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Pre-trial intervention (PTI) programs, in theory at least, are designed to give those charged with a first offense—such as driving while intoxicated (DWI), for example—to keep the conviction off their record by participating in a program of community service or a series of classroom sessions, usually extended over a period of several weeks.

The purpose of the programs, again in theory, is that not every person charged with an offense should be subjected to criminal prosecution and that there are those who can be prevented from becoming repeat offenders through proper intervention.

The problem with Louisiana’s PTI programs is that there is no uniform application or oversight, allowing local district attorneys complete autonomy in how the programs are administered.

Instead of serving their intended purpose, many local PTI programs have morphed into cash cows and as such, lend themselves to widespread abuses at the expense of other programs such as indigent defender boards and local law enforcement.

In May 2018, former Baton Rouge Advocate (now Associated Press) reporter Jim Mustian wrote an excellent story that illustrated that very point. His entire story may be seen HERE.

Mustian showed that from 2012 to 2017, two parishes in particular had taken advantage of the program to create a lucrative source of income for prosecutors while a third did even better during the years from 2012 to 2017.

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier saw income for his office increase threefold, from $556,000 in 2012 to $1.65 million in 2016. Jefferson Parish did even better with its income from PTI programs increasing four times, from $335,000 to $1.37 million during the same period.

But Rapides Parish DA Phillip Terrell has turned the practice into an art form, boosting his PTI revenue by a factor of seven, from $302,000 in 2012 to a mind-blowing $2.2 million in 2017.

Still, that influx of new dollars didn’t keep Terrell from requesting more than $2.5 million in parish funds for his office in 2018 despite a looming budgetary shortfall of $427,000 for the parish.

That was enough to attract the attention of online publication Politico, which normally devotes its attention to stories of national and international significance than to the budgetary problems of a parish situated in the middle of Louisiana. Politico’s story can been read in its entirety HERE.

Rapides Parish Treasurer Bruce Kelly wondered why the DA’s office was suddenly asking for more funds than at any time in his 30 years in the parish treasurer’s office knowing, as he did, that the DA had a new fleet of vehicles with leather seats.

He soon learned why.

Pre-trial diversion, otherwise known as pre-trial intervention, or PTI.

The DA’s income from court fines had dropped by nearly half, from $900,000 to $500,000 over the past three years. That corresponded with a similar drop in traffic tickets issued—from 12,000 per year to 7,000.

At the same time, however, Terrell’s office had significantly increased its PTI program, allowing offenders to pay money to the DA in exchange for charges being dropped and their cases dismissed, thus keeping their tickets or arrests off their records as though they never happened.

Offenders were charged dismissal fees ranging from $250 for traffic tickets, $500 for misdemeanors and as high as $1,500 for felonies.

And Terrell’s office, Kelly learned, was keeping that money for itself—money that should have gone into the parish’s general fund to be shared with indigent defender offices and the sheriff’s office.

Believing Terrell was depriving the parish of fine money to which it was entitled, Kelly and the parish leadership filed suit against Terrell’s office in an effort to get the court to force the DA to share its PTI revenue.

Terrell responded that he could make as much as he wanted through PTI because…well, because the law didn’t say otherwise.

And he was right in the assertion that there were no statewide standards to the implementation and operation of PTI programs and thus, no restrictions as to his ability to exploit the program.

To make his case, he brought in a hired gun in the person of Hugo Holland, a prosecutor who normally works only as a prosecutor in criminal cases and who appears to be on the payroll of several parish district attorneys simultaneously, from Caddo Parish in north Louisiana to Calcasieu Parish in the state’s southwestern extreme.

The battle between Terrell and Rapides Parish Police Jury took on true Trumpian overtones when Holland threatened the police jury members with investigations into their own use of funds if they did not agree to drop their fight with his client. When that tactic failed, Terrell filed a countersuit arguing that he did not owe any money to the parish and calling the police jury’s lawsuit “politically-driven.”

It’s easy to see why Terrell is so possessive of his sudden stream of income—and why similar battle lines could be drawn between prosecutors and parish governing bodies as more and more DAs are made aware of the untapped revenue windfalls currently available to them.

It’s also pretty easy to predict an intense lobbying campaign by the Louisiana District Attorneys Association (LDAA) to protect PTI programs from regulation should some state lawmaker have the temerity to introduce legislation to rein in such a lucrative enterprise.

I’m willing to bet even money that Arkansas would have a better chance of beating LSU today than any such bill would have of making it out of committee.

 

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Some weeks ago, I stopped counting political brochures arriving in my mailbox by sheer numbers, choosing instead to measure them by the pound.

Republic Services has probably had to put another truck or two into service just to cart away the political mail-outs cluttering the mailboxes on my street alone. They’re too slick to use for the bottoms of bird cages, so they serve no real purpose other than to attest to the fact we are needlessly killing far too many trees.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they actually offered anything new but, to paraphrase a line uttered by Frasier on the sitcom Cheers, they’re redundant, they repeat themselves, they say the same things over and over—and still they don’t tell us a thing about the candidate except perhaps in the case of one Edith Carlin, who insists she’s the male version of Donald Trump, a rather dubious self-accolade, if there ever was one.

Carlin describes herself in her fliers as “an outsider like President Trump.” (And yes, she does underscore the word outsider.) She goes on to say, “Just like President Trump, Edith Carlin is a self-made person…”

Really? Did she begin drawing millions from her father while still a child? Did her father purchase her way into the Wharton School of Business? Did she hire undocumented workers, not pay them, and default on billions of dollars of loans from banks into order to become “self-made”? Did she become “self-made” by declaring bankruptcy half-a-dozen times? Is she “self-made” from cheating thousands of students in a fraudulent “university” that was under investigation until making a big campaign contribution to the attorney general who was investigating the school? Is that what she means by “self-made”?

She should be so proud.

She says she “will hold the government accountable in a way politicians can’t.” Really? How does she plan to do that? That promise has been made thousands upon thousands of times by thousands upon thousands of candidates but nothing seems to change. But she’s different, I suppose. She’s proposing to waltz into a 39-member body and single-handedly convince her fellow senators and 105 House members that they’ve been wrong all along and they will obligingly repent of their evil ways.

That’s about as absurd as every four years, the candidates for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish vow to make public education better when in reality, the mayor’s office has zero to do with the school board. Zero.

Well, one of the things Carlin says she’ll do is “fix I-12 issues without raising the gas tax.” Well, Ms. Carlin, it would be most interesting to hear just how you plan to go about doing that.

“After billions of dollars in tax increases,” she says, “the government now admits taking too much from us.” I suppose she’s referring to the $300 million – $500 million surplus of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration. But personally, I much prefer a surplus of $500 million to the eight years of $1 billion deficits of the best-forgotten Jindal administration.

She is running against State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, a fellow Republican, who is term-limited and who is running for the seat of former State Sen. Dale Erdy, also term-limited. Pope is a former Livingston Parish school superintendent who brought our school system up to among the best in the state. Pope’s big sin is he doesn’t always vote the party line, choosing instead to vote his conscience, an attribute many claim as their voting philosophy but which few can back up. But when you cross party lines, you cross the party and the party is the party is the party and the party doesn’t forget.

Carlin claims politicians “haven’t fixed our drainage problems,” that “80 percent of our district flooded.” True. I flooded, as did thousands of others. And of course, Carlin’s hero, Trump, dragged his feet in getting the requirements for assistance approved by HUD. It’s been three years and many still have received nothing from FEMA. As for fixing our drainage problems, she says we need an engineer to fix those problems. She is an engineer.

But guess what? Rogers Pope was an educator. Do you think they assigned him to the House Education Committee? Nope. That would make far too much sense. They tucked him away where he wouldn’t be a nuisance to Jindal and John White. Does Carlin think she’ll fare any better? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, she says she’ll work to improve drainage problems but she’s against taxes. It’s going to be interesting to see her just snap her fingers and make our problems vanish.

But to really understand the candidate Carlin, it’s always best to follow the money to see who is the power behind the politician (and she is now officially a politician, her denials notwithstanding).

So, I went onto the campaign finance records to see who her backers are.

The results were eye-opening, to say the least.

To narrow the field, I looked only at contributions of $500 or more. I found 65 contributions totaling $68,500 since January 1, 2019, including a couple of multiple contributions by the same donor, namely Republican power broker Lane Grigsby, who also backed Jindal and who is backing Eddie Rispone for governor.

I also noted a $2,500 contribution from Koch Industries.

But the real story is that of those 65 contributions, is that exactly 11 were from Livingston Parish while 32 were from East Baton Rouge Parish, 14 from other parts of the state and eight were from out of state. That’s 11 from Livingston and 54 from elsewhere.

Those 11 Livingston Parish contributors (actually, only 10 because one person contributed on two different occasions) accounted for $14,500 (including $4,500 from just three persons) while the 32 East Baton Rouge Parish donors ponied up $37,500. The 14 from other areas of the state gave $17,500 and out-of-state contributors chipped in $13,500.

So, Livingston Parish contributors gave just 21 percent of Carlin’s total while backers in Baton Rouge put up 54.7 percent of her total.

Livingston Parish voters may wish to ask themselves why so many people in Baton Rouge are involving themselves in a race in Livingston Parish. Well, let’s see who they are:

  • EastPac, NorthPac, WestPac, and SouthPac, all arms of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), combined to give $19,267. Since there are limits as to how much a political action committee may give, LABI simply bent the rules by creating not one, not two, not three, but four PACs.
  • Lane Grigsby: $2,500.
  • Todd Grigsby: $1,000.
  • ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) Pelican PAC: $2,500.
  • The Louisiana Homebuilders Association PAC: $2,500.
  • TransPac (a trucking industry PAC): $1,500.
  • Investment portfolio manager Meagan Shields: $3,000 (two $1,500 contributions).
  • Louisiana Student Financial Aid Association (LASFAA) PAC: $1,000.

Besides Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas, out-of-state contributors included:

  • Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C.: $2,500.
  • Chevron, San Ramon, California: $2,500.
  • Stand for Children PAC, Portland, Oregon: $2,000.
  • Weyerhaeuser, Seattle, Washington: $1,500.
  • Marathon Petroleum, Findlay, Ohio: $1,500.
  • Tanner Barrow, Worthing, South Dakota: $1,000.
  • Micham Roofing, Sparta, Missouri: $500.

Louisiana contributors not from Livingston or East Baton Rouge Parish who contributed were from Bossier City, Slidell, New Orleans (2), Shreveport (2), Raceland, Jennings, Mandeville, Alexandria, Prairieville, Covington, Ponchatoula, and Gray.

So, those who haven’t already voted early may wish to ask themselves why the Republican party has turned on one of its own in such a vicious manner—but mostly why so much outside money is being poured into Edith Carlin’s campaign.

You may also wish to ask yourself whether she will be beholden to the people of Livingston Parish or to the faceless PACs of Baton Rouge, Washington, and elsewhere.

She may call herself a political outsider, but from here, she looks more like a puppet with the potential to be controlled by political insiders from outside Livingston Parish.

 

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Over the years, I have taken Troy Hebert to task over his tenure as head of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC). I even had to give a deposition in a lawsuit filed against Hebert by one of the agents he fired.

But I would be remiss if I did not now point out that we are in complete agreement on at least three issue: the failure of both political parties to represent Americans, lobbyists, and campaign finance.

On August 27, Hebert appeared along with Melissa Flournoy on the Jim Engster Show on Louisiana Public Radio. Both served in the Louisiana Legislature and Engster had them on together to present their viewpoints from the left (Flournoy) and the right (Hebert).

Flournoy correctly pointed out that gubernatorial candidates Eddie Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham are placing far too much emphasis on their being in lockstep with Donald Trump, who has proven that anyone can indeed become president—even the mentally deranged.

“I’m a little surprised (they) have embraced the President so much. I’m ready for them to talk about their vision for Louisiana and the kind of leadership they can provide,” she said. “I don’t think liking the President is good enough reason to be governor. I’m ready for the governor’s race to pivot to the real issues in Louisiana—education, health care, infrastructure and making Louisiana better.

“People don’t want to talk about solutions. We stand on different sides of the street and shriek at each other when we really ought to be focusing on solutions where we can work together.”

Hebert, a staunch Trump supporter. As a former legislator and member of the Jindal administration, nailed it when he said, “Neither party is getting done what needs to be done in this country.”

Hebert would seem qualified to speak to that issue, having been a member of each party but who now calls himself a “conservative independent. I served on both (parties) and just couldn’t take either one of them.”

He then fired a broadside at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). “As somebody who was in the legislature for 16 years as both a senator and a representative, I think big business owns the legislature and owns many officials.

“The little man is either dead or on life support in the legislature,” he said. “Why don’t you just pull up the campaign finance reports and find out who gives to these candidates.” LABI, he said, is “so blatant that they hinge their support on … a report card they give every year. And you have to score a certain percentage in order to receive funding from LABI when you run for re-election.

“I can’t tell you how many times I approached legislators with a bill I thought was a good idea to help the little guy and they said, “… This is a really good bill but the problem is LABI is against it and if I vote for it, they’re going ding me on their report card and I’m not gonna get money.”

Flournoy agreed, saying that LABI and the Chemical Association control and big corporations “… control and influence every decision made in Louisiana. They’re looking out for their interest and not for the people of Louisiana.”

Hebert, while agreeing with Flournoy, took his argument a step further by attacking the emphasis on money politics and how it even affects the media.

“The media judges a candidate’s ability by how much month they have in the bank. If you look at every report when the news comes on, when they talk about this governor’s race, they don’t talk about their ideas or what their policies are. They talk about how much money they’ve raised.

“When I ran for the U.S. Senate (in 2016), they had a debate put on by LPB (Louisiana Public Broadcasting) and you had to have a million dollars in order to be on the debate stage. So, the media also is responsible and is guilty for bringing money into play.

“The regular working guy who would want to run for office, the media won’t even let them in.”

Turning to the 2020 presidential campaign, Hebert said Joe Biden is probably the only Democrat in a crowded field who could give Trump a decent run but because he’s more moderate. “But watch the Democrats cannibalize Joe Biden. He’s going to be eaten by his own. The people in charge of the Democratic Party will not allow Joe Biden to be the nominee.”

Flournoy, while agreeing that the Democratic Party is moving too far to the left, said she does not believe we have seen the candidate who will end up running against Trump. “There’re going to be some late entries,” she said.

If I were a TV news analyst, I would sum up that appearance by pointing out that Melissa Flournoy and Troy Hebert are in agreement on more issues than those on which they disagree and that the common culprit is the influence of LABI and its big business membership on the Louisiana Legislature to the detriment of the citizens of Louisiana.

But the really unique aspect of Hebert’s diatribe against the influence of big money and big business on politics is that as he spoke, I found myself nodding in full agreement with someone about whom I had written many negative stories.

 

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State Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) has been kind enough to offer LouisianaVoice a clarification of Monday’s STORY about House Bill 346 which would have given civil service fire and police personnel the right to actively participate in and contribute to political campaigns to the exclusion of all other civil service personnel.

While Seabaugh was in agreement to our assessment that HB 346 was a bad bill, he pointed out that it was in fact the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that actually debated the merits of the bill and passed it unanimously to send it to the House floor.

LouisianaVoice said it was sent to the floor by the unanimous vote of the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee.

In fact, the Civil Law and Procedure Committee was only voting on the ballot language as all constitutional amendments are required to go to that committee for approval of ballot language.

The gist of our story was that seven of the nine Civil Law and Procedure Committee members either changed their votes to vote against the bill or did not vote when it got to the House floor.

That point didn’t change appreciably, however, confirming our initial position that approving the bill in committee and then changing votes on the House floor sends the wrong signals about legislators’ real motives and the courage of their convictions.

While all 13 members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to send the bill to the full House, six of those still changed their votes to no when it came to a full House vote, which failed, 29-84.

Representatives voting for the bill in committee but switching to no in the full House vote were committee Chairman Gregory Miller (R-Norco), Vice Chair Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula), Ryan Bourriaque (R-Abbeville), Jimmy Harris (D-New Orleans), Dorothy Hill (D-Dry Creek), and Ed Larvadain, III (D-Alexandria).

Voting yes in both committee and on the full House vote were Reps. Roy Daryl Adams (I-Jackson), Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), Dodie Horton (R-Haughton), Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge), Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport), John “Jay” Morris (R-Monroe), and Mark Wright (R-Covington).

Here is the full text of Rep. Seabaugh’s email:

From: Seabaugh, Rep. (Chamber Laptop) <aseabaugh@legis.la.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2019 6:35 AM
To: louisianavoice@outlook.com
Subject: Dodie Horton’s HB 346

I would like to start by telling you that I completely agree with your analysis of the bill. However, the portion of your article that references the actions of the Civil Law and Procedure committee is slightly inaccurate. The bill was originally referred to the House and Governmental Affairs committee who were the ones that the debated the substance of the bill and decided whether to send it on to the House floor for a full vote. It came out of that committee unanimously. I’m sure some of those members also voted against the bill on the floor so you could make the same point with respect to the Members of that committee. However, the House Civil Law committee was only voting on the ballot language. All constitutional amendments must to go to the Civil Law committee for approval of the ballot language. The committee does not have the authority to amend the bill or to kill the bill. All the committee can do is change or approve the language which will appear on the ballot when the measure is placed before the voters in the fall.

If you will go watch the video of the committee hearing, you will see that I handled the bill for representative Horton and explained that I was not for the bill and that I did not support the measure but that I was merely handling it for her to get the ballot language approved. Therefore, the unanimous vote by the Civil Law committee was not an approval of the substance of the bill. It was only a vote affirming that the ballot language fairly and accurately explained the substance of the bill.

 

Alan Seabaugh

Louisiana State Representative, District 5

401 Market Street, Suite 1120

Shreveport, LA  71101

Office (318) 676-7990

Fax (318) 221-0656

Aseabaugh@legis.la.gov

 

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Prussian Prime Minister and German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck once said that the man who wished to keep his respect for sausages and laws should not see how either is made.

HOUSE BILL 346 Rep. Dotie Horton (R-Haughton) is a perfect example.

First, the bill would have given municipal civil service firefighters and policemen the right no other civil servant in Louisiana currently enjoys, namely:

  • To assist in voter registration drives when off-duty;
  • To make political contributions;
  • To attend political rallies, meetings and fundraisers while off-duty;
  • To join political groups (other than just political parties);
  • To sign nominating petitions;
  • To participate in political campaigns when off-duty.

The reason this was a bad bill, besides that it specifically excludes all civil service employees other than firefighters and police, is that it opens the door for incumbent office-holders to exert pressure on employees under his or her supervision to participate in fund-raising and voter drives on his or her behalf against the employee’s will.

The fact that Horton’s bill contained language that strictly forbade such action or reprisals against employees who supported the wrong candidate, there are obviously ways to retaliate against an employee considered politically disloyal:

  • Assignment to menial work;
  • Unfavorable employee performance reviews, adversely affecting merit pay raises;
  • Refusals to promote employees.

Anyone who truly believes Horton’s proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting disciplinary action or coercion of a public employee would actually work has his head in the sand. There are just too many subtle ways to make an employee’s life miserable without adding political patronage to the list.

And the real story here isn’t that the bill garnered only an anemic 29 VOTES on the floor of the House on Monday against 64 nay votes and 12 absences. That’s actually 29 more than it deserved.

Can’t you see the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association, if the bill had passed and been approved by voters, cranking up its legal team for the discrimination lawsuit that would almost certainly have followed to have state police included?

Again, that’s not the story.

The story would be how the House CIVIL LAW AND PROCEDURE COMMITTEE voted on the bill to get it to the House floor and how its nine members voted afterward.

The committee voted unanimously to move the bill forward. That’s 9-0 in favor. That’s Reps. Raymond Garofalo (R-Chalmette), Randal Gaines (D-LaPlace), Robby Carter (D-Amite), Raymond Crews (R-Bossier City), Mary DuBuisson (R-Slidell), Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport), Mike Johnson (R-Pineville), Tanner Magee (R-Houma) and Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) all voting yes.

Yet, when it came to the floor vote, there were six defections and another just took a powder.

Only Jenkins and Magee voted yes. Crews, DuBuisson, Gaines, Garofalo, Mike Johnson, and Seabaugh all voted thumbs down. Robbie Carter was no where to be found when the vote was taken.

Obviously, the committee members didn’t want the onus on them, so they passed the buck to get the bill to the full House, knowing, perhaps, it never stood a chance.

So, because the committee members couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do their jobs (or at least vote their true convictions), they punted to the full House so it could waste time on the bill.

Maybe that’s what old Otto was talking about.

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