Archive for May, 2010

Bergeron Swarms on Sally, Regents


Louisiana News Link publisher and long-time Louisiana political consultant Patrick Bergeron makes a compelling legal argument that Sally Clausen is not now and has not been Commissioner of Higher Education since her retirement last August.

by Pat Bergeron, Category 5 Communications

The most important component of the ‘Clausen Cover Up’ occurred when Dr. Clausen retired and was hired back. How was she hired back, if she was no longer the Commissioner? She certainly couldn’t do it herself, she was no longer the Commissioner. Clearly, the Board of Regents (in an open public meeting) is the only entity that could legally hire her back! Underlings Donnie Vandal and Kim Hunter Reed have absolutely no standing or legal authority to hire a Commissioner of Higher Education. It is our contention that Dr. Clausen is not (legally) the Commissioner of Higher Education today and has not been since she retired last August. Which begs several intriguing questions that may only be answered by the courts. In this instance both federal and state laws may have been violated. The board, as the sole hiring authority, has a stringent legal obligation to advertise this position as vacant and all potential candidates should be allowed to compete. Obviously, the Board (if they knew of Clausen’s retirement) broke the law (that demands equal opportunity of employment) by not advertising and interviewing candidates prior to filling the open position.

Looks to us like very sound logic.


Mr. Beam on Regents, Sally – Again!


Mr. Jim Beam of The (Lake Charles) American Press has weighed in again on the Sally Clausen retire/rehire flap and the Board of Regents.

Regents’ credibility on the line

Two bills are making their way through the current legislative session that give more power and authority to the Louisiana Board of Regents, the coordinating agency for all higher education in the state. Most observers believe that is a step that is long overdue.

Unfortunately, the news about both measures comes at a particularly awkward time for members of the board. They recently had to confront the fact that Sally Clausen, their commissioner of higher education, had retired and been rehired, reportedly without their knowledge.

I say reportedly because there is always the possibility one or more of the regents may have known about both actions but haven’t had the courage to come forward and say so.


Secret meeting

The board went behind closed doors for three hours last week to try and repair the damage. When members emerged, the board’s policy was changed to say it has to be notified any time a staff member retires and the board has to sign off before a retiree can be rehired.

Regents weren’t interested in going into detail about what happened behind closed doors. They said they would delve deeper into this issue after the legislative session ends June 21.

Finally, he says,

Don’t get distracted

Yes, there is a lot on the higher education plate. But nothing should detract from the need to do something about this retire-rehire problem. It needs to be addressed by the Legislature before it becomes more abused by state and local agencies.

The law was originally aimed at rehiring teachers in critical areas like math and science. However, it has become a free ticket to pad already-outrageous salaries of some high-ranking public servants.

If the commissioner of higher education can retire and be rehired by subordinates, has a similar situation occurred in other state agencies? Could it still happen?

From Louisiana News Link, we have two pieces.



Sports Subsidies and La. Higher Ed


Part of the debate over taxpayer funding of higher education is the question of where the money goes within the schools. Some of the money goes to subsidize athletic programs.

We are not suggesting that money for athletics be cut or increased. But we do think the public is entitled to know where its tax money is spent. A favorite phrase used during budget negotiation is “everything is on the table.” We agree and that’s why we are posting this information. It is data that likely never will be printed by The (BR) Advocate or by Louisiana’s Gannett papers.

In the four years between academic years 2004-2005 and 2008-2009, direct institutional support for athletic programs increased 58%, according to USA Today’s searchable database. These figures do not include indirect support for facilities and administration.

Here is a spreadsheet with the numbers for Louisiana’s public universities. LSU is not included, as its athletic program is self-sustaining.

More Sally Stuff


A couple or three columns and letter to the editor about the Sally Clausen flap.

Your Mail: Clausen a thief

I can’t ever remember an article that I ever read that’s gotten my blood to boil such as the one on May 21 about “Sally Clausen retriement boosts pay.”

What can she possibly do to earn $425,000 when our state is going to close some of our colleges for lack of funds?

Why should the Board of Regents, whom all should be fired, let this issue slip by?

Regents still have work to do

The Louisiana Board of Regents is trying to get the egg off of its face, but if Wednesday’s quick wipe is all that we get, it’s likely to walk away with a permanent stain.

Still reeling from the embarrassment of Sally Clausen’s secret one-day retirement, the regents took some positive steps this week, changing policies to require board notification of any staff retirements and requiring rehires to be approved by the full board.

A “comprehensive” review of all regulations has been promised as well.

Equally discouraging was their reluctance to speak openly to the public after the three-hour closed meeting. One would think that restoring public confidence would require that someone will come out and speak, you know, to the public.

Regents now less credible

Sally Clausen’s recently revealed retirement gambit from the Louisiana Board of Regents is profoundly disappointing to us, especially because she is a career public servant whose past leadership has served our region well.

Her explanations for her actions — she says she did not know the full scope of the benefits that would come her way by retiring — seem to fall short of fully truthful. Her lack of disclosure to the board that hired her and is supposed to supervise her has embarrassed its members, pointing to needs for policy changes.

Likewise, we are surprised the regents could be so unaware of the actions of their own employee. This week, regents emerged from a three-hour closed door meeting with Clausen and had little to say. That’s ominous in itself; after so much secrecy, the regents themselves, along with their commissioner, have some explaining to do.

St Helena Parish Schools/Kansas City Schools


In researching the St. Helena Parish schools and the recent threat by U. S. District Judge “Diamond” Jim Brady to unilaterally impose taxes on parish residents, the issue of the Kansas City, MO schools (Missouri v Jenkins) has been mentioned. Supposedly, this would be the authority under which Brady could rule.

The Kansas City experiment was a colossal charlie foxtrot that cost taxpayers some $2 billion.

From Money And School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment, by Paul Ciotti.

To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

More history on the case can be found in this book online.

Complex justice: the case of Missouri v. Jenkins, by Joshua M. Dunn.

La. Higher Ed Cabal Went “A Bridge Too Far”


The Louisiana higher education bureaucracy made a strategic mistake in their efforts to prevent budget cuts this year. They chose to squeal loudly on TV and in newspapers at any suggestion they might economize or live within their means, rather than work with the legislature to find common ground.

The proper analogy is WWII’s operation Market Garden, where British Gen. Bernard Montgomery lost the battle by trying to capture an objective that was too far behind the lines.

For a year and more Higher Ed has tried the strategy that in the past has worked well. No more. What goodwill they had with the legislature and the taxpayers is now gone. Every editorial, every TV appearance caused legislator’s phones to ring. That can only work for so long before the senators and representatives get tired of ass-chewings and try to get even.

We are at that point. Higher ed has shot all its bullets and missed the target. Now the legislature will shoot back.

Regents Shut Barn Door; Horse Long Gone


Louisiana’s Board of Regents yesterday set new rules that are designed to prevent what happened last year when Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen effectively re-hired herself.

From The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

A Louisiana Board of Regents committee adopted new personnel policies Wednesday in the wake of state Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen’s secretive retirement and rehiring last year.

The decision came at the end of a three-hour, closed Regents session to discuss Clausen’s actions and job performance.

Regents members, who oversee higher education policy, also did not offer a vote of confidence for Clausen, noting that more issues could be addressed after the ongoing legislative session ends June 21.

“Any related personnel issues will be addressed after the session,” said Regent Maurice Durbin, of Denham Springs, who chairs the personnel committee.

From The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune

Obviously not happy with the one-day retirement last year by Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen, the Board of Regents revised its personnel policies Wednesday to ensure that a similar thing doesn’t happen again.

The new policy, adopted after a three-hour, closed-door meeting of the board’s personnel committee, says that the board must be notified any time a staff member retires, and that the board has to sign off before a retiree can be rehired.

The committee also voted to conduct a “comprehensive review” of all personnel policies and procedures.

The decision came after Clausen failed to notify the board when she took retirement Aug. 1, only to come back to her $425,000-a-year position after missing just one day of work. The move entitled Clausen to more than $90,000 in unused vacation and sick leave, plus a $146,000 annual pension that she can begin collecting in August.

More Names Surface for ULM President


Two more names have surfaced that are potential competitors for the President of the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM).

Kim Hunter Reed, Chief of Staff for the Board of Regents is one. The other is Nick Bruno, University of Louisiana System (ULS) Vice President for Business and Finance.

Reed is a former TV reporter and was Press Secretary to now-jailed former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards. She also signed the paperwork that allowed Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen to re-hire herself after retiring one day previously.

Bruno is said to have been one of the masterminds behind the $70 million construction project at ULM that was paid for with bonds that have yet to come due.

Rep. Frank A. “Butch” Hoffmann, Ed.D

The consensus of informed insiders is that today’s News-Star opinion piece by Louisiana House District Fifteen Rep. Frank “Butch” Hoffman is his effort to keep his name front-and-center for the ULM slot.

LPNO had two weeks ago reported that Hoffman might be interested in the job.

Pinsonat Whacks Sally Upside the Head


Long-time Louisiana political commentator and pollster Bernie Pinsonat has joined the Sally Clausen dust-up.

If anyone in Louisiana is looking for leadership and a moral compass, don’t look for the Board Of Regents to provide either! This board is now the poster child for bad government. To allow Sally Clausen to continue as the so called Commissioner of Higher education for the State of Louisiana is mindboggling to say the least!

Clausen quits her job and then is rehired by her assistant. I believe this action was illegal. When Sally Clausen quit, the board has a legal duty to advertise that this position in open and all candidates should be allowed to apply and compete. If not, this board is breaking laws that demand equal opportunity of employment. Board chairman Artis Terrell of Shreveport makes the dumbest political statement of the century as he says this “ were being very thorough and we do not want to jump the gun”!

See the rest of the commentary at The Dead Pelican.

Sally, Go ‘Round The Roses


Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen’s controversial move of re-hiring herself continues to make news. From The (Baton Rouge) Advocate today:

The Louisiana Board of Regents plans to discuss today possible policy changes in the wake of state Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen’s retirement and rehiring last year.

The Board of Regents also is leaving open the option of going into closed, executive session to discuss Clausen’s actions and job performance.

But Regents Chairman Artis Terrell, of Shreveport, said Tuesday that any major decisions are unlikely.

“We’re being very thorough,” Terrell said. “We don’t want to jump the gun.”

He said rushed decisions should be avoided that could make both Clausen and the Board of Regents look bad.