Appearance of Impropriety with a Side Order of Unprofessionalism
AKA The Prison Phone Scandal
By Big John Mason
This is the first in a series of short articles that briefly explain one of the many reasons why the Louisiana Public Service Commission, District 1 needs a new commissioner.
The articles are written in plain, simple English with proof at the end of the article.
These articles will also appear on www.bigjohnmason.com starting on August 10, 2020.
Informally defined, an appearance of impropriety is a situation that just seems wrong or inappropriate. It may or may not be illegal, but it definitely smells fishy.
Let’s consider an example: Suppose someone commits a crime and is convicted, but not yet sentenced to jail. Now suppose the convict donated $10,000 to the judge before the judge had determined amount of time the convict had to serve in prison. That’s illegal, of course, but even if it wasn’t, you instinctively know it’s wrong. It gives the appearance of impropriety.
A few years ago a phone company that is regulated by the Public Service Commission (PSC) is caught charging impermissible fees. They admitted that they wrongly charged the fees in violation of the PSC rules and they are negotiating the amount of the penalty
with the PSC. Before the PSC decides on a penalty fee the company holds a fundraiser and donates a large sum of money to Eric Skrmetta! That’s right, Mr. Skrmetta accepted money from a company that he regulates before the PSC had decided on a punishment!
Commissioner Skrmetta claimed that this was perfectly fine because he wasn’t personally negotiating with the company to determine the penalty. He said the PSC’s staff attorneys were doing the negotiating and implied that he would rubber stamp whatever they recommended. Does this seem like acceptable behavior to you?!? It seemed wrong to a lot of other people, too.
This incident also has plenty of unprofessionalism as well.
The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops sent their Associate Director, Robert Tasman to ask the PSC to lower the rates that prison inmates pay to make phone calls.
Commissioner Skrmetta continually interrupted Mr. Tasman’s testimony all the while insisting that he knew the Catholic Church’s position better than Mr. Tasman because he knew the archbishop. He said he would meet Mr. Tasman at confession, presumably because Mr. Tasman was lying.
It gets worse, though. Mr. Skrmetta got into a verbal altercation with Commissioner Campbell when the latter said that he had talked to Shreveport’s bishop, who expressed a desire to lower the rates. At this point Mr. Skrmetta smugly stated that his archbishop beat Commissioner Campbell’s bishop. This is not the sort of behavior we deserve from our elected officials.
We deserve better.
Please VOTE #64 for Big John Mason November 2020
Find out more about Big John Mason, listen to his radio show and podcasts.
Search The Big John Mason Show on Facebook or visit WGSO.com
You can see the proof for yourself by watching either of these videos:
There’s plenty more to this story, far more than I can explain in a short article.
Here are links to help you kick-start your own research:
Please Vote #64 - Big John Mason