High-paid La health official lives out of state

There’s only so much you can include in any investigative report. Even though you could just about write an unlimited number of pages on the web these days, it gets lost on the average reader/viewer. So, here’s some more to the story I did last night on the Medical Director for Immunizations for the state of Louisiana who doesn’t live in the state.

Dr. Frank Welch says he was given permission to “work from home” when state officials asked him to return after Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005. Since then DHH officials, as they changed with political winds, have continued to allow him to work from his residences, all outside the state.

            In 2013, the legislature passed a new law that its creator says was aimed at requiring all high-paid state employees to become citizens of Louisiana, registering their cars in the state and getting their Louisiana driver’s licenses. Anyone working for the state full-time making more than $100,000 a year now has to get a Louisiana driver’s license and register their cars here. Welch and the Department of Health and Hospitals clearly paid attention to the law. He registered to vote just about a month before the new law took effect, something you can easily do when you get your driver’s license at the Office of Motor Vehicles.

            I found out from the Commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles, Stephen Campbell, that there is no address verification requirement anymore to get either a license or a vehicle registration. It’s strictly a case of you swearing that you live at the address you give when you sign the relevant forms.

            In looking at Welch’s case, before I was told he had “multiple residences” and before my interview with him, I had known that the Immunization Office is based in Metairie off L&A Road. I asked DHH for any key code entries that Welch may have made for a number of years, since he’s the medical director of that unit. I was told they didn’t have employee-specific codes and that Welch doesn’t have an assigned office in Baton Rouge.

Documentation of Welch's travel reimbursement requests

Documentation of Welch’s travel reimbursement requests

            I also requested all travel reimbursement requests that he’s made for the past five years. I got an email with general forms, but no back up documentation. I had to go back and request that after the fact. What I found was that Welch did, indeed, request reimbursement for travel a number of times, but not to and from Louisiana. He would get reimbursed, like any other state employee whenever he would have meetings in Baton Rouge or the other regional offices for DHH. Even though the state didn’t fund his travel to and from La., the state clearly funded his hotel stays for a lot of his six to ten visits a year.

            Trips he was reimbursed for mileage and/or meals and/or hotel:

            12/08 M,H,M

            01/09 M,H,M

            02/09 M,H,M

            3/09 M,H,M

            4/09 –M,H,M FOR CONFERENCE TRIP TO DALLAS

            5/09—M,H,M 14 DAY TRIP INCL. WEEKENDS

            8/09 M,H,M

            9/09 M,H,M

            11/09 M,H,M 7 DAY TRIP

            3/10 M,H,M

            5/10 M,H,M OIL SPILL

            6/10 M,H,M OIL SPILL

            3/11 M,H,M

            5/11 M,H,M

            10/11 M,H,M

            10/12 M,H,M HURRICANE ISAAC

            11/12 M,H,M

            1/13 M,H,M

            3/13 M,H,M

            9/13 M,H,M

            10/13 M,H,M

            3/14 M,H,M

            2/15 M,H,M

            What does all that mean? He was paid for a large portion of his trips down to Louisiana for meetings. Could other employees get paid the same amount? Yes. But in essence, the state is paying for everything but airfare for his trips down to the state. Is this for all the trips he took? No, not if he does, in fact, travel here 6 to 10 times a year like he says he does.

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