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The underhanded attempt to rip off the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSRPS) on behalf of State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson (aka “Precious”) through a shady back door amendment steered through the Legislature by State Sen. Neil Riser wasn’t the first time that the agency charged with protecting Louisiana citizens has illicitly commandeered state funds on behalf of one of its own.

And, it seems, the more deeply we venture down the rabbit hole that is the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the uglier and scarier the unfolding picture becomes.

In April of 2010, the Jindal administration, in an offer to implement across the board savings, made a one-time incentive package offer to various state agencies as a means to encourage state employees to take early retirement.

Handled properly, it appeared at the time—and still does appear—to have been an economical and compassionate way to nudge employees who wanted out but who could not afford to retire, into making the decision to walk away, thus reducing the number of state employees which in turn translated to long-term savings in salaries and benefits paid by the state.

On April 23 of that year, DPS Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux sent an email to all personnel informing them that the Department of Civil Service and the Louisiana State Police Commission had approved the retirement incentive as a “Layoff Avoidance Plan.”

In legal-speak, under the incentive eligible applicants would receive a payment of 50 percent of the savings realized by DPS for one year from the effective date of the employee’s retirement.

In simpler language, the incentive was simply 50 percent of the employee’s annual salary. If an employee making $50,000 per year, for example, was approved for the incentive, he or she would walk away with $25,000 in up-front payments, plus his or her regular retirement and the agency would save one-half of her salary from the date of retirement to the end of the fiscal year. The higher the salary, the higher the potential savings.

The program, offered to the first 20 DPS employees to sign up via an internet link on a specific date, was designed to save the state many times that amount over the long haul. If, for example, 20 employees, each making $50,000 a year, took advantage of the incentive, DPS theoretically would realize a savings of $1 million per year thereafter following the initial retirement year.

That formula, repeated in multiple agencies, could produce a savings of several million—not that much in terms of a $25 billion state budget, but a savings nonetheless.

The policy did come with one major caveat from the Department of Civil Service, however. Agencies were cautioned not to circumvent the program through the state’s obscure retire-rehire policy whereby several administrative personnel, the most notable being former Secretary of Higher Education Sally Clausen, have “retired,” only to be “rehired” a day or so later in order to reap a monetary windfall.

“We strongly recommend that agencies exercise caution in re-hiring an employee who has received a retirement incentive payment within the same budget unit until it can be clearly demonstrated that the projected savings have been realized,” the Civil Service communique said.

And, to again quote our favorite redneck playwright from Denham on Amite, Billy Wayne Shakespeare from his greatest play, Hamlet Bob, “Aye, that’s the rub.” (often misquoted as “Therein lies the rub.”)

Basically, to realize a savings under the early retirement incentive payout, an agency would have had to wait at least a year before rehiring an employee who had retired under the program.

Boudreaux, by what many in DPS feel was more than mere happenstance, managed to be the first person to sign up on the date the internet link opened up for applications.

In Boudreaux’s case, her incentive payment was based on an annual salary of about $92,000 so her incentive payment was around $46,000. In addition, she was also entitled to payment of up to 300 hours of unused annual leave which came to another $13,000 or so for a total of about $59,000 in walk-around money.

Her retirement date was April 28 but the day before, on April 27, she double encumbered herself into the classified (Civil Service) Deputy Undersecretary position because another employee was promoted into her old position on April 26.

A double incumbency is when an employee is appointed to a position that is already occupied by an incumbent, in this case, Boudreaux’s successor. Double incumbencies are mostly used for smooth succession planning initiatives when the incumbent of a position (Boudreaux, in this case) is planning to retire, according to the Louisiana Department of Civil Service.

http://www.civilservice.louisiana.gov/files/HRHandbook/JobAid/5-Double%20Incumbency.pdf

Here’s the kicker: agencies are not required to report double incumbencies to the Civil Service Department if the separation or retirement will last for fewer than 30 days. And because State Civil Service is not required to fund double incumbencies, everything is conveniently kept in-house and away from public scrutiny.

On April 30, under the little-known retire-rehire policy, Boudreaux was rehired two days after her “retirement,” but this time at the higher paying position of Undersecretary, an unclassified, or appointive position.

What’s more, though she “retired” as Deputy Undersecretary on April 28, her “retirement” was inexplicably calculated based on the higher Undersecretary position’s salary, a position she did not assume until April 30—two days after her “retirement,” sources inside DPS told LouisianaVoice.

Following her maneuver, then-Commissioner of Administration Angelé Davis apparently saw through the ruse and reportedly ordered Boudreaux to repay her incentive payment as well as the payment for her 300 hours of annual leave, according to those same DPS sources.

It was about this time, however, that Davis left Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to take a position in the private sector. Paul Rainwater, Jindal’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, was named to succeed Davis on June 24, 2010, and the matter of Boudreaux’s payment quickly slipped through the cracks and was never repaid.

This occurred, it should be noted, at a time when state employees, including state police, (except for a few of Edmonson’s top aides, who we plan to discuss in future posts) were already into a period of five or six years of going without pay raises because of the state’s financial condition which has deteriorated in each year of Jindal’s administration.

Meanwhile, Jill Boudreaux continues in her position of Undersecretary of the Department of Public Safety at her present salary of $118,600 per year.

Now that we have shone a little light on her retire-rehire ploy, the question becomes this: Will anyone in the Jindal administration look into this matter and demand that she repay the money—with interest?

Or will the governor, who insisted as Candidate Jindal that “it is time we declare war on the incompetence and corruption” https://www.nrapvf.org/articles/20070720/nra-pvf-endorses-congressman-bobby-jindal-for-governor-of-louisiana

and that incompetence and corruption “will not be tolerated,” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15503722

and that he has “zero tolerance for wrongdoing,” http://theadvocate.com/home/5500946-125/federal-grand-jury-looks-at

continue to ignore problems at home as he racks up frequent flyer miles in quest of the presidency that is far beyond his grasp?

Governor, the ball is now in your court.

Put up or shut up.

 

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I knew it was bad news as soon as I heard her voice on the phone Sunday evening.

I was right.

Ruston friend and author Judith Howard was calling and the tone of her voice gave her away immediately. “John Hays died this morning,” she said.

The news, for the second time this year, slammed me in the gut like a sledge hammer. The first time was Jan. 16 when I learned that Wiley Hilburn, longtime friend and retired head of the Louisiana Tech Journalism Department had died. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/01/16/the-passing-of-wiley-hilburn-like-ripping-out-a-part-of-us-even-as-it-reminds-us-of-our-foibles-and-our-own-mortality/

Now it was John Hays. Two men, both a little older than I, but each close enough in age to be called contemporaries. The two men were as different as night and day but somehow strangely alike.

Hilburn was the consummate, professional journalist with a Master’s Degree from LSU to prove it. Hays, by contrast was a contractor by trade, no college degree to hang on his wall, but every bit the professional journalist by anyone’s comparison. Night and day but yet seemingly cut from the same cloth.

Both men died of complications from years of fighting cancer and both men were very much a part of my professional and personal life. Hilburn was both my friend and journalism professor at Louisiana Tech and Hays was first my nemesis when we labored for competing newspapers in Ruston (more about that in a bit) and later one of my closest friends (and certainly my best friend in my writing profession).

Whenever I was in Ruston, you could always find the three of us crowded into a booth in the Huddle House drinking coffee and chowing down on ham and eggs—anything packed with cholesterol.

In the early Huddle House sessions when I was still a disciple of Reaganomics, we rarely agreed on anything (Hays was a Yellow Dawg Democrat) and that’s what made our conversations so memorable—and enjoyable. Hays and I would argue while Hilburn would sit off to the side laughing at both of us. Despite all the heated debates, our friendship never faltered.

Sometimes we were joined by others like my lifelong friend Gene Smith and later John Sachs and occasionally Huddie Johnson. The cast of characters (and characters is the appropriate word) rotated in and out but the one constant was John, Wiley and me.

Now they’re both gone and Ruston—and the Huddle House—are suddenly much emptier.

Hays started his weekly publication, dubbed simply enough, The Morning Paper, on his kitchen table in 1976 with an IBM Selectric typewriter as the result of an ongoing dispute with his cousin, Ruston Mayor Johnny Perritt, himself one of those people you feel lucky to have known.

Assisted by wife Susan, John took on the staid Ruston establishment which, to that point, was not accustomed to being questioned, let alone challenged outright. He scoffed at the wisdom of Ruston’s owning its own electric generating power plant and fought the local hospital governing board. The early editions of The Morning Paper were a laughingstock among Rustonites, what with its hard to read typeface from his typewriter. The publication was amateurish in every respect but the price was right: it was free and it was thrown in every driveway in Ruston.

Eventually, he purchased computers and found an area newspaper that would print his paper, giving it a more professional appearance and gradually the tabloid grew to 36 pages each week and soon it was distributed in the neighboring parishes of Union, Bienville and Jackson to some 60,000 households. He also pioneered another concept, the publication of a garage sale map each week and if you don’t understand the significance of that, you don’t understand the attraction of garage sales in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The paper took off and before too long, Hays was able to purchase his own printing press and he began breaking stories no one else would touch.

He broke one story about Louisiana Tech football players who were being paid by coaches for making outstanding plays. Ironically, the loudest howls of protest came from the father of a player who was the inadvertent source of the story; Hays had overheard the player boasting about the payments in a local store. Because he never revealed the player’s name, the indignant father never knew his son was the story’s source. The upshot was the head football coach was fired and Tech self-reported the infraction and got a slap on the wrist from the NCAA.

He did a story in 1980 about the 1938 lynching of a black man in Lincoln Parish—a hugely controversial story because some of the witnesses were still alive at the time. The Ruston High School principal observed the day after the story was published that “every black kid at Ruston High had a copy of that paper sticking out of his back pocket.”

I was a reporter for the Baton Rouge State-Times when Hays started his publication and my former employer, Ruston Daily Leader Publisher Tom Kelly (another of those people who have had a profound influence on my writing career) brought me back in 1976 as managing editor in an attempt to counter the impact Hays’ upstart start-up paper was beginning to have on the community. But the times they were a-changing (apologies to Bob Dylan) and thanks to Watergate, there was a new awareness of—and respect for—journalism and locally, Hays was riding the crest of the wave. Our efforts to counter his aggressive reporting proved fruitless—and frustrating.

That’s where the adversarial relationship began. It was my first introduction to Hays and though my hiring at the Daily Leader had not been announced (I was still working out my two weeks’ notice at the State-Times), Hays somehow found out about the new hire and called me in Baton Rouge to interview me. Thinking the announcement had been made, I gave the interview and Hays ended up scooping the Daily Leader on its own story.

Hays had an inside source—a mole—at the Daily Leader and he knew every move we made which drove us to such a state of paranoia that we started holding staff meetings in the parking lot to get away from the offices we thought were bugged. Still the leaks prevailed, much to Hays’s delight and to our growing consternation.

But more than a mere antagonist (though he certainly was that), Hays had the true instincts of an investigative reporter and it paid huge dividends.

When, because of his illness, he shut down publication just over a year ago after 37 years of poking a stick at the establishment, the Monroe News-Star, in an editorial appropriately written by Hilburn, compared him to legendary writer H.L. Mencken (the ultimate compliment for a writer) and called him “a born iconoclast.” http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20130721/OPINION02/307210007/A-modern-day-Mencken-in-Lincoln-Parish

Along the way, he attracted national attention with his stories that revealed various swindles and massive Ponzi schemes. One of those was a $5.5 million scam dubbed by Hays as the Pine Tree Caper that was rolling along nicely until it attracted Hays’ attention in 1990. Another was the $55 million ALIC investment scam. The biggest was the $550 million Towers Financial Ponzi scheme. The unrelenting glare of The Morning Paper’s light on that one attracted the attention of federal prosecutors and resulted in prison time for the perpetrator and produced a two-page story about Hays and The Morning Paper in 1993 in the nation’s premier publication, the New York Times. His investigative skills were also lauded in Forbes magazine and the Atlanta Constitution. Not bad for a country publisher with no formal journalistic training.

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/07/06/its-a-30-for-rustons-morning-paper-sadly-tough-minded-independent-publishers-like-john-hays-the-exception-today/

His one error in judgment, in my and Hilburn’s opinion, was the decision to go to paid circulation. He did so with the intent of bidding on lucrative legal advertisements from local governmental agencies—city councils, the school board and the police jury. He won the legal ads but saw the size of The Morning Paper shrink to eight pages and his circulation dwindle even more. Without the circulation, his display, or commercial advertisement likewise dried up. He closed his office, laid off staff, sold his press and moved back to his kitchen. For those closest to him, it was a sad transition to watch. It even seemed to adversely affect his heretofore bulldog tenacity as a dogged investigative reporter as the groundbreaking stories seemed to grind to a halt though he remained a thorn in the establishment’s side.

He was awarded the prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for his investigative reporting and later joked that the check he received as his prize was eaten up by travel and lodging expenses incurred on his trip to California to pick up the award.

Perhaps it’s somehow fitting that John’s passing would come so soon after the death of actor James Garner. After all, two of Garner’s movies, Support Your Local Gunfighter and Support Your Local Sheriff, were among John’s favorites.

But for those of who believe that reporting is more than reprinting press releases and that there is always—always—more to a story than what an elected official says in a press conference, we will not soon see another of the likes of John Martin Hays.

Rather than paying lip service to transparency the way certain Louisiana officials like to do these days, John Hays created his own transparency by his sheer stubbornness and determination, establishment line be damned, and gave us a living, breathing example of how good newspaper reporting should be done—degree or no degree.

You fought cancer for eight long years and you will be missed, my friend. More than you could ever know.

Visitation will be Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m. at Redeemer Episcopal Church Fellowship Hall on Tech Drive in Ruston.

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“Please let the Board Members know how you feel about this unconstitutional attack on the State Police Retirement System. Also, please call or share with your Legislators, those on your email lists and through Social Media such as Facebook so we may all let the Board Members know we won’t accept this. They need to hear not only from retirees who will be adversely affected by this, but also by all citizens, who will bear the cost and suffer the negative effects from possible weakening of the credit rating of the state. It is important to encourage as many people as possible to contact them to let them know you are watching and expect them to defend the system and members. The State Police Retirees and the People of Louisiana deserve better.”

—Excerpt from letter to the citizens of the State of Louisiana by retired Louisiana state police officers who are opposed to the last minute amendment to a bill that gave State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson a $55,000 per year raise in his retirement income. The raise would be funded from a fund intended to provide cost of living adjustments for state police retirees and their families.

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There are, unfortunately, times when we believe we have the full story….and don’t. When that occurs, incomplete information often becomes an incomplete—and unfair—story. Such is the case of our July 6 story (since removed) about a land dispute in Rapides Parish. Subsequent to the posting of that story, we have received considerable updated court filings that we were not given for our original story. The most significant of these, in our opinion, is an apparent court agreement between the disputing parties granting the Harrell family complete access to their property with the provision that the Harrells retain a surveyor to provide an accurate legal description of the access road to their property. For reasons known only to the Harrells, the surveyor was never employed.

A second factor concerned the scheduling of the trial “without notification” of the Harrells or their attorney. In fact, we later learned that their Baton Rouge attorney, who has subsequently been suspended by the Louisiana Supreme Court’s disciplinary board for refusing to return another client’s fee, was notified well in advance of the trial date but simply did not show up in court.

We were approached by Mr. Washington and upon his request, we agreed to meet in Opelousas. At that meeting, Mr. Washington provided me with court records he obviously chose to give us, neglecting to provide the full and complete legal records. Those records he provided, which we now know to be the incomplete story, tilted Mr. Washington’s story to his advantage. LouisianaVoice erred in not contacting Mr. Saucier and we erred in casting the judges involved in the court proceedings in a negative light. For this we are deeply sorry. Mr. Saucier, while justifiably upset, has been more than reasonable in his request that we delete the original story and attempt to set the record straight.

The other party to that dispute, Pineville attorney Wilbert Saucier, Jr., wrote the following response which we provide here in full. The references Mr. Saucier makes to the KKK were not ours, but were posted as comments to the original story. As requested by Mr. Saucier, the original story has been removed from our archives. We do not dodge our responsibility to our readers and a large part of that responsibility is a willingness to admit our errors.

Tom Aswell, Editor

Here is Mr. Saucier’s response:

 

“LAND GRAB LIE”

Typically, I would ignore such a preposterous article as is the one you have written about me; however, given Mr. Robert Washington’s statement that he wants to hear my “opinion” on this matter, accompanied by the fact that I have been contacted by dozens of people wondering what in the world I had done, I felt it time to set the record straight. It is amazing to me that you and Mr. Washington would so maliciously misrepresent literally EVERY fact and finding involved in the two cases you referenced.

Dealing with the first case, that in which it was established conclusively that the Harrells were engaged in a pattern of disbursing trash in a manner to pollute my property, I would offer the following: the lawsuit, “Erris-Omega Plantation, Inc. vs. Henry Harrell, et al”, Civil Suit Number 99-404, Pineville City Court, Parish of Rapides, State of Louisiana, contains pleadings, evidence and documentation which fully supports my version of events, and destroys the fiction created by Mr. Washington. The truth, something with which you and Mr. Washington are clearly unfamiliar, or just too malicious to acknowledge, is that those Harrells whom were sued were found by overwhelming evidence to have caused damage to my property. The following explains.

In 1994, I acquired the Erris-Omega Plantation, a substantial piece of property which surrounds approximately 61 acres owned by the Harrell Family. Please note: at the time of my acquisition, my property AND the Harrell’s property were already gated and substantially fenced. Various gates were then relocated on my property, with a series of locks installed. Further, my gates were not the only ones through which the Harrells had to pass in order to access their property. The owners of the Harrell property were furnished keys to every gate allowing them complete and unfettered access to their property at no charge, with instructions to simply keep the gates closed and locked upon their ingress and egress. Mr. Washington and you fail to mention those factors.

The 61 acre Harrell property is bordered on Caney Bayou which flows through the Erris-Omega property for several miles. It became noticeable after every rain when the water in Caney Bayou rose, a new deposit of garbage and trash came onto the Erris-Omega property, coming directly from the Harrell property, where a garbage dump was maintained on the bank of Caney Bayou. I retained the services of attorneys Howard Gist, III and George Gaiennie to represent me in this matter. We brought suit against the heirs of Simon and Clara Harrell (19 heirs were named in the suit). This suit was first filed by my attorney in the 9th Judicial District Court, but when it was assigned to Judge Johnson’s division, my attorneys consulted with me about the then existing backlog in his docket and the amount of time it would have taken to adjudicate the issues. Based on their recommendation, the suit was dismissed from district court and re-filed in the Pineville City Court, a court of limited jurisdiction, i.e., a maximum of $15,000, at that time. I knew that I could have received more damages in district court, including from Judge Johnson, but I needed injunctive relief quickly to stop the Harrells from continuing to damage my property. A city court has a much quicker trial docket, and since the property was in Pineville, I was required to use Pineville City Court, in lieu of the Alexandria City Court.

After numerous depositions taken by the attorney for the Harrell family, this matter was scheduled for trial and was tried for 2 days, May 4, 2000, and June 7, 2000. During this trial, my attorney put on testimony from eleven (11) witnesses, seven (7) of which were eyewitnesses to the garbage/trash dump being maintained on the Harrrell property by the Harrell’s. Let me repeat that, seven (7) EYEWITNESSES to the dump! There was eyewitness testimony that Oscar K. Harrell, one of the owners, was conducting a garbage dump on the Harrell property and was seen hauling garbage in on an almost daily basis. There was eyewitness testimony from independent witnesses, a local farmer, and also a timber consultant/contractor who was on the property for a timber survey and harvesting of the Harrells timber. The timber consultant/contractor testified that, from February 1999 to April 1999, there was a significant build-up of garbage on the Harrell property, part of which was SEEN BY THEM and the other eyewitnesses to be transported onto the Erris-Omega property after each and every rain, by way of Caney Bayou. Notably, there was testimony from Mr. Henry Harrell, one of the owners, who ADMITTED to engaging in a clean up operation of the garbage dump on the Harrell property after the lawsuit was filed, with the help and assistance of other family members and friends. Please realize, THIS IS THE GARBAGE DUMP THAT MR. WASHINGTON SAYS NEVER EXISTED.

After the conclusion of the trial and submission of all of the evidence, including photographs, the proof was overwhelming and judgment was rendered in favor of Erris-Omega Plantation for damages in the amount of $15,000, plus costs of court, which included the costs of an expert witness. Importantly, this Judgment also included an injunction against the Harrell heirs: prohibiting them from trespassing on the Erris-Omega property (it had been a problem); enjoining them from depositing trash onto the Erris-Omega property, or onto their 61.67 acres in such a manner that it would migrate onto the Erris-Omega property; and enjoining them from harvesting deer or other wildlife from the Erris-Omega property, including along the levee and roadways located on and owned by Erris-Omega (again, it had been a problem). This Judgment specifically reserved the issue of access to the Harrell property, did not adjudicate same, and reserved all rights of the parties involved as it pertained to access issues. This Judgment can be found in the original suit record, and the detailed testimony of the witnesses is of record.

ANY judge, including Judge Donald Johnson, hearing the evidence of this case would have ruled the same as Judge Phillip Terrell ruled. Notably, any judge who, faced with the overwhelming evidence presented in this case, might have ruled differently, would have been summarily reversed by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal! It is important to note that, despite the complaints of Mr. Washington of the injustice and impropriety of the judgment, the Harrells decided to pay the damages rather than appeal the case to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal. If it was such a travesty, surely they would have had it reversed on appeal, right? Of course not! They were doing wrong, they got caught, they knew it, and they paid the judgment, rather than take what they and their lawyer knew would be a losing appeal. Then, in typical “we’re above the law” fashion that they seem to exhibit, the Harrells attempted to have the ENTIRETY of the Judgment dismissed by paying just the money portion. Remember, the judgment had an injunction against the Harrells to stop the bad acts, so the whole judgment should not have been cancelled. They filed a suit in district court (Civil Suit No. 202628) which was, as Mr. Washington noted, assigned to Judge Johnson. Please feel free to look at the judgment in that suit, because Judge Johnson ruled, as he should have, in MY FAVOR, holding that the cancellation of the judgment was to be a PARTIAL cancellation, only of the money portion, as opposed to the total cancellation which the Harrells sought. That ruling by Judge Johnson was inherently correct, and Mr. Washington’s assertion that Judge Johnson thought there was something untoward about the judgment is, as most of his outrageous assertions, incorrect, preposterous, and malicious. You may be interested to know that the judgment, with its injunctive relief, remains in full force, even today. The cancellation is related only to the money portion. (See: 9th Judicial District Court, Clerk of Court’s Mortgage records, document number 1144725, Mortgage Book 1660, page 0032).

The next case is civil suit number 222,091 filed with the 9th Judicial District Court entitled “Succession of Simon Harrell and Succession of Clara Harrell versus Erris-Omega Plantation, Inc. and Wilbert J. Saucier, Jr. filed in 2005.” IN THIS CASE, THE HARRELL FAMILY FILED SUIT AGAINST ME (just opposite of what you reported). Once again, the records will show that, for years prior to Erris-Omega purchasing the surrounding property, the Harrell’s had to pass through locked gates to get to their property. When I purchased the property in 1994, the locations of the gates were changed and the Harrell’s were given keys to all gates I installed at no charge, they were simply instructed to close and lock my gates on ingress and egress. ALL FENCE AND GATES CONSTRUCTED BY ME WERE BUILT ON THE ERRIS-OMEGA PROPERTY AND NOT ON THE HARRELL PROPERTY. AT NO TIME WERE THE HARRELL’S EVER LOCKED OUT OR FENCED OUT OF THEIR PROPERTY AND AT NO TIME HAD THE HARRELL’S EVER OBTAINED A RIGHT OF WAY ACROSS MY PROPERTY, or any of the other private property they crossed. On September 15, 2005, the Harrell’s chose to file this civil suit against me claiming that they had a right of way and saying that they also wanted injunctions which would make me keep my gates open and essentially asking that the fences on my property which belong to me be taken down. After the suit was answered, the matter proceeded on to trial and in Pre-Trial discussion it was made clear to the Harrell’s and to their attorney, Mr. Gerard Torry, that the Harrell’s had absolutely no right to request that my gates and fence be taken down or left open, leaving essentially the only issue of whether or not the Harrell’s should be granted a right of way across my property. The court record will reflect that I willingly entered into a Stipulation where I agreed to voluntarily grant a right of way to the Harrell’s in the form of a perpetual servitude across my property to theirs, once same was identified by survey as to the exact boundaries that it would cover. The Harrell’s stipulated that they would contract for and pay for the survey. The amount they were to pay for the right of way (which they did not have before and which is done in virtually all servitudes) was to be determined by the court at a later time. (ALL IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE APPLICABLE LOUISIANA LAW). The Harrell’s through their attorney, Gerard Torry of Baton Rouge, entered into this Stipulation in open court, agreeing to be bound by the agreement. This Stipulation would have ended the matter at that time and would have granted to the Harrell’s perpetual access to their property, with only the court determination of the compensation remaining.

The Harrell’s, when presented with the written documents establishing the right of way agreement, changed their minds and refused to follow through with their agreement which had been stipulated to in open court. At this point, the matter proceeded on to trial. (REMEMBER IT WAS THE HARRELL’S WHO FILED THIS SUIT AND THE HARRELL’S WHO REFUSED TO HONOR THE AGREEMENT WHICH WAS STIPULATED TO IN THE RECORD!) A trial date was selected by the court and on the eve of the trial, Mr. Gerard Torry filed an Ex Parte Motion for Continuance. (THERE IS NO PROVISION IN LOUISIANA LAW WHICH ALLOWS AN ATTORNEY TO FILE AND JUST ASSUME THAT HIS EX PARTE CONTINUANCE WILL BE GRANTED. MOTIONS FOR CONTINUANCES HAVE TO BE TRIED CONTRADICTORILY WITH BOTH SIDES BEING HEARD, THEN THE COURT DECIDES WHETHER A CONTINUANCE IS GRANTED OR DENIED.) Mr. Torry then failed and refused to appear in court either for the continuance argument or for trial. Not only did Mr. Torry refuse to appear, but the entire Harrell family refused to appear. This matter proceeded to trial as scheduled and the action brought by the Harrell’s was dismissed, with prejudice (for all time). The court records show that not only was Attorney Torry notified of the trial date, but he moved to continue the trial and it was by his own actions of not following up and arguing his position for continuance that caused the dismissal. This matter has been appealed by the Harrell’s to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal and to the Louisiana Supreme Court, both of which ruled in accord with law that the Harrell’s were wrong, and the Judgment is now final. To suggest that I am in cahoots with either the District Court Judge, the Court of Appeal, or the Supreme Court, is utterly ridiculous, but seems to be your thought process and that of Mr. Robert Washington. Your article talks about a “Federal Land and Conveyance Law Reform Act”, which you say went into effect December 1, 2009 and you provide a link to the law which, unlike most of your readers, I accessed. You suggested that this law implicated Judge Randow and me as conspiring on the timing of the judgment. The law you refer to regarding servitudes is a law established in the country of IRELAND! Do you honestly think that Ireland’s law is applicable in Rapides Parish? Further, do you think that I’m in collusion with Judges all the way to the Supreme Court based on Irish law. You sir, apparently have not checked any of the facts. I would at this time request that you disclose the source of your information upon which you relied in printing this libelous blog which you have served to spread all over the state. To write that the Harrell’s enjoyed an unrestricted right of way for some 80 years is preposterous. There were always gates and fences, JUST AS THE HARRELL’S HAVE ON THEIR PROPERTY!

Since the rendition of the previous judgment and the denial of supervisory writs by the Louisiana Supreme court which makes the judgment final, Robert Washington, the man you identified as being the spokesman for the Harrell family, personally filed a claim in April of this year saying that by virtue of Article 742 he and his family were entitled to a servitude of right of way. This claim has been summarily dismissed as it has already been fully litigated between the parties. I might add, it was litigated after being raised by the Harrell’s themselves, who refused to accept the stipulated right of way and then refused to appear in court on the trial of their own suit. The Harrell’s have no quarrel here with the legal system. If they feel that they have been misrepresented in any fashion, they need to look elsewhere than the judges and me. The Harrells through their own arrogance have defiantly and proverbially “cut off their noses to spite their faces” and instead of living up to their agreement in the stipulation, they chose to ignore the facts and the law, resulting in a loss of their rights. The Harrell family still owns its 61.67 acres, and neither I nor Erris-Omega Plantation have obtained any rights to this property. TO REFER TO THIS MATTER AS A “LAND GRAB” AS YOU HAVE IS AN OUTRIGHT LIE. I have never set foot on the Harrell property. The Harrell’s still have all of the rights that pertain to any landowner as it concerns their 61.67 acres; however, by their own actions, they have precluded themselves from entering onto Erris-Omega property (MY PROPERTY). Further, for Mr. Washington now to make scandalous allegations comparing me and the attorneys who represented me and the Judges involved in both of these cases as “The KKK” is not only slanderous but now libelous and carries with it consequences. By printing Mr. Robert Washington’s assertions that Judge Phillip Terrell or Judge Harry Randow or I did anything wrong or illegal or that any of us are associated with the KKK (I ASSUME HE MEANS THE KU KLUX KLAN) simply illustrates this man’s own bigotry and racism. You, Mr. Robert Washington, and all that have continued to further this ridiculous lying version of these two cases, owe Judge Randow and Judge Phillip Terrell an apology. You, Mr. Aswell, also owe all of us not only an apology, but the obligation of publishing this response and sending it to every link that picked up your “Land Grab” article. Additionally, once we have been given equal internet/air time, you should immediately take the entirety of the matter off of your blog site.

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Someone (and we are not pointing fingers at anyone—yet) has attempted to plant a computer virus on the LouisianaVoice web page which, once you log onto our site, first gives you a virus message, locks you out of the site and then gives you a message that the site cannot be found whenever you attempt to log back on.

We first got the warning from one of our readers earlier today and when we tried to log on a couple of hours later, we got a virus warning. Once we closed the page, we found that we were unable to log back on and we received the “site not found” message.

We solved the problem by re-booting (logging off our computer and then logging back on) and found that the problem was solved.

Should you experience the same problem, simply re-boot your computer and you should be able to access LouisianaVoice without any further problems.

As we said, we are not pointing fingers at anyone, but we will say this much:

Last year, when we were writing a series of stories about the shenanigans of Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Director Troy Hebert, we were told by one of his agents that Hebert had boasted that it would be a simple matter for him to have his IT people to hack into our computer.

We made a direct email inquiry of Hebert as to the veracity of that report. More than a year later, we are still awaiting his response.

Again, we’re not point fingers. We’re just saying….

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“Hopefully the board can—or someone will—challenge the constitutionality of the rogue amendment.”

—State Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), chairman of the House Retirement Committee, commenting on the amendment to SB 294 which added $30,000 per year to the retirement income of State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

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The response to our first-ever fundraiser has been wonderful. The readers who have responded have done so generously and there is simply no way to adequately express my heart-felt appreciation.

As good as the response has been, however, I still need additional funding to accomplish all my goals. I constantly get tips and information on stories that need to be written and the stack is growing. Without additional writers, there simply is no way to get to everything that needs to be covered. And as you probably know, my goal when I launched LouisianaVoice was to keep my readers informed about the stories that don’t get reported.

I simply refuse to take a press release and run it without examining the story completely. I was taught by my grandfather to question authority. By that he did not mean to break laws or defy convention. He meant to never accept what people said without examining the motivations for their saying it. He also taught me not to listen to what politicians say but rather to what they do not say. That is the legacy by which I want LouisianaVoice to be known.

Please, if you have not already done so, help us to continue our coverage and to bring you even more revealing stories about your state government, the money that runs it and the lengths to which office holders will go to obtain financial rewards—be it campaign contributions from or jobs with special interests.

You may contribute by credit card by clicking on “Donate” at the right hand side of our page http://louisianavoice.com/ or you pay by check to:

Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice

107 North College West

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