Louisiana nursing home owner who warehoused patients is a political donor

Bob Dean gave thousands of dollars to political candidates through his companies

By: - September 5, 2021 10:00 am
Nursing Home Scandal

Seven nursing homes owned by Bob Dean were shut down after it was discovered he had evacuated their residents to a warehouse he owns in Tangipahoa Parish. (Photo provided by WVUE/FOX 8 NOLA)

The nursing homes owner who left nearly 850 of his patients in an unsanitary warehouse following Hurricane Ida has been a generous supporter of both Democratic and Republican politicians in Louisiana.

State and federal campaign finance records show Bob Dean has given at least $289,000 to candidates since 1994 both as an individual and through 25 companies he owns.

There is a gap in his political giving. Dean didn’t donate to campaigns for a decade from 2008 through 2018,  but he started making contributions again in the weeks leading up to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ second gubernatorial election.

Dean gave Edwards $42,500 and the governor’s brother, Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards, $7,500 in September and October of 2019. The brothers, both Democrats, were up for reelection that year and won their races. 

Besides the Edwards brothers, Dean has made only one other political donation since 2007. He contributed $25,000 in June to the Conservative Louisiana political action committee, which supports Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy.

Kennedy also received $5,000 from Dean in 1999.

Dean’s business arrangements and political connections are under scrutiny this week after the state evacuated hundreds of patients who lived in seven of his nursing homes from a warehouse he owns in Tangipahoa Parish.

On Saturday night, the Edwards’ administration announced it was shutting down the seven nursing homes that transferred patients to the warehouse.


Dean also owns other nursing homes — including those in Opelousas and Plaquemine — that were never evacuated and continue to operate. 

Residents from the now-shuttered seven nursing homes had been moved to the warehouse ahead of Hurricane Ida. Seven have died since being transferred there and 12 patients were hospitalized. It’s not clear if any of the deaths occurred in the 12 people who were hospitalized. 

Edwards’ office said Dean’s political contributions to the governor will have no bearing on how the case is handled.

“The governor has demanded and will ensure a complete investigation by law enforcement, including Louisiana State Police, and health officials to ensure that those people responsible for this tragic situation are held accountable,” said Christina Stephens, the governor’s spokeswoman, Friday.

‘There are just no words’

In the days after the storm, the Louisiana Department of Health received alarming reports about the warehouse, said Aly Neel, Louisiana’s health department spokeswoman, this week.

The building was hot and partially flooded. It reeked of urine and nursing home residents were being kept on mattresses on the floor, Neel said. The facility had nearly 150 more patients than the health department expected. 

Nursing homes in Louisiana must submit a plan to the state health department outlining how they would evacuate patients if necessary. The health department knew Dean planned to move many patients — around 700 — to the warehouse ahead of Hurricane Ida, Neel said. Health officials inspected the site Aug. 27, two days before the hurricane landed. Those officials deemed the site adequate for evacuees at that point, Neel said.

The agency heard conditions at the warehouse were declining Monday, in the hours after the hurricane hit. Dean’s nursing homes were also housing far more patients in the warehouse than the health department had thought would be there. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards and a political action committee supporting Sen. John Kennedy have both received donations from nursing home owner Bob Dean in recent years. (Photos by Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator, left; Getty Images, right)

Health inspectors went to the warehouse in person Tuesday — the day after the hurricane — but were refused entry by nursing home staff working at the building, Neel said. The health department has said in a press release that staff were intimidated by Dean personally.

The refusal prompted the state to make hasty arrangements to transfer the remaining patients. State officials, ambulances and health care workers returned to the warehouse Wednesday and Thursday to remove those patients. 

“There are just no words,” said Dr. Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s chief medical officer, about the warehouse. “There will be a lot that will be looked at in this.”

Attorney General Jeff Landry is launching an investigation into the matter.

Health officials haven’t answered questions about why a plan to move hundreds of nursing home patients — who are medically fragile — to a warehouse was ever considered appropriate in an emergency or disaster. The agency has not provided copies of the seven nursing homes ‘evacuation plans that were required to be on file with the state. It’s not clear whether residents from other nursing homes that were evacuated have also been housed in warehouse-like conditions. 

Dean and his staff at an office where dozens of his companies are registered in downtown Baton Rouge did not respond to voicemails and social media messages left for them Friday. One attorney who works for Dean frequently, according to state records, declined to comment through email. Another attorney who has registered dozens of Dean’s businesses with the state did not respond to a phone call or email message Friday.

A history of troubled inspections

This isn’t the first time alarms have been raised about Dean’s nursing homes. He owns seven nursing homes in Louisiana, according to business records, and possibly also assisted living, dialysis and hospice businesses. 

Federal inspectors have issued negative, worrying reports about the care at his nursing homes several times. Two local media organizations — The Times-Picayune and WAFB-TV — have also featured Dean’s facilities in investigative stories about dangerous nursing home conditions.

A 2005 Times-Picayune investigation discovered that, from 1999 to 2005, five patients in Dean’s nursing homes had died because of inadequate care. The newspaper also reported that one woman from a Dean facility ended up in the hospital with 500 fire ant bites following a bug infestation in her nursing home bed. 

A nursing home in Plaquemine — also owned by Dean — had a shortage of nurses on staff that resulted in patients not receiving their medication on time or adequate care in 2018, according to WAFB. One patient threw up and was unable to get staff to clean it up off the person, prompting the patient to call 911 for assistance, according to the TV station. 

Dean has even been criticized for moving his nursing home patients to a warehouse ahead of a hurricane before this week. In 1998, two of his residents died after he moved dozens of people to the Lyceum ballroom— which he owned — in downtown Baton Rouge ahead of Hurricane Georges, according to The Times-Picayune

The ballroom didn’t have adequate air conditioning. A state administrative judge eventually ordered Dean to pay $1,000 fine for the incident, according to The Times-Picayune.

Wide-ranging political donations

Dean stepped up his political contributions shortly after the 1998 post-hurricane evacuation scandal. He donated over $200,000 of the $289,000 he had given to political campaigns during the eight years from 1999 to 2007.

His beneficiaries included former Gov. Mike Foster ($25,360), former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ($20,000), former Gov. Kathleen Blanco ($13,000) and former Attorney General Richard Ieyoub ($10,000).

Former state Sen. Reggie Dupre, D-Bourg, got $40,250 from Dean while in office. Dupre, who is now the executive director of the Terrebonne Levee District, said he wasn’t sure why he got so much support from Dean.

“Nursing homes were just always making donations back then. They probably still are,” Dupre said in an interview Friday. “I haven’t spoken to Bob Dean in at least 15 years.”

Nursing home owners are one of the most powerful interest groups in state politics. They have always ranked among the top political donors to Edwards, but Dean is somewhat of a pariah in the nursing home community. He’s been at odds with the Louisiana Nursing Home Association for years, according to several lawmakers and former lawmakers.

Mark Berger, executive director of the nursing home association, declined to comment on Dean Friday, but confirmed that Dean’s nursing homes were not members of his organization.

From 2004 to 2006, former state Rep. William Daniel, D-Baton Rouge, received $35,000 in campaign contributions from Dean.

Daniel — who went on to work in local government for East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Caddo parishes after leaving the Legislature — said he had sponsored a bill that would have allowed Dean to open a new nursing home several years ago.

At the time, the state had a moratorium on new nursing homes, in part because of the high number of drownings and other deaths that occurred in the homes during Hurricane Katrina. The nursing home association was in favor of the ban and didn’t want Dean to open a new facility. Daniel felt as Dean was being targeted by the nursing home association. 

“I went to Lake Charles and visited his new nursing home and it was beautiful,” Daniel said. “I know he was grateful I took on his fight.”

State law limits each individual or business to donations of $5,000 for statewide elected officials and the heads of large local governments as well as $2,500 for state lawmakers per campaign cycle. But Dean has registered over a 100 companies (LLCs) with the state government over the years — and uses some of those businesses to contribute more money to candidates than a single person or business can. 


In the case of the governor’s campaign, Dean gave the $42,500 through nine companies over a matter of days in October 2019. These included the LLCs set up for a hotel Dean used to own in Natchez, Mississippi, “Dean Florida Properties,” a timber company and an entity to handle classic cars. None of the money Dean donated to Edwards came from the dozens of companies affiliated with his nursing homes.

In addition to health care companies, Dean is a well-known real estate developer in Louisiana. He owns or has owned most of the architecturally significant buildings in downtown Baton Rouge, including the Hotel Indigo. He also purchased the historic Hotel Bentley in Alexandria, a home abutting the LSU Lakes in Baton Rouge and property along St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, according to state records. 

As recently as 2019, he also owned a plantation in Georgia with an 18,000-square-foot home that he was trying to sell.

Correction: This article originally said Dean owned nine nursing homes in Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Health says he owns seven nursing homes as of September of 2021. He may have owned additional nursing homes in the past. 

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.