The Louisiana Senate refused Thursday to confirm two of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s appointees to higher education boards.
The Senate rejected former state Sen. Ann Duplessis’ appointment to the LSU Board of Supervisors and Richard Caiton’s to the Southern University Board. Both candidates are from New Orleans.
Previously, Jindal’s Louisiana Board of Regents appointee, Ed Antie, of Carencro, resigned after sharp questioning by the Senate’s confirmation panel.
The action came as the Senate took up confirmation of about 380 Jindal appointees to key government agencies and a variety of state boards.
During public deliberations, the Senate rejected an attempt to derail Jindal’s appointment of Bruce Greenstein as the state’s health chief.
Greenstein had encountered objections because of his involvement in shaping qualifications for a major Medicaid claims processing contract that made his former employer eligible.
The firm, CNSI, has been recommended to get the contract — the most lucrative in state government.
While senators talked about why Greenstein should not be confirmed, no public reason was given for Duplessis or Caiton’s rejections.
However, later, state Sen. Cynthia Willard-Lewis, Duplessis’ successor in the state Senate, said: “It was quite simple — she never asked me.
“She never communicated; She never asked.”
Senators have the privilege of blackballing appointees.
Duplessis left the Senate to go to work for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
LSU System President John Lombardi said Duplessis’ participation “has been significant and substantial” and the system will continue to seek her “advice and counsel on an informal basis in the future.”
Caiton had taken heat from the Senate confirmation panel for allegedly not making much effort to work with Southern University System President Ronald Mason Jr.
State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, asked the Senate to ignore the committee’s recommendation and confirm Caiton.
The Senate refused with 14 senators voting yes and 20 voting no.
The Senate’s confirmation panel had advanced Greenstein’s nomination on a 5-2 vote Wednesday.
The Senate voted three times against attempts to pull Greenstein’s name out of a list of Jindal appointees for separate consideration.
State Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, said he did not want senators to have to vote against all other Jindal appointees except one — Greenstein — “they may have an objection to.”
State Sen. Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth, said there was no reason to consider Greenstein separately.
“We have never in the history of the Senate denied a governor — whether he makes a good choice or bad choice — his preference of Cabinet level officers,” McPherson said.
The Senate then voted 30-5 to endorse the list with Greenstein’s appointment intact.
Greenstein’s nomination came out of the Senate’s confirmation panel on a 5-2 vote. The panel had split off his nomination from 380 others Jindal had advanced for separate attention.
Greenstein has been secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals since Sept. 13.
Several senators praised Greenstein’s credentials and the work he is doing. Health-care interests had supported his confirmation.
But some senators questioned Greenstein’s integrity because of his involvement in the Medicaid contract dealings that helped CNSI. He worked for the company in 2005 and 2006 prior to going to work for Microsoft.
Senators objections to Greenstein centered on the flap that developed over what now is a $300 million, 10-year, Medicaid claims processing contract.
Marionneaux said Greenstein told senators he had erected a firewall with no involvement because of his past ties to CNSI.
But Marionneaux said Greenstein actually met with a CNSI executive two days after he became secretary and he directed a change in the solicitation for proposals that benefited CNSI.
State Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, suggested that Greenstein lied under oath before the committee. She said integrity is top on her list of qualities for a appointee.
Jordan Blum of The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau contributed to this report.