
Let that soak in: “That is the extent of his insurance involvement.”
Let this soak in as well: $150,000 per year to serve as the second in command of the state’s sprawling Insurance Department.
For the thousands of state civil service who may find themselves having to work longer to qualify for retirement and who may have to take a five-year average earnings as the formula on which to base retirement income if Jindal’s retirement legislation package passes, let this soak in, too:
You can take comfort in the knowledge that Ellington will draw a much fatter state retirement now that he’s drawing $150 thou per year as opposed to his 24-year legislative salary because $150,000 as a base for the next four years will pretty much set him up for life.
It’s no coincidence that Ellington landed on his feet this way after opting not to seek re-election last fall. He is the national immediate past president of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and he hosted ALEC’s national convention in New Orleans last August.
ALEC, you might remember, is the national organization funded largely by the Koch brothers as well as a host of national corporation that boasts of its membership about a third of state legislators from all 50 states that sets the agenda for state legislation from prison privatization to charter schools to suspension of state employee pay raises to privatization of state employee health insurance, group benefits, risk management, Medicaid, the abolishment of state civil service and/or state employee unions and anything else that can cost state employees their jobs.
Finally, you can let these pearls of wisdom from Donelon regarding Ellington’s hiring soak in: “I’m very pleased that Noble made himself available for more public service.”
Wait. What? What self-serving politician has ever not made himself available for more public service, especially at $150,000 per year?
Donelon went on to say, “He brings a wealth of experience from his service in the legislature. I especially appreciate his expertise in issues affecting rural parts of the state.”
Okay, first of all, Donelon admitted that Ellington had little to no experience in the insurance field other than having served on the House Insurance Committee and then he turns right around to say he brings “a wealth of experience” to the table. What a crock. And exactly what expertise in issues affecting rural areas is applicable to the State Insurance Department?
Well, to be fair to Donelon’s possible motive, on Oct. 11, 2011, Ellington contributed $1,000 to Donelon’s re-election campaign.
Not that Donelon is alone is doling out political patronage.
Let’s take a look at some of the recent appointments by Piyush, the man who would counsel us to “do more with less.”
• Former State Rep. Jane Smith of Bossier City, ineligible for re-election because of term-limits and defeated in her own effort to flip-flop to the Senate, nevertheless landed a $107,500 per year position as deputy secretary of the Department of Revenue. Her qualifications for such a sensitive position were never enumerated.
• Former Reps. Ricky Hardy of Lafayette, who lost his re-election bid last fall, Henry “Tank” Powell of Ponchatoula, and M.J. “Mert” Smiley of St. Amant, were all appointed to part time positions as members of the State Pardon Board at $36,000 each.
It was Smiley who last spring, during the hearing on a $6.8 million amendment to the $68 million contract with F.A. Richard & Associates, the company that took over the privatization of the Office of Risk Management (ORM), who uttered one of the most bizarre questions to come out of any legislative hearing.
Hearing of the problem of ORM’s retaining employees who were leaving the agency for other jobs in anticipation of the phased-in privatization of the agency, Smiley asked ORM Assistant Director Patti Gonzales, “Isn’t there some way you can force them to stay?”
No, Mr. Smiley, not since the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
Smiley, by the way, will serve for only a year. It seems that after leaving the legislature, he ran for Ascension Parish tax assessor and somehow got himself elected but won’t take office until January of 2013. In the meantime, he needed a job and of course his impeccable qualifications made him the natural choice. For one year.
Other recent Jindal appointees:
• Former St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis, term-limited, bless his heart, was named director of the Governor’s Office on Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), a political patronage black hole;
• Former St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, who lost his re-election bid, had no need to worry because Jindal simply created a new position. He was appointed to lead the state’s hazard mitigation efforts in which capacity he will oversee programs that distribute money for elevating homes and making other improvements to residences and public infrastructure;
• Matt Parker, brother-in-law of Jindal’s former chief of staff and present political adviser Timmy Teepell, was hired as Jindal’s intergovernmental affairs director;
• Taylor Teepell, Timmy Teepell’s brother, was named as Jindal’s deputy legislative affairs director. Before that, he was director of the state Republican Party’s Victory Fund;
• Melissa Henderson Mann, Timmy Teepell’s former executive assistant, was named as the new legislative liaison for the Department of Transportation and Development.
Frank Collins, Jindal’s spokesman (paid in the capacity of some suitable title, we’re certain), assured all that the hiring and appointment decisions were made strictly on the basis of merit. Each and every one, he said, had the qualifications and experience needed for their new positions.
To borrow a phrase from an old friend, please Mr. Collins. Don’t urinate on our heads and try to tell us it’s raining.