BATON ROUGE — While the head of the state body charged with overseeing Louisiana's private security business survived a move to oust him, the controversy has helped focus attention on the regulation of workers in the state.
Fabian Blache III, the executive director of the Louisiana State Board of Private Security Examiners, remains in his position after the nine-person board found that allegations of inappropriate behavior were unsubstantiated. They voted 5-4 to keep him in place.
Blache, in the position for two years, was placed on administrative leave for a month while an investigation was conducted into his activities, and those of his executive assistant, Bridgette Hull.
This followed an earlier investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which acted after receiving claims of sexual harassment, race discrimination, unprofessional behavior, sexually suggestive gestures, and failure to fill out time sheets and allocate vacation days.
The EEOC found the charges unfounded and sent its findings to the board, which voted April 30 in favor of Blache.
"There was nothing found against me at all,” Blache told the Louisiana Record. “The board reinstated me Monday afternoon.”
Blache also explained to the Record that he was targeted for various reasons, including that some of the industry bristled at his approach to his job.
“They were offended that I went out myself,” he said. “I conduct some investigations and I’m covert in my approach. My predecessor had problems with two former inspectors. One was not doing the inspections as he should, but was spending his time in a theater and so I decided to go out personally to show that I'm on top of the situation."
Blache claimed the employee was not pleased and some of the board members were friends of the employee.
"I was a little bit taken back I guess you could say for the comments made that executive directors prior to this gentleman did not do their job right," former Executive Director Wayne Rogillio told Baton Rouge-based television station, WAFB. "I had 21 years there. I don't know what else I could have done, to do right."
As executive director, he rarely went out into the field to investigate security firms, Rogillio told the station, adding that he left that job to his investigators.
The board, made up of the owners of security companies, employs 11 people full time to police the industry. All workers in the private security industry are subject to its control.
The investigation has led to questions being asked about the regulation of workers in this industry, and across the board, in Louisiana.
Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Virginia-based organization that advocates for free-market solutions to issues, is a frequent visitor to the state.
Louisiana is one of the most stringent when it comes to regulating and licensing workers; however, the fact that all members of the board are also owners of private security companies is concerning, McGrath said.
"It is common but problematic that industry figures capture an industry," McGrath told the Louisiana Record.
He pointed out that in Louisiana approximately 32 percent of all workers need a license or a certificate to work. McGrath said that means 68 percent are free to work without a license. He wonders what motivated the decision to license one industry and not another.
"That is significant," McGrath said, adding that just 4.9 percent are represented by unions. This is, he said, a gap larger than the country's average, where 25 percent are licensed versus 11 percent in unions.
McGrath described occupational licensing is an "old idea" that allows industry to regulate, and protect, themselves, but with the added muscle of government power.
"It is a barrier to work for lower-income people, increases unemployment and increases prices that consumers pay," he said.
His organization claims this increase in prices amounts to an excess of $200 billion, which was calculated by both the Obama Administration and the State of California, McGrath said.
On security guards, McGrath said 34 states license all workers in the industry, but that means 16 others manage to navigate "modern civilization" without regulation. His organization does not have a problem with regulating security companies, but does have an issue with individuals requiring licenses.
"They are captured and controlled by individuals in the industry," he said.