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Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature could probably learn a thing or two about building budgetary surpluses from the St. Landry Parish Fire Protection District No. 2—except at least one St. Landry Parish citizens thinks the surplus may be the result of smoke and mirrors and a little voodoo tax millage assessment.

On the other hand, the State Ethics Board appears to be taking its cue from the Attorney General’s office in stonewalling tactics.

The district had a bank balance of more than three times its annual budget at the end of 2016, according to a state AUDIT of the its books. The audit showed nearly $8.4 million in the bank as of Dec. 31, 2016, after expenses of $2.6 million.

And a formal complaint made to the Louisiana State Board of Ethics last May against the district and its secretary-treasurer has produced only a letter of acknowledgement but no results after nine months.

Despite annual revenues of nearly $3.7 million for both 2015 and 2016, the district’s board seemingly felt it could not afford to hire a qualified employee to apply generally accepted accounting principles in recording the districts financial transactions or preparing its financial statements, the audit indicated.

“A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the entity’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis,” the audit said. “we identified certain deficiencies in internal control that we consider to be material weaknesses.”

Nor did the board seem to feel it was in a position to hire additional firefighters in order to cut back on more expensive overtime pay. Board members paid themselves nearly $16,600 in 2016 and paid out $1.2 million in salaries. An additional $329,677 was paid in overtime (listed as “extra shifts and call out time”).

Auditors recommended that the board examine the following options and implement policies and procedures in order to reduce excessive payroll expenditures:

  • Establish set annual/monthly salaries for management-level positions in order to eliminate overtime paid;
  • Hire additional firefighters in order to decrease overtime pay;
  • Better utilize volunteer firefighters in an effort to minimize costs.

While Edwards and the legislature might be scratching their heads if they knew of the district’s fiscal wizardry, a closer look at a curious tax millage might clear things up.

It seems that district voters may have once approved a 17.5 mill property tax but the district somehow managed to collect two identical millages of 17.5 mills each until January 2018, when one of the assessments expired.

St. Landry Parish resident and local taxpayer Charles Jagneaux, who filed the complaint with the state ethics board, which has been basically toothless since it was gutted by Bobby Jindal in one of his first acts as governor in 2008, has a theory about that dual tax millage.

“My understanding is that the second millage was passed by calling it a renewal when in fact, it was a second identical millage,” he said. “The board attempted to put the expiring millage on the ballot (for a renewal) this year but the parish council would not let them since there was a multi-million-dollar surplus.”

The ethics complaint was filed against Johnny Ardoin, secretary-treasurer of the district’s board. Ardoin, it turns out, is also a member of the Port Barre TOWN COUNCIL, which would appear to be a case of dual office-holding, illegal under Louisiana law.

As a point of clarification from a reader who is in a position to know, dual office holding falls under (drum roll, please…) the attorney general’s office, not the ethics board so the ethics board would not address that matter,

A second, more serious ethics violation, however, seems to arise from Ardoin’s membership on the fire district board.

The Port Barre Town Council appoints two members of the fire district’s board of commissioners.

That would seem to constitute a built-in conflict of interest for Ardoin. Given his position as a member of the town council, he is in the unique position to appoint himself to the fire district’s board of commissioners.

That ethics complaint, like most complaints to the state ethics board these days, is in all likelihood, a dead-end street, particularly as it regards dual office-holding. But even in cases when ethics fines are assessed, which is seldom, they often are ignored and never collected, thanks again to Bobby Jindal and his ethics reform agenda.

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You have to give credit to Lake Charles attorney Ron Richard: he certainly knows how to milk a case for all it’s worth in order to keep the meter running.

It apparently wasn’t enough that his four SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) against Welsh Alderman Jacob Colby Perry were tossed by the presiding judge.

And no matter that a recall petition was initiated against Perry and that POSTCARDS were mailed to Welsh residents that DEPICTED Perry and fellow board of aldermen member Andrea King as “terrorists.”

And never mind that Mayor Carolyn Louviere desires to shut down a bar that just happens to be adjacent to a business owned by her son.

Now Richard, his four LAWSUITS against Perry—filed by him on behalf of the mayor, her son, her daughter, and Police Chief Marcus Crochet—having failed the smell test of 31st Judicial District Court Judge Steve Gunnel, who not only dismissed the four lawsuits aimed at silencing Perry’s criticism of Louviere’s administration but also awarded ATTORNEY FEES of $16,000 to Perry, is now challenging another RECALL PETITION, this one against his client, her honor the mayor.

So, it seems to boil down to the apparent belief that a recall against an alderman who seeks answers to budgetary questions is fine and dandy but to suggest a recall against the mayor who draws up that city budget constitutes a technical foul.

It’s all a sordid little mess punctuated by what appear to be excessive expenses of the police department, ($818,000 for nine months, form June 2016 through February 2017—for a town of 3,200 living, breathing souls), 18 police cars (again, for a town of 3,200), removal of Perry from the town’s Facebook page, and a mayor’s son (one of the four plaintiffs in lawsuits against Perry) who has a less than stellar past of his own.

Basically, with all that is going on there, it doesn’t really appear to be a town where most people would care to call home these days. That’s no dig on all the decent, minding-their-own-business residents living there, but a sorry commentary on the town’s leadership—if one wishes to be overly generous in calling it that.

Meanwhile, Richard manages to keep the meter running as the legal fees continue to mount for Madam Mayor. Of course, it has to be the client’s decision to retain him to pursue these objectives. He’s just a lawyer who ostensibly takes direction from his client. But often times, a client’s decision on a course of action is predicated upon the attorney’s advice, so in trying to determine who is actually calling the shots, we may just have the age-old chicken or egg question.

Still, it’s enough to make one wonder who is paying those legal bills: the client or the city?

Perhaps that’s another question for Mr. Perry to ask.

If he can get an answer, that is.

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

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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.

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Before the recent spate of sexual harassment claims in Hollywood, New York and Washington, D.C., there was a lawsuit filed by a female attorney for the Louisiana Department of Health against the agency’s general counsel.

That lawsuit, filed in June 2014 by Bethany Gauthreaux, a $42,500 per year attorney for LDH, against LDH and its $100,000-per-year Attorney Supervisor Weldon Hill, was quietly settled in May 2017.

The matter was settled for only $40,000—far less than it probably should have been, given the circumstances of the treatment undergone by Gauthreaux, according to a former associate who said Gauthreaux told her at the time that she just wanted the entire matter to be over and done.

SETTLEMENT

Even then, that might have been end of it all had not Hill and Executive Counsel Stephen Russo continued the intimidation and humiliation of Gauthreaux after she complained about Hill—to his supervisor and to LDH Human Resources—treatment that continued until her eventual resignation in May 2015.

Moved to Storage Room

The former associate who asked that she not be identified because she still works for the state—but in a different agency now—said Gauthreaux was moved from her eighth-floor office to a converted storage room on the fifth floor. She was not provided a telephone in her new location nor was she allowed to take her computer with her. Two other female employees were also moved from eighth to fifth floor but both took their computers with them to their new offices.

Meanwhile, Hill and the two attorneys over him who protected him, continued to receive pay increases.

“I would go into the restroom and find Bethany crying,” the former associate said. “I asked her what was wrong and she said, ‘Weldon Hill won’t stop.’”

Hill, Gauthreaux’s lawsuit said, would ask her highly personal questions following the birth of her child, questions about how it felt to pump breast milk. He also would position himself behind her chair and press his body against hers as he monitored her computer screen, sometimes, placing his hand on hers on the computer mouse, the petition said.

DEPOSITION OF GAUTHREAUX

DEPOSITION OF HILL

DEPOSITION OF RUSSO

The former associate said that in addition to Gauthreaux, there were at least four other women who were intimidated, harassed, and mistreated by Hill and Russo, who, as Hill’s direct supervisor and the department’s hiring authority, appeared to be protecting Hill. “They totally ostracized Bethany after she complained to Russo,” she said. “She finally said she couldn’t take it anymore and quit.”

‘Women have nothing to say’

“Weldon does not listen to women,” she said. “He said women ‘have nothing to say.’ He listens to every third word women say. Those who stood up to him paid a price,” she said. “I stood up to him once and he filed a complaint against me to Russo.”

She said another female employee who complained about Hill was given a “Needs Improvement” letter for something that had occurred two years before.

She said that Hill also performed outside legal work on state time. “That’s payroll fraud,” she said. Asked by LouisianaVoice if that could be proven, she said, “Only by checking his state computer.”

And while Gauthreaux preceded the “Me Too” movement, the work environment at LDH apparently remains hostile for female employees.

Gauthreaux, for example, never received a promotion to Attorney 2 in her two years at LDH and received one pay increase of $1,638 per year, Hill saw his pay increase by $5,720 per year, one of those raises coming only a couple of months after Gauthreaux’s lawsuit was filed and another beginning on Jan. 1 this year, which brought his annual salary to $99,800.

During that same period, Russo saw his salary increase by $7,930, to $138,500 per year.

Triumvirate Cronies

Kathleen Callaghan, a former supervisory attorney for LDH who is now retired, is also familiar with the triumvirate of Hill, Russo and $140,300-per-year LDH General Counsel 3 Kimberly Humbles.

“They’re all cronies who pal around together,” Callaghan said. “They retaliated against Bethany, they retaliated against me and they retaliated against other female employees. Weldon Hill is a typical predator who ingratiates himself with Russo and Humbles and they in turn protect him.”

She said she was told by higher ups that Gauthreaux wasn’t strong enough. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? She took on the whole bunch and she prevailed.’ Nobody else in a supervisory position would stand up for her. She had to stand up for herself. Hill should have been put on administrative leave immediately when that suit was filed,” she said. “He should be gone.”

Callaghan said she once was accused of being AWOL by the same supervisor who had approved her two-week vacation. “My vacation started just a couple of days before Bethany’s lawsuit was filed, so they thought I’d ducked out. In reality, my vacation had been approved in advance but for whatever reason, they never checked that until I pointed it out to them,” she said. “And they’re supposed to be lawyers.”

Timing Bathroom Breaks

She said Hill keeps tabs on when subordinates leave their desks and how long they’re gone. “If he has time to do that, he isn’t busy enough,” Callaghan said. “He needs something to keep him busy besides keeping track of how long people spend in the bathroom. He is a Third-Party Administrator, which is just filing liens. He generates letters, something a clerical could do. He needs to be transferred to federal court where he can keep busy doing what he should be doing.”

Asked by LouisianaVoice why LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee hasn’t taken action to keep LDH from further liability exposure, Callaghan said, “I don’t think Dr. Gee is even aware of the lawsuit. I think they kept a lid on it and she doesn’t even know about it.”

She said former LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert once was informed of similar problems. “Her response was we should all go on retreat together. I’m sorry, but that’s not a solution,” she said, indicating that someone with authority needs to step in and clean up LDH’s legal department.

At some time, the message must sink in that just because you’re in a supervisory capacity, you cannot, must not, attack, subvert, or destroy a person’s dignity and self-respect.

 

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Jeff Landry is a man who knows the value of positive public relations.

Negative PR? Not so much.

LouisianaVoice has for months now been attempting to extract some type of information regarding the AG’s progress in investigating that April 2016 RAPE of a 17-year-old female inmate by a convicted rapist—in the Union Parish Jail in Farmerville.

And after months of not-so-artful dodging with the oft-repeated, “This matter in under investigation, therefore I cannot comment on the specifics or answer questions at this time” response of Press Secretary Ruth Wisher, there apparently has been no progress in the investigation.

Recently, though, the AG’s office has altered its method of responding to public records requests—and the method for submitting same.

Once it was sufficient to initiate an official public records request (PRR) to the AG’s Public Information Office with a simple email that began: Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.), I respectfully request the opportunity to review the following document(s):

Now, though, the AG has abruptly switched gears to require that inquiries be routed through a different office—which would seem to make the name of the Public Information Office something of a misnomer.

Previously, following that referencing of the state’s public records act, one would simply list the documents desired (It’s crucial that you request actual documents and not just general information: public agencies as a rule—there are exceptions—won’t respond to general requests). Here is a recent (Dec. 13, 2017) request submitted by LouisianaVoice for which no response has yet been received:

  • Please provide me a current list (and status) of all criminal investigations undertaken by the Louisiana Attorney General’s office since Jeff Landry’s inauguration.
  • Said status should include all dispositions of cases, including convictions and/or dropped charges, where applicable.

But now, Landry’s office appears to be circling the wagons. No more are we to submit request to the Public Information Officer, which makes public information something of an oxymoron. Here is our latest inquiry about the status of the investigation of that rape case which is now entering its 21st month despite the fact that authorities know the following:

  • Where the rapes (she was raped twice) occurred (in the confines of a small cell);
  • When they occurred;
  • The identity of the victim;
  • The identity of the alleged rapist (who was awaiting sentencing for a prior conviction of aggravated rape)

Here is LouisianaVoice’s request:

“Please provide me an update on the current status of the Union Parish jail cell rape case that occurred in April of 2016.

Should you respond with the usual “ongoing investigation” response, then please try to give me some indication as when this unusually lengthy investigation of a relative uncomplicated matter will be completed.”

Here is the AG’s response:

As you have anticipated, Louisiana’s Public Records Act, specifically La. R.S. 44:3(A)(1), exempts records held by the office of the attorney general that pertain to “pending criminal litigation or any criminal litigation which can be reasonably anticipated, until such litigation has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled. . . .” Therefore, records related to open investigations are not subject to disclosure until the case is finally adjudicated or otherwise settled. 

Additionally, your request does not identify any currently existing record. The creation of periodic “status updates” is not an obligation imposed upon public bodies by Louisiana Public Records Law, La. R.S. 44:1, et seq. Please direct future requests for press releases to our Communications Division at AGLandryNews@ag.louisiana.gov. If you have any further requests to make pursuant to La. R.S. 44:1, et seq., please let me know. 

With Best Regards,

Luke Donovan
Assistant Attorney General

Well, I can certainly understand that records of pending matters are exempted but how long is Landry going to let this languish? The victim has filed suit against the state and Union Parish but that is a civil matter. The rape is a criminal investigation. And while the AG is charged with defending the civil suit, the two are separate matters handled by separate divisions.

And what, exactly, does Donovan mean by “pending criminal litigation”? We have pending civil litigation and we have pending criminal prosecution. Again, they are separate, handled by separate divisions.

But then, Landry is nothing if not a publicity hound. He loves to see his name in print. He just doesn’t have the same enthusiasm for actual work. Take the theft from the DeSOTO PARISH Sheriff’s Office that was turned over first to Landry’s predecessor Buddy Caldwell and then to him to investigate because the victim of that theft was the local district attorney, creating for him a conflict of interests.

Landry never did complete that investigation which pre-dated the Union Parish rape case by two years. It was a federal grand jury that ended up indicting the employee involved.

And finally, there is the ALTON STERLING case which, following the U.S. Justice Department’s punting on the matter, was taken up by Landry last May. Nearly 10 months later, Landry has yet to give any indication as to when he will issue a report on that shooting by Baton Rouge police.

So, Ruth Wisher is stuck with the unenviable task of trying to make her boss look good. It’s not quite as daunting a task as that of Sarah Huckabee Sanders in trying to make a silk purse of the sow’s ear that is Donald Trump, but daunting nevertheless.

The glowing press releases will continue in Landry’s unabashed quest for the governor’s office while the real work of completing the investigation of the rape of a 17-year-old will continue to get short shrift because, realistically speaking, there are no votes to be gained in protecting the rights of a meth addict.

And that, readers, is the very definition of hypocrisy.

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