Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

Perhaps I’m a prime candidate for self-flagellation but I would rather stand by what I believe in the face of ridicule and scorn—even from those I once considered friends—than surrender my self-respect for the sake of being liked by those who would turn on you in a heartbeat.

And I know no one would ever mistake me for Tom Petty but as he said in that great song, I won’t back down.

So go ahead, pile on the criticism and outrage at what I’m about to say but know this: If and when that awful day comes when some deranged individual bursts into a school, armed with an AR-15 somewhere in Louisiana, you’d better pray to God he doesn’t gun down your child or grandchild.

And make no mistake, it can happen here.

You might want to remember that, Sen. Bill Cassidy ($2.8 million), Sen. John Kennedy ($9,900) Rep. Garrett Graves ($6,000), Rep. Clay Higgins ($3,500), Rep. James Johnson ($1,000) or Rep. Ralph Abraham ($1,000), and—of all people—Rep. Steve Scalise ($23,850) before you accept any future campaign contributions from the NRA.

A further breakdown of contributions for just the 2016 election cycle can be viewed HERE. Rep. Charles Boustany, Kennedy, and Scalise each received $4,950 from the most powerful lobby in the universe.

Here is a partial listing of some of the recipients of the more generous NRA direct and indirect contributions These include contributions in support of these candidates and contributions in opposition to their challengers. They may cover several election cycles:

As for the latest slaughter, this one in Parkland, Florida (where, incidentally, a Denham Springs resident had two grandchildren enrolled—fortunately, they were unhurt), we can count on our members of Congress who, lacking the backbone to stand up to the NRA, will utter these same two worn-out clichés:

“Our thoughts and prayers (shortened to TAP) are with the families of the victims.”

“Now is not the time” to talk about legislation to curtail access to automatic weapons.

And, of course, mouthpieces for the NRA will continue to spew the garbage that the best deterrent against bad people with guns is good people with guns. Just what we need, a shootout between teachers with a pistol and a maniac with an AR-15—with school kids caught in the crossfire. Brilliant strategy.

The chorus of protest certain to arise from this post will consist of criticism of any advocacy of additional laws to control ready access to automatic weapons. That, I will admit, is a valid criticism: Those laws should have been enacted long ago but for the collective cowardice of Congress.

Some will say there are already laws on the books if we would just enforce them but there are gaping loopholes LOOPHOLES in the law that addresses access to automatic weapons like the AR-15, which seems to be the COMMON DENOMINATOR in these mass shootings. In fact, there is a package of BILLS—backed by the NRA—that would actually make it easier to purchase silencers like the one used in the Las Vegas attack that killed 59 people. Here’s another link to the AR-15 popularity.

The only people with real courage in this oft-repeated scenario are the ones like the teacher at Sandy Hook or the COACH at Parkland yesterday who shielded students from their attackers and took a fatal bullet in the process. Or the teacher at Parkland who had the presence of mind to herd 19 students into a CLOSET during the rampage.

Those are the heroes. Too bad we can look in vain for any member of Congress who would do as much. They would rather offer TAP and continue to take NRA money.

Sen. MARCO RUBIO ($4,950), Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart ($27,450), Gus Billrakis ($16,450), Vernon Buchanan ($15,450), Bill Posey ($13,500), Dennis Ross ($11,000), Charles Crist Jr. ($9,900), Daniel Webster ($7,950), Carlos Curbelo ($7,450), Brian Mast ($4,950), Theodore Yoho ($4,000), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ($2,000), Tom Rooney and Neal Dunn ($2,000 each), and Alcee Hastings, Matt Gaetz, and John Rutherford ($1,000 each) may also wish to justify their NRA contributions to their Florida constituents.

Full disclosure: I own a .22 rifle and a .38 revolver. Does that make me a hypocrite? Perhaps. But I do not own an AR-15 nor are either of my guns equipped with a silencer. I’m not a hunter but if I were, I fail to see why I need an automatic weapon to bring down Bambi. If I’m not good enough to do it in one or two shots, maybe it’s time to take my checkerboard to the park and hobnob with some other equally inept old geezer. And why would I need a bump stock to go squirrel hunting anyway?

Moreover, while I readily acknowledge the rights of non-felon mentally sane Americans under the Second Amendment, there’s this thought, for what it’s worth:

The universal expression in invoking the Second Amendment is the protection it gives us in preventing the “guvmint” from swooping in and confiscating all our weapons.

Well, to those folks, I say you might want to take a look around you.

Local police departments—even college and university police departments—are stocking up with heavy-duty MILITARY ARMAMENTS even as I write this. These are weapons designed for massive destructive force. Lethal would be a good word to describe them.

Why would a small-town police department need an armored urban assault vehicle? Why would it need a military helicopter?

And if the “guvmint” ever decided to swoop in and confiscate your weapons, what effect might your deer rifle have in preventing that? Against those kinds of weapons, even an AR-15 would be the equivalent of a bb gun against a grizzly bear.

So, go ahead. Take your best shot. I stand by my outrage at the silence and inaction of our political leaders in the face of such obviously escalating CARNAGE.

I don’t profess to have the answers. But I do know this: TAP and saying now isn’t the time ain’t the solution; it’s a weak-kneed cop-out. TAP aren’t going to stop a bullet and now most certainly IS the time to talk about it.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

One of the most frustrating jobs in state government has to be that of the Legislative Auditor.

The office is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that audits and sworn financial statements of all public entities are carried out in a timely—and legally-prescribed—manner and that the books of those entities are in order.

Yet, whenever discrepancies are found and reported, little comes of the auditors’ reports. Oh, in cases where the findings are significant, such as the recent audit of the management of former Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, a report will make a big splash in the media.

But then, it quickly becomes old news and is forgotten. All too often, in the end, nothing is done to actually rein in those who might be guilty of lax fiscal responsibility over their organization or worse—possible malfeasance.

Seldom is there any follow-up on the part of those who have the authority to make changes. An office or agency head continues to lead the organization with little or no disciplinary action handed down from above, be it from a department head, cabinet member, or, in some cases, the governor himself.

In short, there is little real accountability in state government. A critical audit, conducted at no small expense, points out shortcomings, a management letter is generated promising reforms, and life—and abuses of the public trust—go on unabated.

As Exhibit A, we have the Auditor’s NON-COMPLIANCE LIST, a dishonor roll that dates back as far as 2004 and which contains well over 100 agencies, offices, organizations and individuals who have failed to comply with state statutes.

The list is liberally peppered with justices of the peace, community development districts, constables, social organizations, and even municipalities, sheriffs’ offices, and clerks of court—all reflecting the widespread disregard for fiscal responsibility or, to be charitable, just plain ignorance of the law.

Any organization that has any financial relationship with the state or a parish must, depending on the size of the organization’s budget, provide a review/attestation of its financial condition, a sworn financial statement, or a full-blown audit on a yearly basis.

From Acadia to Winn, virtually every parish has at least one organization on the non-compliance list. Here are a few examples:

  • The Beauregard Parish Hospital Service District No. 1, Merryville—five times between the years 2004 and 2009: failure to produce an audit;
  • The Ward 7 Caddo Parish Constable—seven years between 2009 and 2016: no sworn financial statements;
  • The Resource Center in Caddo—10 straight years, from 2008 to 2017: no financial statements;
  • Louisiana Auto Insurance Plan, East Baton Rouge Parish—10 straight years, from 2007 to 2016: no audit;
  • Ville Platte City Marshal, Evangeline Parish—six consecutive years, from 2012 to 2017: no sworn financial statement;
  • St. Landry Parish Constable, District 8—nine years between 2005 and 2016: no sworn financial statement.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera, contacted by LouisianaVoice, acknowledged the frustration of constantly having to chase down the various offices. “It keeps us pretty busy and it costs the state money to track this in terms of both money and man-hours.”

He said state law says when any organization found to be in non-compliance for three consecutive years, that is considered malfeasance. “That law is on the books,” he said.

STATE REP. NEIL ABRAMSON

A few years back, State Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) attempted to push through a bill in the legislature which would required any non-governmental organization (NGO) or public body to be on the Legislative Auditor’s approved list (not on the non-compliance list) in order to be eligible to receive any state funding or to conduct business with the state.

Abramson’s bill failed.

Now, who would have ever thought that?

Read Full Post »

By Morgan Statt, Guest Columnist

It’s 2005, and the National All Schedules Prescription Reporting Act (HR 1132) is on President George W. Bush’s desk ready to sign. With one fell swoop he signs the bill into law, and it grants all states $100 million in funding to aid prescription drug monitoring services. Shortly after, former Louisiana representative Billy Tauzin abandons his post in the House of Representatives and accepts a job as President and CEO of PhRMA, a major lobbying group for pharmaceutical companies. Instead of celebrating the bill being signed into law, Tauzin finds a way to dismantle the allocation of funding.

Now, let’s bring it back to present day. Today, there is an almost daily snippet of news on America’s opioid epidemic, one that has ravaged nearly every area of the country. In 2016, more than 63,600 opioid overdose deaths were reported, the highest number ever, and new reports show that the crisis is lowering the average American life expectancy.

What’s being done to combat the crisis that either directly or indirectly affects millions of Americans?

For one, states are strengthening their prescription monitoring programs, the very thing Rep. Tauzin dismantled funding for in 2005. Although these programs have been in place for a number of years, only a limited number of providers have taken advantage of their ability to detect and deter abuse. Additionally, cities and states across the country have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the crisis.

And Louisiana is one of them.

In September 2017, the Louisiana Department of Health filed a lawsuit against 16 drug manufacturers, among them OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, at the 19th Judicial Court in Baton Rouge. The suit claims that the named companies used aggressive marketing tactics and encouraged physicians to prescribe opioids under the guise that they were not addictive.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has said that “Louisiana is one of eight states that has more opioid prescriptions than residents.” Despite the fact that Big Pharma played a role in the opioid epidemic, will these lawsuits actually make a difference? Even if there was an astronomical payout, will these lawsuits help to end the crisis and prevent future epidemics?

The short answer is: no.

Big Pharma is like that rich, popular kid in high school we all knew. They used their money and status to manipulate peers and played off students’ desires to be a part of their inner circle.

Similarly, Big Pharma uses status and influence to get what it wants. Its targets for manipulation span multiple areas of the industry, which include the current regulations in place and clinical trials.

Before we can even have a sliver of hope that a hefty payout will change its ways, we have to tackle the pharmaceutical industry’s influence head-on to see any real impact on its actions. We can start by addressing these two areas of influence.

Drug companies have the ability to fund clinical trials.

Imagine you come out of surgery and are placed on a blood thinner to prevent any clotting from happening once you’re off the operating table. You’ve been told of the internal bleeding side effects, but there just so happens to be no known antidote on the market yet to serve as treatment if such complications arise.

This was the case for the anticoagulant Pradaxa. In 2010, the medication was met with FDA approval and put on the market without an antidote. But then severe internal bleeding incidents took place, and over 1,000 people died as a result of being prescribed the medication. Since then, manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim has had a slew of Pradaxa lawsuits filed against it for its role in patient harm.

I bring up Pradaxa as an example because it points to issues with the clinical trial process that exist today. In a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, clinical trial funding that has been traditionally provided by the National Institute of Health has fallen dramatically over the years. To supplement the lack of funding, pharmaceutical companies sponsor the trials. But, this presents the opportunity for companies with financial interest in the trial outcomes to favor positive results over any negative side effects that could occur.

In the case of Pradaxa, its industry-funded clinical trial RE-LY was met with criticism from drug safety groups for generalizing the medication’s potential population and failing to be carried out as a double-blind study. Skewed trial results led to hasty FDA approval and ultimately the creation of a $650 million settlement fund in 2014 that Boehringer Ingelheim used to settle over 4,000 claims.

Laws & regulations favor Big Pharma.

Despite legislators’ best attempts to protect consumers, certain laws & regulations currently in place often aid pharmaceutical companies’ business ventures, rather than prioritizing patient safety. One such law that has faced criticism in recent years is the 21st Century Cures Act, which loosened regulations on the drug and medical device approval process.

Although put in place to encourage innovation and quicken the ability for life-saving drugs to get to market, critics argue that the real winners of the bill were the drug companies. As part of the “loosening” of regulations, Big Pharma can now get away with using only “data summaries” instead of conducting full clinical trials to get drug approval. They’re also now able to promote off-label uses for their medications, enabling them to expand their markets – and their profits.

Ironically enough, drug companies aggressively promoted the off-label use of opioids and contributed to the rise in addictions across the country. Look no further than Insys Therapeutics’ push for non-cancer patients to take Subsys, a “powerful, fentanyl-based liquid” originally marketed for cancer patients with pain that couldn’t be treated with any other option.

As much as we’d like to pretend that lawsuits against Big Pharma can play a role in solving the opioid crisis, this isn’t the case. Drug companies’ influence stretches far and wide, and it may be time to strip that influence away little by little.

Let’s scrutinize the laws and regulations in place that give Big Pharma the upper hand. Let’s consider alternative funding sources for clinical trials that would allow little room for bias. But most importantly, let’s find a way to ensure that lawmakers, lobbyists, and other government officials are committed to doing what’s best for the American public rather than chasing that dollar sign.

(Morgan Statt is a Health & Safety Investigator for Consumersafety.org, a consumer information organization which strives to provide information about recalls and safety-related news about drugs, medical devices, food, and consumer products.)

Read Full Post »

It was suspicious enough when Stewart Cathey was arrested and handcuffed for a six-year-old seat belt violation exactly a month before the 2015 primary election for State Senate. But taken with events that have transpired with Louisiana State Police (LSP) and the agency’s former superintendent since that time, it seems less and less likely to have been mere coincidence.

Incumbent State Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) was term-limited in 2015. Three-term Rep. Jim Fannin, a Jonesboro Democrat-turned-Republican, then serving as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was also term-limited and looking to move to the upper chamber.

Cathey, a Monroe native, a graduate of the University of Louisiana Monroe, and managing partner of the Cathey Group, an information technology management consulting firm in Monroe, also had his eye on the District 35 Senate seat. The district includes all or parts of the parishes of Rapides, Grant, Winn, Ouachita, Lincoln, and Jackson.

A captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, the Republican Cathey had received a ticket for a seat belt violation in 2009 but soon after was deployed to Afghanistan where he managed more than $250 million in infrastructure development projects and, he says, he forgot about the ticket.

Fast forward to the 2015 campaign. Fannin, endorsed by Kostelka and a heavy favorite for the Senate, is pressed by the upstart Cathey. They are only a few percentage points apart when Cathey was arrested and HANDCUFFED on a bench warrant issued by Monroe City Judge Tammy D. Lee.

His arrest was on Sept. 24, exactly one month before the primary election. Cathey said he attempted to pay the ticket, if belatedly, but was denied the opportunity. He said he was told he would have to turn himself in, be arrested and bonded out. Quite naturally, considering the timing and all, Cathey quite naturally suspected that mischief was afoot.

“This is the ugly side of politics,” he said. “Career politicians will stop at nothing to get back to the good old boys’ club in Baton Rouge. This is nothing new to Jim Fannin and Bob Kostelka and their team. I’ve seen them do it in the past.”

But Kostelka, who retired as a state district judge before his own election to the District 35 seat back in 2007, was quick with a sincere “Who, me?” denial, saying he had “no control over Monroe City Court or Judge Lee.”

Fannin subsequently defeated Cathey by 6 percentage points to take the election.

Granted, all that has been written here to this point is old news that got plenty of ink at the time. The story might well have ended there had not Cathey gone one step further with something called a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, better known in Louisiana simply as the garden variety public records request.

And that’s where the questions regarding actions by LSP, certain other unknown municipal and/or parish law enforcement agencies, and former LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson come in.

On October 12, 2015, just 12 days before the primary election, Cathey submitted a public records request to State Police Lt. J.B. Slaton in which he requested:

  • Any and all emails with regards to the account: stacey.barrett@la.gov from September 28, 2015 through October 10, 2015.
  • Any and all emails, memos, or other writings discussing the findings from a Background Audit performed between September 28, 2015 and October 10, 2015 into the searches of Stewart Cathey, Jr.’s driving record as well as searches into the NCIC system for Stewart Cathey, Jr.’s record.

(LouisianaVoice has copies of Cathey’s request and the LSP response but because some of Cathey’s personal information is included on both documents, it was decided not to display copies of either.)

On Oct. 21, three days before the primary, LSP attorney Adrienne E. Aucoin responded—somewhat.

After recapping his request, Aucoin said any such searches on the Louisiana Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (LLETS) are privileged, “which exempts from the public view” records collected and maintained by the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information (LBCII).

A spokesperson for the LSP Legal Department explained to LouisianaVoice that it was LSP policy not to release information on searches. She implied there was usually a good reason for someone checking to see if they were being investigated. She said releasing such information could alert a suspect to an otherwise confidential ongoing investigation of criminal activity. “We would thank them for the tip, though,” she said.

Aucoin’s letter went on to say, “Attached hereto, please find emails that are responsive to your request. Please note that a section of these emails has been redacted. The redacted information pertains to records maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information.”

(NOTE: The email chain below begins with the most recent communication and reads backward to the earliest. The text of the messages also makes it obvious that Cathey initiated his inquiries about the background checks almost a month before his formal FOIA request.)

 

The email chain started with a message at 9:59 a.m. on Sept. 28 to criminal records analyst Shelley Scott from Capt. Stacey Barrett of LSP Technical Support Services:

“Stewart Cathey, Jr. is running for a Senate seat in north Louisiana. He was arrested on 09/24/15 on a 6-year-old seat belt warrant. It was a highly publicized event. He called because he suspects the S.O. (sheriff’s office) is running his record without cause. Please run an off-line search from 1.1.15 through today.

“I told Mr. Cathey that we would not release any results to him. If we find what may be inappropriate use of LLETS, we would deal with the agency and the officer directly. Let me know what you find.”

Maj. Jason Starnes and LSP Lt. Chris Eskew were also copied on that email.

At 4:06 p.m. that same day, Scott emailed Barrett, Starnes, and Eskew:

“Attached are the requested LLETS off-line results on Stewart. The below table shows the Cliff’s (sic) Notes version.”

What followed was the “section” alluded to by Aucoin as redacted. The redacted portion was a transaction history for a six-month period comprising about three-quarters of a page and containing 20 redacted lines which appeared to represent background searches or requests for same.

At 12:45 p.m. on Sept. 30, Barrett wrote to Scott, Starnes, and Eskew:

“As discussed, we will wait for further direction from the chain of command before taking any action. Please hold on to (sic) all of the documentation you ran for this search.”

At 3:19 p.m., Starnes responded to Barrett:

“Please proceed with following our policy and protocol regarding the LLETS search inquiries and send the letters we discussed.”

Finally, at 3:45 p.m., also on Sept. 30, Barrett emailed Scott and Eskew:

“Please prepare the standard letters seeking justification for the (redacted) transactions. Please keep us posted and let us know if you need assistance or guidance.”

The cryptic nature of the email communications is curious since routine public records requests do not normally attract such attention up and down the chain of command.

The timing of Cathey’s arrest, the reported discipline of an Alexandria municipal police officer for running a background check on Cathey, and the LSP emails and redacted reports, taken together, would seem to indicate there was some legitimacy to Cathey’s suspicions that someone deliberately sought to undermine his election campaign by initiating widespread background checks and even his arrest—complete with handcuffs—for an otherwise minor offense.

To add icing on the proverbial cake, Cathey said on Monday, Oct. 26, just two days after the Oct. 24 election, he was contacted by Monroe City Court and informed the charges against him for the seat belt violation were being dropped. He also said an investigation begun by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was abruptly shut down with no explanation given.

No disrespect to the late Gertrude Stein, but there certainly appears to be a there there.

Edmonson had a reputation during his nine years at the helm of LSP as one who would dole out favors to legislators in efforts to ingratiate himself to lawmakers. A relay by state troopers to deliver football tickets to a legislator in New Orleans for an LSU national championship football game when she accidentally left her tickets in Shreveport is one example of that mindset.

Ordering background checks by LSP and/or requesting checks by other law enforcement agencies could be another example.

When contacted by LouisianaVoice about the possibility of an investigation into whether or not Edmonson had taken such action, Public Information Officer Doug Cain said unless a formal complaint was lodged by Cathey, LSP would not initiate an investigation.

After the OIG investigation was suddenly terminated, Cathey did not follow up with a formal complaint to LSP.

He is currently deployed to Puerto Rico where his unit is working on hurricane relief.

Read Full Post »

When Judge Robert James moved to senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on May 31, 2016, State Judge Terry Doughty of the 5th Judicial District Court (Franklin, Richland and West Carroll parishes) made one call.

That call, to U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a fellow member of the First Baptist Church of Rayville, to express his interest in a federal judgeship, proved productive, but not right away. He was interviewed by U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and David Vitter but his nomination was not taken up by the Obama Administration.

But following the elections of Vitter’s successor John Neely Kennedy to the Senate and Donald Trump to the presidency, things changed. Follow up interviews took place, this time with Cassidy and Kennedy, and upon the recommendation of Cassidy and Abraham, Doughty was interviewed by the White House in April 2017 and officially nominated on Aug. 3.

If one follows the connections between Doughty, Abraham, and former 5th JDC Judge James “Jimbo” Stephens (since elected to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal) back far enough, some old familiar names start to pop up.

Names like former State Legislator (both the House and Senate) and now Legislative Director for Gov. John Bel Edwards NOBLE ELLINGTON, Bobby Jindal and Vantage Health Plan.

(Major League Baseball, which once held franchise rights on recycling coaches and managers, has nothing on Louisiana politicians. Edwards, when in the legislature, was a thorn in the side of Jindal but when he became governor, he couldn’t resist reappointing many of Jindal’s foot soldiers—people like like Jimmy LeBlanc, Burl Cain, Mike Edmonson, Butch Browning and Ellington.)

Now Ellington’s son, Noble Ellington, III, whose own home health care BUSINESS failed, now works as Director of Shared Savings for Vantage Healthcare in Monroe. Could politics have played a part in his hiring? We will probably never know, but the pieces were certainly in place.

AFFINITY HEALTHCARE, an affiliate of Vantage Health Plan, Inc. and which shares the same address at 130 DeSiard Street in Monroe, purchased the medical practice of Abraham’s MEDICAL CLINIC, formerly of 261 Hwy. 132 in Mangham (now the address of Affinity Health Group).

So, what’s the big deal about Vantage Healthcare?

Nothing much except back in October 2014, LouisianaVoice did a fairly comprehensive STORY about how the Jindal administration and Sens. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), Rick Gallot (D-Ruston), Neil Riser (R-Columbia), and Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) conspired to circumvent the state’s bid laws in order to allow Vantage to purchase a state office building in downtown Monroe on the cheap even though there was another serious buyer interested in the property.

That building, the old Virginia Hotel, constructed in 1935, is a six-story, 100,750-square-foot building that cost $1.6 million when built. It underwent extensive renovations in 1969 and again in 1984 and was being used as a state office building when it was sold to Vantage for $881,000, a little more than half its cost when it was built more than eight decades ago. One might have expected the building, if properly maintained, to appreciate in value over the years, not depreciate by 45 percent.

The state could afford to unload the building because it owns another six-story office building containing nearly 250,000-square-feet of floor space a couple of blocks away, at 122 St. John Street in Monroe, but that seems little justification for selling the Virginia at fire sale prices.

But even with 109,000 square-feet of vacant office space available in the building on St. John, where do you think Judge Stephens and fellow Appeal Court Judge Milton Moore chose to locate their offices?

In the Vantage Healthcare building, of course.

NELASOB REPORT

LouisianaVoice has made public records requests to determine the cost to the state of housing the judges in the Vantage building instead of the state-owned building with all that available space but those records have not been forthcoming yet.

Regardless, someone in Baton Rouge needs to explain why the state is paying rent to a private entity for office space in a building which that entity received at bargain basement prices—from the state—as some sort of underhanded political favor—orchestrated by the Jindal administration’s circumvention of the state bid laws, aided and abetted by four North Louisiana legislators.

But the minor issue of where his office is housed doesn’t seem to be the type of thing that would bother Stephens anyway. After all, there is a photo, apparently posted on his Facebook page that shows him holding up the antlers of a deer he shot—at night? One person commented, “Illegal to hunt at night, ain’t it?” to which Stephens replied, “It’s illegal to get caught.”

And when he was running for the appellate court in 2016, there were more than 160 people who signed onto a newspaper ad endorsing his candidacy. Among them was one Donna Remides.

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

In December 2013, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans said Ms. Remides was sentenced to 40 months imprisonment for lying in order to secure loans to hide more than $600,000 in thefts from the federally-funded non-profit Northeast Delta Resource Conservation and Development Council (NDRC&DC).

She was employed as a project coordinator by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to work for the council in Winnsboro. From January 2001 to December 2010, she used the NDRC&DC accounts to pay herself $640,000 without authorization. She wrote herself and her private business checks during the 10-year period and obtained loans in the name of the council to cover the thefts.

Granted, Stephens has no control over who purchases a newspaper advertisement to endorse his candidacy. But that, coupled with the controversy over his refusal to recuse his pal Doughty from a trial involving a LAWSUIT against a bank with some questionable links to Doughty, the flippant remark about illegal night hunting, the office space at Vantage, the same personalities tying both judges to Vantage, Abraham and Ellington…

But then again, maybe that’s what qualifies both judges for their positions in the political climate in which we currently find ourselves.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »