Search This Blog


Appointee embarrassment try leaves questions unanswered

Apparently, there’s a backstory to the dramatic testimony given by a Gov. Bobby Jindal administrative appointee that shows a lack of honor of her part and perhaps indicative an orchestrated effort to try to embarrass her former boss of three levels up and/or leading to further questions about her former office’s role.

Martha Manuel formerly headed up the Governor’s Office on Elderly Affairs, until today when she was canned as a result of casting doubt on the utility of a switch of her office overseeing program deliveries through Councils on Aging. The Jindal Administration wishes to have the Department of Health and Hospitals take over that role, which makes some sense as there is an ongoing consolidation of programs to serve the elderly with those of the disabled, which DHH oversees. It also says more federal funding would be available by this reorganization.

But announcement of the move, as part of the budgetary process, set off consternation among the various COAs. And then Manuel sprung the surprise when, in front of the House Appropriations Committee, which meets prior to the session to start work on the budget, she opined negatively about the shift.

That this happened presents a rarely-viewed vignette into the operations of executive branch politics. If she had doubts about the plan, which she has known of for at least a couple of weeks, she should have made inquiries with Jindal or at least with her boss two levels up, Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater. If afterwards she felt he could not support the plan, then the honorable thing to do would have been to resign before hearings began. In fact, Rainwater had been present at the hearings but left before her testimony, so she certainly did not lack opportunity to do the honorable thing.

Yet, curiously, she spoke of repeated attempts to contact her Monday night – hours before the hearing – by the Governor’s Office, which she ignored. Did they suspect something was going to happen? Why wasn’t she pulled aside Tuesday and removed from the lineup if that were the case? (The original news story reported erroneously that she received calls from the Governor's office Monday night, which she ignored. A later version of the story corrects that to Tuesday night.)

However, the most curious aspect of the incident was her refusal to resign and then going against her employer, knowing full well what the consequences would be. She must know she’ll never get a political job in a Republican administration, or perhaps for any Republican officeholder in any capacity, because she demonstrated unprofessionalism in her job designed to obstruct her employer’s agenda. Admittedly, that may occur regularly among many classified, merit employees in bureaucracy, but always surreptitiously, never admitted, and comforted by merit protections from being fired – not by an at-will employee in an open, brazen fashion. Yes, she probably could figure she would be out of a job anyway in a few months with the transfer, but why sabotage your reputation in this fashion?

So the question remains, why would such unprofessional behavior occur with its high attendant costs? Was it that she decided she could get some other kind of reward by making this highly unusual scene? Had she gotten into contact with Jindal opponents such as state Rep. James Armes, a frequent Jindal critic, who teed up the question to her during the meeting? Perhaps we’ll have those answers if, in short order, we discover some person or organization usually opposed to Jindal, or, more generally, to Republicans and/or conservatism, hires her for something.

One final question deserves a hearing as well: about the only opposition concerning the change is from the interest embedded in the current arrangement, the COAs. AARP, for example, issued a letter completely supporting the switch. Why are they so exercised over what appears to be a routine bookkeeping maneuver? Is there something really behind the scenes, that it would be in the public’s interest in knowing, that makes the present relationship so sacrosanct to the COAs that they would go to the wall to preserve it? And, if so, is that something that serves a public interest, or a special interest the beneficiaries of which feel they must hide?


Anonymous said...

Another BLATANT demonization, assassination (by words) of an individual who had the courage of her convictions, brought to you by Prof. Sadow.

What a huge, sweltering pile of apologetic baloney and trying to change the topic.

You have no shame.

Why don't you come to Baton Rouge and go to the table at the risk of losing your job to voice support of something the Governor opposes - if there is such a thing.

Do you vaguely remember the First Amendment? Do you understand the Legislative process? Or, do you just not care?

Here is one vote that you seriously owe this lady one gigantic apology!

Anonymous said...

I sincerely feel sorry for your students.

What a fine role model you present!

Anonymous said...

Free speech and transparency in government - being trampled and ridiculed by our Governor. And, you apparently are supporting it all.

Per C.B.Forgotson this morning about this matter:

"Jindal's firing of Manuel sends a chilling message to any public servant who may find themselves before a lege committee."

"If leges want candor from state public servants they should address this matter of summarily firing Manuel. Otherwise, there is no need to ask them to testify before the committees."

"The failure to address this type of action by the governor will result in testimony before the lege committee that is not to be believed or merely a reguurtitation of the governor's position. The leges would do better to simply contact the governor's press office and get a statement on any matter dealing with state government. At least that won't jeopardize a public employee's livelihood."

"Overall, this action of Bobby Jindal will result in less transparency into how our government operates."

You obviously disagree. TELL ALL YOUR READERS WHY!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

How is the world can you write this stuff and expect people to think you are serious and knowledgeable?

Do you know Ms. Manuel? Have you attempted to meet her and talk to her? Do you do any due dilegence before you write these pieces of bad fiction?

Do you teach your students that they should do adequate due diligence before taking positions like you do?

I doubt it; how could you after a piece like this.

Anonymous said...

Do you know that witnesses before the Legislative committees now have to testify under penalties of perjury?

You should.

Are you suggesting that this lady committed perjury?

If not, what are you suggesting?

I think answers are required (if you have any backbone at all).

Jeff Sadow said...

It's disturbing to see the lack of critical thinking and astounding ignorance expressed in these comments.

How have Manuel's First Amendment rights been circumscribed in any way? She has many fora she may use to exercise this right. For example, she could have resigned and then written an opinion piece. The anti-Jindal media in this state not only would have run it gratefully, but probably on the front page with a 72-pt. head. Show me in the Constitution where you are guaranteed employment in an at-will job. And recall that all she has to say on this matter is opinion -- many others have disputed her assessment, such as AARP.

The commenters, who obviously let their emotions run wild over their intellects, if they have any brains at all, cannot keep their minds on the subject of the post. It said nothing about the appropriateness of the firing, just that it is perfectly legal and, in the world of government (and any other organization, for that matter) if a subordinate hired for policy direction is not in agreement with the head honchos on policy, to act professionally you either suck it up and go along or resign. That she chose not to is the real story here, and what her motivations could be is the interesting question.

I do hope these commenters aren't fellow state employees or teachers. If so, that explains a lot as to why we are in such a sad state in this state.

Anonymous said...

Again, Prof. Sadow, you obviously are more interested in demeaning Ms. Manuel that the chilling effect of what has occurred.

And, again, your purported response to your critics does not respond to your critics. Not surprising.

Anonymous said...

You have now succeeded in bashing all state employees and teachers in your futile attempt to change the subject (in trying to defend your incredible musings).

Think about that for a while.

What do you tell your students?