Judge not removed from CNSI case against state

A judge refused Tuesday to disqualify one of his colleagues from presiding over a lawsuit that challenges the Jindal administration’s cancellation of Client Network Services Inc.’s nearly $200 million contract to process Medicaid claims.

Assistant State Attorney General David Caldwell cited two reasons in asking state District Judge Mike Caldwell to recuse state District Judge Tim Kelley from the case: CNSI attorney Lewis Unglesby recently represented Kelley in what has been described as a “personal matter,” and Kelley’s wife — former Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis — will be called as a witness in the CNSI case.

In a rare occurrence, Kelley testified Tuesday in Caldwell’s courtroom that the matter in which Unglesby represented him concluded in April — a month before CNSI sued the state. Kelley disclosed Unglesby’s representation to the parties involved in the CNSI case on June 13.

Kelley also testified he would recuse himself if his wife were called in the CNSI case to give “substantive” testimony.

David Caldwell argued Kelley should recuse himself now, or be recused, to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

“It’s way premature to make that decision at this point,” CNSI attorney Michael McKay countered.

McKay also alleged that the recusal motion filed by the Attorney General’s Office is a “delay tactic.”

Judge Caldwell, who is no relation to David Caldwell, said a CNSI official has stated in an affidavit that the Maryland company had no communication with Davis while she was commissioner of administration.

“I am aware of Judge Kelley’s continued commitment to fairness and impartiality,” Judge Caldwell stated, adding that he is confident Kelley will recuse himself if it becomes necessary to do so.

“At this point I don’t see any basis for recusal,” Judge Caldwell said.

Kelley on May 23 refused to halt the civil proceedings in the CNSI suit while a special East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury investigates the awarding of CNSI’s contract. The state Attorney General’s Office is conducting the probe. The judge also has ordered the state to release to CNSI some records related to the contract dispute.

After Tuesday’s hearing, CNSI spokesman Sonny Cranch, repeated McKay’s allegation that the state’s recusal filing “is just the latest example of the state’s delay tactics.”

“Judge Kelley has ruled against the state’s efforts to halt CNSI’s suit and to block CNSI’s access to public records. Clearly, the state’s attorneys are unhappy about the results they have received thus far and were hoping for a better outcome from another judge,” Cranch said.

In response to those statements, David Caldwell said CNSI’s interest “is strictly monetary” while adding that the job of the Attorney General’s Office “is to conduct a fair and impartial investigation.”

“We will continue to aggressively protect the integrity of the criminal investigation to ensure that our witnesses are not harassed or intimidated in any way by anyone connected with the civil litigation,” he said.

The special grand jury was impaneled May 23. David Caldwell has said federal
authorities also are looking into the awarding of the Medicaid claims processing contract.

CNSI’s contract was canceled after a news report that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed documents related to the contract.

Then-state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein, a former CNSI vice president, resigned a week later. In its cancellation notice to CNSI, the Division of Administration cited improper contact between Greenstein and CNSI officials and employees.

CNSI claims in its lawsuit that the firm did nothing wrong to win the state contract and was fulfilling its contractual obligations properly before it was fired.