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Archive for the ‘Attorney General’ Category

A state district court last week knocked down action taken by the Vermilion Parish School Board for violations of the state’s Open Meetings Law. In what must surely be a first, I find myself in agreement with Attorney General Jeff Landry on the whole affair.

Suffice it to say, however, that Landry waited until there was a judicial ruling to take his courageous stand, a ruling 10 months in the making, while LouisianaVoice took a similar position on the removal of a teacher from a board meeting immediately.

For that matter, why the hell did it take 15th Judicial District Court Judge David Smith 10 months to issue a ruling on a matter that is supposed to be fast-tracked: the issue of public meetings of governmental bodies? To take 10 months to decide what was obviously a violation of state law is somewhat ludicrous.

Be that as it may, Smith not only ruled the school board violated the Open Meetings Law by having a teacher, Deyshia Hargrave, a Kaplan middle school English teacher, arrested and removed from the meeting because she questioned the board action of awarding Superintendent Jerome Puyau a $30,000 raise, from $110,190 to $140,188, while teachers have gone years without a pay increase.

Puyau, in an interview with a Lafayette television station, said, “By the time the teacher stood up in the audience to the time she was at the door, it was 53 seconds. During that 53 seconds, she was asked to sit multiple times, the gavel struck multiple times.”

Yes, she was asked to sit and yes, the gavel was struck multiple times in a desperate effort to keep Hargrave from further publicly embarrassing the board and Puyau. When the raise for Puyau came up on the agenda, Hargrave, the parish’s 2015-16 Teacher of the Year, attempted to ask how the board could award Puyau a raise “when you’re basically taking from the teachers.”

Board President ANTHONY HARGRAVE, an Abbeville attorney who should have known better, rapped his gavel while informing Hargrave she was not on the agenda and the item being discussed was the superintendent’s contract.

Hargrave was quick to point out that she was addressing the very issue the board was considering, his gavel-rapping notwithstanding. “This directly speaks to what you’re voting on,” Hargrave said as a city marshal moved in to slap handcuffs on her and lead her from the meeting.

To view the complete video, click HERE.

The video prompted a flood of outrage from throughout the country. News organizations, from the Charlotte Observer, to The Washington Post, to The New York Times, to US News & World Report, to NPR, to NBC, to the La Crosse (Wisc.) Tribune, and even the Baton Rouge Tiger Droppings picked up on the school board’s action.

Meanwhile, Fontana, referring to Hargrave as “the poor little lady,” said, “If a teacher has the authority to send a student, who is acting up and she can’t control, out of the classroom to the principal’s office, under our policy we have the same rules.” Apparently, Fontana believed he could treat teachers as children and that getting arrested is the equivalent to being sent to the principal’s office.

And perhaps Fontana, after 25 years on the board, should have retired before deciding he was the final authority on open meetings and freedom of speech First Amendment rights.

And while Judge Smith took his time in issuing his ruling, he did take it to its ultimate conclusion in negating the school board’s approval of Puyau’s contract and his $30,000 raise—because the action was taken in what Smith said was a meeting held in violation of the Open Meetings Law.

Puyau, obviously feeling he had been grievously wronged by the ruling (never mind the manner in which the board treated Hargrave—one of its teachers, no less), told Lafayette TV station KATC reporter Chris Wetly that he would appeal the decision.

“It has ruined myself and my family,” he sniffed. “It has broken me personally. It has changed me as a person…to understand that politics is ugly and they (whoever “they” is) will do anything they can to get rid of me as Superintendent.”

Hey, Puyau, trying getting arrested, being handcuffed, and led out a public meeting—for simply exercising your First Amendment right of free speech. Then you can talk about your life being “ruined” and your life “changed.”

And of course, there is Landry, always ready and willing to pick the low-hanging fruit. Here’s the headline from his news release on Monday:

Vermilion Ruling A Victory for Teachers, Public Declares Jeff Landry
AG Landry Pledges Continued Enforcement of Open Meetings Law 

“I applaud Judge Smith for remedying this injustice,” Landry said of the ruling, adding that Hargrave and her fellow teachers, “who have not received a pay increase in many years despite growing class sizes, should have absolutely been heard.”

Of course, that was an easy call to make for Landry, ever the politician on the prowl for votes wherever and whenever he can find them. “And I pledge to continue diligent enforcement of our Open Meetings Law,” he said.

That’s a curious “pledge” for him to make. The Louisiana Constitution prohibits his intervention in parish affairs unless specifically requested to do so by the local district attorney. And as attorney general, he represents state boards, commissions, and agencies, meaning he is mandated to protect their interest, not ours. That means that in litigation over open meetings or public records, rather than enforcing the law, he defends state boards, commissions and agencies.

As ample illustration of that important distinction, observant readers will note that while LouisianaVoice WEIGHED IN on the controversy immediately, Landry, once a ruling had been made, had an opportunity to characteristically grab the spotlight with his news release. Prior to Judge Smith’s ruling, however, he had absolutely zero to say about the matter.

Nothing.

Nil.

Zilch.

So much for “diligent enforcement.”

 

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In the annals of pure comedic performances, few could rival the record of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

But now it appears he is making a valiant attempt to surpass his own record of slapstick routines.

According to Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Elizabeth Crisp, who has a solid record for accuracy and spot-on political analysis, Landry may have pulled off the seemingly impossible feat of actually making it onto the short list to succeed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions who resigned under intense pressure from Donald Trump last Friday. You can see her story  HERE.

Of course, if Landry were to actually be nominated it would (a) be in total keeping with the unbroken line of absurd appointments and nominations by Trump and (b) turn the practical joke heretofore limited to the borders of the gret stet of Looziana onto the rest of the nation.

And we thought the Keebler Elf had some screwy legal interpretations. Landry, should he be nominated against all odds and be confirmed against even greater odds, would give new meaning to the term court jester.

He’s probably the only lawyer alive who could be out-maneuvered in court by Jethro Bodine.

This is the same Jeff Landry who, while in private practice prior to his election as Louisiana’s top legal scholar (insert laugh track here), was ridiculed in open court by a state judge for his sloppy legal work in improperly filing a lien on behalf of one of his only existing clients with the presiding judge admonishing the client to “Pick your lawyer carefully.”

But as Crisp pointed out, he is also the same Jeff Landry who has been invited to the Trump White House on several occasions, the same Jeff Landry who has a close relationship with former U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, now Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the same Jeff Landry whose annual alligator hunt fundraiser was attended by First Son Donnie Junior (I’d love to have had a photo of Donnie in hip waders).

And with this president, who knows? Landry is just qualified enough as a Trump bootlicker and unqualified enough as an attorney to pull it off.

And that would be a cruel joke indeed.

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LouisianaVoice may have to move its operations to Iberia Parish just to keep up with the shenanigans of Sheriff Louis Ackal, District attorney Bofill Duhé and Assessor Ricky Huval.

We might as well for any information we might pry out of the office of Attorney General Jeff Landry about his investigation of a criminal case in Iberia involving the son of a supporter of both Landry and Duhé.

Landry is so preoccupied with his dual role as Donald Trump’s leading Louisiana lackey and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ primary adversary, it’s going to be interesting to see how he manages to do his job as attorney general.

Meanwhile, there’s the question of Duhé’s First Assistant District Attorney Robert C. Vines and his part in the investigation of the illegal manipulation of the Cypress Bayou Casino’s employee and payroll databases.

The Cypress Bayou Casino is run by the Chitimacha Indian Tribe in St. Mary Parish and in June 2016, the tribe’s chairman, O’Neil Darden, Jr., was ARRESTED by State Police on charges of felony theft, accused of stealing from the tribe by tinkering with the casino’s data bases that resulted in his receiving and “annual bonus” of several thousand dollars to which he was not entitled.

Duhé’s office is handling the prosecution and Vines was named lead prosecutor.

The problem with that is Vines is also the prosecutor for the Chitimacha Tribal Court. He was appointed to the post in January 2016 by….(wait for it)….Darden.

That case was originally set for trial last January but was removed from the docket and continued to May 1. But that trial date also was continued and the matter is now set for trial August 29.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has received a non-response response to our public records request into the status of its investigation of Taylor Richard, accused of sexually molesting toddler siblings, daughters of his girlfriend.

Taylor Richard’s father, James Richard is a political supporter of both Duhé, having contributed $2600 to his campaign in 2014 and 2015, and Landry.

Landry got the case because Renee Louivere, who had previously worked as an assistant district attorney for the 16th Judicial District which includes the parishes of Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary. She left the DA’s office and enrolled as Taylor Richard’s legal counsel while in private practice.

But then she returned to the DA’s office and currently works in the St. Martinville office. That created a conflict which allowed Duhé to punt the case to Landry and the AG’s office in Baton Rouge.

Last Thursday, we received the following email from Landry’s office:

From: LADOJ – Public Records Center <louisianaag@mycusthelp.net>
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2018 2:21 PM
To:
Cc: wisherr@ag.louisiana.gov
Subject: [Records Center] Public Records Request :: R000178-070918

RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST of July 09, 2018, Reference # – R000178-070918

Dear Mr. Tom Aswell,

In response to your public records request pursuant to La. R.S. 44:1 et seq, which our office received on July 09, 2018, the information you requested has been processed. You sought records related to the following:

“The AG’s investigative file for Taylor Richard of Iberia Parish.”

Louisiana’s Public Records Law, specifically La. R.S. 44:3(A)(1), exempts records held by the office of the attorney general which pertain “to pending criminal litigation or any criminal litigation which can be reasonably anticipated, until such litigation has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled…”

As the matter of Taylor Richard is pending criminal litigation, the file you seek is not subject to disclosure and our office must respectfully decline to produce these records at this time.

Louisiana Revised Statutes 44:3(A)(4), however, allows release of the initial report for this matter. Copies of these records are invoiced below.

After a diligent search, our staff have (sic) identified three (3 ) pages of records which are responsive to your request. The records are not electronic. If you wish to receive physical copies of these records, pursuant to La. R.S. 39:241 and La. Admin. Code Title 4, Part 1, Section 301, there is a charge of .25 per page. The billing is as follows:

3 pages @ .25 per page = $0.75 

TOTAL:  $0.75

If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact our office. 

Best regards,

Luke Donovan
Assistant Attorney General

Besides brushing up on grammar, Landry’s office could also stand a remedial course in math.

What we got was two, not three, pages of a heavily-redacted report (a third page was blank) that confirmed that the AG’s office was indeed investigating a complaint of the sexual battery (redacted) against a female of (redacted) age in a New Iberia home by Taylor Richard.

The only way it could be determined that the battery was against a child was that the complaint was made by an employee of the “Department of Child Services” (actually, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services).

The report had one other grisly revelation. It noted that the sexual battery was “completed” and not simply attempted and after the words Criminal Activity on the complaint form was the word “Other.”

We can hope it won’t take Landry two years to complete this investigation the way it did for him to finish up the probe of the Union Parish jailhouse rape. But this is Jeff Landry and if he can’t see a political advantage, he just doesn’t give a rat’s behind.

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Attorney General Jeff Landry, that staunch opponent of all things indecent and relentless publicity hound, just doesn’t seem to have much of a stomach for prosecuting rape cases.

Remember the jailhouse rape of that 17-year-old girl in Union Parish a couple of years ago? Because the jail is run by a consortium of public officials that included the local district attorney, the case was turned over to Landry’s office for prosecution.

Nothing came of it. After two years of “investigation,” no indictment, even though someone (we don’t know who, exactly) allowed a convicted rapist into her cell where she was assaulted not once, but twice. The criminal part of the case may be over, but the civil lawsuit against the parish remains active.

And now an even more repulsive rape case has landed in Landry’s lap and it’s going to be interesting to see how his office handles this one. The accused, after all, is the son of a Landry supporter who also just happens to be a campaign contributor to the local district attorney.

And that local district attorney is none other than Bo Duhé over in the 16th Judicial District that includes Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.

Back in November 2015, it was learned that one Taylor Richard may have sexually assaulted the 3- and 5-year-old daughters of his 34-year-old girlfriend. He was finally arrested and charged in April 2016.

Renee Louivere, who had previously worked as an assistant district attorney but who was by then in private practice, enrolled as Taylor Richard’s attorney. Shortly after then, she returned to the district attorney’s office where she is currently employed in the DA’s St. Martinville office.

Obviously, her connections to Richard created a conflict of interest for Duhé, so he punted the matter to Landry’s office in Baton Rouge.

But then there is also the matter of James Richard, Taylor Richard’s father who (a) contributed $2600 to Duhé’s campaign in 2014 and 2015 through his company, Angel Rentals, Inc., and who (b) posted several pro-Landry messages on Facebook, along with photos of cookouts for Landry’s campaign. One unconfirmed report said that three weeks after Landry got the Taylor Richard case, James Richard worked on Landry’s campaign.

 

 

 

Moreover, James Richard is said to have attended school with Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal’ son which, of course, would not be unusual for a small town like New Iberia. Still, it would seem to complete the Ackal-Duhé-Richard connection rather conveniently.

Taylor Richard’s trial, meanwhile, has been continued on five different occasions. The most recent, scheduled for June, has been rescheduled for September.

In the meantime, efforts have been made on Taylor Richard’s behalf to plea bargain the matter down to counseling—for sexual assault of two toddlers.

LouisianaVoice made a public records request of Landry’s office on July 9 as to the status of the case. We received the following response that same date:

“Our office is in the process of determining what, if any, records are subject to this request and, if so, whether any privileges or exemptions apply. This may take some time. You will be notified within 30 days whether records have been located that are responsive and approximately when they will be ready for review.”

Thirty days? Really?

Why don’t you try matching Landry’s efficiency in ginning out self-serving press releases?

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Louisiana’s campaign finance reports can be very revealing—and awfully embarrassing—when certain contributors are linked to business relationships with the candidate.

And just as eye-opening can be an accounting of how campaign funds are spent.

Take Jerry Larpenter, the sheriff of Terrebonne Parish these past 30 years, for example.

From 2012 through 2017, a period of six years, Larpenter dished out more than $130,000 in campaign funds to pay for golf tournaments, golf tee shirts, embroidered shirts for golf tournaments, camo hats and koozies for golf tournaments, golf trophies, golf bags, insurance for golf tournaments, cups for golf tournaments, signs advertising golf tournaments, guns for golf tournament prizes, food for golf tournaments, cracklings for golf tournaments, golf tournament brochures and envelopes, food for golf tournaments, and $15,482 paid to Web Corp. of St. Charles, Missouri, for bulletproof vests for deputies (the only problem with that is Web Corp. is a web design company, not a bulletproof vest company).

Some of Larpenter’s campaign contributions were also rather interesting. There was $2,500 from City Tele Coin of Bossier City back in 2014. City Tele Coin, according to its WEB PAGE, provides telephone services for correctional facilities. There has been considerable discussion on the Louisiana Public Service Commission about the high rates charged inmates’ families for collect phone calls by these companies.

Another $4,500 came from Anthony Alford Insurance. Tony Alford’s company held a contract with the sheriff’s office and with the Terrebonne Parish Council for insurance coverage. Alford and Dove are business partners in a company called PALOMA ENTERPRISES. With Dove as a business partner while simultaneously serving as parish president, such a business arrangement between Alford and the parish council would appear to be an ethics violation.

Moreover, Larpenter’s wife Priscilla is listed as an officer for both ALL PROPERTY & CASUALTY SERVICES and A&L PROPERTY & CASUALTY SERVICES. Alford is also listed as an officer for both companies.

Louisiana Workforce of St. Francisville (now defunct) and Security Workforce, LLC, of New Roads, both run by Paul Perkins, combined to contribute more than $6400 to Larpenter’s campaigns. The two firms provided prison labor for local jails to hire out to businesses, a practice many equate to legalized slavery.

Perkins is a former BUSINESS PARTNER and subordinate of former Angola warden Burl Cain and current Public Safety and Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. Before Louisiana Workforce went under, David Daniel worked as a warden for the company while it contracted with the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office for prison labor. The sheriff of West Feliciana is Austin Daniel, David Daniel’s father.

Louisiana Workforce was at the center of a controversy in 2010 when a state investigation revealed that documents were being FORGED to alter dates on work release agreements. In all, 68 documents were altered or signatures forged so that they would pass state inspections. A 2016 STATE AUDIT called for better oversight of the program.

Correctional Food Services, Inc. of Dallas, about which precious little is known (the company does not have a Web page), but which is presumed to provide food for prisoners, contributed $3,760 to Larpenter’s campaign.

But the most curious contribution was the $3000 from the Terrebonne Men’s Carnival Club of Houma. Larpenter’s campaign finance report indicated that the $3000 came from a “winning ticket” purchased from the Krewe of Hercules.

But if there’s one thing that can be said of Larpenter, it’s that he is not short on imagination when it comes to spending other people’s money.

Take the old FLOWER FUND, run for years by Larpenter—and his predecessor. It was run in a manner eerily reminiscent of Huey Long’s legendary “deduct box,” the scam that required state employees to contribute a percentage of their state salaries to Huey’s campaign fund whether they liked it or not.

The flower fund was a virtual clone of the deduct box and while Larpenter didn’t initiate the practice—it was already in place when he became sheriff—he carried on the tradition in the grand tradition of his old boss, the late Sheriff Charleton Rozands.

Each month, the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office’s 299 employees “contributed” $1 of their pay checks to the flower fund which was occasionally used to actually purchase flowers but which more often went for gifts for the sheriff at Christmas, on his birthdays and on boss’s days. Larpenter was the only member of the sheriff’s department who did not contribute to the fund.

Larpenter became sheriff in April 1987 and the practice continued at least until 2001 and it wasn’t until 1999 that employees learned for certain through an attorney general’s opinion that the “contributions” were not mandatory.

In the interim, flower fund expenditures included:

  • $1,462.41 for s stereo system for Larpenter;
  • $1,000 for Larpenter’s account at a furniture store;
  • $978.53 for a trolling motor, two batteries, and accessories for Larpenter’s birthday;
  • $183 for building materials from Lowe’s (records indicate it was spent for Larpenter’s Christmas present);
  • $631for fishing gear as a gift for Larpenter;
  • $44 for a gift for Larpenter’s first wife;
  • $186 for hunting gear;
  • $220 for fishing equipment for Larpenter for a Boss’s Day gift;
  • $60 for perfume;
  • $258 for a man’s watch;
  • $400 for the purchase of a trolling motor for Larpenter as a combination Boss’s Day and birthday gift;
  • $585 for nine watches from the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, which Larpenter said were gifts for 20-year employees of his office;
  • $110 for flowers for a memorial for a deputy who died in the line of duty.

Following the attorney general’s opinion and a federal investigation into the practice, Larpenter announced that the fund would no longer be used as a slush fund for gifts for him but would instead be used to benefit his employees and to fund two scholarships.

He added that while flower fund money would no longer be used to purchase gifts for him, it did not mean employees could not “put in” themselves to buy him gifts.

Now that’s subtle.

 

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