Tuesday, 03 January 2012 18:13

Louisiana Gov. Jindal Administration Changes Draw Little Attention

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louisiana_capitolIt is a long-held tradition at all levels of government that anytime an agency does not want attention drawn to any official action, make the announcement late on a Friday afternoon when most of the “working” media have left for the weekend.

If that Friday just happens to be on the eve of a major holiday like Christmas or New Year’s, so much the better.

 That’s what happened with the Division of Administration (DOA) and two news releases about major personnel changes recently. We waited until now to assist DOA in disseminating the stories.

DOA actually issued its official announcements not on Fridays but toward the close of business on Thursday, Dec. 22, and Thursday, Dec. 29 because, well, both Fridays were official state holidays for Christmas and New Year’s, respectively. It had the same effect, of course, as a Friday release on a normal work week: near zero media attention and less than zero media follow-up.

On Thursday, Dec. 22, the official news release went out announcing the appointment of Charles Calvi, Jr., to serve as Chief Executive Officer of the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits (OGB).

The following Thursday, on Dec. 29, it was announced that Mark Brady was leaving as DOA Deputy Commissioner of Administration.

Both announcements were made by Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater.

Actually, the second news release was not so much to announce Brady’s departure as to proclaim the appointment of Assistant Commissioner Ray Stockstill as his successor. In fact, Rainwater devoted precisely two sentences to Brady:

“Rainwater also thanked and praised outgoing Deputy Commissioner Mark Brady, who will assist the Division in transition through January before returning to the private sector,” the news release said. The release quoted Rainwater as saying, “‘Mark’s contribution has been invaluable, and I am grateful for the integrity, intelligence, and passion that he brought to the job and that I’m sure will serve him well in his next endeavors.’”

That’s it. Nothing about his tenure at DOA, nothing about his previous background, nothing about his reasons for leaving or his future plans except that he was “returning to the private sector.”

There were no mentions of the previous two OGB CEOs, both of whom left or were fired in 2011. Nor was there any explanation of how the two moves may be inter-connected or how Brady was at the forefront of last spring’s efforts to sell off OGB to private investors.

Tommy Teague was fired by Brady last April 15 when Brady and Rainwater concluded that Teague was not sufficiently enthusiastic about the administration’s proposed selloff of group benefits and its $500 million surplus.

He was replaced by Scott Kipper, who resigned effective June 24, after a controversial report by Chaffe & Associates of New Orleans did not square up with the administration’s insistence that the OGB sale and accompanying elimination of 149 jobs would be good for the state, 62,000 state employees and even more retirees and dependents.

When the Chaffe report did not say what Gov. Jindal desired, the administration subsequently retained Morgan Keegan to conduct a financial analysis of OGB preparatory to a second effort to sell off the agency despite vocal opposition from retired state employees, retired teachers and a state district judges’ association.

The Morgan Keegan report is expected to be finalized and submitted to the state in February but if events play out the way they did with the Chaffe report, don’t expect Rainwater to be forthcoming with contents of the report. Rainwater, despite harsh criticism from legislators, steadfastly refused to release the Chaffe report to lawmakers.

Rainwater did not hesitate to throw Brady under the bus during Brady’s testimony before the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. Committee members, lead by Sen. Ed Murray, subjected Brady to withering criticism over the administration’s refusal to release the report as Rainwater busied himself texting even as Brady twisted in the wind.

Following the Chaffe debacle and Jindal’s embarrassing setback in his efforts to sell three state prisons, the administration pulled back on its privatizing efforts. In the interim, the Office of Risk Management (ORM) has been transferred to a third private firm in apparent violation of the state’s contract with F.A. Richard & Associates (FARA).

The state paid FARA $68 million to take ORM off its hands and then amended that contract by another $6.8 million less than two weeks before FARA was sold to Avizent Risk Management Solutions of Ohio which was in turn recently purchased by York Claims Service of New York.

The state’s original contract with FARA specifically prohibits any transfer of contractual services without prior written consent. When a public records request was made for written consent to transfer the contract, DOA responded that no such documents exist.

Rainwater announced nothing further will be done toward the sale of OGB until early 2013. And while OGB proposed a rate increase of about three percent for the coming year, the administration insisted on at least a five percent bump. The bigger increase will obviously make the agency far more attractive to potential buyers.

Calvi has more than 40 years of experience in the healthcare, insurance and employee benefits fields. For seven years he worked for Gulf South Health Plan. He also worked eight years as CEO of BestCare, Inc., where he developed and owned the first Physician Hospital Network in the state.

Stockstill is a retire-rehire employee who had previously worked in DOA as state director for planning and budget until being named assistant commissioner in February of 2010. He retired from that $180,000 per year position, effective Christmas Day of 2010 and returned as a re-hire two days later.

by Tom Aswell, Publisher of Louisiana Voice

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