Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Legislature, Legislators’ Category

Corruption.

As the March 12 opening day of the critical 2018 regular session approaches, and with the looming possibility of the call of a special session to address fiscal Armageddon, it’s an important word for Louisiana citizens to remember.

Corruption.

In a state where administrators, legislators, and judges all seem to be in it for personal enrichment, it’s a word that has become synonymous with political office—from small town mayors, city councils and police chiefs to the highest levels of state government.

Corruption.

Like a cancer, corruption metastasizes until it adversely affects every aspect of our lives: education, economics, environment, health, and not least, trust in our elected officials.

Michael Johnston and Oguzhan Dincer, both former fellows at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, recently collaborated to conduct their fourth Corruption in America Survey, an undertaking first initiated in 2014 and repeated annually.

Since 2016, the survey has been hosted by the newly-founded Institute for Corruption Studies, an independent research institute within the Illinois State University’s Department of Economics.

More than 1,000 news reporters/journalists covering state politics and issues related to corruption across 50 states participated in the survey. Reporters from every state except North Dakota and New Hampshire participated.

Click HERE to read the complete results.

To no one’s surprise, Louisiana ranks among the worst states in terms of executive, judicial, and legislative sleaze—in both legal and illegal corruption.

What, exactly, it meant by legal and illegal corruption? After all, corruption is corruption, is it not?

Well, yes and no. Illegal corruption was defined by Dincer and Johnston as “the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.”

How Gauche. Everyone knows that in Louisiana the preferred method is legal corruption, which the two researchers defined as “the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”

For evidence of that, one need look no further than the LouisianaVoice STORY of Aug. 28, 2016, to see how Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and a gaggle of legislators fell all over themselves in protecting the big oil and gas companies from their responsibilities to clean up after themselves. Here is a more detailed look at .

Who better to serve as director of the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority than former State Sen. Robert Adley of Bossier Parish, the top recipient of OIL AND GAS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS?

And Bobby Jindal handed out appointments to the most influential boards and commissions to his biggest campaign contributors like candy on a Halloween night and even upgraded a major highway in South Louisiana to benefit a company run by another large contributor.

Dincer and Johnston said that official legal corruption is moderately to very common in both the executive and legislative branches of government in a “significant” number of states, “including the usual suspects such as Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York,” but that “Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana are perceived to be the most corrupt states” in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Illegal Corruption

Only 13 states were found to have moderately common to very common illegal corruption in their executive branches. Louisiana was one of those 13.

Only four states had illegal judicial corruption deemed to be moderately common (Alabama and Louisiana) or very common (Arkansas and Kentucky). Dincer and Johnston wrote that even a finding of only slightly common in illegal judicial corruption “is still worrying since it is the judicial branch of the government that is expected to try government officials charged with corruption.”

“State legislators are perceived to be more corrupt than the members of the executive branches in a number of states,” the researchers said.

To illustrate that, the survey found just six states with legislative illegal corruption that was very common (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana) or extremely common (Oklahoma and Pennsylvania).

Legislators were found by LouisianaVoice to have leased luxury vehicles for family members, purchased season tickets to college and professional athletic sports teams, hired family members as campaign staff, paid personal income taxes and state ethics fines—all with campaign funds and all of which were illegal.

One legislator even profited by conveniently investing in Microsoft just as his committee was pushing through approval of one of the company’s software programs at the same time other states were taking similar action. The simultaneous approvals gave Microsoft stock a significant boost.

Legal Corruption

“Legal corruption is perceived to be more common than illegal corruption in all branches of government,” the report said, with Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin scoring highest in legal corruption “in all branches of government.”

Those same three states, along with Arkansas, topped the list in legal corruption in the judicial branch where legal sleaze “is perceived to be ‘very common,’” it said, noting that in all four states, judges are elected as opposed to states where judges are chosen on merit and in which judicial corruption is not as common.

“…We expect our courts to rise above the day-to-day pressures and expectations of politics,” the report said. “That they apparently do not raises serious questions about the ways judges are elected in many states, how their campaigns are financed, and whether conflicts of interest arise as those who contribute to judicial campaigns are allowed to appear before those same judges as cases are tried.”

Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin were joined by Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York as states where legal executive corruption was found to be either “very common” or “extremely common.”

Legal legislative corruption was found to be “extremely common” in 12 states: Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas.

Aggregate Corruption

Across the board, in terms of legal and illegal corruption in all three branches of government, few states do it better than Louisiana, results of the survey reveal, with the state ranking in the upper tier of corruption in all six listings.

That finding prompted the authors of the report to say that corruption in state government “is not just a matter of contemporary personalities and events, but is rather a result of deeper and more lasting characteristics and influences.

Nowhere, it would seem, is that truer than in Louisiana. Following is just a partial list of Louisiana public officials who have come face-to-face with corruption charges of varying degrees:

 

Louisiana Executive Corruption

Sherman Bernard: The first Louisiana Insurance Commissioners to be convicted, he served 41 months for extortion and conspiracy.

Doug Green: The second State Insurance Commissioner to go to jail, he was convicted on three counts of money laundering, 27 counts of mail fraud, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jim Brown: The third consecutive Louisiana Insurance Commissioner served six months for lying to the FBI.

Richard Leche: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison for accepting kickbacks on the purchase of 233 state trucks.

Edwin Edwards: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison after his conviction of extortion in connection with the awarding of state riverboat casino licenses.

Charles Roemer: Commissioner of Administration under Gov. Edwin Edwards, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to violate federal racketeering laws, violating the statute and engaging in wire and mail fraud as a result of the FBI’s Brilab operation which also resulted in the conviction of New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello. Roemer served 15 months in federal prison.

Jack Gremillion: Louisiana Attorney General of whom it was once said by Gov. Earl K. Long, “If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a law book,” was sentenced to three years in prison for lying to a federal grand jury about his interest in a failed loan and thrift company.

Gil Dozier: Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner, initially sentenced to 10 years in prison for extortion and racketeering but had eight years added after presiding federal judge learned Dozier had attempted to tamper with a juror and to hire a hit man for an unidentified target.

George D’Artois: Shreveport Public Safety Commissioner was implicated in the 1976 murder of Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie but he died in surgery before he could be tried.

Cyrus “Bobby” Tardo: former Sheriff of Lafourche Parish sentenced to 29 years, five months after pleading guilty in 1989 to solicitation for murder, conspiracy, possessing an unregistered destructive device and using an explosive to damage a sheriff’s car. His victim? His successor and the man who defeated him for reelection as sheriff, Duffy Breaux.

Duffy Breaux: Lafourche Parish Sheriff sentenced to four years, nine months in prison for conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice in 1995.

Eugene Holland: The first of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to be convicted of a federal crime, sentenced to 16 months in prison for the theft of public funds to cover his utility bills and to pay for renovations to his house and barn. Pleaded guilty in 1996.

Chaney Philips: The second of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to serve prison time after his conviction on nine counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, engaging in illegal monetary transactions, theft involving a federally-funded program, money laundering, and perjury—all related to his time not as sheriff but as parish assessor before being elected sheriff. Sentenced to seven years.

Ronald “Gun” Ficklin: Third consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriff to be convicted of federal criminal charges. Sentenced to five years, three months for trafficking cars with altered vehicle identification numbers, altering VINs, mail fraud, helping convicted felon possess a fun. Pleaded guilty in 2007.

Jiff Hingle: Plaquemines Parish Sheriff pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Bodie Little: Winn Parish Sheriff convicted in 2012 of drug trafficking, sentenced to 13 years, four months in prison.

Royce Toney: Ouachita Parish Sheriff, pleaded guilty in 2012 to hacking a deputy’s email and phone records and then trying to cover up his snooping. Sentenced to four years’ probation.

Walter Reed: St. Tammany Parish District Attorney (22nd JDC) sentenced to four years in prison in April 2017 for conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements on tax returns. Sentence on hold during appeals process.

Harry Morel, Jr.: St. Charles Parish District Attorney (29th JDC) pleaded guilty in April 2016 to obstruction of justice in FBI inquiry into whether he used his position to solicit sex from women seeking official help. Sentenced to three years in prison.

Aaron Broussard: Former Jefferson Parish President pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiring to accept bribes from a parish contractor. Sentenced to 46 months in prison. While parish officials other than district attorneys and sheriffs are not generally listed here, Broussard is because of his high national profile following Hurricane Katrina.

Ray Nagin: New Orleans Mayor convicted in 2014, sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, tax evasion for illegal dealings with city vendors. As with the case of Broussard above, mayors not normally included in this list because of the sheer volume. But because of his high profile following Katrina and as mayor of state’s largest city, it was decided to include him.

 

Louisiana Legislative Corruption

Larry Bankston: Former chairman of the Senate Judiciary B. Committee that handled gambling legislation was convicted in 1997 on two counts of interstate communications in the aid of racketeering involving alleged bribes from a Slidell video poker truck stop owner. Sentenced to 41 months in prison. Re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar by State Supreme Court. Currently suing State Attorney General for the cancellation of his contract to represent a state agency.

Gaston Gerald: State Senator convicted in 1979 of extorting $25,000 from a contractor. Sentenced to five years in prison. Re-elected while in prison and put a prison acquaintance on Senate payroll as an aide before he was expelled from the Senate in 1981.

Sebastian “Buster” Guzzardo: State Representative among more than 20 persons, including the leader of the New Orleans Marcello crime family and three reputed New York mobsters, convicted in the Worldwide Gaming investigation. Conviction was for conducting an illegal gambling business and for aiding a mob-controlled video poker company. Sentenced in 1996 to three months in prison.

Girod Jackson, III: State Representative who pleaded guilty in 2013 to tax evasion and tax fraud in connection with his business dealings with the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority. Sentenced to three months in prison, nine months of home detention despite recommendations of 12 to 18 months imprisonment.

William Jefferson: 18-year veteran of U.S. House of Representatives convinced in 2009 on 11 of 16 felony counts for taking bribes in connection with a Nigeria business deal. Seven of the 11 counts on which he was convicted were overturned on appeal. Sentenced to five years, five months after appeals. In 2006, following Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson interrupted rescue operations by using a Louisiana National Guard detachment to recover personal effects from his home. (His sister, Orleans Parish Assessor, also sentenced to 15 months in prison after admitting to funneling $1 million in public funds to her family’s bogus charities.)

Charles Jones: State Senator from Monroe, convicted in 2010 of filing false tax returns and for tax evasion, sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution. Was re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar on Monday (Jan. 29, 2017).

Harry “Soup” Kember: State Representative was sentenced to five years in prison after his 1986 conviction of mail fraud for pocketing part of a $150,000 state grant he secured for a constituent’s company.

Derrick Shepherd: State Senator sentenced to three years in prison in 2010 after admitting that he laundered money for a corrupt bond broker, netting $65,000 for the scheme.

Rick Tonry: Served only four months as a U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District after pleading guilty in 1977 to receiving illegal campaign contributions, promising favors in return for contributions and for buying votes in the 1976 Democratic primary.

 

Louisiana Judicial Corruption

Ronald Bodenhimer: The 24th Judicial District Judge was among four judges to be caught up in the FBI Wrinkled Robe investigation of Jefferson Parish Courthouse corruption and one of two to receive jail time. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2003 to planting drugs on a critic of his New Orleans East marina, for bond splitting, and for attempting to fix a child custody case on behalf of Popeyes Chicken Founder Al Copeland.

Wayne Cresap: The 34th JDC Judge for St. Bernard Parish was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to accepting more than $70,000 in bribes and for letting inmates out of jail without paying their bonds.

Alan Green: Another of the four Judges of the 24th JDC in Jefferson Parish. Sentenced to 51 months in prison after his 2005 conviction of a $10,000 mail fraud scheme to take bribes from a bail bonds company.

William Roe: The 25th JDC Judge for Plaquemines Parish was sentenced in 2010 to three months in prison for unauthorized use of movables for pocketing more than $6,000 in reimbursements for legal seminars that he attended as judge. The money should have been deposited in a public account instead.

Thomas Porteous, Jr.: Only the eighth federal judge to be removed from office by impeachment in the Republic’s history, he was convicted in 2010 by the U.S. Senate on four articles charging him with receiving cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors, and deliberately misled Senators during his confirmation hearings. As if to underscore the gravity of the charges, all 96 senators present voted guilty on the first article which addressed charges during his time as a state court judge and his failure to recuse himself from matters involving a former law partner with whom he was accused of granting favors for cash.

There are scores of other examples, including city and parish elected officials, local police chiefs, and even a legislator who resigned rather than be expelled for spousal abuse. And former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Warden Burl Cain retired in 2016 under an ethics cloud even though he was official cleared of ethics charges. His son, Nate Cain and Nate’s former wife, Tonia, were indicted in August 2017 on 18 federal fraud charges over purchases he was said to have made with state credit cards during his tenure as warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport.

Additionally, LouisianaVoice over the past three years documented numerous instances of abuse of power and outright corruption from troop commanders all the way up to the upper command of Louisiana State Police.

There were dozens more not listed and sadly, there will continue to be corruption in all three branches of state government so long as the people of this state continue to look away and ignore the widespread malfeasance and outright skullduggery.

And by ignoring the problem, we are necessarily condoning 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 »

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 »

Legislators, like any member of society, can be incredibly stupid when they set their minds to it, as they all too often do.

But a story by Baton Rouge  ADVOCATE reporter Elizabeth Crisp, excerpted from a Washington Post column by writer Catherine Rampell, establishes a new low for stupidity, intolerance, and a propensity for shooting off at the mouth, the facts be damned.

Now let it be established here and now that I am a military veteran and that I stand and face the flag every time the National Anthem is played or sung at a public event, no matter how badly a singer may be singing his or her interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner (and believe me, I’ve heard some incredibly bad renditions). I don’t care if I’m at the concession stand outside Alex Box Stadium for an LSU baseball game, when the PA announcer asks the fans to stand for the National Anthem, I stop what I’m doing, remove my LSU or Boston Red Sox cap, and hold it over my heart in my right hand until the song is finished. No big deal, just something I do.

Why don’t I take a stand? Well, I do. I stand for the anthem and I respect those who choose, for whatever reason, not to. That’s because this is still America where freedom of expression is guaranteed in the First Amendment and every person in that ball park has that right, whether I happen to agree with them or not.

For that matter, how is taking a knee any less respectful than those who continue to talk or who refuse to remove their caps during the anthem? And believe me, there are literally dozens all around me who (a) continue with their concession stand purchases, (b) continue talking, or (c) do not remove their caps/hats. Taking a knee is an act of protest. Any one of the other three is indifference and just as disrespectful in its own way.

So, please, don’t waste my time telling me how unpatriotic it is.

But back to Elizabeth Crisp’s recap of the Washington Post column which, as the Saints stumble into the playoffs and LSU prepares to meet Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl, is more than a little timely:

According to Post writer Rampell, a group of Louisiana legislators (much to their relief, LSU has refused to divulge their names, thus saving them considerable embarrassment) got their shorts in a wad and called LSU President F. King Alexander just before football season to threaten additional cuts to the higher-ed appropriations if any player took a knee in protest during the playing of the National Anthem before any LSU games.

King had to find a tactful way to remind the dumb-asses that LSU players remain in the locker room during the anthem and are not even on the field. If the legislators had ever used their free tickets to attend a game, they should have realized that.

Not that this is really relevant to this particular issue, but those brain-dead legislators apparently forgot how they kowtowed to Bobby Jindal and slashed higher-ed funding year after year for a cumulative 43 percent reduction in funding since 2008. Apparently, they had no problem taking a knee before Jindal so they could kiss his ring. And make no mistake, they are every bit as complicit as Jindal for the fiscal morass the state finds itself in today.

Interim Vice President of communications Jason Droddy told Crisp last Friday, “I can confirm the phone call occurred, but we won’t name the person, as that was an unfortunate comment that is better left in the past. We hope that in the future, LSU’s state appropriations will be tied to its performance in the classrooms and laboratories and its economic contributions to our state.”

It should also be hoped that in the future, legislators won’t be afflicted with diarrhea of the mouth just for the benefit of political grandstanding, but don’t bet the farm on that happening. Politicians, by their very nature, are grandstanding, running-off-at-the-mouth self-promoters who seldom let facts stand in the way of political expediency.

State Rep. Kenny Havard, for instance, wanted to pull state subsidies for the New Orleans Saints after Saints players knelt during the anthem before a pre-season game. “If it’s a state-subsidized sporting event, that’s not the place to protest,” he said.

And while I support pulling state subsidies for the Saints for an entirely different reason (mostly having to do with my distaste for supporting a billionaire owner’s hobby—and the requirement that state agencies rent expensive office space from that same billionaire), I would pose this question of Havard:

If a sporting event is not the place to protest, then is it the proper place to honor military personnel? While public support of our men and women in uniform is a noble gesture, it is, nevertheless, just as much a political statement as a protest. You can’t have it both ways, Rep. Havard.

I happen to support both the right to protest injustice and the right to honor our military personnel, even if I happen to disagree with our reasons for invading another sovereign nation. That is my right under the First Amendment. And it’s consistent.

I would suggest that Rep. Havard and those anonymous legislators who made that embarrassingly inadvisable call to Dr. Alexander step back and digest the words of my college classmate TERRY BRADSHAW who, in an NFL pre-game show on (appropriately enough) Fox Sports, a division of Fox Network, had this to say about Donald Trump’s tirade against NFL players who took a knee during the anthem:

It’s hard to believe that I’m going to say something about the most powerful man in the greatest country in the world, but probably like a lot of you, I was somewhat surprised that the President—the President of the United States came out attacking NFL players for them exercising the Freedom of Speech.

While I don’t condone the protesting during our National Anthem, this is America!

If our country stands for anything, folks—it’s freedom. People died for that freedom. I’m not sure if our president understands those rights—that every American has the right to speak out, and also to protest. (emphasis added)

 Believe me—these athletes DO love this great country of ours.

 Personally, I think our president should concentrate on serious issues like North Korea and healthcare rather than ripping into athletes and the NFL.”

Like Bradshaw, I feel legislators also have a few more pressing problems to address than football players taking a knee.

Louisiana is on the precipice of a $1 billion budgetary shortfall. This is largely attributable to the actions of the legislature in falling all over themselves for eight years to do the will of Bobby Jindal, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Grover Norquist—and for failing in their responsibility to face up to the looming crisis. That, after all, is their job—not monitoring knee-bends at a football game.

So, do your damned job.

Instead, you’re worried about some college football player taking a knee and in a frantic effort to prevent that, you make a wildly reckless threat to cut funding even further.

And I thought Roy Moore was an idiot…

 

 

Read Full Post »

Welsh Alderman Jacob Colby Perry is the second defendant in recent weeks to prevail against the so-called SLAPP lawsuits and in so doing, may teach the plaintiffs a little economic lesson.

SLAPP is an acronym for strategic lawsuits against public participation or in a more familiar vernacular, they could simply be called frivolous or harassment lawsuits. There intent is precisely what the acronym means: to prevent critics from participating in public discourse by filing costly lawsuits against critics.

On Tuesday, 31st Judicial District Court Judge Steve Gunnell dismissed all four defamation lawsuits against Perry and in finding the litigation to be without merit, he assessed the four plaintiffs with court costs and Perry’s attorney fees.

An affidavit filed with the court by Perry claims those attorney fees to be $16,000, or $4,000 per plaintiff which would make the idea of a SLAPP suit seem somewhat counterproductive in that it cost the plaintiffs pretty tidy sums of money and they still didn’t shut him up.

Judge Gunnell held off making a decision as to whether or not the suit should be dismissed with or without prejudice until he conducts further research on the matter. With prejudice would mean the plaintiffs would be unable to resurrect the lawsuit while a dismissal without prejudice would leave the plaintiffs open to pursue the suit at a later date.

“The legislature finds and declares that there has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for redress of grievances,” Perry said in his Memorandum of Support for the Special Motion to Strike pursuant to the state’s anti-SLAPP legislation. “The legislature finds and declares that it is in the public interest to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance, and that this participation should not be chilled through abuse of the judicial process. To this end, it is the intention of the legislature that the Article enacted pursuant to this Ace shall be construed broadly,” his memorandum said.

LouisianaVoice recently prevailed in another SLAPP suit for defamation and was also awarded attorney fees, though substantially less than Perry’s award.

Perry has openly questioned the need of a town of 3,200 residents for 18 police cars, a budget of $593,000 for patrol, $295,000 for police communications and a projected police department expenditure for the entire year of nearly $1.1 million, or nearly $114,000 in excess of the department’s budget. That amount includes a $76,120 salary for Police Chief Marcus Crochet, an amount that represents a 37.5 percent increase in his base pay. And that doesn’t count the $6,000 in annual supplemental pay from the state.

Despite the fiscal drain on the city budget, Crochet created a separate account called “Welsh Police Department Equipment & Maintenance and has diverted more than $178,000 from traffic fines into that account instead into the city’s general fund—all with the acquiescence of the mayor, one of four plaintiffs who sued Perry for DEFAMATION.

Mayor Carolyn Louviere, her daughter, Nancy Cormier; her son, William Johnson, and Crochet all filed separate defamation suits and all four used the same attorney, Ronald C. Richard of Lake Charles, to do so.

Not only that, but Perry was on the receiving end of several other negative actions:

  • A recall petition was started against him while he was in Japan on military orders, serving his annual two-week training;
  • Postcards were mailed to Welsh residents that depicted Perry and Andrea King, also a member of the Board of Aldermen, as “terrorists” (See story HERE) and that Perry violated campaign finance laws by failing to report income from a strip club in Texas of which he was said to be part owner and which allegedly was under federal investigation for prostitution, money laundering and drug trafficking (See story HERE);
  • He was removed from the town of Welsh’s Facebook page (most likely the least offensive of the reprisals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a written statement following the ruling, Perry said:

“I am very pleased with the outcome of this matter,” Perry said. “I look forward to returning to the job that the People of Welsh elected me to perform. I also applaud my experienced legal team for their outstanding work.

“The rights of citizens to engage in the decision-making of government and provide input are unique to our country. These unique values make our country great. And, more Americans

should participate in government today.

“SLAPPs infringe on the rights granted to the citizens of the United States of America. Litigation should not be used to censor, silence, and intimidate those who are only exercising their rights as an American.

I am proud to be a citizen of a state, the State of Louisiana which is one of 28 states in the United States, that has implemented Anti-SLAPP laws to protect the Constitutional rights of its citizens from frivolous lawsuits filed by lawyers overzealous for clients and publicity.”

There was no immediate word on whether or not Richard would appeal the decision on behalf of his clients.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »