Former Louisiana health chief Bruce Greenstein told the state grand jury that indicted him that he would have done some things differently but, in the end, he did nothing wrong and took no money in exchange for his former employer getting a lucrative government contract.
“To me public corruption, taking money, doing something policy-wise that is bad, I didn’t do any of that,” Greenstein testified to a grand jury according to a 201-page transcript of the proceedings released Monday. It’s Greenstein’s first public comment about the affair since releasing a prepared statement when he was forced to resign in April 2013 after news of a grand jury investigation was reported.
But Greenstein also said if he had to do it all over again, he would have taken greater care to avoid any appearances of impropriety in the review, by the state agency he headed, and 2011 awarding of a contract worth nearly $200 million to Client Network Services Inc., better known as CNSI. Greenstein had served as a vice president with the suburban Washington, D.C. firm for just over one year before leaving to work at Microsoft Corp., and then taking the job with the Jindal administration.
“The whole goal was to have a better system, better healthcare system, better competition. All, everything that we did was in the right direction for the right reason,” Greenstein told grand jurors. “I wish that today sitting here in front of all of you, I wish I had never heard of them, worked for them or dealt with them.”
The grand jury indicted Greenstein in September on nine counts of perjury, involving contacts with CNSI executives before, during and after the contract award. Greenstein, who lives in Seattle and works as a consultant there, pleaded not guilty on Monday in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.
The Greenstein indictment alleges four counts of perjury during a June 17, 2011, appearance before the state Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, which was considering his confirmation as health secretary. The counts largely relate to his role in altering the requirements in an official “request for proposal,” which allowed CNSI to bid on the contract.
The remaining five counts relate to his testimony before a June 3 session of the East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury. Among the allegations is false testimony he gave “about the nature of his voluminous contacts with CNSI official Creighton Carroll.”
Greenstein was questioned by Assistant Attorney Generals David Caldwell and Butch Wilson as well as jurors, some of whom expressed skepticism about some of what they heard.
Much of the questioning had to do with Greenstein’s failure to disclose the number of cell phone calls, text messages and meetings he had with CNSI President Adnan Ahmed and CNSI Vice President Creighton Carroll. But prosecutors also pressed Greenstein on whether there was “any money exchanges between you and your former employer.”“No, no, no, no,” Greenstein replied. “I will make my own bank records available.”
The state Senate committee had subpoenaed documents related to any communication with CNSI plus other documents related to the contract. The documents turned over did not include Greenstein’s cell phone records and thousands of text messages.
Greenstein said he did not point out the omission to state health agency employees gathering the information.
“Essentially you made the decision not to disclose those things because nobody else asked for them, right, because — and you thought you were going to slip through the second Senate hearing because they were not going to pull those phone conversations,” Wilson asked.
“I don’t think I was going to slip through, but the first part of your question, yes … It’s not flattering for me, but it’s accurate,” said Greenstein.
He said it is true that he had a great deal of contact with Ahmed and Carroll who he considered friends. He said the revelation would not have helped him out in getting confirmed.
“Looking back at it now , again, I wish I just turned my phone off for all these months,” said Greenstein.
At another point, Greenstein said , “It never crossed my mind that my friends or my texts were with a company.”
Greenstein said he got a phone call from Ahmed complaining that CNSI would not be able to bid unless the contract specifications were changed. He said he asked the team working on the contract to consider an addendum to allow the firm to compete which it agreed to. “I didn’t — certainly didn’t — promise it; I didn’t make the decision myself,” he said.
He said earlier an alteration was made in the request for proposals to allow another company to compete.
“You did not think though that given your history with Creighton Carroll and Adnan Ahmed and CNSI that this was just a terrible idea for you to be involved with this in any way shape or form?” Prosecutor Wilson asked.
“I thought about this. The alternative would be to discriminate against them. If another company had come to say exactly the same thing, I would think it’s a great idea,” Greenstein said.
In the state Senate committee, Greenstein testified that he had no conversation with vendors about the “ request for proposal ” after it was issued. But he talked about the RFP with Ahmed in front of the grand jury. “I did not make it at the time thinking it was an inaccurate statement. I couldn’t recall … I again was thinking about the company,” Greenstein testified.
Greenstein said he didn’t tell Ahmed to contact contract team members but handled it himself because he was under no conflict of interest prohibition as those dealing with the contract evaluation and award.