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Archive for the ‘Exemptions’ Category

Jimmy Buffett sang about clichés and we hear them every day:

  1. Life’s not fair. We learn that quickly in our lives.
  2. Those who make the gold make the rules: a subsection of Number 1.
  3. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Well, not necessarily.

Here’s another one: Get over it. That’s what those with the gold would tell us.

What’s the point of all this?

Well, for starters, the average salary for state classified (Civil Service) employees in Louisiana was $44,737 per year in 2017. After four years of virtually no growth, the 2017 average salary represented a 6.3 percent increase over the four years of 2010 through 2013 (2.1 percent per year), when the averages were, in order, $42,187, $42,208, $41,864, and $42,140.

If you followed those figures closely, you saw that the average salary for classified employees actually decreased by $47 from 2010 to 2013.

Contrast that with the average salary for unclassified (appointive) employees. Those average salaries increased by $1,565 (2.5 percent) from $61,861 in 2010 to $63,426 in 2013 and were $65,357 in 2017, a difference of $20,620 over their classified counterparts.

Okay, it’s somewhat understandable that unclassified employees would make 46 percent more than their counterparts. They are, for the most part, in managerial positions, after all.

For the most part. But it’s important to keep in mind that these appointees are there only as long as the governor. Generally, a new administration brings in its own personnel to replace those of the previous governor.

Unclassified employees are generally along for the ride and they’re basically temporary employees who come into an agency knowing little of its workings or its personnel. Others are just political hacks who were awarded jobs for supporting the right candidate. The classified, or civil service employees, the ones who do the actual work of keeping the state running, are career employees there for the long haul.

Article X, Paragraph 9 of the Louisiana State Constitution lays out some specific prohibitions for classified employees:

Prohibitions Against Political Activities:

(A)”No…employee in the classified service shall participate or engage in political activity; make or solicit contributions for any political party, faction, or candidate; or take active part in the management of the affairs of a political party, faction, candidate, or any political campaign…”

(C) “As used in this Part, ‘political activity’ means an effort to support or oppose the election of a candidate for political office or to support a particular political party in an election.”

These restrictions were put in place to protect classified employees from pressure from political bosses to ante up campaign contributions or to campaign for a particular candidate. But they also placed limits on other outside activity.

But, no matter how closely you study the Constitution, Civil Service, or Ethics Commission rules, you will not see any reference to activity restrictions on unclassified employees

So, why are the rules that govern ethics and conflicts of interest for classified employees different than for unclassified employees? Why is there an uneven playing field?

Take, for example, the case of Andrew Tuozzolo. He’s the Chief of Staff for Rebekah Gee, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

Tuozzolo, who was hired on Feb. 1, 2016, and who earns $105,000 per year, is the manager of WIN PARTNERS, LLC, of New Orleans, a political consulting firm.

By its very name and function, Win Partners necessarily involves its manager in political activity such as supporting candidates, soliciting contributions and taking part in the management of affairs for political candidates.

And it’s perfectly legal—because he’s unclassified.

Incorporation papers for Win Partners were filed with the Secretary of State on Aug. 18, 2010, and the firm began receiving fees almost immediately. Since Sept. 1, 2010, only two weeks after it was incorporated, Win Partners, and to a much lesser extent, Tuozzolo personally, have combined to receive $1.95 million in fees from candidates and political action committees.

Some of those candidates included State Reps. Walt Leger, Austin Badon; State Sens. Karen Carter Peterson, Butch Gautreaux, and Jean Paul Morrell; New Orleans City Council members Joseph Giarrusso and Helena Moreno, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and at least one statewide candidate (Buddy Caldwell).

Since his hire by Gee on Feb. 1, 2016, Win Partners has slowed somewhat in activity but that can be attributed mainly to the fact that the only major elections were for New Orleans municipal offices.

Since beginning his employment with LDH, Win Partners has collected $36,900 in fees for working in the campaigns of Moreno, Giarrusso, and Leger.

Without even taking into consideration the question of when he would have time to devote to a political consulting company, the work itself is enough of a conflict of interest to get a classified employee fired.

And then there’s the matter of Dr. Harold D. Brandt who, from April 7, 2016 to Sept. 2, 2017, served as the Medical Vendor Administrator for LDH. Brand’s salary was $156.25 per hour which, based on a 40-hour week, comes to $6,250 per week, or $312,500 for a 50-week year, allowing a couple of weeks for vacation.

Begin Date End Date Agency Job Title Biweekly Pay Rate
9/2/17 Present Resignation
4/7/16 9/1/17 LDH-Medical Vendor Admin Physician IV $156.25/hour (4/7/16 to 9/1/17)

 

The only problem with Brandt’s serving as the Medical Vendor Administrator for LDH is that he also is on the STAFF of Baton Rouge Clinic.

Since April 7, 2016, Dr. Brandt’s date of employment, Baton Rouge Clinic has received more than $83,000 in PAYMENTS from LDH.

If, as the LDH Medical Vendor Administrator, Dr. Brandt’s duties included approval of vendor payments to Baton Rouge Clinic, that would place him in a position of a potential ethics violation, unclassified or no, but only if he owned greater than a 25 percent share of Baton Rouge Clinic.

The wording of the ethics laws says if an employee owns greater than 25 percent of a business, that enterprise is prohibited from doing business with the employee’s agency. Dr. Brandt likely does not hold a 25 percent interest in Baton Rouge Clinic but he certainly has a financial stake in its serving as a vendor for the state.

That 25 percent interest certainly didn’t come into play with one classified employee a few years back. A state vendor sent her, unsolicited, a baked ham for Christmas. It was delivered to her office unbeknownst to her. She was fined $250 by the Ethics Commission.

That’s because classified employees are prohibited from accepting anything of value (other than a meal, to be eaten at the time it is given) from vendors.

But unclassified employees running a political consulting firm on the side or monitoring payments to a clinic where he is employed apparently are okay.

So, there’s no point in even discussing legislators who purchase season tickets for LSU and Saints football and Pelicans games, leasing luxury cars, or who even pay personal income taxes from campaign funds—all prohibited on paper but certainly not enforced.

Is a level playing field really too much to ask?

At the end of the day, ethics violators are as thick as thieves but it’s just the low hanging fruit that the Ethics Commission, the OIG and the Attorney General’s offices go after—like a kid in a candy store. The tough cases they avoid like the plague. If they would only think outside the box, there’re plenty of fish in the sea for them to go after if they’d just take the tiger by the tail.

(How many clichés did you count in that last paragraph?)

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One of LouisianaVoice’s regular readers commented on Wednesday’s post that “half of Congress is occupied by communists” and “half of the supposed ‘good guys’ are swamp creatures that lie to get elected (only half?) and don’t really want the change that got them elected.”

And then he wrote, “Lay off of Trump. You sat by for 8 years as Obama raped and pillaged our country. He turned the IRS and intelligence agencies against us. He made deals with Iran as they chanted ‘death to America.’ Trump isn’t anyone’s savior but at least I don’t have to wonder if he truly hates this country like I did with Osama…I mean Obama.”

Oh dear, where to start? First of all, he every right to his opinion and the right to express it. But saying that “half of Congress is occupied by communists” is such an all-encompassing, paint-em-all-with-the-same-broad-brush kind of generalization that is all too common to people who go off on tangents and post unsubstantiated comments such as that. How can anyone say half of the 535 members of the House and Senate are communists when at the very most, he may have met a half-dozen of them for five minutes? That is such an inane comment that it really doesn’t even warrant dignifying with a rebuttal, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Obama “pillaged our country”? Just how, exactly, did he “pillage” the country? As I recall, Enron self-destructed in 2003, the housing bubble burst, Lehman Brothers went belly up and Bank of America acquired the cratering Merrill Lynch in 2008 near the end of George W. Bush’s term. Moreover, the entire affair was precipitated by the deregulation of financial institutions during the Reagan years.

True enough, Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, refused to prosecute the Wall Street bankers who brought on the collapse. That much I’ll give you and I still harbor resentment toward both Obama and Holder over that colossal malfeasance in failing to go after those thieves. You just know if some street thug had robbed a bank of a hundred bucks, he’d see hard time. Yet, those bankers stole billions—and walked away. Some were even paid bonuses of tens of millions of dollars for their trouble.

(You’d think we would’ve learned our lesson with the savings and loan debacle back in the final two decades of the Twentieth Century. William Black even wrote a prophetic book called The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One. Who knew then that the S&L collapse would reoccur on a much larger scale with the investment banks?)

And that “deal” with Iran is apparently the $150 billion Trump said Obama “gave” Iran. Pulitzer Prize-winning POLITIFACT says Trump got the name of the country right but that was about the extent of his accuracy. The $150 billion, you see, was Iran’s to begin with but had been frozen under several economic sanctions levied against the country. The money—their money—was released following verification by nuclear inspectors that Iran was complying with an agreement to curb its nuclear program. I suppose, though, if our reader got his information from BREITBART, he would have a somewhat different take on the whole affair.

And I just flat-out refuse to hold Obama responsible for the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina as some of Trump’s supporters continue to do. After all, the man wasn’t even president then and had only been in the Senate eight months. I actually heard one woman in Denham Springs mutter in disgust, “Thanks, President Obama” when she found the post office closed on Columbus Day—a federal holiday since 1968.

Finally, in response to the request to “lay off of trump”: not a chance in hell.

He has the chutzpa to question Obama’s loyalty to this country while choosing (typically of the TrumpCult) to overlook the fact that Trump has feuded with CNN, MSNBC, Time magazine, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Hispanics, and The New York Times—but strangely never with the Nazis, David Duke, Jason Kessler, or Vladimir Putin. All of which begs the question of where Trump’s loyalties lie.

Nope, I’m not going “lay off of Trump,” or the rest of the Repugnantcan gang of thugs who want to award generous—and permanent—tax breaks to the wealthy while doling out meager temporary breaks to the middle class and the poor.

  • Especially when Trump and his EPA Administrator have proposed the repeal of the Clean Power Plan which will give the go-ahead for polluting companies to pollute even more. That EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, you may remember, filed numerous suits against the EPA while Oklahoma attorney general which, I suppose, somehow makes him the perfect candidate to run the agency. Maybe I should sue Microsoft in hopes of being named the new CEO.
  • Especially when Trump appoints his budget director Mick Mulvaney to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by (ahem) the Obama administration to protect Americans from predatory lenders and faulty mortgages—like the very ones that nearly brought down the world economy in 2008. Mulvaney, by the way, once called the bureau “a joke…in a sick, sad way.”
  • Especially when I read a story from 24/7 Wall Street just this week about the top 50 corporations that park their assets offshore. Of those 50 companies, which have a combined $1.7 trillion stashed in overseas accounts, 10 are healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, three are big oil, two are insurance giants, five are military contractors, five are computer companies and internet providers and 11 (count ‘em) are financial companies—many of the ones whose criminal activity (never prosecuted by Attorney General Holder) brought about the 2008 crash that necessitated the federal bailout.

Those 50 corporations, along with all the others, no doubt, have located enough loopholes to make their 35 per cent tax rate. Despite their bitching and moaning that the rate is too high, the 50 averaged just over 25 percent in effective tax rates.

  • AIG, one of the companies that gave us the 2008 recession, for example had an effective tax rate of minus 5 percent, meaning it not only paid no taxes, but actually got money. Likewise, General Motors had an effective rate of minus 32.9 percent.
  • Morgan Stanley, another of those Wall Street bankers who torpedoed the economy, had an effective tax rate of 17.2 percent, less than half the supposed rate of 35 percent. Bank of America, yet another of the rogue Wall Street bankers, had an effective tax rate of 17.9 percent.
  • The pharmaceutical company Allergan had an effective tax rate of zero.

What was your personal tax rate again?

Just take comfort in the knowledge that the biggest tax breaks under this bill go them that got—corporations and the filthy rich.

The wealthiest 1 percent of people worldwide have more wealth than the rest of the earth’s population combined.

Just eight individuals possess more wealth than 3.6 billion people—half the world’s population.

True, not all of those live in the U.S. But let that sink in and be proud for those who will realize the most generous tax breaks under this bill. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself by clicking HERE. (Be sure to scroll down to the illustration of the spheres of influence.)

Trump and the Republicans in Congress, having failed in every effort to repeal Obamacare, are now so desperate to accomplish something, anything, before standing for reelection next year (the full House and one-third of the Senate), that they are flailing away like a blindfolded man in a martial arts tournament in a near-hysterical effort to get this ill-advised tax bill passed.

Those who proudly call themselves advocates of good ol’ American capitalism will rail against the redistribution of wealth, spitting out the term as if it were a vulgarism of the vilest sort. But a dramatic redistribution of wealth has been taking place for the past several decades. And it has been—and continues to be—redistributed upward, not downward. That’s the dirty little secret they will never discuss because that kind of redistribution is perfectly okay.

And know, too, that there is only one reason to park money offshore: to dodge taxes.

How much do you have sheltered in the Cayman Islands? Or Aruba? Or Belize?

Didn’t think so. Yet, it is the white middle class and white working poor, the ones who make up the core of the 35 percent that comprises the TrumpCult, who are being screwed by this clown and the Republicans in Congress.

And the saddest part is they don’t even know it.

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Corporations need tax breaks

so they can earn more money

to pour into campaigns and PACs

to lobby for bigger tax cuts

Spoiler alert: All you frothing fanatics who still think Donald Trump is the savior of the free world may want to stop reading at this point because the rest of what I’m about to say will not be very pleasant to those of you who to this point have refused to think for yourselves and this will only serve to stoke your anger.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t read it; you should. You should read the words of what any rational observer of the body politic might write about this blusterous buffoon we know as POTUS. To refuse to read or hear or to ignore the facts would cast you into that 35 percent core group of Trump supporters that I refer to as a cult. You continue to experience mind-altering donalgasms with each new tweet.

Okay, you’re already composing your response for this post’s comments section. You will say:

  • That I am a flaming liberal (I’m not. In fact, I only left the Republican Party after more than 30 years of an uninterrupted record of voting Republican because of the likes of Bobby Jindal and Donald Trump);
  • That my candidate Hillary Clinton lost the election (she was not my candidate; I really dislike her intensely, just not with the same intensity as that with which I loathe Donald Trump. And Hillary didn’t lose, the American people lost);
  • That I can’t get past losing (what I can’t get past is having a POTUS who is a laughingstock to the rest of the world, who would accept the word of Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies, who thinks it is more important to have a child molester in the U.S. Senate than a Democrat, and who finds it impossible to distinguish documented facts from his sorry version of the truth).

Since becoming president, Trump has been caught telling no fewer than 500 lies that are easily substantiated as such. Yes, all politicians lie. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards once said as much. But this idiot has taken it to a new level, lying through his teeth even as he had to know his every utterance and tweet is fact-checked and more often than not, debunked before the echo of his words has faded. A few examples:

  • During the campaign, he promised to release his income tax reports. He lied.
  • He claimed the crowd for his inauguration was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” He lied.
  • During his speech at CIA headquarters, he repeated his claim that he opposed the war with Iraq. But he told Howard Stern in 2002 that he supported the war. He lied.
  • Trump has repeatedly, without any evidence to back his claim, said he only lost the national popular vote because of widespread voter fraud. He lied.
  • Speaking to business leaders at the White House, Trump said, “I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.” He has never received any environmental awards. He lied.
  • Trump claimed that immigration and Customs Enforcement and border agents “unanimously endorsed me for president.” He lied.
  • He said the national homicide rate was “horribly increasing.” In fact, it is down significantly (except perhaps in Baton Rouge). He lied.
  • He claimed two people were fatally shot in Chicago during President Obama’s last speech as president. Didn’t happen. He lied.
  • He claimed he had “one of the best memories of all time” but later could not remember a meeting with George Papadopoulos, who confessed to lying to the FBI about meeting with Soviet agents. Here is a photo of that meeting.

He Lied.

  • His “alternative facts” spokesperson Kellyanne Conway alluded to the “Bowling Green massacre” in defending Trump’s travel ban. There was no “Bowling Green massacre.” She lied for him.
  • Trump claimed The New York Times was “forced to apologize to its subscribers for the poor reporting it did on my election win.” Never happened. He lied.
  • Trump promised tax reform that would lower taxes for working Americans. The biggest cruelest LIE of them all.

And these are only a handful of the buckets of lies that have poured out of his mouth.

Just as cruel, and approaching a new level of stupid, is the position taken on the tax bill by Louisiana’s two senators, John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy. Cassidy’s support is baffling because he worked as a physician at Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge where he had to know the desperation of Louisiana’s poor, uninsured citizens.

Kennedy is more understandable. In addition to drinking week killer, he once ran a TV ad during his first campaign for state treasurer in which he said, “During my time as secretary of Revenue, I reduced paperwork for small businesses by 150 percent.”

How anything can be reduced more than 100 percent is one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. The real irony, however, is that the claim came from a man who was asking us to put him in charge of the state’s financial investments. Talk about voodoo economics….

Kennedy has said he would vote against the tax bill if it contained the so-called “TRIGGER” provision, which would automatically abort the bill and revert to the present tax rates if the new bill did not perform as projected by the Republicans in Congress who keep promising they are from the government and that they are here to help us. And they’ll still respect us in the morning.

ILLUSTRATION OF PROJECTED EFFECTS OF TAX BILL

Those of you who have stayed with me to this point need to consider one other feature of the so-called “tax reform” package.

If you have children in college, who are headed for college in a couple of years, or if you have children who recently graduated from college, it might interest you to know that the interest rates on student LOANS will no longer be deductible under the new tax bill. Moreover, students on TOPS or who receive other tuition EXEMPTIONS will find that those exemptions will now count as income on which taxes will be due.

Of course, Trump and his congressional lap dogs—Cassidy, Kennedy, Garrett Graves and the rest of Louisiana’s Repugnantcan delegation included—will continue to lie, distort, twist and skew the facts to make you believe their tax REFORM is the best thing for you since Barry Goldwater and you will continue to drink the Kool Aid—because you want to believe them.

Never mind that you continue to vote against your own economic interests because the Repugnantcans continue to feed you the red meat of islamophobia, illegal immigrants, welfare cheats (who in fact take only a tiny fraction of what corporate America and Wall Street steal from taxpayers every day), Obamacare and gun rights. They do this in the knowledge that you will continue to elect a 70-year-old child predator as long as he waves a pistol in the air and displays the Ten Commandments.

You are being taken for fools, to be perfectly honest. The Republicans are holding a Bible in one hand, wrapping themselves in the flag and picking your pocket, all in one swift motion.

And you love them for it.

I don’t suppose any of you have ever wondered what became of the so-called Fiscal Hawks now that the Republicans have full control over everything in Washington. It’s kinda funny how you don’t hear anything about deficit reduction these days.

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We have apparently entered into an era in which a public servant who does his job as he should now runs the risk of being named a defendant in one of those strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) discussed in recent LouisianaVoice posts.

The very prospect of Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera being sued for issuing a press release about an audit report his office performed should send a chill throughout the Fourth Estate—mainstream media as well as bloggers. Who’s to say you can’t be sued for discussing an audit report over a Frappuccino at Starbucks?

Welsh Alderman Jacob Colby Perry recently won a court victory when the judge threw out not one, but four SLAPP LAWSUITS against him but now the attorney for the four who sued him—the Welsh mayor, her children, and the police chief—is attempting to get the presiding judge recused from the case in a desperate attempt to keep the frivolous lawsuits alive.

Louviere v Perry

Johnson v Perry

Cormier v Perry

And now we have a STORY in the Baton Rouge Advocate telling us that Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft is suing Purpera on behalf of her client, former Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs David LaCerte—not because an investigative audit by Purpera’s office found that LaCerte, a Bobby Jindal appointee, allowed fraudulent behavior in his department, but because Purpera had the audacity to issue a press release saying so.

The state asked that 19th Judicial District Court Judge William Morvant dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that Purpera was protected by the same statute that protects the speech of legislators.

Incredulously, Morvant ruled that while the auditor’s investigative report was protected, the press release issued by Purpera’s office was not. “I don’t think the press release falls within that immunity,” Morvant said, apparently with a straight face.

That immediately raises the question of whether or not the media are free to write their own story from the report. In other words, yer honor, can I, as a news reporter, write a comprehensive story that accurately reflects the contents of the audit without fear of some attorney swooping down and SLAPPing me?

  • Can LouisianaVoice or The Advocate, or any other medium be SLAPPed for writing that a contract for the privatization of a state hospital contained 50 blank pages, even though it did?
  • Is it defamation that reporters wrote about the oil and gas industry pouring contributions into the campaigns of a governor who killed a lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies?
  • Can Lamar White be SLAPPed because he wrote about U.S. Rep. Steven Scalise speaking at an event attended by David Duke? That certainly didn’t reflect well on Scalise’s image.
  • Can Bob Mann be SLAPPed for admonishing Republican politicians to quit calling themselves “pro-life” if they “can’t speak out on behalf of sick kids” after Louisiana’s congressional delegation remained silent after Congress allowed the CHIP program to expire? That was, after all, a pretty damning condemnation of those self-righteous Republicans who seem to believe life begins at conception and ends at birth.
  • Can Robert Burns be SLAPPed for documenting payroll fraud on the part of an employee of a state board?
  • Can The Lens, a New Orleans online news service, be SLAPPed for exposing the Orleans Parish District Attorney for issuing bogus subpoenas?
  • Can a Houma blogger be SLAPPed for criticizing Sheriff Jerry Larpenter? Apparently the sheriff thought he could be at least raided. Instead Larpenter wound up having to pay substantial damages in the ensuing lawsuit, so at least there’s that.

We’ve already seen SLAPP suits where Superintendent of Education JOHN WHITE sued private citizen James Finney over Finney’s request for public records.

That followed a similar lawsuit filed by 4th Judicial District JUDGES against the Ouachita Citizen over the newspaper’s unmitigated gall in seeking public records from the court.

When the audit was issued, LaCerte’s attorney at the time called the audit’s findings “blatantly false. Both the interim secretary and the newly-appointed secretary of Veterans’ Affairs agreed with the findings and had taken corrective actions, Purpera’s news release said. The news release also noted that LaCerte’s attorney at the time called the audit’s findings “blatantly false.”

One thing Louisiana’s anti-SLAPP laws do is provide for the awarding of legal fees should a defendant prevail in one of these outrageous attempts to stifle public discourse.

Perry stands to collect something on the order of $16,000 in attorney fees. If plaintiff attorney Ronald Richard persists in pursuing this matter, he will be doing his clients a disservice because those attorney fees for Perry can only continue to climb.

LouisianaVoice also collected attorney fees in a recent SLAPP action when the presiding judge ruled in our favor. But there appears to be no shortage of plaintiffs willing to sue and unless judges start imposing sanctions, there will be no incentive for attorneys to refrain from collecting legal fees to represent them.

Morvant’s ruling, for lack of a better term, is an absurd interpretation of the First Amendment held in such high esteem by Thomas Jefferson who once said if forced to choose between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

This is just the kind of ruling, if it is allowed to stand, that can send us barreling down the slippery slope to a government without newspapers—or any other independent media with courage enough to report the truth.

Somewhere in the great hereafter, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew are applauding Morvant’s ruling and should he learn of it, Donald Trump will no doubt be tweeting the glad tidings of great joy about the “fake news” comeuppance.

 

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LouisianaVoice keeps trying to prod the Attorney General’s office into getting off its backside in the investigation of that RAPE of a 17-year-old girl by a convicted rapist in a Union Parish Detention Center cell in April 2016, but it seems Jeff Landry is far too occupied with some grand scheme that he thinks will ultimately land him in the governor’s office.

In our monthly tabulation, it has now been 19 months and counting since the girl, who was being held in a cell after being picked up on a drug charge, was raped not once, but twice, by an inmate who had already been convicted of aggravated rape in Claiborne Parish and was awaiting sentencing while being held in adjacent Union Parish.

To refresh your memory, because the district attorney is a member of the Union Parish Detention Center Commission which operates the center, DA John Belton recused himself and requested that the AG conduct an investigation of the incident. The victim has since filed a LAWSUIT over the incident and now Landry’s office is attempting to lean on that as a legitimate reason for not providing a status of its so-called criminal investigation.

Back on Oct. 17, we submitted our monthly request as to the status of the assault investigation to both the AG’s Public Information Office and to its Criminal Investigation Section. The next day, Oct. 18, we received following response:

—–Original Message—–
From: AG Landry News [mailto:aglandrynews@ag.louisiana.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 1:49 PM
To: Tom Aswell <azspeak@cox.net>
Subject: Re: QUESTION

This matter is under investigation.

Thanks!

Ruth

So, we did our obligatory monthly report of inactivity on Landry’s part. But then on Wednesday (Nov. 15), we received the following response from Assistant Attorney General Luke Donovan, Executive Division:

From: Donovan, Luke [mailto:DonovanL@ag.louisiana.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 4:30 PM
To: azspeak@cox.net
Cc: Dirmann, Shannon <DirmannS@ag.louisiana.gov>
Subject: PRR 17-0159 Tom Aswell, Louisiana Voice

Good afternoon Mr. Aswell,

In response to your public records request pursuant to La. R.S. 44:1 et seq, the information you requested has been processed. You sought records related to the following:​

… any documents or reports pertaining to the status of the attorney general’s investigation of the rape of the 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail cell last April. That’s the investigation 3rd JDC District Attorney John Belton asked the attorney general’s office to investigate because of a conflict of interests.

Louisiana’s Public Records Act, 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….”  

Therefore, the records which you seek are exempt from production at this time.

If our office can be of any further assistance, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Luke Donovan

Assistant Attorney General, Executive Division
Office of Attorney General Jeff Landry
Phone: (225) 326-6712  Fax: (225) 326-6098
www.AGJeffLandry.com

Well, that prompted my immediate response:

Your response is pure, unadulterated B.S.

That’s only because your boss is more interested in promoting his campaign for governor than doing anything on this case for the past 19 months. I’m not at all sure what you mean by “criminal litigation,” but I do know what “criminal investigation” and “civil litigation” are. The first is an investigation and, if warranted, an indictment and trial on criminal charges—and I suggest 19 months to investigate an assault in a confined area when the date, the victim and the assailant are all known to prosecutors is more than enough time to conclude an investigation and to indict. Any litigation would be a civil matter and completely unrelated to criminal charges as that would be a separate matter altogether. The information I am seeking is the status of the criminal investigation, i.e. has the alleged perpetrator been formally charged? If so, what was the charge and is there an arraignment/trial date?

To try and hide behind “pending criminal litigation” is a bit disingenuous. But then I would expect nothing better from Jeff Landry.

The only thing I neglected to say (and I wish I had, so I’ll say it here) is this:

Judging from the manner in which he can drag a matter out, perhaps Landry should consider offering his services as defense counsel for Roy Moore.

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