A spokesman for U.S. Sen Mary Landrieu’s campaign says documents posted by bloggers raise questions about U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy’s part-time teaching at the old charity hospital in Baton Rouge.
Cassidy refutes the allegations, saying they’re based on an incomplete set of documents.
Cassidy had worked for two decades at the LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge prior to joining the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2009. He stayed on to teach part-time at LSU and was paid $20,000 a year until he left in April, when the Republican Cassidy launched his campaign to unseat Landrieu, a Democrat.
The runoff election is a week from Saturday on Dec. 6.
He frequently mentions teaching doctors in his campaign speeches. The available time records show that Cassidy was billing LSU for work in Baton Rouge on days he also cast votes in Washington, D.C.
The roughly 16 timesheets show Cassidy received the same $1,666.70 payment each month regardless of how many hours were booked. He was supposed to give “20 percent” effort, which would calculate out to about eight hours a week. Most of the time records show about 6 hours per week, sometimes less.
“The documents speak for themselves and certainly raise serious questions that Congressman Cassidy will have to answer,” Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the Landrieu campaign wrote in a prepared statement. “Congressman Cassidy may have taken home over $100,000 in taxpayer funds for work he never did.”
Levy pointed to LSU documents posted Tuesday on the websites of American Zombie and Cenlamar.com.
Cassidy, in an interview on Oct. 27 when the documents first surfaced, said the timesheets reflect only the time he spent in the clinic overseeing “residents”, as the studying physicians are known. He also reviewed files and counseled LSU residents while in Washington and he conducted lectures in Baton Rouge that were not included in the time records.
In medical school, residents see the patient, then discuss a treatment plan with the teacher; in this case, Cassidy. The teacher then will talk to the patient, review the records and oversee the treatment provided by the resident.
“There are a variety of responsibilities you have. There’s a nurse practitioner who runs the hepatitis clinics in the prison system, I’m a collaborating physician, and she calls me about x-rays … I have medical students and residents who do internships in D.C., saw one last night,” Cassidy recalled, and he reads case files of the patients being treated by the residents. Few of those hours are logged.
Additionally, Cassidy said the days where the records show him working in the Baton Rouge clinic and voting in Washington, were travel days when the votes were held in the late afternoon and early evening.
He said he would log about three hours in the clinic, supervising residents who were treating patients, on Monday and three more hours on Tuesday morning. Then he would board a noon flight back to Washington, which would put him on Capitol Hill by late afternoon, in time to make votes.
“I emphasized (to LSU), ‘If ever you think I do not bring value please terminate me’, and they say, ‘No, you bring value.’ And demonstrably I do,” Cassidy said.
Emails acquired by The Advocate indicated that LSU officials worried the situation could get audited and cautioned medical school officials to carefully detail the work Cassidy did.
Cassidy described the terms much more casually and called the monthly $1,666.70 a “stipend,” rather than a strict set pay for set hours arrangement.
Though some of the emails mention a contract, no actual contract has been released.
In an October 2009 letter written by Dr. George Karam, who is the head of internal medicine and Cassidy’s direct boss, wrote of the congressman’s stipend: “The payment is for services on an ongoing basis, not for individual presentations or lectures.”
Karam has not responded to calls or emails seeking comment.
Cassidy says he is the only liver doctor teaching at LSU and hepatology, the study of liver disease, is a necessary part of the curriculum for the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Medicine.
In January 2009, Ronnie Smith, then the vice chancellor at LSU Health Services Center wrote “…it is in the University’s education interests to have Dr. Cassidy perform services on a greatly diminished basis …” He also wrote that Cassidy’s work should be documented “and appropriate adjustment” be made, if necessary.
Cassidy was supposed to put in “20 percent effort,” but that was not defined in any of the documentation, though presumably it meant about 8 hours a week.
Cassidy wrote LSU in January 2009 saying he was working five to 10 hours per week on medical school activities, which included working in state prison clinics and discussing research issues. Cassidy asked how best to keep track of his time as signing a log book failed to capture many of his activities.
William Livings, the business manager at LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center, in March 2009 asked officials to spell out Cassidy’s duties. “I could make up some semblance of what I think his duties could be, but, in this case, given his status as U.S. congressman, I think it would be prudent from our perspective to know what it is y’all expect from him for his one-day per week (20 percent),” he wrote.
The Landrieu campaign’s allegations are based on only a handful of records.
The Earl, as the Baton Rouge charity facility was known, closed in April 2013. A lot of the facility’s documents were carted off to storage and LSU has been unable to find them, said Larry Hollier, chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, which oversaw the residents in training Cassidy taught.
Marsha Shuler of The Advocate Capitol news bureau contributed to this report.
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