My threadbare but trusty 1995 edition of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “chaos” as being a state of utter confusion.
That perfectly describes the current situation at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries under the leadership of Secretary Charlie Melancon. In less than eight months, Melancon has managed to sow confusion like Johnny Appelseed planted trees — prolifically.
Melancon got off on the wrong foot, alienating recreational saltwater anglers by reversing the previous administration’s stance on Gulf of Mexico red snapper when he opposed the best chance to achieve state management, even though his boss supported removing the fishery from federal oversight during last year’s gubernatorial campaign.
That closely followed the dismissal of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission member who pushed through a LWFC resolution soundly backing H.R. 3094, which would end the disastrous federal management of red snapper.
Even when the Melancon administration’s contention that state management would cost $10 million the first year was badly undermined by the congressmen responsible for H.R. 3094, there has been no sign of a change of heart.
And then in early September came allegations that Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting minutes were altered, followed by an alleged burglary of the offices of the LWFC’s secretary. The Baton Rouge Police Department confirmed it is investigating the incident, in which a number of items — including an agency hard drive, presumably containing copies of the LWFC’s minutes — were allegedly stolen.
The response of the Melancon administration?
The commission’s secretary, who is an LDWF employee, was placed on administrative leave after she reported the break-in.
The timing of that action is difficult to understand. Why would an employee be forced to stay home after making a police report? What message does that send to the rest of the staff — that reporting illegal activity will result in disciplinary action, maybe even get you fired?
Despite Melancon’s professed doubt that a break-in occurred, word is that two floors of the LDWF headquarters building were searched days after the alleged burglary became public. So he doesn’t believe it happened, but he orders half of the building searched? Very strange.
Commissioner Pat Manuel has publicly expressed concerns about the agency’s leadership. And he implied that it goes beyond simple confusion, saying he has “issues with the attitude of the department.”
Manuel seems to be as confused as the rest of us. Hopefully, he and his fellow commissioners will stay on their toes and bring organization to the chaos in Baton Rouge.
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