Gov. Bobby Jindal's former health secretary insisted in testimony before a state grand jury that he didn't do anything improper or illegal to help his former employer win a $200 million Medicaid contract, calling the evaluation process "squeaky clean."
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal's former health secretary insisted in testimony before a state grand jury that he didn't do anything improper or illegal to help his former employer win a $200 million Medicaid contract, calling the evaluation process "squeaky clean."
Bruce Greenstein's comments came in a newly-released deposition taken in June before a state grand jury that later indicted him on nine perjury charges, accusing him of lying during his testimony to the jury and during a state Senate confirmation hearing.
The ex-health secretary hasn't spoken publicly since he left office in 2013, so the deposition - filed into the court record this week - offers the first detailed look at Greenstein's defense against accusations that he helped steer the now-canceled contract to a friend's firm.
According to a deposition transcript, Greenstein said 11 teams with 60 different people scored the bids and selected Maryland-based Client Network Services Inc., known as CNSI. He said he wasn't involved.
Greenstein is a former CNSI vice president who described himself as friends with both the company's president Adnan Ahmed and another chief executive.
The Jindal administration voided the 10-year Medicaid claims processing contract with CNSI in March 2013 after details emerged about a federal subpoena seeking information about the contract award.
Greenstein said after the contract was voided, he was forced by Jindal's then-chief of staff, Paul Rainwater, to resign from the Department of Health and Hospitals.
"They never asked me to come in and talk about it at all," Greenstein said, according to the transcript.
A month later, the Jindal administration accused Greenstein of inappropriate contact with the company throughout the bid process, saying he exchanged hundreds of phone calls and thousands of text messages with CNSI officials.
"We have no tolerance for any wrongdoing. His resignation was clearly appropriate under these circumstances," Jindal spokeswoman Shannon Bates said in a statement Tuesday.
CNSI has sued the state for wrongful termination in a civil lawsuit.
In his deposition, Greenstein described nearly all the phone calls and text messages with Ahmed and Creighton Carroll, CNSI's vice president of government affairs, as social.
But a prosecutor with the attorney general's office said Carroll and Greenstein had fewer than a dozen contacts in the months before Greenstein took the job as Jindal's health secretary and 2,882 communications after that.
State lawmakers raised concerns when CNSI was selected. Greenstein acknowledged under questioning in a June 2011 confirmation hearing that a decision he made in the bid solicitation process made CNSI eligible to seek the contract.
Greenstein confirmed those details under oath before the grand jury, saying Ahmed called him about making the change. But he said the decision was approved by other health department employees and the governor's Division of Administration.
"What happens is not a favoritism or benefit to any company. It just allows them to compete," he said.
In the Senate confirmation committee Greenstein only mentioned a handful of phone exchanges with CNSI officials. In his grand jury deposition, he said he didn't mention hundreds of phone calls and text messages because he was thinking of it as conversations with friends, not work talk.
Members of the grand jury seemed skeptical, asking about the exchanges several times.
"Hindsight is 20/20. It raises the appearance of suspicion. I feel sick thinking about it," Greenstein said. "I wasn't prohibited from doing it, but I would have been better off without doing it."