Louisiana Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, R-Hammond
A few features ago, we demonstrated to our subscribers in pretty authoritative fashion that, in addition to being inducted into Americans for Prosperity’s “Taker’s Dozen,” State Rep. Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings, who is term-limited but who is considered likely to try for a Louisiana State Senate seat, has also openly and fiercely advocated for “taking” from auction bidders (Guinn is an auctioneer) through the illegal practice of shill bidding.
We have also stressed how strongly Sound Off Louisiana’s founder, Robert Burns, pushed for keeping auctioneers within the purview of Sen. John Milkovich’s, D-Shreveport, SB-260. The following three points simply cannot be overemphasized entailing Milkovich’s bill:
NO LICENSEE would be forced to have his administrative hearing adjudicated by an administrative law judge,
The bill (now law) merely provides the OPTION for a licensee who has reason to believe he is being subjected to harassment or a cram down of corruption to OPT (at his own expense) to have his hearing adjudicated by an administrative law judge,
The ONLY, and we emphasize ONLY, rationale by which an occupational licensing board should oppose the bill (now law) is if they are banning together to engage in corruption! It is LITERALLY THAT SIMPLE!!!
We make a special request for each reader to again read the above bullet points because we simply cannot overemphasize just how imperative it is to realize their content when considering Milkovich’s bill.
Two of the most problematic boards in Louisiana are the Louisiana Board of Dentistry (LBD) and the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB). Both have extensively engaged in acts of pure, rank corruption, and there simply are no other words to describe their acts. On the link above entailing Burns advocating for auctioneers being under the purview of SB-260, one readily sees Burns’ own administrative hearing in which the LALB steadfastly refused to take any action entailing its Executive Director, Sandy Edmonds, committing “blatant payroll fraud.” Instead, the LALB opted to convene a hearing on Burns in an attempt to force him to shut up and acquiesce to Edmonds’ criminal acts and have that corruption crammed straight down his throat through the intimidation of revoking his auction license! THAT, folks, is why Milkovich’s bill is so necessary! It’s not a matter of whether a majority of the practitioners of a profession want to have the option, it is a matter of EVEN ONE SINGLE MEMBER of a profession having the FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT to report criminal wrongdoing without fear that a corrupt occupational licensing board is going to decide to pursue HIM for insisting that the board members and its employees engage in legal and ethical manners.
Not even the LBD dared oppose the bill by seeking any amendment to be removed because at least the members of that board were intelligent enough to realize just how bad requesting such an amendment would look (i.e. “we want to FORCE you to let US and ONLY US be the judge if you dare challenge our illegal practices.”) The auctioneers (LALB)? Well, nobody has ever accused them of being the sharpest knives in the drawer for darn sure!
Soon before SB-260 was to be debated on the House Floor, LALB Chairman Jacob Warren telephoned newly-elected State Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, R-Hammond, and specifically asked him to sponsor an amendment to remove auctioneers from the bill! We’ve prepared a little eight-minute video of highlights of discussion of that amendment, its vote results, and a few brief highlights of debate on the final bill. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Muscarello offers, and House members debate, his amendment to remove auctioneers from SB-260.
Now, as is obvious from early on in the preceding video, the amendment went down in flames by a vote of 33-52. Beginning at the 1:36 mark, we have the illustrious Rep. Johnny Guinn beginning to offer his invaluable contributions to the proceedings! Trust us, anytime one gets to see the illustrious Johnny Guinn in action (he rarely goes to the House Floor to espouse his infinite wisdom to his colleagues), it’s well worth the price of admission!
Guinn laments the fact that the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, “got no input from anyone on the Auctioneer Board.” Rep. Sam Jenkins, Jr., D-Shreveport, who agreed to carry Milkovich’s bill for him on the House Floor, responded that, “the Board had every opportunity to weigh in,” and he emphasized they opted not to, and he emphasized there was no way for the Committee, on which Jenkins serves and heard Burns’ testimony and assessed both it and the testimony of the dentists as “compelling,” to “force” the Auctioneer Board to show up and testify! Guinn’s only comeback, “This is a sad maneuver.” Like we said, folks, it isn’t often one is afforded the opportunity to be blessed with Guinn’s brilliant mind on full display and firing on all cylinders as it was on that day.
Guinn’s utterly brilliant commentary was then followed by (exit Tongue-in-Cheek mode) a very, very astute assessment by Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, who, at Burns’ request, agreed to specifically INCLUDE auctioneers in the bill, emphasized the bullet points we have highlighted above. In Ivey’s words, “This bill does not hurt a board. It simply allows an individual…….to seek an alternative remedy with the administrative law judge at your own expense.”
Now, on the video immediately after Ivey’s astute (again, no Tongue-in-Cheek) assessment, beginning at the 3:14 mark of the video, we have been openly asked if Guinn may have been at least slightly inebriated, to which we have responded that we have no idea, but his performance is essentially unchanged from any other performance we’ve seen him make!
Guinn repeatedly referenced that the testimony Jenkins heard in Committee was from a “disgruntled auctioneer,” without mentioning Burns by name. Guinn likely made a strategic decision not to mention Burns’ name, nor provide the specifics of, “this same individual (the disgruntled auctioneer, Robert Burns) trying to stir up a big mess inside the industry,” (see from 5:03 – 5:10 mark of video) because he wanted to keep his colleagues in the dark that Guinn (as part of that “big mess”): #1) openly used repeated profanity toward Burns in demonstrating his resolute endorsement of the illegal practice of shill bidding in order to “put clothes on my kids’ backs,” #2) drafted a two-sentence letter to then-Governor Bobby Jindal wherein Guinn couldn’t even get the order of Burns’ name correct, much less an accurate spelling of Burns’ simple last name, for the record, Johnny, it’s “Robert Edwin Burns” and NOT “Edwin Robert Burn.”) He further couldn’t even sufficiently proofread a simple two-sentence letter to ensure his second sentence was concluded with a period.
Now, let’s analyze a couple of other observations made by Guinn, shall we? First, he indicated that the LALB has been comprised of “good members.” Well, at the very moment Guinn made his characterization, and at the same time Muscarello was offering up his amendment (at the request of the LALB as communicated to Muscarello by its Chairman, Jocob Warren) for auctioneers to be excluded, as we’ve reported before, LALB member Jacob Brown’s arrest by LSP was in the works for issuing $175,000+ in worthless checks. Did Warren even bother with extending the simple courtesy to Muscarello of enlightening him of that imminent arrest? Warren, just like we at Sound Off Louisiana, certainly knew the arrest was being actively pursued by LSP, so it would seem at least a tad unkind, and even unfair, for Warren to fail to mention that little small detail to Muscarello as he sought the amendment sponsorship, no?
Speaking of that arrest, as we indicated that we would, we made a public records request of LSP for the arrest warrant for Brown. They responded that only a partial release of the investigation is considered public as one of those “good LALB members” (Brown) is facing pending criminal charges for his faulty math entailing his checkbook. What they were willing to provide us with, however, follows:
As is obvious, Brown has allegedly stiffed the Louisiana Property Assistance Agency, a section of the Division of Administration responsible for disposition of the state’s movables, surplus equipment, furniture, etc. out of $175,342.67. It’s not as if Gov. Edwards could not have predicted this could easily happen. After all, Brown and his father, convicted felon Cecil Brown, who served time in Federal prison along with former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Washington Edwards entailing granting of riverboat gaming licenses, have long relied upon the auctioning of state surplus equipment furniture, and vehicles for the vast majority of their auction income.
Guinn also seemed to lament the “lack of documentation” provided to the House and Governmental Affairs Committee concerning auctioneers entailing Milkovich’s bill. Well let’s provide him (and our subscribers) with some resounding “documentation” and, in so doing, provide just another two instances of why any auctioneer should have the right to have an administrative hearing heard by an administrative law judge, shall we?
Jacob Warren, the LALB’s current Chairman, was preceded by Tessa Steinkamp, who also served as the Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary of New Orleans Auction Galleries (NOAG) through mid 2011. During all of Steinkamp’s tenure on the LALB, which began in the early part of this century, she never one time mentioned that NOAG, despite her being its Treasurer, was in financial distress, had stiffed consignors out of over $500,000, or had sold fake painting for six figures. That all changed on April 1, 2011, when NOAG filed bankruptcy, leaving in its wake 52 consignors claims which were unpaid to the tune of $562,000+. It was further revealed that Los Angeles auction bidder Massoud Pouratian bid (and paid) $114,000 for two paintings which were total forgeries and which were known to be forgeries at the time NOAG auctioned them a mere three months before filing bankruptcy. How did they (and Steinkamp) know? Because they had Christie’s rejection stickers on them as “fake,” yet NOAG auctioned them on off anyway! Then there was Danny Pun, who was swindled out of $127,950 when he, like Pouratian, bid on a fake chicken blood stone and fake Jade Chinese table screen. What action was taken by the LALB as a result of all these infractions? In the words of Sen. John Kennedy, “nothing, zero, zilch, nada.” That’s correct! No admistrative hearing was ever convened on anybody affiliated with NOAG (they were apparently too busy attempting to revoke licenses of whistleblowers for payroll fraud we assume).
Rev. Freddie Lee Phillips, Louisiana’s first and only African American auctioneer [whom Gov. John Bel Edwards took only 15 days to oust from the LALB after he was bombarded with Facebook posts, emails, etc. essentially demanding Phillips’ removal (it’s worth noting that phone records show Guinn to be one of the first to call the LALB’s office on the day of Edwards’ announcement of Phillips to the LALB)], served on the LALB under Gov. Bobby Jindal at the time of the NOAG bankruptcy. Believing that it may not look all that great to the public for Steinkamp to continue serving as Vice Chairman (Phillips was unaware she’d just been promoted to Chairman upon the resignation of then-Chairman James “Kenneth” Comer) given that she had remained silent on all NOAG’s problems, proposed to the LALB at its July 18, 2011 meeting that Board Members may wish to reconsider Steinkamp’s role as an officer on the LALB. The result? Tessa Steinkamp threatened Rev. Phillips with “disciplinary action against your license!” We would not fault any subscriber for not believing what we just typed, and that’s why we love videos! Here’s a video clip of Phillips expressing his concerns, and the ensuing threat Steinkamp, as a sitting LALB Chairman, made directly to Phillips:
Then-LALB Chairman Steinkamp threatens the auction license of Rev. Freddie Lee Phillips for suggesting the LALB reconsider her position on the Board in light of the NOAG implosion and her silence entailing all of its problems.
As if that’s not bad enough, as we’ve demonstrated, an actual hearing was convened entailing Burns and his challenging of Executive Director Edmonds’ payroll practices. Well, here’s a mere two-minute video wherein both Phillips and Burns are threatened, at the SAME July 18, 2011 LALB meeting, with disciplinary action against their auction licenses if they do not back off public records requests being made to document that payroll fraud:
July 18, 2011 LALB meeting at which time LALB members discuss disciplinary action against the auction licenses of Burns and Phillips for their pursuit of public records (time sheets) of Executive Director Sandy Edmonds in order to substantiate payroll fraud. The LALB ultimately DID convene a hearing against Burns; however, since Phillips sought public records of the Interior Design Board (for the same purpose), there was little action that Board could take against Phillips since he has never held an interior designer license.
Given the foregoing, can there be any doubt whatsoever that ANY auctioneer should have the RIGHT to have the kind of corrupt, Mafia-like practices of the LALB adjudicated by an administrative law judge (in which case the LALB would never pursue it because it would be laughed out of the proceeding and potential charges brought against the LALB members themselves for aiding and abetting illegal acts like payroll fraud) rather than corrupt board members?
Now, make no mistake, both Rev. Phillips and Burns were disappointed in the votes of a few members of the Legislature. Phillips spent a significant amount of time in the 2018 Legislative session testifying in favor of rescinding occupational licensing for trades such as hair braiding. He felt like, at this point in time, the Legislative Black Caucus essentially “knows the score” on the LALB and its historical disdain for him. Make no mistake: the vast majority of the Caucus obviously did know, and that knowledge was reflected in their votes on Muscarello’s amendment. Nevertheless, apparently three Caucus members have yet to get the memo, so we provide highlights of their votes at this time:
Meanwhile, Burns was highly disappointed in the votes of four House members whom he rates as Franchise Players on an all-star team of Republican conservative legislators. That’s especially true of two of those members: Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport; and Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath. Burns has tremendous respect for both men and has frequently interacted with both men at Americans for Prosperity functions and Hayride socials. In all his discussions with both men, however, Burns has never mentioned his prior vocation as an auctioneer nor the corruption of the LALB. Hence, they may have just made uninformed votes since we kind of doubt Rep. Guinn is going to properly educate them. At any rate, Sound Off Louisiana is placing hard copies of this feature in the mail to all four (as well as to the three members of the Legislative Black Caucus highlighted above) in order that any lack of knowledge on their parts may be remedied for future benefit on votes entailing auctioneers or the LALB. Here’s the outline of the four disappointing four Republican “yes” votes Burns made note of:
Fortunately, when the final vote was cast on the bill, all four representatives highlighted above voted in favor of the bill even though they did not prevail on Muscarello’s ill-advised amendment.
As for Rep. Muscarello himself, we have two words of advice: “Wake up!”
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