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Jindal's Violation: Horse Not Dead, More Beating Needed
If Gov. Bobby Jindal thought the flap over the payment of his campaign finance violation was put to rest during last month's special session on ethics reform, he's sadly mistaken. Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard , I-Thibodaux, is pushing legislation to prohibit the use of campaign funds to pay fines, fees or penalties assessed in relation to a campaign finance or lobbying violation. While not aimed expressly at the GOP governor, Richard's House Bill 277 will certainly dredge up a few comparisons or anecdotal references. Jindal's campaign failed to report in a timely manner an $118,000 in-kind donation from the Louisiana Republican Party last year. Rolfe McCollister Jr. , a Baton Rouge publisher and Jindal's campaign treasurer, has vowed to personally pay the anticipated fine, which could reach as high as $2,500. Such third-party payments caused a ruckus during the special session, with lawmakers voting to ban the practice. Richard's bill would extend the ban to a candidate's campaign fund and thereby make individual candidates personally responsible for all ethics fines. — Alford

 

Waldron Says He'll Retire
Veteran Criminal Court Judge Dennis Waldron will retire at the end of his current term, creating another open judgeship at Tulane and Broad for this fall's courthouse elections. Waldron's term ends Dec. 31. A former first assistant DA under Harry Connick, Waldron was first elected to the bench in 1982. He is known in legal circles for keeping abreast of the latest appellate and Supreme Court rulings in the areas of criminal law and procedure — at both the state and federal levels — on a weekly basis. "I still read the "slip opinions' every week, and I have a series of boxes containing note cards with all my notes on them," Waldron tells Gambit Weekly. "I don't use a law clerk, and I don't use Westlaw — because I don't know how to use a computer. I call my set of boxes "Wald-law' instead of Westlaw, and I plan to continue reading the slips for as long as I can." Waldron also taught criminal law and procedure at Loyola Law School for 19 years and criminal justice to undergraduates at Loyola University for 27 years. Even more impressive, he hasn't missed a single day on the bench for illness, nor has he ever been known to start court late. "I hope to go out with a record for perfect attendance and promptness," he says. — DuBos

 

IM, IG and NOPD
The public may finally get a watchdog for the New Orleans Police Department — six years after a task force appointed by outgoing Mayor Marc Morial formally pitched the idea to incoming "reformers" at City Hall. Councilman James Carter and city Inspector General Robert Cerasoli are jointly drafting an ordinance to place a NOPD Independent Monitor under Cerasoli's fledgling agency. Duties of the "IM" will be spelled out in the proposed ordinance. The IG's $3.4 million annual budget allocates $250,000 toward hiring an independent monitor and two assistants. "We'll probably have to use more money out of my budget because $250,000 isn't enough," Cerasoli says. Civil rights attorney Mary Howell and other activists have called for an independent monitor to review police policies and practices since 1996. In 2001, Morial appointed a task force, led by then-Councilman Marlin Gusman , to explore the concept after a controversial police killing in Algiers. After months of study, the task force in 2002 supported the concept of an IM over a police-civilian review board. Despite strong public support, the proposal languished under Mayor Ray Nagin , then regained momentum under a new City Council in 2006. — Johnson

 

Information, Please!
"There is a lot of information that is public information that is not getting out (to the public)," says city Inspector General Robert Cerasoli . The head of the new watchdog agency says he wants to work with City Attorney Penya Moses-Field to resolve the longstanding problem, which predates Hurricane Katrina. "I have to sit down with the city attorney and figure out where the jam-up is coming from," Cerasoli says. The IG says Moses-Field has already told him she needs more attorneys to review the constant flow of written requests for city documents, but antiquated record-keeping in other city departments may be gumming up the process. Since arriving last August, Cerasoli says, he has heard complaints from citizens and media about written requests for police reports and other public records going unanswered. State public-records laws require public officials and agencies to make all public records "immediately available" upon request if the requested records are not in use. If a government official raises a question about whether the requested information is a public record, the government must respond in writing to the request within three business days. — Johnson

 

Gold Standard for Records
Because Gov. Bobby Jindal "s focus during the current legislative session is workforce development, one could easily miss his $18 million commitment to help physicians and rural hospitals switch to electronic medical records. The challenges associated with paper documents became particularly acute during the 2005 storm season when wind and floodwaters destroyed medical records that can mean the difference between life and death for seriously ill patients. Between disasters, antiquated recordkeeping can still prove disastrous. Studies show that as many as 100,000 Americans die every year from avoidable medical errors. Meanwhile, nurses spend hours filling out or chasing down paperwork when they could be providing care. "The development of the Louisiana Health Information Exchange will provide a seamless flow of patient data from hospitals, insurance companies and physicians across the state to ensure the highest level of patient care," Jindal says. Despite being a priority at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals for several years, fewer than 10 percent of hospitals nationwide have even begun to implement similar health-information technology, according to the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. — Alford

 

NOPD's 371 "Tasks"
New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley says NOPD has completed 60 percent of 371 "tasks" required by the Brown Plan, a highly touted community policing strategy the department unveiled last July to restore public confidence. The remaining 40 percent will take longer because more money, personnel and facilities are needed, Riley says, adding, "Once we get up to our full strength in personnel and technology, those things will be implemented." The chief says he will provide more details on the Brown Plan in the coming weeks. Expansion of neighborhood foot patrols — easily the most popular component of community policing — will have to wait until NOPD can hire more officers. NOPD is down some 300 cops from a pre-Katrina "high" of 1,741 officers. Thanks to pay raises and bonuses for specialized training and educational advancement, NOPD is no longer hemorrhaging cops. Named for private consultant Lee Brown , the plan cost roughly $225,000, which the private New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation paid. "The plan is comprehensive in that it provides recommendations for improvement in all areas of operations," says Heidi Unter , the foundation's chief operating officer. Riley announced the study shortly after thousands of crime-weary citizens marched on City Hall on Jan. 11, 2007. — Johnson

 

When the Police Listen
Much of the NOPD's Brown Plan involves technical recommendations such as upgrading police vehicles, which the study calls "the rolling storefronts" of the force. On another front, NOPD and area ministers are expected to kick off a more visible effort — a youth mentoring program in crime-riddled Central City. "We're going to use our crime prevention officers as mentors in those areas [and] try to pull those kids off the street, get them involved in some positive activities, from educational activities to sports activities," Police Chief Warren Riley says. The chief later added: "We're focusing on Central City because we're certainly having some problems with the youth in that community." Community activists have long complained about police harassment of neighborhood youths, especially those sporting dreadlocks and baggy pants. The Brown Plan encourages cops to work with community members to resolve problems and to set priorities. NOPD Lt. Gervais Allison Sr. , an 18-year veteran of the force, is the department's point man for the effort. Pastors include Rev. John Raphael , a former NOPD officer. — Johnson

Kiss Retirement Goodbye
The chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee wants to take another shot at stripping elected officials of certain retirement benefits if they're convicted of a crime related to their office. A similar measure was debated during the ethics special session in February but failed to win approval. Opposition stemmed in part from the severity of the proposal, with lawmakers worrying that innocent spouses and children might wind up paying for someone else's sins. Sen. Butch Gautreaux , D-Morgan City, says his revised proposal, Senate Bill 27, would garnish only a portion of the convicted official's retirement — enough to cover the cost of their incarceration or any related fines, penalties or restitution. "We don't want to jeopardize any families or leave them destitute just because a public official makes a mistake," Gautreaux says. "It's also in line with what many other states are already doing, so we know it can be done successfully." Gautreaux admits that his most substantial challenge may be convincing the state's four major retirement systems not to oppose the bill. — Alford

UL Using YouTube
It has been used to embarrass Tom Cruise float ideas for campaign commercials. Now the University of Louisiana System's board of supervisors is using YouTube as an electronic press release system. It has its own page set up at www.youtube.com/ulsystem. An early posting included comments from all eight of the system's college presidents on workforce issues as well as information about a new online resource for students and parents. The latter is called "College Portraits" and contains information on a variety of topics such as cost of attendance, degree offerings and campus safety. The UL System is the first in the country to launch such a program. "The public will be able to track our progress using the new online tool," says UL System President Sally Clausen . "The College Portraits are an important step in the UL System's commitment to transparency." — Alford

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