Department head fired after speaking out against Jindal proposal

Martha Manuel
Martha Manuel

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A state employee was fired just 24 hours after speaking out against Governor Bobby Jindal.

The drama centers around a proposed realignment and the Office of Elderly Affairs.

"I believe in the seniors and the senior programs," said Martha Manuel, former executive director of the Office of Elderly Affairs.

It's her passion that Manuel said makes her love her job. The Office of Elderly Affairs is currently under the governor's office. But now, Jindal's administration wants to move it under the Department of Health and Hospitals.

After testifying against that proposal Tuesday, Manuel said her cell phone started ringing immediately. Because she didn't pick up, she had numerous voicemails from Tammy Woods with the governor's office.

"We've been trying to get in contact with you for the past hour. It is imperative that you call me back today (Tuesday)," said Woods on one voicemail.

"I need to talk to you before the close of business today (Tuesday). Thanks," said Woods on another voicemail.

"I need you to report to my office in the morning tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8:30. Do not go to your office. I would like you to come directly to my office," said Woods on a third voicemail.

And then Wednesday, after serving the man who appointed her to the position for 13 months, she was told, "My thinking was not in line with the governor and that my services would no longer be needed, and I was fired," said Manuel. "I was not surprised. I was disappointed."

"We decided to go in a different direction in terms of the staffing at that office," said Governor Jindal. "We never have commented on personnel decisions."

Manuel said the proposed move would eventually get rid of Elderly Affairs. The governor's office said DHH and Elderly Affairs serve the same people.

"It just makes more sense to be able to be more efficient, to deliver more effectively," said Jindal.

But the woman who once represented Jindal, spoke out against the move at a legislative committee hearing.

"We're not serving the same people. They're more medical. We're more social services type," said Manuel. "If you go to DHH, there's so many levels of bureaucracy. It's very difficult. I was so pleased when the governor started off his term saying transparency in state government, and it's not there."

That move is only a proposal at this time. Manuel said even though she's no longer with the governor's office, she will continue fighting that proposal.

In the meantime, she plans to spend time with family, seniors and finish her book.

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