Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

By Stephen Winham, guest columnist

Caveat:  I worked closely with Buddy Roemer as state budget director.  I have only the barest of acquaintances with John Bel Edwards. For this reason, I must question how fair my comparison of the two can be.  I admit I am disappointed in John Bel Edwards’ performance as governor to date and have admired Roemer’s efforts even more with the passage of time.

As he assumed office as governor of Louisiana thirty years ago, Buddy Roemer faced a huge budget gap left by his predecessor. The solution was difficult and was complicated by a recalcitrant legislature.  The gap was closed, and a surplus generated within the first year of Roemer’s administration.  In addition, comprehensive budget reforms were enacted to limit the probability of a recurrence of such a gap.

A similar scenario confronted John Bel Edwards 28 years later, yet two years into his administration he has made no real progress on the budget front in terms of balance or reforms.  Roemer and Edwards are very different people and the opposition to their administrations have different roots.

Roemer was, and continues to be a true reformer.  He had little regard, until it was too late, for his gubernatorial re-election chances.  Edwards seems to have been running for re-election from the first day of his administration.  Roemer attempted to buck the system.  Edwards tries to work within it.  They were both elected as Democrats.

Roemer and JBE were improbable victors in their races for governor.  Roemer came from last in the polls to the top (albeit by only 3 points) going into the 1987 primary election.  He won the general election with only 33% of the vote.  His closest competitor was fellow Democrat and three-term governor, Edwin Washington Edwards.  EWE conceded the race rather than face Roemer in a run-off – and denied him an electoral mandate.

JBE was considered a dark horse candidate from the beginning. The only major Democrat in his gubernatorial race, John Bel Edwards finished first in the primary election with 39.9% of the vote. He was expected to lose to his Republican opponent, U. S. Senator David Vitter, in the general election. Despite Vitter’s 23% showing in the primary election, and his personal problems, he was considered a sure winner in the run-off.  To the surprise of most political analysts, JBE won with 56.1% of the vote.

Roemer and JBE were each elected because people were looking for something dramatically different.   Roemer promised to “slay the dragon” and end corruption and special interest control over government.  JBE vowed to bring common sense, fiscal responsibility, and compassion for ordinary people to the office.  Roemer was strident, JBE is calm.

Governors are not dictators.  There is little they can do without action by the legislature and consent, when needed, of the judiciary.  Despite his lack of an electoral mandate, Roemer was able to quickly get a lot of good legislation enacted, mainly because the need was abundantly and undeniably clear – and he was a convenient scapegoat if things went wrong later.   A strong contingent of legislators were loyal to Edwin Edwards and bitter that he was not still governor.  While they went along with the emergency measures Roemer proposed to address the fiscal emergency and reforms including the creation of an official revenue forecast by a new Revenue Estimating Conference, opposition intensified over time.

Historically, Louisiana’s governors were powerful enough to anoint legislative leaders – an obvious plus for enacting an agenda.  The most powerful of those leaders are the house speaker and senate president. The senate is, by its size and nature, a more powerful and cohesive body than the house.  In the middle of Roemer’s term, the senate dealt him a severe blow by replacing his chosen president and returning EWE’s powerful senate president, Sammy Nunez, to that office – an office he continued to hold until he left the legislature in 1996.

Roemer proposed several progressive tax increases that failed in the legislature and the electorate, including a decrease in the sacrosanct homestead exemption.  It is no small irony that he eventually agreed with EWE’s earlier push to legalize gambling and supported an even broader entry into that sector –  the lottery, riverboat casinos, and video poker.

Roemer steadily lost political power as his term went on.  Despite pushing for and achieving hundreds of millions in teacher pay raises, he was vilified because he also pushed a teacher accountability program roundly criticized as unfair by teachers. His environmental reforms angered oil and gas, chemical, and other industries.  He was increasingly perceived as arrogant and hard to work with.

Anxious for EWE’s return, his supporters became even harsher in their opposition to Roemer’s administration.  In 1990, on the grounds it violated federal law, he vetoed a bill passed by the legislature that banned abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  The legislature overrode his veto (a very rare event in Louisiana).  The law was struck down by a U. S. District Court in 1991 for the very reason Roemer had vetoed it, but it didn’t matter politically.

In 1991, Roemer switched parties.  While the national Republican Party sent in big guns to help him get re-elected, emphasizing his scandal-free administration and his budgetary, campaign finance and environmental reforms, he never had the support of the state Republican Party, very many legislators, or the special interests he had disdained.  Quite the contrary. The state party endorsed another candidate and legislators and special interests actively attacked Roemer. It didn’t help that Roemer did not really focus on the campaign but rather continued his zeal for reform to the end. He finished 3rd in the primary and endorsed EWE in the runoff with David Duke – an embarrassing race.  He ran again in 1995 as a conservative Republican but ran 4th in the primary.

His high school’s class valedictorian, like Roemer, and a West Point graduate, versus Roemer’s Harvard education, John Bel Edwards was a conventional, but conservative Democrat.  He is the son of a southeast Louisiana sheriff, Roemer the son of a northwest Louisiana plantation owner. Like Roemer, his biggest obstacle has been the legislature, but for somewhat different reasons.

Louisiana now has a strong Republican Party that believes we should have a Republican governor.  Partisanship was not a big issue when Roemer was governor, but it certainly is now and has gotten more so since JBE became governor in 2016.  Although he had a solid record as a Democratic state representative, what seems to matter most is that he is a Democrat.  Not only do Republicans now control both houses of the legislature, but all statewide elected officials except the governor are now Republicans.  Regaining the governor’s office is a number one priority of the party and since John Bel Edwards has been running for re-election from day one he presents an easy target.

The state house of representatives openly rejected JBE’s choice for speaker.  Rather than elect one of his harshest critics (Cameron Henry who withdrew from consideration), they chose a compromise candidate, the low-key Taylor Barras – who had not even been mentioned as a contender before he was elected.  Not since Huey Long’s administration had the state house elected a speaker not endorsed by the governor, though as noted above, the state senate did unseat Roemer’s chosen president.

Nobody doubted we had a severe fiscal problem when Roemer was elected, but many would argue that we simply spend too much money today – end of story.  JBE’s Republican opposition relishes reports of waste and abuse in the media and remains unconvinced he has done enough to address them.  The governor has not specifically answered the charge he does not do enough to hold his appointees accountable for fiscal irresponsibility unless the media is relentless in reporting it.  This has not helped his case for more revenue.

JBE has proposed both revenue measures and cuts.  However, his proposals are often open to widespread criticism.  When he recommends cuts, they are dramatic and are not presented in such a way that the legislature or public believes they are the only, or the best, ways to cut the budget.  They do not seem to explicitly address the waste and abuse people read about on LouisianaVoice, in the newspapers, and see reported on television.

On the revenue side, JBE did not initially focus on proposals by the task force specifically created to present options for dealing with the “fiscal Cliff.”  That cliff has been forestalled by two years of temporary taxes. The centerpiece of JBE’s revenue proposal last year was the previously unheard of and dead on arrival Commercial Activity Tax.  The CAT constituted over 60 percent of his original package and was so watered down by the time it was actually introduced, it lost what little value it had and was quickly withdrawn.

Another year has passed, and the governor has proposed revenues more in line with what the task force recommended.  The cuts he has recommended are devastating.  His critics in the legislature don’t really like anything he puts forth and as the next election gets closer the criticism is sure to get harsher.

The governor has asked the legislature to present and enact its own proposals if it doesn’t like his.  The legislature has responded by recommending an accountability system and little else.  The proposed system seems to have been presented as a distraction from the need for immediate, concrete, and sustainable solutions.

Let’s face it.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Our fiscal status and options have been studied dozens of times over dozens of years.   The governor can recommend things all day every day, but only the legislature has the power to enact measures to authorize them.  Whether the governor has made truly responsible proposals or not, it is ultimately the legislature’s responsibility to act.  They can blame the governor ad infinitum, but the final responsibility is theirs and the excuse they don’t know enough to come up with solutions is a patently empty claim.

Roemer was able to get a lot done through the legislature in his first year when he had his best chance to do so.  JBE’s chances of significant accomplishments will apparently continue to diminish with time.  Even with the help of the most powerful and long-serving member of the legislature, Senate President John Alario, he has been unable to succeed.  A bloc of opposition in the house stymies him repeatedly.

I am of the considered opinion that we could all save a lot of time, grief, and money by simply agreeing, right now, to make permanent the temporary sales taxes currently in effect, cut as necessary for the difference, and hope for a better, more responsible future under new leadership.  A fool’s hope, perhaps, but at least everybody would be able to make plans for more than a year or two into the future – individuals and businesses.

LABI and other business interests are hypercritical of JBE and, of course, any business taxation.  In the absence of sustainable solutions how can they possibly expect vigorous business expansion and prosperity?  Future taxes are unpredictable, regardless of temporary incentives. How can they, or we, have hope our mediocre infrastructure, educational system, and other public services will not continue to decline?

Trying to ruffle as few feathers as possible in hope of re-election has not worked for JBE.  Ruffling as many feathers as possible may not have worked over time for Roemer, but we are still profiting from major accomplishments in his first few years.  He wasn’t a good politician and maybe that’s why he never got the credit he deserved.

Whether JBE is a good politician remains to be seen.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

So, now Sen. John Kennedy is officially opposed to strengthening firearms BACKGROUND CHECKS.

His newest proclamation (which really isn’t new at all) raises the obvious question of whether there is any level to which he will not stoop to kiss the ring of Donald Trump and the rest of the NRA-purchased Republicans who insist that it is never the time to discuss ways to curb the number of MASS SHOOTINGS that have plagued this country for the past 35 years.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Sen. John Kennedy to join fellow Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy in voting for the so-called tax “reform” bill that is so heavily weighted in favor of the very rich but now he has underscored that Gawd-awful CAMPAIGN AD in which he said, “…love is the answer but you oughta own a hand gun, just in case.”

He even repeated the phrase during a Senate committee hearing, saying it was an old saying from back in Louisiana though, to be honest, I don’t ever recall anyone but Kennedy uttering such an inane statement.

So, obviously, while it is never the time to discuss a solution, it’s always the time to ensure that the mentally ill will have unfettered access to weapons.

Kennedy clashed with Bobby Jindal—and later with Gov. John Bel Edwards—over the budget, repeating his mantra: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” That, it turns out, was the most intelligent thing he had to say as State Treasurer. But the fact of the matter was—and is—that it was a combination of the two.

The problem is in the giveaways, as in tax credits, tax exemptions, tax incentives, and all the other breaks given away to industry that promised big jobs in exchange for keeping off the tax rolls but who failed to deliver. That spending problem created a critical revenue problem that was only partially alleviated by a 43 percent increase in college tuition.

Kennedy also proposed an across-the-board cut in state contracts. That was far too simplistic. A better solution would have been—and remains—to take a long, hard look at the multitude of contracts awarded by the sate to determine if they are really necessary.

Just as one example, the various studies of restoration of Louisiana’s coastline, like the bevy of studies awarded by the City of Baton Rouge to study traffic congestion, have brought the state no closer to resolving the problem than before tens of millions of dollars were spent on those studies.

But I digress. Kennedy, in constant search of a TV camera and microphone, has now gone beyond absurdity in opposing more stringent background checks. Does he not remember:

  • Sandy Hook?
  • Columbine?
  • Aurora?
  • Orlando?
  • Las Vegas?
  • San Bernardino?
  • Chattanooga?
  • Charleston?
  • Oakland?
  • Tucson?
  • Blacksburg?

I could go on, but what’s the point? People like Kennedy are imprisoned by their own closed minds and political calculations about how to best play to the emotions of the gun enthusiasts and to how best to go about assuring the continued flow of NRA campaign contributions. The KILLING FIELDS of America are without comparison anywhere else in the civilized world, according to statistics published by the NEW YORK TIMES.

Oops, I forgot. That should be the failing New York Times, according to Donald Trump, on whose coattails Kennedy so shamelessly ran in his senatorial campaign. So, it must be fake news, right?

Well, those figures quoted by the failing New York Times were provided by the FBI, which keeps meticulous records on such things.

Oh, I forgot again. The FBI is no longer credible, according to Grump, who arbitrarily decides who is and who is not trustworthy and who sets such a shining example for the likes of Kennedy, Bill Cassidy and the other Repugnacans in Congress who apparently are unable to make as simple a decision as when to go to the bathroom without a directive from Thumper.

Yes, I know the NRA gun-totin’ flag-waving zealots are going to have me pilloried by sundown but I can live with that and I have this to say to them:

I would rather stand for what is right for all the victims who were so needlessly slaughtered by obviously mentally disturbed people who should never have had access to weapons than to have all the campaign money the NRA dumps into the campaigns of the likes of John Kennedy.

Those are my principles, Mr. Kennedy, what, pray tell, are yours?

Read Full Post »

It’s a plaintiff attorney’s and a legislator’s nightmare.

As an illustration of just how bad the state’s fiscal condition really is, one need only examine the 40 court judgments stemming from litigation against the state in 2016 that have yet to be paid.

As former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill once said, all politics is local and when a constituent wins or settles a lawsuit against the state, that person’s legislator is usually prompt in filing a bill in the House to appropriate funds for pay the judgment. That’s important to legislators. The state, after all, has denied classified employees pay raises for the better part of a decade but never missed paying a judgment other than the Jean Boudreaux case—until now.

It’s also a good indication of just how dire the state’s fiscal condition really is.

In all judgments of road hazard cases—cases involving auto accidents where the state is found at fault for inadequate signage, poor road maintenance or improper construction—as well as certain other claims like general liability or medical malpractice, funds must be appropriated via a bill submitted by a legislator.

In past years, with the exception of one major judgment, that has not been a problem. Only the $91.8 million class action judgment resulting from the 1983 flood in Tangipahoa Parish was never paid. In that case, lead plaintiff Jean Boudreaux claimed that construction of Interstate 12 impeded the natural flow of the Tangipahoa River, causing unnecessary flooding of homes and businesses north of I-12.

But in 2016, Rep. Steve Pugh of Ponchatoula submitted a bill to appropriate funds to pay the judgment. He did the same in 2017. It still remains unpaid, along with 36 other judgments totaling another $9.5 million for which bills were approved.

That puts the overall total judgments, including the 34-year-old Boudreaux case at more than $101 million.

And that doesn’t count the cost of attorney fees, expert fees, or court reporter fees, amounts practically impossible to calculate without reviewing the complete payment files on a case-by-case basis.

Twenty-four of the cases had two or more plaintiffs who were awarded money.

In 19 cases, awards were for $100,000 or more and three of those were for more than a million dollars—if indeed the money is ever paid.

In the meantime, judicial interest is still running on some of those judgments, which could run the tab even higher.

A list of those who were either awarded or settled cases in excess of $100,000 that remain unpaid and their parishes include:

  • Michael and Mary Aleshire, Calcasieu Parish: $104,380.82;
  • Kayla Schexnayder and Emily Legarde, Assumption Parish: $1,068,004;
  • Debra Stutes, Calcasieu Parish: $850,000;
  • Peter Mueller, Orleans Parish: $245,000;
  • Steve Brengettsy and Elro McQuarter, West Feliciana: $205,000;
  • Jeffrey and Lillie Christopher, Iberville Parish: $175,000;
  • Donald Ragusa and Tina Cristina, East Baton Rouge: $175,000;
  • Stephanie Landry and Tommie Varnado, Orleans Parish: $135,000;
  • Jennie Lynn Badeaux Russ, Lafourche Parish: $1.5 million;
  • Adermon and Gloria Rideaux and Brian Brooks, Calcasieu Parish: $1.375 million;
  • Theresa Melancon and DHH Medicaid Program, Rapides Parish: $750,000;
  • Rebecca, Kevin and Cheryl Cole and Travelers Insurance, East Baton Rouge: $400,000;
  • Samuel and Susan Weaver, Lafourche Parish: $240,000;
  • Henry Clark, Denise Ramsey and Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Lafayette Parish: $326,000;
  • Anya and Abigail Falcon and Landon and Nikki Hanchett, Iberville Parish, $946,732.53;
  • Adam Moore and James Herrington, East Carroll Parish: $150,000;
  • Traci Newsom, Gerald Blow, DHH Medicaid and Ameril-Health Caritas, Tangipahoa Parish: $150,000;
  • Michael Villavaso, Orleans Parish: $443,352.51.

Lawsuits against all state agencies are handled by the Office of Risk Management (ORM), which Bobby Jindal privatized in 2011 in order to save the state money.

The privatization didn’t realize the savings Jindal had anticipated but now, at least, it looks as though the Division of Administration has found another way to save money on litigation costs:

Don’t pay the judgments.

Read Full Post »

When I was a student at Louisiana Tech, I worked part time as a disc jockey at KRUS radio station in Ruston. Occasionally, I would have a “Golden Oldies Show,” during which I played only old rock & roll records.

I saw a story in the Washington Post recently that conjured up memories of old news stories and at the same time made me wonder if the Republicans in Congress were paying attention all those years.

The story, headlined, “GOP abandons any pretense of fiscal responsibility,” noted that the Republican Party has essentially abandoned its platform of fiscal restraint, “pivoting sharply in a way that could add trillions of dollars in federal debt over the next decade.”

https://politicalwire.com/2017/10/07/gop-abandons-pretense-fiscal-responsibility/

So, doing the minimum research, it was almost too easy to find stories that reveal that the tax cuts proposed by Trump would further widen the gap between wealthy and low-income Americans. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/42177-trump-s-proposed-tax-cuts-would-further-widen-the-gap-between-rich-and-poor

The Trump-led (and that’s a very loose term) Republican tax reform would cut taxes for the very rich and place the burden on the rest of us.

In 1970, the bottom 50 percent of U.S. wage earners averaged $16,000 a year in today’s dollars. In 2014, that figure had skyrocketed to $16,200.

The top 1 percent, meanwhile, saw their average income increase from an average of $400,000 a year to $1.3 million during the same time period, hardly enough to keep the lawn watered in the Hamptons.

Some might dismiss these sources as typical liberal media, but the conservative U.S. News & World Report seems to agree with their assessments.

More than two years ago, on May 20, 2015, the magazine ran a story headed simply as THE PARTY of RED INK.

That story did cite the $1.2 billion budget deficit that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Mally left for his Republican successor, but for the rest of its story, USN&WR hammered one Republican state governor after another. Those included our own wunderkind Bobby Jindal (a $1.6 billon deficit), Chris Christie (a staggering $7.35 billion structural budget deficit), Scott Walker of Wisconsin ($2.2 billion deficit), and Sam Brownback of Kansas ($1 billion shortfall).

Their collective answer to these budgetary nightmares? Cut taxes.

But along with tax cuts go cuts to services.

Back when I was a student at Tech—and given, that’s been a long time; Terry Bradshaw was emerging as a top draft pick back then—my tuition was $99. Today, my grandson, a computer engineering student at Tech, is forking over $9,000 per quarter to stay enrolled.

In Louisiana, cuts to higher education, public education, referral services to the mentally ill, services to children with disabilities, foster child services, and other cuts have had devastating results. Yet, the Republicans go merrily along with their vision of fiscal reform.

Jindal’s obsession with tax cutting, service cutting, and privatization was such a dismal failure that Newsweek on June 1, 3015, published a story headlined HOW BOBBY JINDAL BROKE the LOUISIANA ECONOMY.

But a March 26, 2015, story was even more revealing. That story, admittedly by a partisan Democrat writer, nevertheless cited a report by an outfit called WalletHub, a commercial personal financial web site that rated all 50 states on their dependence on federal dollars to prop up their respective economies.

The REPORT basically said that red states, America’s stalwarts of fiscal responsibility, suck more money out of the federal treasury than any others and that some of the poorest states, of which Louisiana is certainly one, depend on federal funding for 30 to 42 percent of their total revenue.

Louisiana depends on federal dollars for 42.2 percent of its budget That just happens to be the highest percentage in the nation. Mississippi is right behind, drawing 42.1 percent of its budget from the feds, according to a report released in May of this year. http://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-state-budgets-federal-funding-2015-2018-trump.html

Yet, who screams the loudest to get the federal government out of our lives? Well, that would be the Republicans, who control both Louisiana and Mississippi.

And yet, there they go again, to paraphrase Mr. Reagan. The Republicans in Congress are pushing that same agenda of tax cuts for the rich, cuts to services, increased military spending, heavier tax burdens on the middle class, and economic stagnation for what now, something like the 35th straight year?

And yes, I am keenly aware that some of those years included the administrations of Clinton and Obama and that some of those years Democrats controlled Congress. But that only goes to prove my oft-repeated point that there is little difference in the two parties when Wall Street, big oil, big Pharma, the NRA, and defense contractors exert such a heavy influence on the national agenda.

But with the Republicans, it’s not so much a political philosophy as it is an obsession, a mindset.

They adhere to the Laffer Curve at all costs. That’s the theory advanced by one Arthur Laffer, who says that tax cuts pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth.

Anyone seen any economic growth around these parts in the last couple of decades or so? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

The Laffer Curve might be appropriately named were it not such a cruel joke.

 

Read Full Post »

Jacob Colby Perry has been CRAPPed (Crazed Reaction Against Public Participation), BLAPPed, (Blowhard Letter Against Public Participation) and SLAPPed (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) as reward for his efforts to obtain answers from the Welsh City Council, particularly as those answers pertain to expenditures of the Welsh Police Department which consistently (as in every month) exceeds the department’s budget.

And he’s a member of the town’s board of aldermen, whose job it is to oversee the town’s various budgets, including that of the Police Department.

Welsh, for those who may not know, is a small town situated on I-10 in the middle of Jefferson Davis Parish. Jeff Davis Parish is located between Acadia Parish on the east and Calcasieu Parish on the west and sits immediately north of the easternmost part of Cameron Parish.

The town has 3,200 residents.

And 18 police cars (one for every officer to take home from work). The budget for those patrol cars, which are not all purchased in the same fiscal year, is $169,000.

Other line items in the police department’s budget include:

  • Police Chief—$100,990 (of which amount, $76,120 is for the Chief Marcus Crochet: $55,000 salary, $4,207.50 in Social Security payments, and $16,912.50 for his retirement);
  • Police Patrol—$593,077 ($32,948 per vehicle);
  • Police Training—$8,000;
  • Police Communications—$295,342 ($16,400 per officer);
  • Police Station and Buildings—$52,300.

BUDGET

All that for a town of 3,200.

From June 2016 through February 2017, the monthly expenditures and monthly overages (in parenthesis) for the police department were:

  • June 2016: $105,681.35 ($24,345.77);
  • July 2016: $79,595.23 ($1,840.35);
  • August 2016: $71,348.81 ($10,085.77);
  • September 2016: $132,857.05 ($51,421.47);
  • October 2016: $78,881.21; ($2,554.37);
  • November 2016: $108,732.82 ($24,297.24);
  • December 2016: $77,098.58 ($4,337.00)
  • January 2017: $79,945.66 ($1,489.92);
  • February 2017: $84,139.83 ($2,704.25)

TOTAL: $818,280.54 ($82,360.32).

That’s a nine-month average expenditure of $90,920.06, or an average monthly overage of $9,484.48.

Projected out for the entire fiscal year, the police department’s expenditures would be $1,091,040.72 or a projected fiscal year overage of $113,813.72.

OVERAGES

Did I mention that Welsh is a town of 3,200 living souls?

It’s no wonder then, that Alderman Jacob Colby Perry, a mere stripling of 24, along with a couple of other aldermen have questions about Crochet’s budget, particular when it was learned that funds generated from traffic enforcement on I-10 is deposited in an account named “Welsh Police Department Equipment & Maintenance.”

An attorney general opinion directed to Crochet and dated Dec. 18, 2015, makes it clear that “a police department is not permitted to establish a separate fund for the deposit of money generated from traffic tickets.” Louisiana R.S. 33:422 “requires that the fines collected from tickets issued by a police officer in a Lawrason Act municipality (which Welsh is) be deposited into the municipal treasury and, thus, within the control of the mayor, clerk, and treasurer.”

The balance in that account is more than $178,000. That’s over and above all the line items in the police department’s budget cited earlier. And he never tapped those funds to cover his overages, instead calling on the board of aldermen to cover his expenditures.

“The mayor (Carolyn Louviere), along with her staff and the town clerk, knew months prior that the chief of police was over-budget and would continue to exceed his budget,” Perry said. “They did nothing.”

Instead, she and the board acquiesced to Crochet’s request of a 37.5 percent increase in his base pay (from $40,000 to $55,000) and his total compensation, including salary and benefits, of $76,120.

SALARIES

Perry said that after he and three other aldermen addressed the matter of the police department’s budget in a meeting at which Crochet was not in attendance, “the town clerk and the mayor immediately followed up by informing the chief of police. In the next meeting, he (Crochet) entered with an entourage consisting of at least 10 police officers in uniform, a neighboring municipality’s chief of police and financial adviser, and his wife. We were yelled at and intimidated.

Perry said he felt Crochet’s demeanor at that meeting may have served its purpose in that the board of aldermen amended the police department budget by $253,000, pushing the department’s budget to more than $1.2 million. “The Town of Welsh is in disrepair,” Perry said.

For his trouble, several things have happened with Perry, none of them good:

  • A recall petition was started against him;
  • Postcards were mailed to Welsh residents that depicted Perry and Andrea King, also a member of the Board of Aldermen, as “terrorists” (See story HERE) and that Perry violated campaign finance laws by failing to report income from a strip club in Texas of which he was said to be part owner and which allegedly was under federal investigation for prostitution, money laundering and drug trafficking (See story HERE);
  • He was removed from the Town of Welsh’s FACEBOOK page;
  • He has been named defendant in not one, not two, not three, but four separate SLAPP lawsuits.

Those filing the suits were Mayor Louviere; her daughter, Nancy Cormier; her son, William Johnson, and, of course, Police Chief Crochet. All four SLAPPs were filed by the same attorney, one Ronald C. Richard of Lake Charles. Can you say collusion?

Each of the nuisance suits say essentially the same thing: that Perry besmirched the reputations of her honor the mayor, both of her children, and the bastion of law enforcement and fiscal prudence, Chief Crochet.

The reason I call them nuisance suits is because Perry, as a member of the board of aldermen, is immune from libel and slander suits under the state’s anti-SLAPP statute.

As the crowning touch, the recall petition was initiated while Perry was in Japan on military orders, serving his annual two-week training.

But the plaintiffs, while trying to shut Perry up, have their own dirty laundry.

It has already been shown that the police chief is not the most fiscally responsible person to be handling a million-dollar budget. Eighteen police cars in a town of 3,200? Seriously? More than $76,000 in salary and benefits—not counting the additional $6,000 he receives in state supplemental pay? Consistently busting his department’s budget? Keeping traffic fine income in a separate account when it should go in to the town’s general fund?

And Mayor Louviere, who inexplicably wants to build a new city hall when the town is flat broke, is currently under investigation by the Louisiana Board of Ethics, according to the Lake Charles American Press AMERICAN PRESS. She also wants to shut down a bar that just happens to be adjacent to a business owned by her son.

And her son, William Joseph Johnson, who Perry says used his mother’s office in an attempt to shut the bar down, has a story all his own.

Johnson, back in 2011, was sentenced in federal court to serve as the guest of the federal prison system for charges related to a $77,000 fraud he perpetrated against a hotel chain in Natchitoches between October 2006 and January 2007. And that wasn’t his first time to run afoul of the law.

At the time of his sentencing for the Louisiana theft, he was still wanted on several felony charges in Spokane County, Washington, after being accused of being hired as financial controller for the Davenport Hotel of Spokane under a stolen identity, giving him access to the hotel’s financial operations and then stealing from the hotel.

The only thing preventing Spokane authorities from extraditing him to Washington, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Shane Smith said, was that “we just don’t have the funds to bring him back.” The Spokane Review, quoting court documents, said, “Police believe Johnson is a longtime con artist who has swindled expensive hotels across the country.” (Click HERE for that story.)

“William Joseph Johnson, Jr. remains on federal probation,” Perry said. “He has yet to pay back all of the restitution that he owes.

In his lawsuit against Perry, Johnson says he “has a long-standing positive reputation in his community and parish” and that he (Johnson) suffered “harm to reputation (and) mental anguish.”

So we have Perry, a student at McNeese State University, being BLAPPed (Blowhard Letters Against Public Participation) with the postcard campaign; CRAPPed (Crazed Retaliation Against Public Participation) with Crochet’s appearance with 10 uniformed officers to berate Perry at a board of aldermen meeting and an incident in which Perry said Johnson confronted him in an aggressive manner following a board meeting, and SLAPPed (Strategic Legal Action Against Public Participation) with the four lawsuits.

All this in a town of 3,200.

Former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill had no idea how accurate he was when he said, “All politics is local.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »