Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feb. 6 -7, 2012 the Evidentiary hearing was held at the Regional Rehabilitation Office in Baton Rouge.
I was in attendance as an interested party and had no part in the proceeding. I have no doubt that attending this hearing would have been the best form of upward mobility training a vendor in Louisiana could ever get. What was revealed under oath was stunning. At the conclusion of testimony the hearing officer said that it would be 4 weeks before the court reporter could have her stenography (an estimated 500 pages for each day) ready for review and that a post hearing meeting could be held at that time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Round 1: What’s this?  After a weekend of celebrations and festivities, it’s not unusual for this soon to be 65 year old semi-cajun to be feeling achy, physically worn out, or mentally fatigued from an abrupt interruption to my ever so punctual sleep cycle and laid back retiree life style; however, it is now Tuesday and my head is still reeling punch-drunk not so much from this past Saturday morning & evening’s celebrations and festivities at the RSVL Christmas parties, but from the Friday all day anti-climactic ECM meeting. It’s as though I have been transported back in time to Mayberry RFD and I am staring into Goober’s smiling goofy face as he utters, “Surprise! Surprise!” .
How many long Sunday sermons have I endured “Don’t build your house on shifting sand but on rock“; well, it turns out those enduring sermons served me well, for as Shirley and I built a case in her Grievance letter (petition) for submission to the La. BEP Randolph-Sheppard Program Manager,  we were very careful to cross reference each allegation to a specific part of the La. Administrative Code (Chapter 5: Randolph-Sheppard Program Policy) and/or the illusive Technical Assistance & Guidance (TAG) Manual. Even so, a lot would depend on substantiating documentation to be provided by SLA RSMAs, Randolph-Sheppard Management Analysts (SLA agents - field operatives of La. Rehabilitation Services - responsible for oversight of BEP facilities in La. and BEP SLA “selected” managers). We were not surprised to receive a letter from the SLA stating that they concluded from the Informal Administrative Review that the selection process and resulting selection of a Fort Polk facility “satellite manager” was proper and in accordance with applicable policy and state law. Our point was that they did not do a good job of documentation and that a little digging into the matter at hand would reveal pertinent evidence that they either overlooked or had not acquired. From what I witnessed Friday, I would dearly love to see the current Grievance letter (petition).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

La Blind Vendors’ Grievance: Round 1 ... My wife initiated a Grievance after the Fort Polk BEP facility “satellite manager” position selection.  We experienced such a high level of confusion and discomfort that she dropped it after the Informal Administrative Review. It is my understanding that the grievance process is mint to provide managers a better way than law suits to deal with problems within the BEP; however, for us it was intimidating and left us feeling that the SLA has the upper hand and that there is no use trying to oppose them.
Although the details of the current La. Blind Vendors’ Grievance cannot be discussed at this time, we can exchange comments on how we “feel” and what we “understand” in general about BEP grievances across the nation as this one unfolds.
I understand that managers have the choice to go it alone. It has been my experience that the SLA will let managers represent themselves or have someone of their choice (qualified to practice administrative law or not) to represent them. It is best to have the ECM on the managers side and to actually put forth the grievance. Our experience is that a grievance is clearly an adversarial arena favoring state BEP administrators and their lawyers. Remembering the difficulty we had trying to locate and retain legal representation, I venture to say that no matter how managers are represented, managers can expect a very stressful and intimidating experience from round 1, the “Informal Administrative Review” to the Evidentiary Hearing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The hot topic among La. Randolph Sheppard Business Enterprise Program managers has long been the hammering out of the Technical Assistance and Guidance (TAG) Manual (see the "Assistance" page on the website). The pot has boiled over! Mr. Robert R. Humphreys, author to the 1974 amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act and legal counsel to RSVA, was retained by RSVL  to represent the La. ECM (Elected Committee of Managers) and specified rejected applicants from the last  Fort Polk facility manager selection process. Judging from what I heard at the discovery meeting, La. B.E.P. vendors as represented by their district representatives who comprise the LA. ECM seek remedies pertaining to what I interpret as:
  1. the SLA's alleged manhandling of said selection process,
  2. the SLA's interpretation or alleged non-compliance with the B.E.P.  "active participation" provision as set forth in the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act ET 1974 Amendments and applicable La. state law, and
  3. the SLA's alleged untimely and inefficient handling of the La. TAG manual i.e. its  development, availability, and accessibility.
On Wednesday Nov.16,2011, I and other concerned persons attended the discovery meeting between Ms Mary Ann White (legal council representing the La. B.E.P. State Licensing Agency) and Mr. Humphreys. Each stated their clients' position then discussed allegations. Mr. Humphreys proposed his clients' desired remedies. Consideration and acknowledgement was made that the SLA, specifically LRS (La. Rehabilitation Services), has been moved from the La. Dept. of Social Services to LWC (the La. Workforce Commission) and they are going through a period of adjustment.

If you are a La. Randolph Sheppard B.E.P. facility manager, your ECM Representative is probably your best follow up source. For your convenience, a list of La. ECM Representatives with the area they represent will be  posted on the website sometime Sat. Nov. 19, 2011.
All others, when you submit your inquiries and comments, keep in mind I am not at liberty to discuss details of the Grievance.

The La. ECM regular scheduled quarterly meeting  will be held Friday Dec.09, 2011 at the Crown Plaza New Orleans Airport Hotel, Kenner, La.

Will managers instruct their representatives on how they want to be represented or will they show up to lend their opinions verbally?
Will the ECM discuss this matter in Executive Session in order to maintain order and keep peace?
Will the SLA's legal council be there to answer questions?
Will this matter be resolved before or by an Evidentiary Hearing or go to Arbitration?

These questions are meant to spawn a nationwide as well as local awareness and desire to share thoughts concerning this Grievance.

This blog is open to all and is meant to benefit all. The proclivity of the La. ECM or RSVL is not paramount. The precedent being set is. 

If you want to know more about Mr. Humphreys and his relation to blind vending, I recommend the article in the winter, 2011 - volume 43 - Issue #1 of the Vendorscope entitled THE VENDORSCOPE SPOTLIGHTS ... ROBERT HUMPHREYS, ESQ. (page 17) by Mary Sue Welch. I Googled it and downloaded it as a pdf file. I'm sure it is also available from the website.