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Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

What in the world’s going on in the sleepy town of Mansfield up in DeSoto Parish?

Usually, the political shenanigans are kept pretty much in-house, meaning what happens here generally stays here. We’re family here, after all, and the family doesn’t air its dirty laundry.

The normal procedure is for everyone to just shake their heads and to go on about their business, secure in the knowledge that this is Louisiana and that’s just the way it is. Always has been, always will be.

But occasionally, these dirty little secrets burst open like a festering sore and they become a little more difficult to ignore.

Thanks to the diligence of the Legislative Auditor’s office in Baton Rouge, that’s what has happened in the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office over the past four years.

What began as an investigative audit in April 2014 that revealed a former deputy’s private business ran more than 41,500 BACKGROUND CHECKS through the sheriff’s office during an 11-month period between April 1, 2012, and February 28, 2013, eventually led to the RESIGNATION of long-time sheriff Rodney Arbuckle in March of this year. Arbuckle attributed his resignation to health problems encountered by one of his grandchildren.

And the saga continues.

State auditors are back for yet another investigative audit. Arbuckle’s successor, Jayson Richardson is resisting a subpoena by the auditor’s office and he is taking his fight into the courtroom.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera on June 13 had the subpoena served on Richardson. It sought to compel Richardson to produce “copies of the unredacted personnel files” of the sheriff and 12 of his deputies.

“The designated personnel files contain privileged and Constitutionally-protected private information,” says a PETITION FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF filed by attorney James Sterritt of the prominent Shreveport law firm of Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway. “Under the circumstances, forcing the sheriff to comply with the subpoena would cause the sheriff, who is charged with enforcing the law, to instead break the law by disregarding legally-protected privacy rights.”

Sterritt also challenged the legality of the subpoena which he says “was not issued under authority of any court.” Instead, he said, it is a “Legislative Subpoena Duces Tecum” and which was not reviewed or evaluated by a judge. “Instead, it was signed by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (Purpera) and the Chairwoman of (the) Louisiana Legislative Audit Advisory Council (State Rep. Julie Stokes)

Not so, says Purpera. “We will be glad to argue this in court,” he said. “We have the power to subpoena records (and) we’ve been issuing subpoenas for the last 34 years that I know of.”

Purpera said he would seek to move the matter to the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.

Sterritt, in typical legal fashion, included case citations in his motion in the hopes that something might stick.

“As an accommodation, the sheriff offered to remove or redact the protected information,” Sterritt said. “But the auditor, through its representatives and employees, refused. The only accommodation that the auditor would agree to was that medical records could be removed while the auditor supervised the removal of those records.”

But Richardson, aka James Samuel Baldwin (I’ll explain that momentarily), countered through Sterritt that “no law enforcement officer, no district attorney, no attorney general, no inspector general, and no other governmental official has the authority to obtain subpoenas without just, reasonable, or probable cause. There is no law that authorizes the auditor to do what others cannot.

“The affidavit used to obtain the subpoena is defective,” Richardson/Baldwin argues. “It contains conclusory, unsupportable legal arguments and opinions—not facts. It contains mischaracterization and/or misrepresentation of the auditor’s authority. It omits relative matters. It would not be sufficient to establish the foundation necessary for a subpoena issued by a judicial officer.”

Besides Richardson, personnel records sought include those for the following employees:

  • Monica Cason;
  • Black Woodward;
  • Karen Miller;
  • Robert Davidson;
  • Chato Atkins;
  • Kenneth Gingles;
  • Gregory Perry;
  • Stephanie White;
  • Patrick Jones;
  • Donnie Barber;
  • Carolyn Davis, and
  • Luther Butler.

And just for good measure, Sterritt said the subpoena is “overly broad and creates an unreasonable burden and unnecessary expense. The proposed production will be unduly time-consuming and expensive. It will not result in a legally-justifiable use of public resources.”

It took Sterritt six pages to say all that. If he gets paid by the word, he did quite well for himself and his firm.

State Judge Charles B. Adams of the 42nd Judicial District signed a protective order and a rule to show cause and scheduled a hearing for today (Thursday, June 21) at 9:30 a.m.

Jennifer Shaye, an attorney for the auditor’s office, was dispatched to Mansfield to argue on behalf of the state. LouisianaVoice will update this story as soon as it is learned whether or not Judge Adams rules or takes the matter under advisement.

Meanwhile, about the apparent confusion over the sheriff’s real name:

When Richardson divorced his first wife several years ago, it was revealed by his now ex-wife that when they were married, his legal name was James Samuel Baldwin but on May 9, 2005, he had his name legally changed to Jayson Ray Richardson but neglected to take steps to change his wife’s name.

No reason was given for the name change.

Nor has there been any explanation for an apparent discrepancy in Baldwin/Richardson’s announced promotion to Chief Deputy only months before Arbuckle’s resignation as opposed to his official appointment a year earlier.

By letter of Dec. 20, 2016, Arbuckle informed the Secretary of State’s office, “This letter is to inform you that I am appointing Jayson Richardson as Chief Criminal Deputy of my office.” Accompanying that letter was Richardson’s OATH OF OFFICE, signed and notarized that same date.

But Arbuckle did not get around to announcing the promotion until his former chief deputy Horace Womack retired in December 2017, a full year later.

Somehow, it always seems appropriate to quote the late C.B. Forgotston:

“You can’t make this stuff up.”

 

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In the rancid, distorted, bigoted world of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, human life begins at conception and ends at America’s southern border.

And I’m not so sure the same can’t be said of the ass clowns we refer to as our Louisiana Congressional delegation.

Another certainty is that Session’s quoting the Bible notwithstanding, neither man can lay legitimate claim to being a Christian. That right was forfeited the instant the decision was made that innocent children, some of them still breast-feeding, should be ripped from their mother’s arms and warehoused in an empty Walmart store in Brownsville, Texas.

Acquaintances have ridiculed me for previous comparisons of idiot Trump to Hitler. Those comparisons were never more valid than now. When is the last time you saw an American president:

  • Rip more than 1300 children from their families for no greater offense than seeking asylum?
  • Incorrectly cite a Bible verse as justification for doing so?
  • Express the desire to emulate China’s President Xi in becoming President for life?
  • Have his lackeys follow the example of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un’s lackeys by sitting at attention when Dear Leader speaks? (and before you try to tell me he was “just kidding,” save your breath. He wasn’t. He was dead serious.)
  • Call the media “America’s greatest enemy”? (Okay, that may not be Hitler, per se, but it’s pretty darn close to another mad man named Nixon.)

And while we’re on the subject, I wonder if anyone has bothered to check to see if these might be private prisons contracting to hold these kids—for a nice profit, of course.

Oh, and don’t even bother to invoke the names of Obama or Clinton. Obama had his flaws as any human does, but he never once pulled the stunts and uttered the nonsense Trump has and while he had some less than stellar appointments to his cabinet, not one of them was named Scott Pruitt or Mick Mulvaney or Ben Carson or Betsy Devos or Wilbur Ross (Ross is the Commerce Secretary who was head of the Bank of Cyprus, an acknowledged vehicle for massive Russian money laundering. No Russian collusion? You can do your own Google search). And Clinton is not, was not, and will never be President so don’t even try to bring her into the mix.

In other words, let’s keep the conversation about a man who:

  • Repeatedly declared bankruptcy but always came back—with other people’s money, much of it from the Deutsche Bank, another bank that plays ball with the Russians who have money to wash;
  • Has a bad habit of not paying his contractors;
  • Ran a bogus real estate college in Florida that bilked students out of millions while failing to deliver on its promises—a college that was under investigation by the Florida attorney general…until Trump made a generous contribution to her election campaign, and then the investigation was conveniently dropped;
  • A man who has no respect for women whatsoever (don’t take Stormy Daniels’ word for it; just listen to the Billy Bush tape);
  • A man who does everything in his power to discredit, insult, and humiliate his justice department, the FBI, the IRS, the media, Congress, and anyone else who dares criticize him;
  • A man who cannot, for the life of him, maintain any consistency in his positions on issues, positions which sometimes change hourly;
  • A man who steadfastly refuses to make public his income taxes (gee, what could he be afraid of?);
  • A man who uses his position to help his family and himself financially (just look at the way in which he gave the Chinese firm ZTE a big break on his tariffs just as his daughter got nine trademark approvals from the Chinese government.)

I could go on, but why bother? If you are a Trump devotee, you’re not going to change your mind if it were proven that he was a serial axe murderer. You would simply regurgitate his and Fox News’ favorite response: fake news.

So, I will just end by saying this: If you are going to run around spewing your mantra of family values—whether as a Republican candidate or as a supporter of said candidate—while looking the other way as children are torn from their families, then you, my friend, are a damned liar and a hypocrite.

That goes for John Neely Kennedy, Bill Cassidy, Garrett Graves, Clay Higgins, Steve Scalise, Mike Johnson, or Ralph Abraham.

You are lying cowards, one and all, if you can advocate family values on one hand and imprisonment of children on the other.

And you’re certainly no Christian.

 

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This is the story of the “Mysterious X” that catapulted Jerry Larpenter into the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office way back in April 1987.

Going into the beginning of April of that year, Charlton P. Rozands was still the sheriff, but at that particular point in time, he was:

  • Under federal indictment;
  • Dying of cancer.

Rozands and his two sons, along with Chief of Detectives Aubrey Authement and deputy Elmore Songe were all INDICTED on charges ranging from malfeasance in office, improper removal of weapons from the sheriff’s office, unauthorized and illegal personal use of weapons being held as evidence, and the disposal of weapons being held as evidence but which had been in Authement’s possession.

In fact, the sheriff’s cancer was so advanced that he was said to have been heavily medicated on morphine that he was unable to be arraigned and could not perform the simplest of tasks.

ROZANDS DIED ON APRIL 19 (from the Houma Daily Courier)

Six days before his death, on April 13, Larpenter signed the required OATH OF OFFICE oath of office as Rozands’ Chief Criminal Deputy.

On the second page of that document, in the left-hand margin, is the signature, “C.P. Rozands, Sheriff.”

Except it’s not Rozands’ signature. A comparison of that signature with a document actually signed by Rozands makes that point abundantly clear.

COMPARE SIGNATURES

Several people who were in positions to know have told LouisianaVoice that Rozands would have been physically unable to sign anything because of the advanced stages of his cancer and because he was heavily medicated with morphine. What is not clear is who actually signed his name.

In fact, at some point prior to Larpenter’s signing his oath of office, sources tell LouisianaVoice that a meeting was held to discuss a successor. Said to have been at that meeting were Rozands’ wife Mae, his two sons, and Houma attorney William F. Dodd, legal counsel for the sheriff’s office. He remains the sheriff’s legal counsel today.

The meeting was held to discuss the succession to Rozands who by this time obviously near death. At the time, 1987, state law allowed an official’s widow to assume his seat but Mrs. Rozands let it be known she wasn’t interested in the job. Nor were either of their sons.

The choices were quickly eliminated until there was only Larpenter who, when asked, said he would take the job.

The affidavit was quickly drafted, presumably by Dodd, that named Larpenter as Chief Criminal Deputy, which would make him next in line for the office of sheriff.

But to make the appointment official, Rozands was required to sign it. With him unable to affix his signature, he supposedly signed with an “X.”

But did he? One person close to the series of events said, “I don’t think Rozands would have waited until he was that sick to appoint Jerry Larpenter. They were close, but I think if Rozands had wanted Larpenter as his Chief Criminal Deputy, he would have appointed him while he was well enough to know what he was doing.”

Besides the job promotion and salary boost that came with Larpenter’s ascension into the sheriff’s chair, it also gave him the decided advantage of running as an incumbent in the next regular election only months away in October 1987.

In that election, the incumbency proved beneficial, all right. Larpenter, running against eight opponents, got a whopping 44 per cent of the vote, a full 30 points of his closest competitor, who got 14 percent. In the November runoff, he received 69 per cent of the vote to win his first of seven terms, interrupted only by his unsuccessful run for Parish President in 2007.

Each one of his elections—he was unopposed in 2015—were won by wide margins.

But the details of how he went from obscure deputy to sheriff for those few months in 1987 remain murky and clouded with questions of whether Rozands actually scrawled that “X” or it was done by someone in his name.

It’s almost as big a mystery as that entry in Larpenter’s campaign expense report. He lists an expenditure of $15,400 to an outfit named WEBCORP in Missouri for bulletproof vests for the sheriff’s department.

It’s awfully magnanimous of him to spend his own campaign funds to purchase equipment for his deputies—especially when Web Corp isn’t in the business of bulletproof vests. It’s an Internet web-building company.

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What happens when local Politician A finds himself at odds with Politician B, who just happens to be the most powerful politician in the parish and a close ally with Politician C, who has the authority to make life miserable for Politician A?

That apparently is what happened with Politician A, the Iberia Parish clerk of court, who found himself on the outside of the political in-crowd when he had a falling out with Politician B, the local sheriff, and the sheriff’s good buddy, Politician C, the local district attorney, promptly indicted Politician A on 14 criminal counts of perjury, racketeering, malfeasance, theft of advance court costs, filing false/altered public records.

In this case, it was Iberia Parish Clerk of Court Michael Thibodeaux who was indicted by District Attorney M. Bofill Duhé’s office on Friday (June 8) on the basis of a 2016 Legislative Auditor’s INVESTIGATIVE AUDIT of the clerk’s office.

All this is not to claim either that Thibodeaux is guilty or that he’s as pure as the driven snow, but it is rather curious that Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal was never indicted by Duhé’s office for some of the transgressions he was accused of—little things like turning vicious dogs loose on defenseless prisoners or forcing prisoners to simulate oral sex with deputies’ nightsticks.

Here are a few other lowlights of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, as itemized in a letter to then U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, none of which attracted the diligence of Duhé’s office:

  • In 2005, a former inmate alleged that deputies beat him so badly when he was booked into jail that he had to spend two weeks in a hospital.
  • In 2008, a man alleged that a deputy beat him so badly during an arrest that he coughed up blood and then a muzzle was put over his mouth. The man later settled a suit with the Sheriff’s Office for $50,000.
  • In 2009, Michael Jones, a 43-year-old man who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died in the jail after an altercation with then-Warden Frank Ellis and then-lieutenant Wesley Hayes. This year, a judge ruled that two Sheriff’s Office employees were responsible for Jones’ death. The judgment in the case totaled $61,000.
  • In 2009, former inmate Curtis Ozenne alleged that officers began a contraband sweep by forcing him to remain in the “Muslim praying position” for nearly three hours. Mr. Ozenne alleged he was kicked in the mouth multiple times, threatened with police dogs and then his head was shaved. In his complaint, Mr. Ozenne also alleged that Sheriff Ackal threatened him with a dog and watched as an officer struck him with a baton for smiling. Mr. Ozenne’s suit against the Sheriff’s Office was later settled for $15,000.
  • In 2009, Robert Sonnier, a 62-year-old mentally ill man, died as the result of a fatal blow delivered by an IPSO Deputy in the course of a physical altercation. After Mr. Sonnier was unable to receive a psychological evaluation authorized by his wife, he was left in a wheelchair to stew in his own waste for several hours. He eventually became agitated which led to altercations with Deputies that resulted in Sonnier being pepper sprayed twice and eventually leading to the fatal blow.
  • In 2012, Marcus Robicheaux, an inmate at Iberia Parish Jail, was pulled from a wall and thrown to the ground as IPSO correctional officers ran a contraband sweep. A deputy’s dog then attacked Mr. Robicheaux, biting his legs, arms and torso, as the deputy stomped and kicked the prone inmate. The whole three-minute incident was captured on video from the jail’s surveillance cameras.
  • In 2014, Victor White III died as the result of a fatal gunshot wound while handcuffed in the backseat of an IPSO car. The sheriff’s deputies who arrested Mr. Victor (sic) alleged that he wouldn’t leave the car and became “uncooperative.” They say he pulled out a handgun, while his hands were cuffed behind his back, and shot himself in the back. However, the full coroner’s report indicated that Mr. White had died from a single shot to his right chest, contradicting the initial police statement that he had shot himself in the back.

But Duhé was right there when Ackal needed him to help shut up a New Iberia black man who initiated a recall petition after the Victor White shooting.

On July 8, 2016, Broussard was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver In Lafayette Parish who minutes later collided head-on with an 18-wheeler and was killed in adjacent Iberia Parish.

Yet it was Broussard who was indicted on a charge of manslaughter by an Iberia Parish grand jury on March 19, 2017, just nine days before the seven deputies were sentenced.

So just how did Broussard find himself in Ackal’s crosshairs? On July 1, a week before the auto accident, Broussard committed the unpardonable sin when he became the impetus behind a recall of Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

Broussard, an African-American, was one of the organizers of The Justice for Victor White III Foundation which filed a petition on July 1 to force a recall election. White was the 22-year-old who died of a gunshot wound while in the back seat of a sheriff deputy’s patrol car in March 2014. The official report said the gunshot was self-inflicted. The coroner’s report said he was shot in the front with the bullet entering his right chest and exiting under his left armpit. White’s hands were cuffed behind his back at the time.

Ackal, of course, skated on that issue and was later indicted, tried and acquitted on federal charges involving beating prisoners and turning dogs loose on prisoners, as well. But when you’ve got retired federal judge and family member Fred Haik helping with the defense, you tend to land on your feet.

It was into that hostile territory that DONALD BROUSSARD unwisely ventured with his recall effort.

A story in the March 19, 2017, Daily Iberian read, “A New Iberia man who was instrumental in the drive to recall Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal last year has been indicted for manslaughter in the aftermath of an alleged road rage incident that left a Bossier City man deal in July.”

Here’s the chronology of events:

Moments before the fatal crash, Rakeem Blakes, 24, rear-ended a Cadillac driven by Broussard at the corner of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and U.S. 90 in Lafayette Parish. Broussard said he followed Blakes when Blakes fled the scene after Broussard had approached his car but denied that he chased Blakes. “The guy hit me,” Broussard said. “I got within 20 feet of him so I could get his license plate number. I gave it (the license number) to the (911) dispatcher and they told me to fall back, so I fell back.” Broussard said reports that he had a gun were ridiculous. “I don’t even own a gun, he said. “I told the State Police they could search my car. They just handed me my license and let me go on my way.”

Broussard said Blakes was driving erratically, causing a hazard for other drivers.

Iberia Parish District Attorney Bo Duhé said the case involving Broussard was turned over to his office for review in November following completion of the LSP investigation. In what has to be one of the most convoluted reviews of the investigation, Assistant District Attorney Janet Perrodin presented the case and the grand jury last Friday returned a true bill indicting Broussard for manslaughter and “aggravated obstruction of a highway,” which led to Blakes’ death.

Unexplained in this bizarre episode was how Broussard created an “aggravated obstruction” when it was Blakes who rear-ended him and subsequently fled the scene. Duhé, in some fancy verbal footwork, said state law allows a manslaughter charge to be brought when an offender “is engaged in the perpetration of any intentional misdemeanor directly affecting the person. Aggravated obstruction of a highway is the performance of any act on a highway where human life may be endangered,” he said.

By those definitions, virtually anyone could be arrested, jailed, tried and convicted at just about any time. That, of course, is not likely. This was a scenario tailored just for Broussard who had the temerity to take on a powerful sheriff whose proclivity to extract revenge against those who would dare stand up to his authority was already well-established.

Broussard, for his part, vowed to fight the “malicious and unwarranted” prosecution. “I welcome their witch-hunt. The truth will come out at trial. They like to keep niggers in their place in Iberia Parish because most of the time, that’s what they’re used to dealing with. But they’re dealing with an educated black man who has never been, nor will I ever be, scared to speak truth to power—especially in instances when those in power abuse that power. They picked the wrong one to go to war with.”

With no real case, Duhé’s office eventually dropped the charges against Broussard but the entire affair is illustrative of how the local powers that be can come together to make another’s life a living hell.

In light of all those cases, it’s rather easy to see that Duhé and Ackal run a pretty tight parish and woe unto anyone, even someone else in the courthouse crowd, who crosses them.

Among other things, the state audit said that from May 2013 to May 2016, the clerk’s office “improperly retained $314,495 in unused advance court costs that state law required to be refunded to the persons who originally deposited those monies. Of this amount, the Clerk of Court transferred $218,021 from the advance deposit bank account (advance deposit fund) to the Clerk of Court’s salary fund bank account (salary fund) to pay Clerk of Court salaries and other expenses. The remaining $96,924 represents monies currently in the Clerk of Court’s advance deposit fund that should be returned to the persons who made the original deposits.”

The misuse, misapplication, mismanagement and/or the misappropriation of more than $300,000 is a serious offense, one which should never be taken lightly and the DA’s office took the appropriate action in pursuing its own legal investigation once the audit came to light.

And certainly, no charges should ever have been brought against Donald Broussard. But they were, because apparently Ackal wanted him charged and Duhé was only too happy to oblige.

But the question must be asked: where was the DA’s office when prisoners were being abused and killed while in custody of Duhé’s friend, Sheriff Louis Ackal?

Apparently justice is blind only when it benefits the good ol’ boy network.

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In 2013, the Louisiana Legislature passed and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law House Bill 703 which mandated that any state unclassified (appointive) employee earning $100,000 or more must be a bona-fide resident of the gret stet of Looziana.

The bill, which would become Act 264 of 2013 and which now goes by Louisiana Revised Statute 42:31, passed the HOUSE easily enough by a 70-20 margin with 15 members ducking out on the vote.

In the SENATE, however, it was quite another story with the bill squeaking through by a razor-thin 20-17 vote with two senators joining their 15 counterparts in the House in not voting.

The author of HB 703? That would be then-State Rep. John Bel Edwards.

Here are the specific provisions of the ACT:

  • Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, any person hired or employed in an unclassified position as defined by the State Civil Service Commission, and whose annual salary or rate of compensation is equal to, or exceeds one hundred thousand dollars, shall, within thirty days of being hired or employed at such salary, provide proof to his public employer that he has been issued a Louisiana driver’s license and that all vehicles registered in his name are registered in Louisiana.  This requirement shall be deemed a qualification for the position for which the person was employed or hired, and for the duration of the person’s employment in the event the person’s salary is increased and the requirements of this Section are triggered.
  • All government agencies which hire or employ any person in an unclassified position as defined by the State Civil Service Commission, whose annual salary or rate of compensation is equal to, or exceeds one hundred thousand dollars, shall verify that such person has been issued a Louisiana driver’s license and that all vehicles registered in his name are registered in Louisiana.  The public employer shall verify the employee meets this requirement for the duration of this person’s employment.
  • Any person hired or employed in an unclassified position who does not meet the requirements of this Section, or who no longer meets the requirements of this Section, shall be removed and terminated within thirty days of the public employer learning such person does not meet the requirements of this Section.

Credit for the introduction and subsequent passage of the law has to go to the late C.B. Forgotston who spearheaded a one-man campaign against state government parking garages crammed with vehicles bearing out-of-state license plates.

C.B. took it as a personal affront that Louisiana tax dollars were being used to hire employees from other states who wouldn’t even bother to register their vehicles in Louisiana. His reasoning was the workers were perfectly willing to take money from the state but weren’t willing to pay their fair share of taxes by simply registering their cars here.

One of the biggest offenders, he learned, was the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

Of course, not all the out-of-state employees were pulling down a hundred grand a year but there was this one guy that LouisianaVoice had occasion to write about.

His name was David Lefkowith, though his friends just call him Lefty.

When they see him, that is. Trouble is, he is considered a ghost by some of his co-workers who assumed he was long gone from LDOE. That’s because he doesn’t appear at the LDOE offices in the Claiborne Building across from the State Capitol.

You see, Lefty resides in Los Angeles and commutes to Louisiana if and when he has occasion to drop in to pick up an Enterprise rental at Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans and visit educational centers in Houma, Natchitoches, Lafayette, and Shreveport—but rarely Baton Rouge.

When LouisianaVoice first had occasion to write about Lefty back in 2012, he was knocking down $145,000 a year as something called the Director of the Office of Portfolio.

Act 264 of 2013 threw a monkey wrench in State Education Superintendent John White’s decision to pay Lefty $145,000 and when LouisianaVoice did a story recently about all the unclassified employees at LDOE pulling down $100,000 or more per year, a couple of LDOE employees expressed curiosity to LouisianaVoice as to why his salary was cut $45,000, to $100,000. LEFKOWITH IS NUMBER 197 on the list provided LouisianaVoice.

Well, truth be told, it was cut $45,000.10 to $99,999.90. That put him at a dime below the $100,000 threshold and allowed him to slither under the door.

That is a little trick White probably learned from Jindal who had a cute habit of issuing contracts of $49,999 in order to avert the requirement for proposals, or bids, for all contracts of $50,000 and above.

Still, commuting back and forth between California and Louisiana on a $100,000 salary doesn’t make much sense. It just doesn’t seem a sound fiscal decision unless LDOE pays for his flights back and forth.

Not so, says White.

I made a public records request for all expense payments made to Lefty and I also sent the following email to White:

From: Tom Aswell
Date: Friday, May 25, 2018 at 10:51 AM
To: John White <John.White@la.gov>
Subject: LEFKOWITH

John, for an employee no one in LDOE seems to remember seeing around the office, you certainly have paid him quite a tidy sum in travel and lodging expenses. I have a couple of questions in that regard:

  • How is he allowed to be a full-time employee of LDOE (at $100K per year) and reside in California?
  • What are his precise duties at LDOE. Please be specific?
  • What are his qualifications that you are apparently unable to find in a Louisiana resident?
  • Did you know him before he was brought into LDOE?
  • Does LDOE withhold state income taxes for Louisiana or California?

To his credit, White responded rather promptly, the very next day (a Saturday), in fact:

From: John White <John.White@la.gov>
Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2018 11:02 AM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: Re: LEFKOWITH

Here is the web site that lists what Dave has developed and leads at the Department: https://www.louisianabelieves.com/courses/all-things-jump-start.

Dave attended Yale University as an undergraduate and Stanford University for business school. He spent more than 30 years as a management consultant across a wide array of industries.  The work outlined above is unique among states and speaks to his capacity to lead the mission with which he has been charged. I was not familiar with him prior to becoming state superintendent.

Dave pays taxes in both states and is reimbursed for work-related travel within the state, as other state staff are. He pays his own commuting costs.

Thanks for the note.

John

As for Lefty’s management consultant duties, one of those was an ill-fated plan, uncovered by reporters Michael Pollock and Chris Davis of the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune (Davis would move on to become leader of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg).

In 1998, when Jeb Bush was running for governor of Florida, Enron, then a fast-rising Houston energy broker, was in the process of diversifying into the potentially profitable new field of water supply privatization through a subsidiary called Azurix Corp.

Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) David Struhs, a Bush appointee, was simultaneously promoting two concepts on behalf of Azurix: auctioning off blocks of water to the highest bidders and obtaining underground water and storing it for later withdrawal through a process called aquifer storage and recovery (ASR).

Enron sank $900 million in Azurix, hoping to duplicate the proposed action in two other states, California and Enron’s home state of Texas, as well as in South America. Ultimately, however, Enron lost $500 million when the project failed to materialize, eventually selling what was left of the company in 2001 to American Water Works as a precursor to the eventual collapse of Enron.

Struhs also pushed another project to deregulate energy in Florida and to open the state to competition by allowing companies to build power plants, using existing power lines for the purpose of selling electricity to the highest bidding utility or other customers.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Struhs was his good friend, David “Lefty” Lefkowith, president of Canyon Group, Inc., of Los Angeles.

Back in 1991, President George H. Bush named 23 industrialists and environmentalists to the President’s Commission on Environmental Quality and named Struhs to run the commission. One of the 23 commission appointees was then-Enron CEO Kenneth Lay.

When Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992, Struhs went to work for Lefkowith as vice president of Canyon Group. Lefkowith has represented as many as 60 different electric power companies through his company.

By 1998, Struhs was working for Jeb Bush and Lefkowith was on board with the ill-conceived Florida water privatization project. “I don’t think water is so damn special,” he said at the time. “If you let markets take over, you’d find water was cheaper, there would be more of it, and customers would be better served.” He neglected to explain how water quantity would increase.

Fast forward to 2002 and Struhs and Lefkowith were back at the forefront of market manipulation in Florida at the behest of Jeb Bush, but by now, their dealings were with electric power companies. Struhs was DEP Secretary and Jeb Bush had set up Energy 2020 Commission, a group assembled to study deregulation.

This time when Struhs brought him in as a consultant, Lefkowith was given unlimited access to all the emails of Bush’s Energy 2020 Commission members and staffers even though most of the 2020 commissioners never heard of him, never saw him (sound familiar?) and never knew he access to their correspondence.

On Feb. 4, 2001, Struhs’ deputy chief of staff, Mollie Palmer, ordered a half-dozen top DEP employees to start sending Energy 2020 Commission documents to Lefkowith with emails from Energy 2020 Chairman Walter Revell or from commission executive director Billy Stiles to be “forwarded to Lefty upon receipt.”

After receiving a copy of that memo, Pollock and Davis requested copies of all documents sent to Lefkowith but DEP officials responded that no documents existed. (That sounds much like the responses received by Capitol News Service from the Division of Administration and from the Louisiana governor’s office.)

“Who is this guy to get this information?” asked Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe. “From the tone and tenor of these emails and communications, he is directing energy policy (for the state). What authority does he have to do that? And for what purpose?”

Democratic State Sen. Kip Campbell of Tarmarac was even less forgiving of the practice. “Suppose I was sending letters to Struhs, like ‘here is my thought process on what we are going to do legislatively.’ And Lefkowith knows this ahead of time. Lefkowith might be working for Calpine and all those other companies and selling that knowledge for profit. I’d be willing to wager he probably was.”

Lefkowith also attended strategy sessions with Gov. Jeb Bush to discuss findings of the Energy 2020 Commission.

In addition, he lobbied Florida utility representatives in private meetings on the issue of building power plants in order to broker power sales.

He would later use the information he had obtained as confidant to Struhs and Jeb Bush to wrangle a consulting job with the Florida PSC.

So, yes, Lefkowith has worked with a lot of different entities but appears to have trouble remaining at one job for very long.

Now about White’s claim that Lefty pays his own commuting costs.

A check of his travel, lodging and meal expense reports provided by LDOE pursuant to our public records request turned up a couple of interesting tidbits, not the least of which was that the records appear to be incomplete with Lefkowith claiming many days of travel in Enterprise vehicles but hotel expense records that can only be described as spotty and sporadic with a lot of gaps. Accommodations for days at a stretch are unaccounted for.

From 2013 through current available 2018 dates, travel records show that LDOE has shelled out more than $21,880 for auto rentals, meals, lodging, and airplane flights to Austin, Texas, Cincinnati, and New Jersey.

On one occasion, on September 3, 2013, he drove an Enterprise rental vehicle 833 miles from New Orleans to Houma and Shreveport and back and even though he was in a rental, he charged LDOE for 99 miles at 51 cents per mile, collecting $50.49 in mileage. (Note: at the time, state regulations allowed employees to be reimbursed for a maximum of 99 miles traveled in personal vehicles as a means to encourage them to drive state vehicles. Regulations do not permit mileage payments while driving rentals.)

In July 2017 Lefkowith rented an Enterprise vehicle for 21 days, paid for by LDOE, and drove the car, a Chrysler Pacifica, from his Los Angeles home to New Orleans, a distance of 1,169 miles on your dime—$609.94 in dimes, to be precise.

So much for White’s claim that Lefkowith pays his own commuting expenses.

For that matter, the idea of paying his own commuting expenses on a $100,000 (oops, sorry. $99,999.90) per year salary just doesn’t make sense.

It’s enough to make one wonder just how many expense reports requested by LouisianaVoice were not forthcoming.

Surely any omissions were simply oversights.

 

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