“I can unequivocally state that all members of the administration of West Jefferson Medical Center were shocked to learn of the involvement of both Mr. Coulon and Mr. Whitmer in this insurance scandal” – Peter Butler Jr to WWL TV’s Paul Murphy.
As Nowdy joked offline in our informal editorial board round robin today, “the population of Jefferson Parish is almost “20-25% of entire state of Mississippi…God knows how much larger the JP population would be if those in the landfills were counted!” The skeletons are staggering even by Mississippi proportions and those that followed the Scruggs saga know Louisiana has no strangle-hold on systemic corruption but the politicians and their cronies in the New Orleans area take that corruption to new heights. As an observer of the goings on in New Orleans from just over the state line I howled with laughter many years ago after a federal bankruptcy judge joked that the difference between Mississippi pols and those in Louisiana was that in Mississippi the brown paper bag had a bottom. Simply put this is a target rich environment.
We treated Slabbed readers to Fred Heebe and his River Birch landfill in a couple of posts which our new readers can find here and here. As the title implies the topic of this post is West Jefferson Medical Center but so our readers can understand a few of the relationships we must circle back to Unslabbed’s comment from this past Tuesday to set up some of the relationships:
Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson is married to Antoinette who is sister to Council Clerk Eula Lopez and West Jefferson Medical Center CEO Nancy Cassegne. PA Tom Wilkinson’s sister Terri is Assistant Director in the JP Planning Department. His mother works for his niece (an RN at West Jeff Hosp) her granddaughter.
Slabbed readers also know that Fred Heebe is married to former council member Jennifer Sneed, who left office just before Tom Wilkinson and Tim Whitmer began the process that culminated in the deal with River Birch Landfill. With that tableau set we visit next with a Times Picayune story circa February 2008 when Tom Wilkinson’s sister-in-law was made top dog at West Jefferson Medical Center:
The Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday appointed former parish administrator Nancy Cassagne to lead West Jefferson Medical Center, a job she has filled on an interim basis since the previous chief executive resigned in October.
The five-year contract includes a base salary of $387,204, the same amount paid to former chief executive Gary Muller, with an automatic 5 percent cost-of-living raise each January.
The unanimous approval came the same week that West Bank council members received anonymous complaints about Cassagne not meeting the requirements set out by the state Department of Health and Hospitals.
There is no doubt in my mind Cassagne was in no way shape or form qualified for this job for which there is a dedicated educational path and certifications that are required for most people who man that position elsewhere. The story then goes on to explain why an unqualified person was hired into this 6 figure job:
But Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson and hospital lawyer Peter Butler Jr. said they determined that Cassagne fit the standards set by federal regulations, state law and DHH code.
Similarly, the council gave short shrift to the no-name complaints.
“I hate when people send those anonymous attack letters,” Councilman Byron Lee said. “People should stand up and just say, ‘This is who I am and this is my position.’ But unfortunately those things happen.”
The state health department requires hospital administrators to have one of three combinations of education and experience: a master’s degree and three years of health-care management experience, a baccalaureate degree and at least five years of health-care management experience or no college degree and at least 10 years of experience in hospital administration.
Wilkinson, who is married to Cassagne’s sister, said he found that she fits the second category.
I am sure she did Tom but moving Sis over to the hospital also accomplished something else. It put the top position in friendly hands so that the deal the hospital cut in April 2007 with Wally Pontiff and his B&A Insurance Agency would not be questioned. You see I don’t buy into the fake indignation expressed by the West Jefferson Hospital folks after they were served with a subpoena in Whitmergate and I have some compelling reasons. Let’s review via a Richard Rainey report from December 2009 which links River Birch owner Jim Ward to the medical center:
River Birch is jointly owned by Fred Heebe, a prominent real estate developer who is married to former Parish Councilwoman Jennifer Sneed, and his stepfather, Jim Ward. The landfill company is a subsidiary of Shadowlake Management Co., an umbrella corporation that also includes real estate companies owned by Ward and Heebe.
Ward sat on the West Jefferson Medical Center board of directors in 2007 when it gave B&A Insurance Agency the right to shop supplemental insurance plans to hospital employees. B&A split its commissions with Lagniappe, a practice strictly barred by the hospital’s contract and now a subject of the federal investigation. Ward quit the hospital board in December 2007, saying he didn’t have enough time to fulfill his duties.
Now folks I won’t go into the reason Mr Ward gave for his resignation but we do know he bought insurance from Tim Whitmer and Lagnaippe Industries for his company Shadow Lake Management Company which oversaw the River Birch Landfill. Tim Coulon’s name pops back up like a bad penny as we go back a bit further in time to another Richard Rainey story on this mess circa November 2009:
Young cited a section of the publicly owned hospital’s contract with Colonial Supplemental Insurance, for which B&A and Pontiff act as brokers, that states Pontiff agrees not to pay commission to any third party. His comments came five days after The Times-Picayune reported that Pontiff had a secret partnership to split commissions with former Parish President Tim Coulon and Lagniappe Industries, an insurance brokerage co-owned by the parish administration’s chief administrative officer, Tim Whitmer.
Neither Coulon, Whitmer nor Lagniappe Industries were listed on the resolution that the Parish Council ratified to appoint Pontiff as broker of record for supplemental insurance plans bought by hospital employees………
Meanwhile, Peter Butler, an attorney for the hospital, sent a letter asking Pontiff and B&A Insurance owner Gary Burke about its commissions. Butler sought answers by Monday at noon
Didn’t Butler Jr. at West Jeff already know the answer? In my post Eau de Landfill we find his daddy all cuddled up with Fred Heebe. Yes, I’ll grant the sins of the father do not accrue to the son so we should make certain that Junior’s position is crystal clear so let’s visit with WWL-TV, Paul Murphy and the story I quoted to begin this post:
West Jefferson Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Nancy Cassagne and other hospital officials showed up at the Jefferson Parish East Bank government building Tuesday with files and insurance records.
They delivered the documents as part of an ongoing investigation into a fee-splitting scandal involving an insurance company co-owned by parish CAO Tim Whitmer.
Hospital employees received subpoenas to produce the paperwork by 10 a.m. Tuesday.
“Subpoenas requesting essentially that West Jefferson Medical Center through those employees produce all documents it has relating to its insurance contracts, and it has done so,” said West Jefferson attorney Peter Butler. “It has produced everything.”
The parish council requested the documents for Whitmer’s Jan. 6 disciplinary hearing. Many of the files were also included in a public records request by WWL-TV.
Previous documents reveal that Whitmer’s Lagniappe Insurance and former Jefferson Parish President Tim Coulon may have secretly shared commissions on a lucrative contact at West Jefferson.
The hospital’s agreement with B&A Insurance and broker of record Wally Pontiff Sr., strictly prohibited fee splitting arraignments.
“I can unequivocally state that all members of the administration of West Jefferson Medical Center were shocked to learn of the involvement of both Mr. Coulon and Mr. Whitmer in this insurance scandal,” said Butler.
So baby Butler was shocked. Not withstanding the fact our sources tell us he is a shareholder in the River Birch Landfill (an allegation we could not verify from the Secretary of State online records) which purchased their insurance from Lagnaippe early on, we can connect the Butlers directly to Heebe and Ward via Shadow Lake Apartments and River View Villas.
Lets review: Butler Sr represented Fred Heebe in his confirmation fight. Tom Wilkinson, the man who spearheaded the negotiations with River Birch on behalf of the Parish, has his sister-in-law as CEO of West Jefferson Medical Center where Mr Heebe’s step dad was on the board when it did business with Wally Pontiff Sr who was secretly splitting commissions with Tim Whitmer. Fred Heebe is represented by and has business relationships with the Butlers. Baby Butler claims ignorance when it all comes to light. Does anyone have any questions? We better add a few Butlers to the woodpile along with the Broussards, the Connicks, Tim Whitmer, Steve Theriot et al.
I’ve embeded the WWL interview with Baby Butler for our reader’s reference.