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If you believe State Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), then have I got a deal for you on your extended used car warranty. And just to sweeten the deal, I can put you in touch with this Nigerian prince I know who is eager to smuggle $40 million out of the country and into your bank account.

But first, of course, you’ll have to verify all your personal email account information so that your computer may be reconfigured.

After you’ve done all that, you will be asked to agree to the most difficult condition of all: the concept that the Louisiana Ethics Commission is doing a great job of keeping legislators toeing the line of ethical behavior.

It’s not that we don’t buy what Sen. Smith is selling (which we don’t). It’s just that we’ve seen this movie before and the ending is always the same for this stale formula plot.

Here are the undisputed facts:

  • Brent Stevens, owner of a Los Angeles company called P2E, wants to move a defunct Bossier Parish casino to Slidell.
  • State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) has filed Senate Bill 243 to make the move happen.
  • The bill was heard by the Senate Judiciary B Committee, where it was approved by a slim 4-3 vote.
  • Committee Chairman Smith cast the deciding vote (how’s that for bipartisanship?).
  • Smith’s wife Katherine is one of – count ‘em – 19 lobbyists hired by P2E founder Brent Stevens to push for approval of the move.

This is the same DIAMOND JACKS Casino in Bossier City that Stevens earlier tried to relocate to a site east of Hammond on the Tangipahoa River which is better suited to accommodating tubers and bateau boats than a floating casino.

But what is certain is that in just about any other state, legislators would never vote on a bill being LOBBIED BY A SPOUSE It just ain’t done.

Smith, when asked about the apparent conflict of interest, ethics breach, subterfuge and/or (pick one) Louisiana tradition, said he didn’t even know that his wife, a veteran lobbyist, was working on that particular issue.

“She didn’t tell me,” he sniffed, adding that her involvement with the bill “would not change my opinion that letting the people of that area vote on the issue is the correct vote.”

He said he does not discuss his wife’s clients or issues with her.

Perhaps they should communicate more so as to avoid such ethics questions in the future.

Seriously, if you buy that line, you’ve probably already purchased that car warranty, sent “good faith” money to the Nigerian prince and given up all your personal email information.

But if you have any money left to fritter away, you can always place a generous bet that the Ethics Commission will take decisive action in this matter.

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There are only nine days left in our April fundraiser. Unlike other blogs, we don’t bug you every other day for contributions to keep us afloat.

We’re not in the throes of financial ruin nor is there a threat of impending doom to LouisianaVoice if we don’t raise some arbitrary amount by the end of the day.

We simply ask that you contribute what you can to help us meet expenses like travel costs, public record charges and the occasional legal consultation to prod some agency to surrender requested records.

If you are not in a position to help, our efforts to ferret out stories like the ones below will continue and we will never institute a paywall to make readers subscribe to our stories. Neither will we clutter this site with advertisements (sorry, we can’t control our platform host which does slap ads on our site without our permission or approval).

So, if your are so inclined, you may contribute by credit card by clicking on the yellow DONATE button to the right of this post. If you prefer, you may mail a check to: LouisianaVoice, P.O. Box 922, Denham Springs, Louisiana 70727. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your contribution is fully tax-deductible.

Also, anyone contributing $100 or more will get a signed copy one of my latest books: Murder on the Teche: A True Story of Money and a Flawed Investigation; Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption, or Bordello on the Bayou, a fictional story based loosely on the Baton Rouge Madam of several years ago. Please state your preference and provide your mailing address.

As always, we appreciate our readers.

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No one is really sure who first said, “You can always tell when a politician is lying: his lips are moving,” but LouisianaVoice has come up with our own variant to that adage that while not completely original, is certainly applicable.

You can always tell when a politician is feeling the heat: He first attacks the source of his problem and then he rolls out the character witnesses to attest to his integrity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jeff Landry, current attorney general and would-be future governor of the gret stet of Looziana.

April hasn’t been exactly kind to Landry.

Were it not for the gravity of the charges against a former top Landry aid, the attorney general’s reactions would almost be laughable.

Instead, the behavior of the state’s top lawyer has quickly evolved into a display of self-righteous indignation and reprisals that only serve to further tarnish an already beleaugured office.

And a lawsuit filed by Landry over a stray cat might have been funny had it not ended up costing taxpayers $20,000 in fines against the state. More about that later.

After word leaked out of a whistleblower complaint against then-criminal division Director Pat Magee, the Baton Rouge Advocate made a routine public records request for results of an investigation conducted by an outside law firm. Landry’s response was to file a lawsuit against the reporter who made the records request.

He lost that lawsuit, which was something of an embarrassment for Landry and his office but the records he eventually released were heavily redacted but did reveal that an internal memorandum placed the blame for Magee’s alleged harassment not on Magee, but on the whistleblower who Landry said may have been guilty of sexual harassment himself for not making his complaint sooner than he did.

On Tuesday, Landry paraded a host of WOMEN STAFFERS out at a press conference in an attempt to discredit the whistleblower, former Assistant Attorney General MATTHEW DERBES who has resigned because of what he described as retaliation by Landry. Derbes has retained an attorney. He has filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a first step to filing a lawsuit on retaliation and employment discrimination against the attorney general’s office.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Sandra Schober, deputy director of the AG’s administrative services division, said that while Magee clearly engaged in inappropriate workplace conversations but that his actions failed to rise to the level of sexual harassment. Because Landry continues to refuse to release all the records of the investigation, Schober’s reasoning remains more than a little vague.

Landry, who has a QUESTIONABLE PAST as a deputy sheriff in St. Martin Parish is quick with the lawsuit trigger finger but REFUSED to sign onto a letter that dozens of other state attorneys general sent to the U.S. Department of Justice condemning the right-wing insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. His refusal, of course, was because he was INSTRUMENTAL in the attack.

Landry also got smacked down in another COURTROOM BATTLE against Gov. John Bel Edwards’s emergency declaration as the COVID-19 pandemic was spiking and before that, he lost a case in St. Martin Parish when he challenged actions by local and state election officials from accepting private, nonprofit funds to help them run elections during the pandemic.

 Then there is that MURKY STORY about a firm owned by Landry importing Mexican workers with the assistance of a felon who had broken federal immigration laws. Landry, of course, is quite outspoken in his opposition to illegal immigration.

Landry even went on a TWITTER RANT that was riddled with incorrect information and which generated tons of ridicule for the state’s top lawyer and which earned him the title of “the stupidest lawyer in the United States” – definitely not the kind of publicity a potential candidate for governor should want.

The latest humiliation for Landry’s office came when the Third Circuit Court of Appeal recently upheld a lower court judge who sanctioned the LSU Veterinarian Teaching Hospital for filing a FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT against a good Samaritan who agreed to pay up to $2,000 for treatment of a stray cat but ended up paying $4,000 and then getting sued by the attorney general’s office for an additional $1,200.

And the cat died.

There’s another adage that is relevant in Landry’s case: “Lawyers are the only persons in whom ignorance of the law is not punished.”

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If you like stories with substance like the one below this post, please consider helping LouisianaVoice continue the kind of investigative stories we’ve featured here for the past 10 years.

We’re in the middle of our April fundraiser and I humbly ask those of you who have not been impacted by the pandemic to help support our efforts. We only do this twice a year, in April and September. We don’t have a huge budget but we do have expenses.

You can contribute by credit card by clicking on the yellow DONATE button to the right of this post or you may mail a check to LouisianaVoice, P.O. Box 922, Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726. With the crippling of the postal service by the current Postmaster General, I hope your contributions will arrive by the September fundraiser.

I have a new book coming out and anyone contributing $125 or more will received a signed copy. The book is featured below and I think you’ll find it interesting. It’s a true story about a murder that occurred in New Iberia 10 years ago about which many questions remain.

(The flyer above, which I did not write, is in error: Mrs. Chastant’s father did not work with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Department; a retired State Trooper, he worked as a deputy in another parish.)

Remember, LouisianaVoice is a 501(c)(3) non-profit which means all contributions are fully tax-deductible.

As always, thank you for your continued support of LouisianaVoice.

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A lot of people missed the significance attached to State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson’s reelection campaign of 2019 when she attempted to disqualify her opponent. The courtroom battle between her and challenger Allen H. Borne, Jr., a New Orleans attorney, should have produced a flood of questions from the media, the state ethics board and the LOUISIANA JUDICIARY COMMISSION.

But it didn’t because a lot of people dropped the ball.

Here’s what happened.

Borne did not sign the qualifying papers for the election, sending instead his agent to do so and Carter Peterson seized on that technicality to challenge his candidacy. She sued and won at the district court level.

He appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and one of the members of the three-judge panel which heard the appeal was Judge Regina Bartholomew Woods. Guess who served as a co-chair of her election campaign? Why, none other than Karen Carter Peterson.

And, surprise – the appellate court upheld the civil district court in denying Borne a place on the 2019 ballot. It took a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling to overturn the two lower courts but by then, Borne was late getting to the starting gate and he never really had a chance, losing by an overwhelming percentage point margin of 79-21.

It gets better.

Dryades YMCA, thanks to the efforts of Carter Peterson, was approved for $2.8 million in PRIORITY 1 FUNDING (See page 80) last year with another $5.1 million slated for Priority 5 funding for an ambitious expansion program.

In its Non-Government Organization (NGO) REQUEST FOR FUNDING, Dryades answered “None” to the question “[Is] any elected or appointed state official or an immediate family member of such an official is an officer, director, trustee, or employee of the recipient entity who receives compensation or holds any ownership interest therein[?].

While the Dryades response was technically accurate, Kenneth Carter, who died last year, and Sidney Cates IV each served on the board of the organization in the past and current board member Darren Mire is President of BOLD, the organization which Sidney Cates V serves as Political Director.

There’s more.

Sidney Cates IV and Carter Peterson’s father, Kenneth Carter, were once partners in a firm hired by the New Orleans City Council to regulate energy companies in the city.

Moreover, Kenneth Carter was a co-founder of the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a political organization based in Central City. Sidney Cates V is the political director of BOLD which endorsed Cates IV in past elections.

Sidney Cates IV is a former member of the Dryades YMCA board and when Nu-Lite Electrical Wholesalers FILED SUIT against Dryades YMCA and others for breach of contract in 2013, the case was assigned to – you guessed it – Sidney Cates IV.

There is no question that Judge Woods should have recused herself from hearing Borne’s appeal and Cates IV certainly should have bowed out on the Nu-Lite litigation.

She didn’t and he didn’t and that in turn illustrates in glaring terms the shortcomings of the Louisiana Judiciary Commission and the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

The purpose of all this is not to lament Borne’s loss or to consider the merits of a contract dispute but to point out the underlying political power structure in New Orleans and the Louisiana Legislature and how it may well determine who the next U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District will be.

The obvious influence of Sen. Peterson in obtaining an appropriation of $7.9 million for a non-governmental entity like the Dryades YMCA on which Judge Cates’s father once sat as a board member and in which capacity BOLD President Darren Mire still serves underscores the incestuous political status quo in the Crescent City.

And that’s the atmosphere heading into Saturday’s congressional election between Carter Peterson and State Sen. Troy Carter.

It’s not something the state should be proud of.

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