GUEST POST by lil’oya

Dr. Bill Cassidy claims that he should serve as Louisiana’s next senator because he has served the people of Louisiana through his job at LSU for the last 20 years. However, this “service,” at least since he has been in Congress, may actually threaten our treasured public medical school’s very existence, while also being criminal fraud.

To support his contention that his payroll billing to LSU while he was in DC was legitimate, Dr. Cassidy referred ABC News to a May 2014 LSU graduate, Claude Pirtle. Cassidy and Pirtle told ABC:

Cassidy said that, for example, he has provided “resident supervision” for LSU medical students on health policy rotations in Washington, D.C.

One such student is LSU resident Claude Pirtel (sic), who spent a month in the district earlier this year and worked with Cassidy on a project that studied the implications of the Affordable Care Act on health policy.

“Two or three times a week, we’d sit down and talk about health policy and work on projects pertaining to Louisiana,” Pirtel (sic) told ABC News of his time working with Cassidy, which he described as one of “best experiences” of his time in medical school.

A close examination of this story reveals that it presents very serious problems for Dr. Cassidy and LSU. It does not provide any apparent legitimate academic rationale for Dr. Cassidy to claim these meetings as billable to LSU. If LSU administrators did in fact pay Dr. Cassidy for these meetings as faculty time, and they awarded Pirtle academic credit towards his medical degree under these circumstances, they may have put the entire LSU medical school system in jeopardy. LSU administrators may have criminal liability for their role in Dr. Cassidy’s public payroll fraud as well.

I. US House of Representatives Ethics Rules

As Jason reported, in 2009, Dr. Cassidy wrote the United States House of Representatives Office of Standards of Official Conduct requesting a waiver from the usual prohibition on other employment to allow him to keep his position as a teaching doctor in LSU’s public health system. 

The response from the House of Representatives lays out very clear criteria for Dr. Cassidy’s activities to qualify for the waiver he received. It is the type of things you would expect of normal educator activities:

1. The teaching is part of a regular course of instruction at an established academic institution;

4. The teacher’s responsibilities include class preparation and student evaluation (for example, grading papers, testing, and homework);

5. The students receive credit for the course taught;

7. No official resources, including staff time, are used in connection with the teaching;

9. The employment or compensation does not represent a significant potential for conflict of interest.

1. What LSU Medical School course was Claude Pirtle enrolled in for which he received academic credit for conversations in Cassidy’s DC office?

2. What papers or other academic work was Pirtle required to produce to receive academic credit towards his medical degree for this course?

3. If he was enrolled in a course, was Dr. Cassidy the professor?

4. Where is the syllabus?

5. How did Dr. Cassidy evaluate Pirtle’s work?

If each of these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily, Dr. Cassidy is clearly in violation of the terms of the House of Representatives’ approval of his working at LSU while serving in Congress.

II. Accreditation

In order to maintain its accreditation as a medical school, LSU’s medical courses must meet expectations set by its accrediting agency, the Liason Committee of Medical Education, the nation’s major medical school accreditation agency.

1. Would LCME allow LSU to award medical school credit for the types of conversations that Cassidy and Pirtle describe in the ABC article?

2. Can LSU provide an LCME-compliant course description for this course from the 2013-2014 medical school course catalog?

If the activities do not meet accreditation standards and LSU awarded medical school credit hours anyway, Dr. Cassidy and the complicit administrators are compromising LSU’s accreditation as a medical school.

The consequences of this unethical behavior to Louisiana cannot be understated. If LSU lost its accreditation, their degrees would be essentially worthless.

LSU Medical School students would not be able to receive financial aid, their credits would not transfer to other schools, their research programs would end, and their graduates would not qualify to take the exams needed to gain their MD licenses. Louisiana, as a state, could no longer train her own doctors.

Attending an unaccredited program can mean that you will not be eligible for federal financial aid, you will not be able to transfer credits to another school, and you will not be able to obtain appropriate professional licensure in your field. Accreditation can make the difference between embarking on an exciting career path, or being saddled with debt and worthless credits.

What are some red flags that an institution is unaccredited?

Credits are awarded for very little work.

III. IRB

This next one may seem strange to be so important, but anyone who’s involved in upper-level academic research or administration is familiar with their university’s required processes to ensure ethical protocols for all research activities.

Any research conducted by professors and students must follow extremely strict screening protocols to protect human subjects. This protocol is called IRB, and it is followed by every higher education academic research institution that receives funding for its research. The IRB process requires that anyone proposing to do research must apply to the university in advance for an intensive review of their research goals and methods. The researchers may not make their own determination of whether the IRB process is necessary – they must apply to the review board before beginning any research activities. Failure to do so can compromise the entire institution’s ability to act as a research institution and receive funds for research from any funder.

Pirtle says he worked with Dr. Cassidy, as a medical student, to “stud[y] the implications of the Affordable Care Act on health policy.”

1. Was IRB approval acquired in advance for this study?

2. Can Cassidy, Pirtle, or LSU produce a letter of determination for this study dated prior to March 2014?

If they cannot, Dr. Cassidy has compromised LSU’s entire status as a research university. He is undermining all those at LSU who do the diligent work required to follow the processes. Why are LSU administrators allowing him to do this? Where do their loyalties lie?

IV. LSU’s Conflicts of Interests Policy

Dr. Cassidy and Claude Pirtle were, as they said to ABC:

Stud[ying] the implications of the Affordable Care Act on health policy.

For which Dr. Cassidy billed LSU as an employee, Dr. Cassidy appears to be in very clear violation of LSU’s research conflicts of interest policy. This policy requires that any research which presents the possibility of a conflict of interest must go through an intensive review and approval process before starting the study. Dr. Cassidy has not shown, nor do his time sheets reflect, that any of the required disclosures were submitted or the policies followed.

While there is no apparent legitimate academic rationale for Cassidy’s and Pirtle’s “study”, apparently occurring in March and April of 2014, Dr. Cassidy issued three press releases from his Congressional office regarding the ACA during this same period:

March 26, 2014

April 1, 2014

April 3, 2014

LSU’s Conflicts of Interest Policy is intended to preserve its scientists’ objectivity. In his dual roles, Dr. Cassidy has a clear non-financial conflict of interest:

“Non-Financial Conflict of Interest” occurs when an Investigator’s or Immediate Family Member’s role in the University or other outside activities compromise or have the appearance of compromising an Investigator’s professional judgment in proposing, conducting, supervising, or reporting research or come into conflict with an Investigator’s primary commitment to maintain scientific objectivity.

His political activities conflict with his ability to honor his obligated primary commitment to maintain scientific objectivity. LSU has procedures in place to detect and prevent such conflicts.

1. Did Dr. Cassidy disclose his political conflicts to LSU prior to beginning any research on the ACA with Pirtle?

2. Was LSU’s Conflicts of Interest Policy followed, as would be required of any other faculty/student research project, in advance of beginning the study?

3. If so, can Cassidy, Pirtle, or LSU show documentation of that process?

From LSU’s Policy statement:

Violations and Sanctions
Violations of this Policy and implementing procedures, including, but not limited to the failure to file timely disclosures, filing incomplete, erroneous or inaccurate disclosures; or failure to comply with prescribed procedures for managing or resolving Conflicts of Interest, will be handled in accordance with applicable LSUHSC-NO policies. Sanctions may include disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. Violations may also result in civil or criminal liability.

V. State and Federal Crimes

The following Louisiana and United States criminal code sections are included so the people of Louisiana can see what the laws are and decide for themselves whether Dr. Cassidy and LSU should be investigated and charged if the evidence supports it. This is not an exhaustive list of laws that may apply to these activities. This list also does not include whatever sanctions the United States Congress may impose on its members who commit such crimes.

If you read these materials and believe Dr. Cassidy and/or LSU administrators should be investigated, please contact the following public officers:

1. Daryl G. Purpera, Louisiana Legislative Auditor

http://www.lla.la.gov/hotline/

You may also call toll-free:
1-844-50-FRAUD
(1-844-503-7283)

Or FAX to:
1-844-40-FRAUD
(1-844-403-7283)

Or report via U.S. Mail:
LLA Hotline
P. O. Box 94397
Baton Rouge, LA 70804

2. Walt Green, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana

https://www.facebook.com/pages/US-Attorney-for-the-Middle-District-of-Louisiana/362451107161299


777 Florida Street, Suite 208
Baton Rouge, LA 70801
(225) 389-0443 phone
(225) 389-0561 fax

3. U.S. House of Representatives, Ethics Committee on Standards of Official Conduct

Committee Members

Republicans
K. Michael Conaway, Texas – Chairman
Charles W. Dent, Pennsylvania
Patrick Meehan, Pennsylvania
Trey Gowdy, South Carolina
Susan W. Brooks, Indiana

Democrats
Linda T. Sánchez, California – Ranking Member
Pedro R. Pierluisi, Puerto Rico
Michael E. Capuano, Massachusetts
Yvette D. Clarke, New York
Ted Deutch, Florida

LOUISIANA CRIMINAL STATUTES

1. LSA-R.S. 14:138 – § 138. Public payroll fraud

A. Public payroll fraud is committed when:

(1) Any person shall knowingly receive any payment or compensation, or knowingly permit his name to be carried on any employment list or payroll for any payment or compensation from the state, for services not actually rendered by himself, or for services grossly inadequate for the payment or compensation received or to be received according to such employment list or payroll; or

(2) Any public officer or public employee shall carry, cause to be carried, or permit to be carried, directly or indirectly, upon the employment list or payroll of his office, the name of any person as employee, or shall pay any employee, with knowledge that such employee is receiving payment or compensation for services not actually rendered by said employee or for services grossly inadequate for such payment or compensation.

 …

C. (1) Whoever commits the crime of public payroll fraud shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars, or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than two years, or both.

(2) In addition to the penalty provided for in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection, a person convicted of the provisions of this Section may be ordered to pay restitution to the state if the state suffered a loss as a result of the offense. Restitution shall include the payment of legal interest at the rate provided in R.S. 13:4202.

2. LSA-C.C. Art. 1953 – Fraud may result from misrepresentation or from silence

Fraud is a misrepresentation or a suppression of the truth made with the intention either to obtain an unjust advantage for one party or to cause a loss or inconvenience to the other. Fraud may also result from silence or inaction.

3. LSA-R.S. 14:134 – § 134. Malfeasance in office

A. Malfeasance in office is committed when any public officer or public employee shall:

(1) Intentionally refuse or fail to perform any duty lawfully required of him, as such officer or employee; or

(2) Intentionally perform any such duty in an unlawful manner; or

(3) Knowingly permit any other public officer or public employee, under his authority, to intentionally refuse or fail to perform any duty lawfully required of him, or to perform any such duty in an unlawful manner.

B. Any duty lawfully required of a public officer or public employee when delegated by him to a public officer or public employee shall be deemed to be a lawful duty of such public officer or employee. The delegation of such lawful duty shall not relieve the public officer or employee of his lawful duty.

C. (1) Whoever commits the crime of malfeasance in office shall be imprisoned for not more than five years with or without hard labor or shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or both.

(2) In addition to the penalty provided for in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection, a person convicted of the provisions of this Section may be ordered to pay restitution to the state if the state suffered a loss as a result of the offense. Restitution shall include the payment of legal interest at the rate provided in R.S. 13:4202.

4. LSA-R.S. 14:72 – § 72. Forgery

A. It shall be unlawful to forge, with intent to defraud, any signature to, or any part of, any writing purporting to have legal efficacy.

B. Issuing, transferring, or possessing with intent to defraud, a forged writing, known by the offender to be a forged writing, shall also constitute a violation of the provisions of this Section.

C. For purposes of this Section:

(1) “Forge” means the following:

(a) To alter, make, complete, execute, or authenticate any writing so that it purports:

(i) To be the act of another who did not authorize that act;

(ii) To have been executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was in fact the case; or

(iii) To be a copy of an original when no such original existed.

(b) To issue, transfer, register the transfer of, pass, publish, or otherwise utter a writing that is forged in accordance with the meaning of Subparagraph (1)(a).

(c) To possess a writing that is forged within the meaning of Subparagraph (1)(a).

(2) “Writing” means the following:

(a) Printing or any other method of recording information;

(b) Money, coins, tokens, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, and trademarks; and

(c) Symbols of value, right, privilege, or identification.

D. Whoever commits the crime of forgery shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than ten years, or both.

5. LSA-R.S. 14:10 – § 10. Criminal intent (defining statute)

Criminal intent may be specific or general:

(1) Specific criminal intent is that state of mind which exists when the circumstances indicate that the offender actively desired the prescribed criminal consequences to follow his act or failure to act.

(2) General criminal intent is present whenever there is specific intent, and also when the circumstances indicate that the offender, in the ordinary course of human experience, must have adverted to the prescribed criminal consequences as reasonably certain to result from his act or failure to act.

 

6. LSA-R.S. 14:26 – § 26. Criminal conspiracy

A. Criminal conspiracy is the agreement or combination of two or more persons for the specific purpose of committing any crime; provided that an agreement or combination to commit a crime shall not amount to a criminal conspiracy unless, in addition to such agreement or combination, one or more of such parties does an act in furtherance of the object of the agreement or combination.

B. If the intended basic crime has been consummated, the conspirators may be tried for either the conspiracy or the completed offense, and a conviction for one shall not bar prosecution for the other.

C. Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit any crime shall be fined or imprisoned, or both, in the same manner as for the offense contemplated by the conspirators; provided, however, whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not more than thirty years.

D. Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit any other crime shall be fined or imprisoned, or both, in the same manner as for the offense contemplated by the conspirators; but such fine or imprisonment shall not exceed one-half of the largest fine, or one-half the longest term of imprisonment prescribed for such offense, or both.

FEDERAL CRIMINAL STATUTES

1. 18 U.S.C.A. § 1001. Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully–

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial proceeding, or that party’s counsel, for statements, representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.

(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to–

(1) administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a matter related to the procurement of property or services, personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative branch; or

(2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.

2. 18 U.S.C.A. § 286. Conspiracy to defraud the Government with respect to claims

Whoever enters into any agreement, combination, or conspiracy to defraud the United States, or any department or agency thereof, by obtaining or aiding to obtain the payment or allowance of any false, fictitious or fraudulent claim, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

3. 18 USC § 287. False, fictitious or fraudulent claims

Whoever makes or presents to any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, or to any department or agency thereof, any claim upon or against the United States, or any department or agency thereof, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent, shall be imprisoned not more than five years and shall be subject to a fine in the amount provided in this title.

4. 18 U.S.C.A. § 600. Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity

Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

5. 18 U.S.C.A. § 607. Place of solicitation

(a) Prohibition.–

(1) In general.–It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a Federal, State, or local election from a person who is located in a room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an officer or employee of the United States. It shall be unlawful for an individual who is an officer or employee of the Federal Government, including the President, Vice President, and Members of Congress, to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a Federal, State, or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an officer or employee of the United States, from any person.

(2) Penalty.–A person who violates this section shall be fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.

8 thoughts

  1. I seriously doubt that Dr. Cassidy, and his alleged student Mr. Pirtle, came up with the statements in Cassidy’s press releases during their one-month “study” and discussions. The press releases are canned Republican statements released by virtually every Republican Congressman and Senator at that time. I was on the faculty at LSU for 13 years in the late 70s and 80s, and spent my next 20 years supervising scientists in a federal agency. This whole issue smacks of political cronyism and conflict of interest, lack of scientific credibility and violation of ethics. It clearly should be investigated by LSU, the state and House of Representatives.

    I can’t help but notice the following definition posted in your article: 2. LSA-C.C. Art. 1953 – Fraud may result from misrepresentation or from silence.
    Fraud is a “misrepresentation or a suppression of the truth made with the intention either to obtain an unjust advantage for one party or to cause a loss or inconvenience to the
    other.” Fraud may also result from silence or inaction.

    Seems to me this defines the entire Republican Party’s actions relative to the Affordable Care Act. My U.S. Congressman, Dr. John Fleming, is an artist at misrepresenting or suppressing the truth. He bans anyone who posts information that contradicts or questions what he posts on his/our Facebook page.

  2. Isn’t it amazing how people of a certain political stripe call for sure consequences for disadvantaged people who misuse a dollar of the taxpayers’ money, but see no problem with the powerful, wealthy, privileged few literally stealing large sums of public funds?

    Remember when Walmart made an error and a handful of food stamp recipients got extra groceries? Throw the criminals in jail! No more food stamps for them! Bill Jefferson went to jail after bribe money was discovered in his freezer. But Bill Cassidy apparently committing felony public payroll fraud? Oh that’s just the other side’s desperate allegation- no problem because Bill’s our guy.

    The hypocrisy would make me laugh if it wasn’t so nauseating.

      1. lil’oya – I certainly saw the Advocate report – there is a lot of talk about it. Excellent recap, important timing. The comments are most interesting. Please keep up the pressure.

  3. There is no trail to the “two to three times a week” that Claude Pirtle spent talking with Bill Cassidy to the 5 hours Cassidy logged on March 11th or the 5 hours Cassidy logged on March 25th. As you state, the article “does not provide any apparent legitimate academic rationale for Dr. Cassidy to claim these meetings as billable to LSU.” But, since there is nothing that provides any apparent legitimate indication that these meetings WERE billed to LSU, the rest of your discussion falls apart.

    On the other side of the discussion, if Bill Cassidy was logging these meetings as “Clinical Services or Resident Supervision” time, there would have been “two or three times a week” that he entered to cover the meetings with Pirtle.

    The only other way you could be trying to view this would be that under either LSU’s rules or the House Ethics rules, the ONLY way Bill Cassidy is allowed to speak with a LSU Medical Resident is under the circumstances of Resident Supervision and that the mere moments spent taking a picture with Bill Cassidy and Claude Pirtle on capital hill would be a violation of the “no non-academic contact” clause.

  4. Wesley, I suggest you see the articles here and at American Zombie that preceded this post, as well as the earlier news articles and original documents. The factual basis for this analysis is the statements Dr. Cassidy and his student themselves gave the national and local news as justification for his payroll claims. The other argument you make, that there would have been consistent entries, only supports our contention that Dr. Cassidy’s public statements and payroll paperwork to not jive in multiple important ways.

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