Cosmetology Board Executive Director Steve Young and Chairman Edwin Neill collude to covertly cram 40% license fee increase down licensees’ throats.


Cosmetology Board Chairman Edwin Neill, III

 

On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, Cosmetology Board Executive Director Steve Young and Chairman Edwin Neill, III, cavalierly walked into the Louisiana House Commerce Committee and, without any authorization from the present members of the Cosmetology Board and using Rep. Sherman Mack as an apparent naïve patsy, took the first critical step toward cramming a 40% increase down the throats of the cosmetologists whom they serve.  In the following brief video, Mack comes across as (being kind) uninformed and having little idea of what the bill even does, and he has to have his hand held throughout by Young and Neill to help explain its purpose:


Mack struggles to explain that the whole purpose of the bill is to enact a $10 annual increase in the licensing fee (from $25 to $35), and relies upon Young and Neill to answer his colleagues’ questions.

Now remember, all three (Young, Mack, and Neill) admit the whole purpose of the bill is to enact an increase in the licensing fee.  Nevertheless, as simple as that measure is, the Chairman of the Commerce Committee has to indicate an amendment is necessary to correct the bill!  We’re NOT kidding!  A bill THAT simple has to be amended because, as Mack explains, “a clerical error” caused the bill to read the license renewal fee would continue to be $25 rather than $35!  There was no “clerical error!!!”  They simply intentionally concealed the fact they were seeking a license fee increase because they feared public opposition!  Sound Off Louisiana has actively tracked every cosmetology bill since each was filed, and this one failed to even garner attention for the very reason that it contained no increase in licensing fees!  We have attended (or had a reliable representative attend) virtually every Cosmetology Board meeting for the last two years, and there was never an item presented to the Board to seek an increase in the licensing fee and the Board vote on it during that time.

Consequently, we made a public records request for any entry in the minutes wherein the actions of Young and Neill had been presented to the Board and a vote taken for them to pursue this increase!  The Board’s attorney, Sheri Morris, responded by directing us to February 2, 2015 minutes, wherein there was a parenthetical disclosure that Young had “requested” that Morris be permitted to seek an increase and that she attempt to enable the Board to be able to seek further increases by mere rule promulgation and not by having to have a statute enacted.  While Young “requested” that Morris pursue the increase, the “suggestion” was that specific about who was to do so (Morris), yet Morris is nowhere to be seen on the video above!  Did she have concerns about the legal grounds of pursuing an increase absent an action by the CURRENT Board?

So, Young and Neill are relying upon a February, 2015 (as in 26 months ago) discussion by the Board and, upon THAT, they just sashayed right on up to the Louisiana House of Representatives and sought the fee increase! Of course, there was a convenient “clerical error” so nobody would know what they were up to.  The present Cosmetology Board has only two members on it from those who heard Young make his “suggestion” in February of 2015 entailing Morris pursuing the increase.  They are Frances Hand, who was the previous long-time Chairman and whom Neill replaced as Chairman, and Jill Hebert.  Apparently, the viewpoints of Rev. James Williams, Melinda Tilley, William Greyson, Deidre Delpit, nor Mella Brown were deemed relevant (not to mention confirming, on the record, that Hebert and Hand still approve of the “suggestion.”)

Most importantly, the licensees were provided with no opportunity to observe a proposed fee increase appear on an agenda and weigh in on the matter themselves.  That opportunity may have been especially beneficial to Mr. Chris Guidry, who appeared at the April, 2017 meeting and was on the agenda to make a presentation to the Board on the topic of “deregulation.”  Guidry got no such opportunity, however, because an insufficient number of members attended to convene a meeting, thus triggering a lack of a quorum causing everyone to simply have to disband and go back home.  Having driven up from New Orleans, he was understandably frustrated.  He asked if the Board would have to pay all the per diems and hotel costs for those members who did show up, and we responded, “Yes.”  Furthermore, we informed him that the most recent meeting was certainly not the first time that had transpired.

We at Sound Off Louisiana very much wanted to hear what Mr. Guidry, a prominent hair stylist with Paris Parker in New Orleans and a graduate of Aveda Institute (for which the Louisiana franchises are owned by Neill), had to say (and videotape his commentary).  Our curiosity was peaked by his February 5, 2017 post in which he vents that Louisiana students “are required to complete 1,500 hours at a cost of around $20,000.”  He further complains that the Board “is a straight money grab.”  He further states that “the Board has no regard for the guest or the craft.”  He further describes the situation as “disgusting.”  In buttressing his argument that the Board “has no regard for the guest or the craft,” he states that the Board’s inspectors are only concerned with ensuring workers are licensed and up-to-date.  In all the meetings Sound Off Louisiana has attended, we have observed Guidry to be totally on point in that argument.  Every hearing we have observed has entailed licensing and not health and safety violations.  The only instance we observed that remotely qualified for a health and safety concern was in February when the Board conducted a hearing over a dog running around loose in a salon.  Even that, however, was a part of a larger issue of the potential use of an unlicensed manicurist.  Visit this link to see Guidry’s comments in full and those of some other contributors to the blog to which they were posted.

Now, in the preceding video, at the 1:44 mark, Rep. Kenny Cox asks why the fee increase is needed.  Thereafter, he is given a superb snow job by Neill during the next 20 seconds that the money is needed for things like painting the building and technology upgrades.  Well, Rep. Cox, you were lied to!!!  Let’s itemize off some of the REAL reasons the Board seeks this fee increase, shall we?  It cost money (and LOTS of it) for the following:

Having to pay MASSIVE legal fees and a settlement to resolve very obvious claims of discrimination of Vietnamese manicurists during which one inspector was alleged to have “falsely imprisoned” the owner of a salon as she, without a search warrant, plundered through all of the salon’s drawers and demanded that “nobody (not even the customers) move.”  The week after this settlement was reached, the inspector in question retired.  In the final hearing in Federal Judge Brian Jackson’s courtroom prior to the settlement, Judge Jackson said, “constitutional rights were clearly violated” through the actions of the inspector.

Having to pay even more legal fees upon the Institute for Justice suing the Board over it having shut down the operations of Indian eyebrow threaders.

Having to “rally the forces” entailing defeating a bill to allow hair braiding with no licenseSound Off Louisiana has learned that the Board has asked the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Julie Emerson, to withdraw the bill.  We’ve also learned that she has politely informed them that she has no intention of pulling the bill.

Having to pay the investigative costs of an employee, Winn Johnson, selling answers to the cosmetology exam for $500 each.

Conducting multi-day hearings to ensure a shut-down of school owner Nelda Dural as well as striving to shut down all public schools (i.e. “zero cost competition”) teaching cosmetology such as Raynetta Frazier, who appears on video on the preceding link pleading with the Board not to shut her school down.  The total cost for the Board to close down Dural’s school based on student complaints (all of whom owed her money) was $43,000!!  That’s a figure that former Congressman Joseph Cao, who has never been bashful in characterizing the Cosmetology Board as “operating without regard for the law,” had to emphasize twice to Judge Jackson when he indicated it is “impossible” to fight this Board and referenced that Nelda Dural did try to, and the result was the $43,000 tab they held her liable for as a means to close her school down.

As evidenced by the following video, forcing a Vietnamese couple to have to beg and plead with the Board to permit her to work as a cosmetologist (by honoring through reciprocity her Texas license rather than grilling her about whether she has the equivalent of a 10th grade education):

Meanwhile, Executive Director Steve Young responds to Channel 2 (WBRZ)’s Lee Polowczuk asking if he is EVER going to hire a Vietnamese translator to interact with Vietnamese manicurists (who own 90% of the manicuring salons in Louisiana) by stating he is only concerned with having translators for hearings!

Closing down Jennifer Menard’s mobile salon.

And the biggest reason of all for seeking the increase which, as Young testified, would generate an estimated $350,000 each year?  That would be to chip away at the $3.1 million UNFUNDED pension liability for these bureaucrats to impede free enterprise via the mechanisms outlined above!  There’s also a $1.4 million amount for employee unfunded benefits, for a total of $4.5 million.  These, Rep. Cox, are the REAL reasons the increase was requested, and we see you fell for the slick little con job Neill pulled on you in those 20 seconds hook, line, and sinker.

The measure comes up for a vote by the full House on Tuesday, April 25, 2017.  We’ll see if this little slick maneuver by Neill and Young results in yet another, as Guidry says, “straight money grab” by two state officials who would resort to this type con job rather than having the guts to place the item on an agenda of the CURRENT Board and see how the new members and licensees feel about the measure.  Then again, it’s likely the anticipated reaction of licensees like Guidry that prompted them to resort to this despicable act in the first place!

 

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IDB’s Steinmetz continues governmental double-standard as she once again uses Rev. Freddie Lee Phillips as her favorite “whipping boy.”


IDB Chairman Deborah Steinmetz

 

In our most recent Sound Off Louisiana feature, we outlined LPB President and CEO Beth Courtney as  another example of state agency prima donna personalities who operate with reckless disregard for ethics and laws, with their ensuing irresponsibility costing Louisiana taxpayers hundreds of thousands (and in some instances, such as Murphy Painter, literally millions) of dollars in legal defense costs when justifiable lawsuits are filed by victims of these governmental “leaders” run amok.

Today we examine yet another such prima donna:  Ms. Deborah Steinmetz, Chairperson of the Louisiana State Interior Design Board (IDB).  In the following video, Rev. Freddie Lee Phillips, who has steadfastly  hounded Steinmetz and IDB Vice Chairman T. L. Ritchie about IDB payroll fraud, expresses his frustration that an item he sought on the February 16, 2017 IDB agenda (requiring IDB Executive Assistant Sandy Edmonds to actually report to the office for some meaningful number of hours to justify her salary) was being denied.  He was especially frustrated at the means the Board chose to communicate that denial to him:


Phillips sought to have his agenda request discussed by the Board, but instead he was served with this
one-page UNSIGNED certified letter
immediately before the meeting indicating that his request had been denied.

As is obvious, Steinmetz has her lieutenants, Sandy Edmonds, who has been cited for engaging in rampant payroll fraud, and Anna Dow (attorney for IDB) read Phillips the “riot act” for their contention that he is not maintaining a valid mailing address on file with the Auctioneer Licensing Board (see the return certified letter link above).

Well, the very next day, Phillips sent a certified letter to Steinmetz.  Guess what?  The letter was returned undeliverable.  This undeliverable notice transpired despite the fact that Phillips used  Steinmetz’s mailing address as readily posted on her corporate website.  Moreover, unlike Phillips, whose house continues to be flooded and not yet fully restored, Steinmetz’s office in New Orleans didn’t flood at all!

At next week’s IDB meeting (4/25 @ 12:30 p.m.), will Ms. Dow and Ms. Edmonds be equally vigilant in reading Steinmetz the “riot act” for failing to maintain a deliverable address the way they had no qualms in doing entailing Phillips in the video above?   Alternatively, perhaps they will do as Dot Efferson was honest enough to do in the lawsuit referenced in the Courtney feature above and just admit that “Courtney Steinmetz is too powerful.”

Steinmetz continues actions like this, yet she makes no effort whatsoever to execute her fiduciary duty to the IDB licensees and the taxpayers of Louisiana to ensure their resources aren’t wasted by actions such as Edmonds relaxing on a beach in Orange Beach, Alabama, visiting Disneyworld FOR A FULL WEEK, visiting relatives in Kansas, going on excursions to New York and New Jersey, all while claiming she was “hard at  work” for Louisiana taxpayers by reporting being “on the clock” during all these excursions!

On Tuesday (4/18) of this week, Rep. Rick EdmondsRep. Alan Seabaugh, and Rep. Blake Miguez all gave resounding addresses to a group of about 120 grassroots activists of the Louisiana Chapter of Americans for Prosperity.  Each of them gave very impressive presentations; however, Rep. Miguez’s presentation really stood out.

He gave first-hand accounts entailing how, as a result of the oil industry’s downturn, many of his constituents have lost their jobs and have seen their household incomes plummet.  He said it’s particularly hard for them to recognize a need for yet more tax increases given what they are going through in their lives.

Perhaps Ms. Steinmetz may be willing to make an appearance before Miguez’s constituents who have endured such hardships and explain just how she justifies permitting Ms. Edmonds, the wife of an interior designer who happens to teach at LSU and reports to IDB Vice Chairman T. L. Ritchie, to be so entitled to draw checks while sunbathing in Orange Beach, Alabama.

How about it, Ms. Steinmetz, willing to take that challenge?

If you would like to be added to our Sound Off Louisiana email list to be notified of future Sound Off posts, simply scroll to the very bottom of this page (mobile devices) or to the end of the right-hand column (desktops) and supply your email address within the subscribe box.  You’ll then receive an automated email from Word Press, and all you have to do is click on the blue “confirm follow” bar contained within that email, and you’ll begin receiving great posts such as the preceding one above. 

Did LPB’s Beth Courtney strong-arm disabled underling into retiring “to avoid possible layoffs?”


LPB President & CEO, Beth Courtney

 

In our latest Sound Off Louisiana feature, we continue illustrating examples of agencies of the State of Louisiana being sued for either employee/contractor retaliation or whistle blowing.  Our latest feature outlines the alleged actions of Beth Courtney, President and CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB):


Sound Off Louisiana’s founder, Robert Burns, narrates the highpoints of litigation filed by Dr. Ellen Wydra against LPB entailing allegations of discrimination and retaliation on the part of Beth Courtney, President and CEO of LPB, a taxpayer-subsidized Louisiana broadcasting network.

Supporting Documentation and Links:

1. Wydra’s lawsuit filed on November 5, 2010.

2. Addendum to Wydra’s lawsuit filed on January 25, 2017.

3.  Article entailing alleged whistle-blower and former LPB award-winning reporter Jeff Duhe‘ outlining extensive nepotism involving Courtney and her husband, Bob (formerly assistant news director and capitol correspondent for WBRZ Channel 2 in Baton Rouge).

4.   The Louisiana Board of Ethics’ assessing of $10,000 in fines against Courtney Communications and Beth Courtney entailing the ethics violations referenced in # 3 above.

5.  Another Duhe’ related article exposing Courtney’s apparent frequent use of profanity (including the “f word” — see paragraph 10) and totalitarian rule when addressing her underlings.

6.  Beth Courtney’s presentation to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club on May 22, 2013 at Boudreaux’s in Baton Rouge.

Wydra’s lawsuit is assigned to 19th JDC Judge Tim Kelley, and it is scheduled to commence on September 18, 2017 (though Courtney reportedly wants all of those details kept “hush-hush”).  Assuming no settlement is reached before that time, Sound Off Louisiana will certainly attend and alert our viewers as to the outcome.

 If you would like to be added to our Sound Off Louisiana email list to be notified of future Sound Off posts, simply scroll to the very bottom of this page (mobile devices) or to the end of the right-hand column (desktops) and supply your email address within the subscribe box.  You’ll then receive an automated email from Word Press, and all you have to do is click on the blue “confirm follow” bar contained within that email, and you’ll begin receiving great posts such as the preceding one above.