Sunday, March 20, 2005

Corruption Watch, Bob Odom Edition…

In “Hammer-swingers and empire-builders,” James Gill does his usual masterful job of framing behavior that we should find outrageous (but seldom do anything about):

Let's hope that sugar mill Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom is building in Lacassine doesn't turn out to be so jury-rigged that it collapses on a heap of bagasse.

That would seem the obvious danger when Agriculture Department employees, hired for expertise in, say, eastern equine encephalitis or the Shrimp Trade Adjustment Act, are yanked from behind their desks and put on a plane to Lacassine, where they are magically transformed into construction workers.

Hundreds of them have been put to work for which they have no training and, probably, little relish. Even assistant commissioners, a lawyer and the state veterinarian have been subjected to the indignity of menial labor.

By the time it is all over we may wind up with the leaning sugar mill of Lacassine.

Perhaps not, however, for many Agriculture Department employees do have some experience of construction work. It has been Odom's policy for many years to divert his minions from their proper tasks whenever, like some mad Bavarian prince, he gets the itch to build.

Some of those employees, moreover, must actually like construction work. A few years ago, for instance, a gang of them volunteered to build a house for Odom's son on their own time. This was all entirely spontaneous, of course, because it is inconceivable that a Louisiana politician would ever coerce his unclassified employees.

Although one-third of Odom's staff has been assigned to Lacassine at one time or another, agricultural interests have apparently not been neglected. Staffers are taken away from their regular duties only during "slack times," according to a department official.

Taxpayers might conclude that, if employees have enough slack time to go build a $45 million sugar mill, perhaps there is a case for trimming the department payroll.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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