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U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy calls for Dr. Rebekah Gee's resignation over alleged misspending of Medicaid funds.


"The report was stunning — breathtaking. It's an insult. It's a whiz down the leg of every taxpayer in Louisiana and America."

That was U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, reacting to a report by Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera that the state may have misspent up to $85 million of Medicaid funds. He also called for the resignation of Louisiana Health Department Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee, who reports to Gov. John Bel Edwards, not to Kennedy or to any federal agency.

"Dr. Gee needs to step down," Kennedy fumed in a call with reporters. "She just pissed away $60 million to $80 million in taxpayer dollars."

Richard Carbo, Edwards' chief of staff, said Edwards had "full confidence" in Gee, adding, "It's under her leadership at the department that new technology is being put in place to address income verification issues so that anyone who should not be receiving Medicaid benefits will be determined to be ineligible — a process that has been planned for over a year. This administration is increasing income verification checks by 400 percent, which will address the long-term problem described in the audit."

Carbo also clapped back at Kennedy, saying the "whiz" comment was "another one of Sen. Kennedy's baseless soundbites brought about by having too much free time in Washington."

Kennedy, a Republican, has said he'll decide by Dec. 1 whether to challenge Edwards, a Democrat, in the October 2019 gubernatorial race. Two prominent Republicans who were said to have been eying the race — Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack — said in recent days they would not run. Those announcements seemed to clear a path for Kennedy to become the establishment GOP candidate should he get into the race.

It was not the first time that Kennedy — known for his colorful turns of phrase — has resorted to urination as a metaphor. In March, discussing the proposed $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that would keep the government running, Kennedy said it was "a Great Dane-sized whiz down the leg of every taxpayer."—ALLMAN

Strip clubs agree to surveillance, 'mystery shoppers'

Several Bourbon Street strip clubs have agreed to surveillance measures and "mystery shoppers" as part of their agreements with the city's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which approved consent agreements with seven clubs in the wake of club raids and other charges.

The judgments mirror ones reached with the state's office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) following January's law enforcement raids that led to closures and put a microscope on Bourbon's dancers and club staff. They also have put dancers' and club workers' livelihoods in limbo, unclear whether the judgments, and a lack of communication from management or the business owners, would interfere with their jobs.

In the time since the charges were filed by the city, two clubs no longer are strip clubs — Rick's Sporting Saloon converted to a country and western dance club called Boot Scootin' Rodeo, and Bourbon Vibezz switched formats to a dance club. In that time, dancers also claimed a small but crucial victory with the City Planning Commission's rejection of a potential plan to dramatically limit the number of clubs on the street through attrition.

The judgments issued Nov. 20 require clubs enlist "mystery shoppers" and install "high-quality camera systems" throughout the venues. Scores also received a $13,000 fine and faces a 30-day suspension of its alcohol license. Stilettos, Rick's Cabaret and Hustler's Barely Legal each received fines. So did the former Rick's Sporting Saloon and Bourbon Vibezz, which were exempt from the "mystery shopper" requirement. The board dismissed the case against Larry Flynt's Hustler Club following a settlement with the Vieux Carre Commission.

"There's so much stigma surrounding dancing and nightlife that this just seems like another way for our jobs to be attacked rather than a way to protect us, which they claim to be wanting," Bourbon Street dancer Devin told Gambit.

Board members often giggled throughout the hearing, asking whether "mystery shoppers" should be required in the nonstrip clubs "to make sure they're dancing and there's no tangential activities." One commissioner asked why Rick's Cabaret didn't also "get religion and move to country and western dancing."

"The practice of 'mystery shopping' essentially turns civilians into a hired police force, driving a needless wedge between ourselves and management," dancer Lyn Archer told Gambit. "The tone of contempt in the ABO hearing and every meeting with law enforcement we had shows that these consent judgments are part of a series of wedge tactics."—WOODWARD

NORD finalists selected

Three men are finalists to direct the New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD) Commission, the city agency charged with running the city's recreation facilities and programs.

Larry Barbino currently serves as a program coordinator with the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) overseeing equitable contracting for HANO projects. Barbino was a previous NORD director — he resigned under then-Mayor Ray Nagin in 2009.

Corey Wilson is the CAO and counsel for East Baton Rouge's park operating agency (BREC); a 2018 report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor found "significant deficiencies" in BREC's budgeting.

Sports agent Gavin Lewis is a former NORD instructor and volunteer coach.

Former NORDC chief Vic Richard left City Hall ahead of Cantrell's inauguration, and interim chief Maya Wyche was voted out by the commission after city employees alleged Wyche had ignored repeated complaints of sexual assault.

In a lively public hearing in July, residents told Mayor LaToya Cantrell and members of NORDC that the next CEO should be local (all three finalists are New Orleans natives) and listen to the needs of neighborhoods and children.

The finalists will head into another round of interviews Nov. 27, following a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, at City Hall. The public will get a chance to hear the finalists' pitches for the job and ask them questions. The search committee plans to make its hiring recommendation Dec. 4.

Did Mick Jagger spill the beans about the Rolling Stones at Jazz Fest?

Rumors have been flying that the Rolling Stones will be playing the second Thursday of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival this year (May 2), necessitating an extra day for Jazz Fest and moving the traditional "locals' Thursday" to the first weekend of the festival — which will make Jazz Fest's 50th anniversary an eight-day affair.

Meanwhile, Jazz Fest officials — who are famous for controlling announcements of the music lineup — have said only that the lineup will be announced sometime in December.

Last week, the Rolling Stones announced the U.S. dates for the band's world "No Filter" tour, but there was no mention of New Orleans. On the other hand, there was a convenient hole in the first few days of May, which lent credence to the theory the band would indeed be playing Jazz Fest.

But it was lead singer Mick Jagger who may have let the cat out of the bag. That day, he posted a playful Stones-ish song to his Facebook page, in which he listed the cities on the tour in order: "Miami, Florida — Jacksonville and Houston — New Orleans and Glendale ..."

Miami is the tour's kickoff, followed by Jacksonville, Florida. The band is scheduled to play Houston April 28, 2019, and Glendale, Arizona May 7, 2019.

Given the fact that a regular Superdome show would almost certainly have been listed in the Rolling Stones' initial announcement of dates, it sounds like we pretty much can count on a Stones appearance during the second week of Jazz Fest.