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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.
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.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 13:50