So former Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals Bruce Greenstein has joined an illustrious list of major state officeholders in Louisiana in garnering an indictment for activities related to his office. As the saga unfolds, the financial risk the state takes in pursuing this course of action is far greater than the chances of any wider malfeasance being uncovered.
Forced out of office last year, Greenstein did a low-key perpetrator walk last week upon being formally charged with nine counts of lying to both the Louisiana Senate and a parish grand jury while under oath. These charges stemmed from his testimony about relations with a past successful bidder for a state Medicaid claims processing contract to Client Network Services Inc., where it is alleged he covered up communications designed to help the firm win. Greenstein has pled not guilty. After the federal government started an investigation, the state then joined in leading to Greenstein’s departure. The state cancelled the contract, which has led to the firm suing the state for breach.
While no specifics have been made public, thousands of messages in text and telephonic form were exchanged between Greenstein and the company in time period encompassed in the awarding process. The charges allege the content of those messages was instrumental in giving a competitive advantage to CNSI. After the award but before its cancellation, already CNSI requests for changes and extra money were fueling the credibility of complaints from competitors that CNSI had lowballed to win, even after promising it would ask for no such adjustments.
Whether these activities of Greenstein provided an excuse for the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration to wiggle out from the contract as it became increasingly unfavorable both in financial and in public relations terms, there was no assertion that malfeasance occurred in the awarding of the contract in Greenstein’s indictment. Instead, and perhaps cleverly, the counts of that indictment focused on Greenstein’s remarks under oath, because it may be that the actual content of the communications cannot conclusively show illegal behavior. Maybe more to the point, nobody has publicly floated any motive for such behavior. It’s hard to believe that Greenstein, who not only had been a top executive at CNSI but also at Microsoft, would risk an entire career by manipulating the system just to groove some business to pals and leave it at that. What he would have gotten out of it remains unanswered.
For the same reason, this makes the accusations of extreme sufferers of “Jindal Derangement Syndrome” – a clinically pathological obsession of attempting to link everything bad and/or corrupt in Louisiana, if not in the wider world, to Jindal’s asserted Beelzebub-like machinations – seem without credulity. What could Jindal, looking ever so likely to want to run for president, possibly get from trying to rig a bid through Greenstein? While some fantasize about Greenstein singing like a bird on the stand and implicating Jindal in some way, this is a hallucination unsupported by common sense.
Such improbability does not extend to the merit of the actual case itself. It’s lamentable that it has come to this with Greenstein, who in his role spearheading several major initiatives that now save the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year while improving the quality care to the indigent and disabled otherwise performed well in office. His legal team loudly protests his innocence, saying that the communications had no bearing on the contract award, much less that he influenced the process to rig it to favor CNSI. Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell, who is bringing the case on behalf of the state, better be confident in what he has, for a failure doesn’t just mean Greenstein walks, it also adds fuel to the CNSI wrongful termination contract suit, which if it goes against the state could cost hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties.
Unfortunately, it’s possible that politics could intervene. Caldwell faces a tough reelection campaign, but nailing this one certainly helps that quest and, because it ratifies a Jindal decision, may win him favor from that quarter for that quest where every political non-enemy will help. But hopefully he heeded the experience of his predecessor Charles Foti, whose bringing of a questionable criminal case backfired and the electorate punished him by putting Caldwell in his place. One hopes he has proceeded because his case is a good one; if not, he’s going to look terrible just in time for his re-election campaign.