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Archive for the ‘Politicians’ Category

Billy Broussard of Breaux Bridge has been fighting a lonely battle for a decade. He has lost in court against a stacked deck and before a judge who appeared predisposed to rule against him at every turn and to verbally berate him in the process.

And now, LouisianaVoice has learned that someone who calls himself an attorney is doing all he can to add threat to injury. When you read the letter from a Lake Charles attorney—actually written nearly a year ago but which only recently came into our possession—you have to wonder where he got his law degree.

Briefly, Broussard’s story started after Hurricane Rita hit Calcasieu Parish back in 2005, just a few weeks behind Katrina.

Broussard was contracted by Calcasieu officials to clean debris from the storm. But, he said, officials started adding work assigned in the original contract. Debris which was in Indian Bayou and Little Indian Bayou before the storm were ordered cleared. The bayou was in close proximity to a high-ranking parish official, Broussard says.

The problem arose when FEMA refused to approve payment for removal of pre-existing debris and Calcasieu Parish refused to make up the difference of something a little north of $1 million.

It didn’t much matter to FEMA that Mike Higdon, the man responsible for making eligibility determinations/ordering and directing work on the Indian Bayou project, is a half-brother to John Reon, superintendent of Gravity Drainage District 8, for whom Broussard performed his cleanup work.

making eligibility determinations/ordering and directing work on the Indian Bayou project (Mike Higdon) where he acknowledges that he is a brother of the superintendent of GDD8 John Reon.

Broussard sued and lost but he persisted in seeking public records that would support his position so that he could turn the information over to the media, LouisianaVoice included.

And those efforts to obtain public records led to a threatening letter-from-attorney-russell-stutes-jr which instead of harassment on Broussard’s part, would appear to border on harassment by someone attempting to use his position as an attorney to intimidate Broussard.

“Over the past several weeks, I have received numerous complaints by Calcasieu Parish officials regarding your repetitive public records requests…with respect to the Indian Bayou/Little Indian Bayou project,” Stutes’s letter begins and quickly went downhill from there.

Following more verbiage from Stutes, he incredulously wrote, “…all Calcasieu Parish employees have been instructed not to respond to any additional requests or demands from you associated with the project.”

As to underscore his bullying tactic, Stutes also wrote later in the letter, “Accordingly, the next time any Calcasieu Parish employee is contacted by you or any of your representatives with respect to the project, we will proceed with further civil actions and criminal charges. A rule for contempt of court will be filed, and we will request injunctive relief from Judge (David) Ritchie. Given Judge Ritchie’s outrage at your frivolous claims last year, you and I both know the next time you are brought before him regarding the project, it will likely result in you serving time for deliberately disregarding his rulings.”

Say WHAT?! Who the hell does Stutes think he is, the judges from the Fourth Judicial District in Monroe who filed SUIT against the Ouachita Citizen newspaper in West Monroe because the publication requested public records? Or Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White, who SUED two educators when they sought public records? (Note to Stutes: White lost that little gambit decisively in 19th Judicial Court in Baton Rouge.)

If Mr. Stutes would bother to take the time to read Louisiana Revised Statute 44.1 (et seq.) R.S. 44.1 (et seq.) which states unequivocally that any citizen 18 years or older has an unfettered right to review (and purchase copies of) any public record in the possession of any public body from the smallest hamlet in the state right on up to the office of the governor.

There is nothing in that statutes that says one can be prohibited from obtaining public documents simply because he came out on the short end of the stick in a court of law.

Likewise, Louisiana Revised Statute 42:4.1 (et seq.) R.S. 42:4.1 (et seq.), specifically R.S. 42:4.4(c) clearly states that all public bodies “shall provide” and opportunity for comments from citizens.

“Consider this your final warning, Mr. Broussard,” Stutes wrote. The harassment of Calcasieu Parish employees must completely and immediately cease. Otherwise, we are prepared to follow through with all remedies allowed by law.”

What a crock.

Let me tell you something, Mr. Stutes. I understand you are contracted by Calcasieu Parish officials, be it the police jury or the gravity drainage district. It doesn’t matter which one, but should I (and I am not Mr. Broussard’s “representative”) decide I wish to obtain public records from either of these bodies, woe be unto anyone who attempts to harass me with a letter like the one you wrote to Mr. Broussard.

It is I who shall follow through with all remedies allowed by law, including fines of up to $500 per day and possible jail time for non-compliance.

Do yourself a favor and read the public records and public meeting laws of the Gret Stet of Looziana.

They’re quite enlightening.

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Cody Bowlin, after multiple DWIs and a host of other citations and arrests, finally had his day in court on Monday and came away essentially unscathed with a nominal fine and a requirement for community service.

Bowlin, 26, a self-employed auctioneer, appears to be connected via his grandfather, Marvin Henderson of Livingston, founder of Henderson Brothers Auctioneers who has contributed more than $50,000 to various political candidates since 2003.

His citations, in chronological order, include:

  • March 18, 2008—Possession of marijuana;
  • 21, 2008—Speeding, limitations on passing on the left;
  • 24, 2009—Following too closely, driving under suspension (amended to improper parking);
  • May 3, 2011—Shoplifting;
  • 13, 2011—No seat belt;
  • May 31, 2012—Speeding;
  • Nov, 27, 2012—Careless operation, driving left of center, operating a vehicle while intoxicated with controlled dangerous substance;
  • June 2, 2015—Improper overtaking and passing a stopped school bus;
  • 27, 2015—Possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana or synthetic contraband;
  • 17, 2015—Careless operation of a motor vehicle, driving while intoxicated—controlled substance, second offense; operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages, second offense;
  • June 11, 2016—Possession of marijuana, possession of a schedule 3 drug, improper passing, no insurance (charges dismissed);
  • June 23, 2016—Speeding;
  • 21, 2016—Possession of drug paraphernalia.

In at least three cases, Bowlin failed to appear for arraignment and bench warrants were issued for him.

The arresting officer was not present in court for Monday’s proceedings (did District Attorney Scott Perrilloux suggest to him that he need not attend?). Therefore, the charge of second offense DWI was reduced to first offense DWI. All other charges (careless operation, speeding) were conveniently dropped.

Bowlin entered a No Contest plea to first offense DWI, and Bowlin received the following devastating sentence:

  • 6-month jail term, suspended (no jail time);
  • One-year probation;
  • A fine of $600;
  • 32 hours community service;
  • Must attend MADD’sVictim Impact Panel;
  • Court costs of $1,333;
  • Report back to Judge Elizabeth Wolfe on March 13, 2017, so she can monitor “progress.”

Wyman Bankston, Bowlin’s defense attorney (who also represents Henderson Auctions in its ongoing LITIGATION against First Guaranty Bank and Charles Easler/Worldnet Auctions), and Bowlin lingered in the hallway until time for them to appear.

Call us jaded, but we cannot help but think skeptically. If MADD had not been present in the courtroom for the “trial,”—which was left off the court docket (we suspect as a tactic to keep MADD in the dark)—this would have likely been swept under the rug with all charges dropped as has been the case with Bowlin so many times in the past.

We also have to wonder if District Attorney Scott Perrilloux might have suggested to the officer that he need not attend so the charges could be reduced.

 

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Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant minister who became an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler. As a reward, he spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

He is perhaps best remembered for this quotation:

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

In related incident, a fellow church member approached me Sunday just before services started in an obvious good frame of mind. Turns out he was still celebrating the election of Donald Trump. “We have us a president!” he practically shouted.

When I told him the time would come when he would regret ever hearing the name Trump, he replied that he was better than the alternative. “Hillary’s not even a Christian,” he said.

“And Trump is?” I replied.

“Doesn’t matter. He’s better than Hillary.”

But…but…but he had just implied that it did matter.

While I am far from calling myself a fan of Hillary Clinton, I was, and remain, terrified of Trump and left my fellow Methodist with the warning that he might be singing a little different tune when Trump starts trying to do away with Social Security and Medicare.

And yes, I do believe he will try that, along with the EPA and OSHA as well as several other regulatory agencies charged with protecting the welfare of American consumers and workers.

Consider this:

  • If you like Trump, you’d love children toiling away 12 hours per day in sweat shops.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love purchasing diseased meat ripped off the carcasses of sick and injured cattle in the Chicago stockyards.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the idea of 60-hour weeks with no health or retirement benefits and no vacation.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the idea of thugs with guns and clubs attacking union organizers who were attempting to get better pay and decent working conditions.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the idea of unmonitored toxic dumping in our creeks and rivers by oil and chemical plants.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the idea of no minimum wage.
  • If you like Trump, you’d love the old Jim Crow laws.

Extreme? Far-fetched? Unrealistic? Scare tactics?

Not so much.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-holocaust-museum-alarmed-over-hateful-speech-white-053806789–finance.html

And here’s what David Duke said about Trump’s election.

He’s already making sweeping plans to fire federal employees and to weaken or destroy federal employee unions.

Of course, that was the liberal Washington Post saying that about firing federal employees, so why should you listen to them? Well, it was the conservative Washington Times that chronicled David Duke’s laudatory remarks about our president-elect.

If you and State Treasurer John Kennedy want to align yourselves with Donald Trump and David Duke, go right ahead. I think I’ll pass.

One of the most disappointing developments I’ve witnessed on the state political scene (other than the eight years of Bobby Jindal’s disaster (which goes unchallenged as the high water mark for disappointments), it’s John Kennedy’s current TV ad in which he says he has been “with Donald Trump since the beginning.” Funny he never said that before Trump got the nomination.

(Full disclosure: I have considered Kennedy a friend and he even made a monetary donation to this blog’s fundraiser last year. What I am about to say will probably place a serious strain on that friendship.)

Kennedy, of course, is the former Democrat who supported John Kerry until he held his finger up and detected a strong Republican breeze a-blowin’ and switched parties. Just like that: did a complete 180 on his entire political philosophy. And if you look at the polls, it’s obvious no one was taking notes.

John Kennedy is such a chameleon that if you threw him into a box of crayons, he’d explode from overload. He’d look like he was in an explosion in a paint factory.

Kennedy is the same one who while serving as Secretary of the Department of Revenue, ran for State Treasurer with a TV ad boasting that while revenue secretary he “reduced small business paperwork by 150 percent.”

Think about that for a moment. If you reduce anything by 100 percent, there’s nothing left. So how the hell did he reduce paperwork by another 50 percent? And this is the guy who handles the state’s finances and proclaims we don’t have a revenue problem yada, yada, yada. Unfortunately, he has quickly become a one-trick pony.

And now he’s running on the coattails of a man who most probably doesn’t have the faintest clue who Kennedy is. But then Trump each day validates the rock-solid theory that he knows nothing about political leadership or anything of any real substance other than how to tweet his displeasure at any and everything.

He wants to build a wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. I’m hearing that Canada wants to build a wall along its southern border and they’ll gladly pay for it.

I have a Jewish friend both of whose parents survived Hitler’s Holocaust that people like Trump love to say never happened. My friend is angry and scared—and with good reason.

Trump is loading up his cabinet with some very disturbing appointments. These are men who make Spiro Agnew look like a great civil libertarian.

He is a petty man with petty grievances. He has an ego as big as all outdoors and now he has the reins of power. He would shut down (or at least boycott) the smash Broadway play Hamilton because of a benign statement read to Trump’s vice president by cast members at the close of a performance last week.

He somehow finds the time to watch—and criticize with even more tweets—Saturday Night Live for its parody of him. Every president since Nixon has been victimized by the show and yet he is the only one to lash out.

It’s called Freedom of Speech and it remains, for the time being at least, protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a document he obviously has little passing familiarity with.

But all things are subject to change. It happened in Germany and it happened in Cuba. Don’t think for a moment it can’t happen here.

If you don’t believe there’s much of a chance of his implementing the programs he’s advocating (and some he hasn’t yet revealed), consider this:

He is coming into office with an agenda and a Republican-controlled Senate, a Republican-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Supreme Court.

It’s the perfect political storm, folks.

 

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This is a story with no readily apparent good guys.

It’s a story about charges of theft of heavy equipment.

It’s a story about thousands of dollars floating around unaccounted for by public officials.

It’s the story of the attorney general’s office abruptly halting a confrontational deposition.

It’s a story about a Baton Rouge judge having the decency and courage to impose (finally) a stiff financial penalty against a state agency over the agency’s failure to complete the deposition or to produce legally required public records.

It’s a story of how the superintendent of State Police was unable to account for the receipt of two checks totaling nearly $150,000 and how the state attorney general’s office and its former rogue investigator wound up with egg all over their already questionable reputations.

And, of course, it’s a story of how the taxpayer and not the public official responsible ultimately will bear the cost of those penalties.

It all began in May 2014 with the indictment of Joseph Palermo of Sulphur on five counts of possession of stolen things, destruction of serial numbers and forgery.

http://www.kplctv.com/story/25298149/five-count-indictment-unsealed-against-sulphur-businessman

Palermo previously got crossways with state police over operation of casinos in Calcasieu Parish and he settled that civil matter back in 1998 but prosecutors, apparently still nursing a grudge over the casino gambit, brought up the 1998 trouble in connection with his more recent problems. Things have a way of playing out that way for some people.

In February 2015, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of receiving “ill-gotten gains” in a plea bargain in which he agreed to paying civil penalties of $1.2 million over three years with expenses to the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s office coming off the top. After expenses, the $400,000 per year was to be divided equally between the Calcasieu DA, the attorney general and State Police ($133,333.34 each). An additional $14,792.55 was what remained after the district attorney’s expenses were paid.

Identical checks of $14,792.55 and $133,333.34 were then issued to Louisiana State Police and the attorney general’s office. State Police, however, initially had no record of receipt of the funds.

Moreover, neither of the checks to the attorney general’s office was ever negotiated and it took more than a little effort to get State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson to acknowledge his office had received the money. State Police’s financial section has no record of the checks, nor is there any record of the checks having been deposited in state police accounts.

In February of this year, Palermo began efforts to obtain certain records from the attorney general’s office, specifically those pertaining to the criminal investigation of his case by Scott Bailey, then employed as an investigator for the attorney general’s office.

Bailey, in addition to being a central figure in the botched CNSI investigation of a couple of years back, holds the dubious distinction of being the investigator who photographed Jimmy Swaggart exiting his infamous rendezvous with the hooker in that seedy Metairie motel three decades ago. (Some claims to fame you just want to hang onto for whatever reasons).

Bailey resigned from the attorney general’s office the very day he was directed to provide all his time management records for all his investigations.

The records by Palermo from the attorney general were insufficient to meet the parameters of his request, so he tried again and this time he was met with a response that the records, after all, were exempt from public disclosure despite the investigation of Palermo having been completed for more than a year.

The legal back and forth jockeying continued with two separate legal actions by Palermo—one for public records and the other to force deposit of the checks into the court’s registry pending a determination of to whom the money actually belonged—being consolidated into a single lawsuit. Finally, it culminated in a deposition scheduled for October 27 in Lake Charles.

Alas, it was not to be.

State attorney Chester Cedars abruptly called an end to the deposition only a few minutes into the proceedings, acknowledging he was doing so at his own peril.

On Monday, 19th Judicial District Judge Don Johnson of Baton Rouge came down hard on the attorney general’s office and we would be less than honest if we didn’t admit we are delighted (so much for any pretense of objectivity).

It was such a beautiful order, we’re reproducing some of the wording here:

“Judgment is hereby entered herein in favor of Joseph R. Palermo, Jr. and against Jeff Landry, in his official capacity as the Attorney General of Louisiana, in the amount of twenty-five thousand and no/100 dollars ($25,000.00) payable within 30 days from November 14, 2016.”

Here is the judgment in its entirety.

One courtroom observer speculated that Cedars would likely take writs to the Louisiana Supreme Court on the matter of the amount of the fine.

That’s unlikely, however, because of Cedars’s own admission at the time he suspended Bailey’s deposition.

It is part of the transcript of the deposition and Cedars tells opposing counsel Christopher Whittington, “…I do so at the defendant’s peril. I fully understand that if I’m incorrect in the assertions and the law as I understand it, or in the facts as I understand it, then we are going to have to pay the appropriate sanctions.”

WHITTINGTON: “Okay. And we will move for those sanctions pursuant to Article 1469.”

http://www.laboards-commissions.com/MCBD.pdf

You have to wonder how that little on-the-record exchange and Judge Johnson’s ensuing fine are going to sit with Cedars’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Landry (Of course Landry has his own problems, having recently dodged service on a subpoena in the ongoing litigation with Gov. John Bel Edwards over the governor’s non-discriminatory executive order).

Now, if we can just find out what happened to those two checks after they arrived at State Police headquarters…

(Special thanks to Robert Burns for scurrying around and digging up valuable court documents for this story.)

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There are those who will label this post as sour grapes.

That’s okay. You can call it Tinker Bell, Rambo or anything you choose. I don’t care because it won’t change the fact that the Louisiana Supreme Court is dominated by gutless hypocrites.

There’s a guy in New Orleans who will agree with me even if no one else does.

His name is Ashton R. O’Dwyer, Jr. and he is an attorney. Or at least he was.

You see, like me, he sounded off to and about the wrong people—judges, to be precise—but unlike me, he was in a vulnerable position in that he was a partner at the prestigious New Orleans law firm Lemle & Kelleher. As such, anything he said about the judiciary could be—and was—met with instant retaliation.

O’Dwyer’s sin was that he had the idea to file a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its lack of adequate preparedness for Hurricane Katrina. For good measure, in case it should be determined that the Corps was immune from litigation, he also named the State of Louisiana as a defendant for its pitiful oversight of the various politically inept and corrupt levee boards.

But other attorneys who were politically connected to the presiding judge wanted to be the plaintiff attorney. The judge eventually disqualified O’Dwyer and the rival attorney filed his suit. The only problem is the other attorney also represented the state so he could not, because of the obvious conflict of interests, file against the state.

It was little consolation to O’Dwyer that the Corps of Engineers was, as feared, determined to be immune from being sued which left the other attorney with no case. O’Dwyer was furious and went slightly ballistic.

He was eventually terminated by Lemle & Kelleher and things escalated quickly. Jailed on a questionable charge of making threats, he was held for mental evaluation. It was his second stint in jail. The first came because he refused to leave his St. Charles Avenue home during Katrina—even though a network news crew was allowed to remain in a house next door during the storm.

The courts were far from finished teaching him a lesson. Subjected to monitoring of his emails for years, suspended from the practice of law after being fired, he was later disbarred altogether. http://www.tulanelink.com/stories/o’dwyer_11a.htm

Today, O’Dwyer is not only fired, suspended and disbarred, but also bankrupt—all because he refused to hold his tongue. And today, he still won’t shut up.

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2010/12/disbarred_attorney_not_as_craz.html

After all, what else can they do to him?

Fast forward to November 7, 2016.

Among the writ applications denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court was Case No. 2016-C -1263 (TOM ASWELL v. THE DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATION, OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA AND KRISTY NICHOLS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE COMMISSIONER OF ADMINISTRATION). http://www.lasc.org/news_releases/2016/2016-065.asp

I filed my writ after the First Circuit Court of Appeal in an equally cowardly act, struck down the penalties against Nichols while acknowledging that the state was negligent in complying to our public records request in a timely manner.

As a refresher, here’s what happened. With the Division of Administration under Nichols already dragging its feet with several pending requests we had submitted, we decided to conduct a test to see if we were being targeted via slow compliance.

In October 2014, we submitted a detailed request for information pertaining to a complicated third party administrator contract between the Office of Group Benefits and a California bill processing firm. On the same day, we had a friendly legislator (who asked not to be named) submit an identical request through the House Legislative Services Office.

The House member received the requested information the very next day. Again, that was in October 2014. In January 2015, I still had not received the documents so I filed suit. Kristy Nichols then had a CD containing the information delivered to my attorney, J. Arthur Smith, III, the day after the suit was filed.

By our calculations, with state law providing penalties of $100 per day for failure to comply to the state’s public records law (remember: Bobby Jindal was touting the state for its “gold standard of transparency), the Division of Administration owed us about $40,000, including that request as well as others that were still outstanding.

District Court Judge Mike Caldwell, in his infinite wisdom, awarded us something on the order of $1200 and Kristy appealed. The First Circuit gutted even that award and we applied for writs to the Supreme Court.

Among those on the Louisiana Supreme Court who would have granted my writ were Jeannette Knoll of the Third District, Jeff Hughes of the Fifth District and John Weimer of the Sixth District. For that, I thank them.

The brain-dead justices who declined to do the right thing, who distorted the state’s public records law to their own satisfaction and who showed they possess no moral compass insofar as the public’s right to know is concerned were Chief Justice Bernette Johnson of the Seventh District, Greg Guidry of the First District, Scott Crichton of the Second District, and Marcus Clark of the Fourth District. For that, I thumb my nose at them.

Let’s recap: I’m not an attorney, I’m retired, and for the moment, the First Amendment, which guarantees my freedom of speech, is still firmly intact. Moreover, since Supreme Court justices are elected, that makes them politicians first, and judges second, which means their title of justices takes on about as much significance as a justice of the peace as far as I’m concerned. They are no more or any less human than anyone else who toils at an occupation. They are mortals endowed with no greater wisdom than my grandfather who had a sixth-grade education. (In fact, truth be known, he was probably light years ahead of most lawyers in terms of moral wisdom.)

In short, the Supreme Court jusrtices can’t do a damned thing to me for calling them imbecilic morons.

Now, lest you think this diatribe is about me, be assured it most definitely is not. It also is not about LouisianaVoice. Nor is it about $1200 in penalties—or even $40,000. The $1200 awarded by Judge Caldwell will neither make me nor break me.

This boneheaded decision, from district court all the way up to the Supreme Court’s decision to deny writs, is about something much larger than me, LouisianaVoice or $1200.

This is about the public’s right to request—and obtain—information about what its government is doing, how it is spending the taxpayers’ dollars, and how its government is meeting—or failing to meet—its responsibility to the public it is supposed to be serving. This rant also raises the obvious question: what purpose do laws serve if they are not enforced? Indeed, what use are judges (other than to look wise when photographed in their robes for their official portraits—at taxpayer expense, of course) when they selectively ignore the law?

With the manner in which our litigation was mangled by the judiciary, governmental agencies and those who run them—from the governor down to the mayors of Shongaloo and Paincourtville—may now take their cue from Case No. 2016-C -1263 (TOM ASWELL v. THE DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATION, OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA AND KRISTY NICHOLS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE COMMISSIONER OF ADMINISTRATION) and provide as much—or as little—as they choose in the way of public records without fear of financial penalties.

The only recourse we have at this point is to find another friendly legislator to write—and a friendly governor to support—new legislation tightening and re-defining the public records laws and the public’s right to know what its elected and appointed officials are doing in the name of representation of constituents.

We have the friendly governor, we believe, as evidenced by John Bel Edwards’s office prompt response to the public records requests we have submitted to him and to the Division of Administration.

So now, like Diogenes, we are seeking an honest man in the form of a legislator who will take on a difficult, if not impossible task.

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