Louisiana Voice: Imaginary Letter from Governor John Bel Edwards

Graft, Lies & Politics: A Monument to Corruption.

November 12, 2017 by Tom Aswell (Louisiana Voice)

Following is something I dreamed up in my spare time. It’s a fantasy that, unfortunately, I know will never happen. But still, we can dream. This is an imaginary letter from the governor to all cabinet members and department heads that would do so much to burnish his—or any governor’s—image. Like I said, it’ll never happen:

From: Office of the Governor 
Sent: Monday, November 13, 2017 7:00 AM
To: All cabinet members, department heads, supervisors
Subject: ADVISORY: Consider yourselves to be on probation—permanently

Some of you may have noticed that I have experienced considerable difficulty obtaining legislative approval of any of my programs.

Even the most novice political observer would agree that this has nothing to do with the merit of my proposals, or the lack thereof. Instead, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate are determined that they will block any meaningful legislation from a Democrat governor, no matter how beneficial it may be for the citizens of Louisiana. The defeat of a member of the opposition party takes precedent over progress every time. That, unfortunately, is the reality of politics.

To see the Republican leadership promoting the Koch brothers and ALEC agendas while the state teeters on the precipice of financial disaster similar to—or worse—than that which has occurred in Kansas is both frightening and depressing. The federal budget and tax proposals now being pushed through Congress bodes no better future for the nation.

Partisan politics aside, what is also a reality is this: I am furious at being constantly embarrassed by those whom I have appointed to positions of responsibility.

With the rash of disasters that have struck the State of Louisiana along with the political divisiveness that has turned the legislature’s serious consideration of the fiscal perils that lay ahead into a mockery, the distractions of near daily reports of mismanagement, malfeasance, outright theft and general abuse of authority and position are something I can live without.

As governor, I have no control over actions of the legislature, other than my veto power, and regrettably, I have no influence over Congress and our congressional delegation.

But I do have control over the behavior of those whom I appoint and I expect nothing less than honest, open, selfless administration of your respective agencies. This expectation extends to your subordinates as well. You will answer to me for their actions as well as your own.

There is one state agency that does its job as it should. Unfortunately, it seems to operate in a vacuum. The Legislative Auditor’s Office does a herculean job of monitoring how state offices, boards, and commissions are run. Unfortunately, the auditor’s reports, even bad ones, are almost always ignored. No more. Henceforth, when a negative audit report on your agency is published by the Legislative Auditor’s office, that report will no longer be filed away to be forgotten.

Beginning today, when there is an audit report, a news report, or a formal complaint about or against your agency or any of your employees, I am directing immediate remedial action on your part and I expect that response to be public.

In the case of an auditor’s report that puts you in a bad light, I expect a complete turnaround within 30 days, no exceptions. You are to provide my office with a detailed written report of how you intend to remedy the situation. You are to be specific in your report, providing full details of how the situation was allowed to come about and how you plan on correcting the deficiencies. Failure to do so will result in your immediate termination.

In the case of news reports that put you and your agency in a bad light, you are to provide immediate access to the news reporter and you will answer all questions. Moreover, you are to provide my office with a full report, in writing, an explanation of what led to the news report, whether the reports are accurate, and if so, how you plan to address the problem. Misleading my office on the accuracy of negative news reports shall result in your immediate termination and the termination of all concerned.

Formal complaints from citizens or employees of your agency will be addressed immediately. In the case of an employee complaint, there shall be no reprisals taken against the employee, subject to your immediate termination.

As explained earlier in this communication, the governor’s office has enough to deal with without the necessity of constantly putting out brush fires. We exist to serve the public, not the other way around. Public service is a privilege, not an opportunity to enrich oneself. If you are on the state payroll to further your career and to profit from illicit activity with contractors, vendors, or through any other means, get out now or I will show you how it feels to be embarrassed publicly.

The public’s trust of its government, at least on the state level, is important to me.

Act as though your job depends on it—because it does.

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