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“No good deed goes unpunished.”

“Karma’s a bitch.”

“What goes around comes around.”

No matter how you say it, good intentions sometimes bring unjust punishment and sometimes those good intentions result in very bad results.

Just ask Donald Broussard of New Iberia.

Last July 8, Broussard was rear-ended in Lafayette Parish by a hit-and-run driver who minutes later collided head-on with an 18-wheeler in adjacent Iberia Parish and was killed.

Yet it was Broussard who was indicted by an Iberia Parish grand jury last week for NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE.

You are probably thinking about now that there has to be more to this story—and you’re right, there is more to it.

You see, Broussard did the unpardonable: On July 1, a week before the auto accident, Broussard was the impetus behind a RECALL of Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

Broussard was one of the organizers of the Justice for VICTOR WHITE III Foundation which filed a petition last July 1 to force a recall election.

White, you may recall, was the 22-year-old who died of a gunshot wound while in the back seat of a sheriff deputy’s patrol car in March 2014. The official report said the gunshot was self-inflicted. The coroner’s report said he was shot in the front with the bullet entering his right chest and exiting under his left armpit. White’s hands were cuffed behind his back at the time.

Ackal, of course, skated on that issue and was later indicted, tried and acquitted on federal charges involving beating and turning dogs loose on prisoners, proving beyond any lingering doubts that he is a force to be reckoned with. But when you’ve got retired federal judge and family member FRED HAIK helping with the defense, you tend to land on your feet.

All of which brings us to the latest woes to beset Broussard.

The story in Sunday’s Daily Iberian reads, “A New Iberia man who was instrumental in the drive to recall Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal last year has been indicted for manslaughter in the aftermath of an alleged road rage incident that left a Bossier City man dead in July.”

Here’s the chronology of events:

Moments before the fatal crash, Rakeem Blakes, 24, rear-ended a Cadillac driven by Broussard at the corner of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and U.S. 90 in Lafayette Parish which is just up the road apiece from Iberia Parish.

Broussard said he followed Blakes after Blakes fled the scene when Broussard approached his car but denied that he chased Blakes. “The guy hit me,” Broussard said. “I got within 20 feet of him so I could get his license plate number. I gave it (the license number) to the (911) dispatcher and they told me to fall back, so I fell back.” Broussard said reports that he had a gun were ridiculous. “I don’t even own a gun, he said. “I told the State Police they could search my car. They just handed me my license and let me go on my way.”

Broussard said Blakes was driving erratically, causing a hazard for other drivers.

Sixteenth Judicial District Attorney Bo Duhé said the case involving Broussard was turned over to his office for review in November following completion of the LSP investigation.

In what has to be one of the most convoluted reviews of any investigation, Assistant District Attorney Janet Perrodin presented the case and the grand jury last Friday returned a true bill indicting Broussard for manslaughter and “aggravated obstruction of a highway,” which led to Blakes’ death.

Unexplained in this bizarre episode was how Broussard created an “aggravated obstruction” when it was Blakes who rear-ended him and subsequently fled the scene. Duhé, in some pretty fancy verbal footwork, said state law allows a manslaughter charge to be brought when an offender “is engaged in the perpetration of any intentional misdemeanor directly affecting the person. Aggravated obstruction of a highway is the performance of any act on a highway where human life may be endangered,” he said.

That’s one helluva stretch, Mr. DA. It’s also one of vaguest laws ever cited in bringing an indictment against someone. I mean, go back and read it.

Manslaughter: when one is “engaged in the perpetration of any intentional misdemeanor directly affecting the person.”

Aggravated obstruction of a highway: the “performance of any act on a highway where human life may be endangered.”

And we know that a district attorney can make a grand jury dance a ballet in a septic tank if he so desires. It’s all in what information is provided the grand jury and what is withheld. By those definitions, any one of us could be arrested, jailed, tried and convicted at just about any time for any perceived offense.

But we won’t be. This was tailored just for Mr. Broussard who had the temerity to take on a powerful sheriff who has shown his proclivity to exact revenge against those who would dare stand up to his authority.

Broussard’s bond on the manslaughter charge was set at $75,000 and bond for the aggravated obstruction charge was set at $10,000.

Given any semblance of justice, there’s not a chance in hell of a conviction.

But whoever said there was a semblance of justice in this ludicrous drama being played out in the heart of Acadiana?

Only the most naïve of the naïve would discount a good-ol’-boy, back scratchin’ network within the local power structure, especially if it benefits a powerful sheriff bent on revenge against an adversary. Even if that adversary  is, by all appearances, innocent of any wrongdoing other than making the sheriff angry.

The recall effort eventually failed for a lack of sufficient signatures but that doesn’t mean that Ackal doesn’t have a long memory and the propensity to call in favors from friends in the right places.

And even if the charges are dropped or if Broussard is acquitted, it’s going to cost him plenty in legal fees.

And that’s how you spell revenge when you are a ruthless sheriff who can tweak the so-called justice system to do your bidding.

As I listened to testimony on Public Radio during Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearings on efforts by Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, I was struck by a number of things, all of which precipitated thoughts that were something akin to, for lack of a better term, free-association.

I’m not into psychoanalysis or Freud, but it was borderline eerie how the testimony carried me back through this country’s darkest moments, culminating with the traumatic years of Watergate and Richard Nixon.

Three similarities struck me all at once, similarities that are not so much striking as chilling.

First, the indignant shock of having an adversary interfere with our elections is nothing more than what the old folks back in Ruston used to call the chickens coming home to roost.

This is in no way meant to apologize for Donald Trump because, quite frankly, he scares me to death. Nor am I justifying meddling in our electoral process by Vladimir Putin. If he did corrupt our democratic process—and all evidence certainly points to that—it is reprehensible on his part and treasonous on the part of any American, including Trump, who might have had a hand in that scheme.

But I would suggest it might be a bit disingenuous to beat our breasts about interference in free elections when one considers our own track record in that dark little chapter of American history that they don’t teach in schools.

Political scientist DOV LEVIN, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University, has conducted independent research that shows that the U.S. attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries at least 81 times between 1946 and 2000. Those efforts, often covert in their execution, included everything from CIA operatives running successful presidential campaigns in the Philippines during the 1950s to leaking damaging information on Marxist Sandinistas in order to sway Nicaraguan voters in 1990. Altogether, the U.S. likely targeted elections in 45 sovereign nations around the world during this period.

The second thing that struck me was the concern over leaks expressed by committee members during the questioning of FBI Director James B. Comey and National Security Administration Director Admiral Michael S. Rogers. Some seemed far more concerned with leaks of classified information about surveillance of American citizens than with the accuracy of what has been going on with the Trump administration and its close ties with Russia. U.S. Rep. Trey GOWDY (R-S.C.) used most of his time trying to establish that there was no exception for reporters who published classified material. He hinted that those reporters should be prosecuted for publishing classified information.

He’s a poor student of history—and of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech and a free press via the First Amendment.

He also must have a short memory, or perhaps he’s just a lot younger than I.

In the dustup to Watergate, the Nixon administration in 1971 did its dead-level best to squelch the publication by The New York Times of a highly classified document that came to be known as THE PENTAGON PAPERS.

Officially entitled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, it was a U.S. Department of Defense history of the U.S. political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.

So dull was most of its narrative that it could have served as a cure for insomnia. But other parts literally crackled with insights into how Lyndon Johnson “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress,” wrote The Times. The papers also revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scale of the war by bombing nearby Cambodia and Laos and conducted coastal raids on North Vietnam, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.

The papers were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the study.

And before there was a Watergate break-in of the Democratic Party headquarters on June 17, 1972, there was the September 1971 break-in of the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist by Nixon’s White House Plumbers, so called because of their attempts to stop leaks.

Now, nearly half-a-century later, Trump advisor Stephen Bannon says the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and admonishes them to “keep its (sic) mouth shut and just listen for a while.” He is followed by Rep. Gowdy who suggested on Monday that reporters should be prosecuted for publishing classified information.

Well, looking back some 46 years, the publishing of the Pentagon Papers was probably the best thing that ever happened to this country because it revealed just how duplicitous our Vietnam policy was and just how badly—and often—our leaders lied to us. So I can’t help but wonder if the leaks of classified information today may be yet another informational breakthrough that will ultimately expose even more lies and deceit.

Which brings me to my third point.

So, perhaps Gowdy and his colleagues should not wax so indignant about leaks. Perhaps they should tone down their rhetoric a bit because there were some other stories, editorials and essays which appeared in The Nation magazine over a period of six decades as layer after layer was peeled off the rotting onion that was Watergate—and beyond—which turned out to be eerily prophetic in their characterization of Nixon and what might follow if we as a responsible electorate did not remain vigilant and informed.

Those essays, editorials and stories have been compiled into a fascinating book entitled Smoking Gun: The Nation on Watergate, 1952-2010. Following are excerpts from that book.

Robbins Burling, on Dec. 10, 1973, wrote an article headlined “Impeachment—or Else: The Future of the Presidency.” Here are a few highlights from that article:

  • “Our most serious danger is not the tyranny of the next few years. It is that if we fail to root out the tendencies toward tyranny shown by the present (Nixon) administration, we shall set precedents that will lead inexorably to more vicious tyrannies in the future. How do we prevent, not just in the years but in the decades to come, a repetition of the horrors that we have recently endured?”
  • “Would-be tyrants will always aspire to the Presidency, and an occasional rascal is certain to gain the office. What we need is to remake the Presidency so that such men cannot do irreparable damage.”
  • “If the President escapes punishment this time, every future President will know himself to be immune from punishment. It will not be long before another man with tyrannical inclinations turns his own band of henchmen loose upon the nation. The next time we may not have a Congress controlled by the opposition party. The next group of burglars may be less clumsy than the bunch that bungled the Watergate job. If future Presidents know they are safe from punishment, we can be certain that they will abuse their powers. They will subvert the system that put then into office.”

Nearly nine months later and only three weeks after Nixon’s Aug. 8, 1974, resignation, Mark Harris on Aug. 31 wrote a scathing article entitled “Nixon: A Type to Remember.” In it, he listed some of Nixon’s characteristic traits:

  • He asserts that poor people are dishonest (“welfare chiselers”) but he lines his own pockets.
  • He prefers capital punishment, prisons and other forms of punishment to rehabilitation and education.
  • He favors legislation assisting the rich, the powerful, the corporate and the military.
  • He is always discussing himself, even when he hopes you will think he is talking about, say, international relations.
  • He suddenly reverses himself.
  • He denies that he will reverse himself.
  • He presents himself as a “manly” man.
  • He commands young men to go to war, but he does not wish to pay his taxes.
  • He employs the media to publicize himself; he condemns the media when they displease him.
  • He calls for “unity” while dividing.
  • He advocates economy but he spends lavishly, especially for such products as military machinery.
  • He speaks often of bargaining from strength (but) when he traveled to Russia his situation was weaker than any President’s had ever been.

But it was Gene Marine, writing “What’s Wrong With Nixon?: Public Life of a Cardboard Hero” way back on the Aug. 18, 1956, when Nixon was still Eisenhower’s Vice President, who said it best:

  • “Among Nixon’s critics the idea is widespread that he is quite without convictions (and) that the cardboard figure he presents is in fact all there is to him: the face turned ever toward personal gain, the back turned always on scruple or principle—no more to him than that.”

And now, as the House Intelligence Committee plows through information on leaked documents—then and now—interference in democratic elections—then and now—and shadowy deals by a paranoid, self-absorbed, President—then and now—does any of this bring on a faint sense of déjà vu?

ALUMNI?

Among all the things in state government we could (and do) point out and complain about, this might seem a bit trivial.

But why, at an institution of higher learning, would someone attach this license plate frame to his vehicle when he is the only occupant?

“Alumni” necessarily implies multiple occupants, all of whom are proud graduates. The proper term should be “alumnus,” which is the singular form.

And lest you think I’m picking on LSU, be assured that other schools are equally guilty. Louisiana Tech, ULL, ULM, Southern, Nicholls State, Grambling, McNeese, Southeastern….all of ’em sell these frames in their gift shops.

So do Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Georgia and most likely every other college and university in America—probably even the Ivy League schools.

Speaks wonders for higher education, does it not?

Oh well, just something I’ve wanted to get off my chest for quite a while.

By Stephen Winham, Guest Columnist

A Year After North Louisiana Flooded, seven Months after South Louisiana flooded, and while many are still trying to sort out their FEMA claims and other flood-related issues, we see the following headline about the much-touted “Restore Louisiana” program intended to bring additional aid the victims:

Louisiana scraps bids for flood recovery contract; governor’s office says redo shouldn’t cause delay [The Advocate, 3/18/2017]

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_a8f924c6-0b38-11e7-ad7b-3b13d83a0953.html

The day before, we saw much the same reported in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report Daily Report PM.

 https://www.businessreport.com/article/state-cancels-250m-contract-award-flood-relief-program-will-restart-contract-procurement-process?utm_campaign=dr_pm-2017_Mar_17-15_16&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dr_pm

 Reading these reports and remembering that the first state program for flood victims, “Shelter at Home”, ended with decidedly mixed reviews, we might well ask what my headline does.

In addition to our governor, our congressional delegation has fought long and hard for the approximately $1.7 billion in federal support secured for our state’s “Restore Louisiana” program.  And, the governor is seeking even more federal funding for the program, despite the fact no money has yet been distributed.

The Restore Louisiana Task Force was created by executive order of the governor on September 2, 2016, to provide the program’s framework.  That was a good start, coming only 3 weeks after the south Louisiana Flood.  This 21-member panel held its first meeting in mid-September and our congressional delegation was able to get a commitment of some $500 million right away, something many considered remarkable.

The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in mid-October the imminent release of 88% of the first $500 million grant.  About that same time, Hurricane Matthew struck other southeastern states, but that crisis was not expected to delay Louisiana’s grant.  By late October it was announced the initial $438 million would come in the form of semi-flexible HUD grants to be used for housing and small business needs.

In late October, the task force delayed making recommendations due to infighting among the members on fair distribution of the first $438 million while the governor was still promising to go for a total of $4 billion.  Basically, the members couldn’t decide who should get money first and how much they should get.  Sound familiar?  Surely politics was not at play here.

By the time Gov. Edwards went back to D. C. to beg for more money in early November (one of a total of 7 times he would do so), our congressional delegation was finding support difficult in light of the fact nothing had come of the initial $438 million to address purportedly emergency needs.  U. S. Rep. Garrett Graves (R-Baton Rouge) was particularly vocal about this.

In mid-November, the task force came up with a plan for $405 million of the money with priority on needs of the poor, elderly and disabled.  They correctly projected that jumping the many bureaucratic hurdles to implementation would likely require several months before the first dollar was actually used to repair or replace flood-damaged homes.

In early December, an additional $1.2 billion in funding began to make its way through Congress.  The estimated flood damage in the state totaled $8.7 billion with damage to over 113,000 homes.  The task force published an action plan for the initial aid to HUD to be submitted the first week of January 2017.

At the end of December HUD awarded the additional $1.2 billion, bringing the total to almost $1.7 billion available for the Restore Louisiana program.  All the money came with bureaucratic strings attached.  These strings were blamed for the continued delay.

In late January, the task force met to present a breakdown of how the money would be distributed.  Many people questioned the fact that 19%, or $315 million, was allocated for administrative costs.  Pat Forbes, director of the state office of Community Development said the 19% was a cap and that administrative costs would be kept as low as possible.  He also pointed out that administrative costs associated with Hurricane Sandy in 2012 were 45% of the total.

Now, consider that paragraph again.  Are we to believe we are getting a bargain if administrative costs are only 19%.  And, how can anybody justify administrative costs of 45% attributed to Hurricane Sandy?

In early March, the state awarded a contract for $250 million (about 15%) which was $65 million less than the second-place bidder (what a coincidence that this $315 million equaled the cap in the task force report).  Then, the second-place bidder filed a protest claiming the winner did not have the commercial contractor’s license required by law.  Other losing bidders were expected to follow suit.  Oddly enough, the State Licensing Board for Contractors pointed out in its ruling that neither the first nor second place bidders had the required license at the time they made the bids.  Imagine that.

The administration claims re-bidding will not further slow the program down because it will be possible to make a new award quickly.

A quote from the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report PM on March 17 by Rep. Graves:

“This is very disappointing news,” Graves says. “This will further delay the allocation of badly needed flood relief funds that we appropriated in September. It is impossible to explain to flood victims why $1.6 billion in recovery dollars are stuck in the bureaucracy, while homes remain gutted, moldy and uninsulated.”

I’m with Congressman Graves on this one. He has been rightly critical of the failure to implement this program for months. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it is utterly ridiculous to hold up funding for over a year for some people for an EMERGENCY from which they are still suffering.  To say the people needing this assistance are long overdue is to grossly understate the situation.

We all deserve to know what will be done for the $250 million (or more) in the management contract – What, exactly, is the contractor going to do and at what hourly and other rates? Have we considered it might be cheaper for the state to do this, even if it had to hire people on a temporary basis? The state already has at least some of the things in place the contractor may charge for based on responses to the original RFP.  I realize we have all been led to believe the state is incapable of doing anything cheaper than the private sector, but I’ve not seen enough evidence to convince me.

Examining the records of the task force shows it never actually predicted the money would start to flow to the people who need it before about now.  I honestly thought the timeline was much shorter and that we were willing to pay the exorbitant costs of the management contract because we needed the swiftest action possible. I certainly did not realize nothing was going to happen before now, so I clearly was not paying enough attention.  I have to believe I was not alone.

Since we are now going to start over with the award of the contract, I sincerely hope somebody will look very closely at the proposals to ensure we are paying a fair price for what we will be getting.  We’ve already wasted this much time on bureaucratic B. S. so why not spend at least a few days more before rushing into another contract.   Meeting HUD requirements would seem to be the current major holdup, so it’s not like taking a little more time now would be wasted and it could result in more money for those in need.

Note:  I must credit the excellent reports in The ADVOCATE by Elizabeth Crisp and Mark Ballard and in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report by Stephanie Riegel upon which I based most of my research for this column.

If there is one thing we’ve learned in the six-year existence of LouisianaVoice, it’s that if there is a political rumor floating around out there, there is generally at least a grain of truth to it.

That’s why there was no great surprise at the faint rumblings that the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association might be making a quiet push for the appointment of Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy to succeed Mike Edmonson as Superintendent of State Police.

Never mind that in Wednesday’s meeting during which Edmonson told his staff he was stepping down, he is said to have accused Dupuy of undermining him in the aftermath of that ill-fated trip to San Diego that ultimately proved to be Edmonson’s undoing.

(Incidentally, that schmaltzy six-paragraph formal statement issued by Edmonson on Wednesday as he announced his retirement was written not by Edmonson, but by Ronnie Jones, Chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. Apparently, Edmonson was more comfortable with a ghost writer than in formulating his own, heartfelt statement.)

But back to the appointment of a successor to Edmonson.

Gov. John Bel Edwards will make the appointment and if he’s adept at political hindsight, he will proceed very carefully with making this decision. He has already been publicly embarrassed by bending to the will of the sheriffs in reappointing Edmonson. He should be extremely careful about heeding the advice of the sheriffs a second time.

If Edwards chooses to listen to the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association (LSA) again without giving thorough and careful consideration to the qualifications of a number of capable, better qualified candidates, he will have proven himself as much of a political hack as anyone who has ever occupied the governor’s office.

There are several things the governor should consider before rushing in to anoint Dupuy as the next superintendent:

  • Dupuy is Edmonson’s second in command and as such, is very much a part of the overall problems of low morale now plaguing LSP—brought on by the proliferation of the good-ole-boy fraternity of upper management.
  • It was the state vehicle assigned to Dupuy—a Ford Expedition, that was driven by four troopers to that San Diego conference. That necessarily means Dupuy had to have approved the use of the vehicle for that purpose.
  • One of the occupants of that vehicle, Maj. Derrell Williams submitted expense reports that contained Dupuy’s signature of approval.

Dupuy was already a captain when Edmonson was appointed superintendent by Bobby Jindal in 2008. He was promoted to major on Jan. 28, 2010, two years after Edmonson’s appointment. Less than a year later, on Jan. 10, 2011, Dupuy was moved up to Deputy Superintendent for Operations Planning and Training.

Edmonson kept Dupuy on the career fast track, promoting him again on April 9, 2012, to Assistant Superintendent and Chief of Staff. Over that timeframe, Dupuy’s salary went from $80,000 to $161,300, an increase of 101.6 percent even as state civil service employees have been denied 3 percent cost of living increases.

Nor has that largesse been limited to Dupuy. His wife, Kelly Dupuy, was a sergeant making $59,800 when Edmonson was appointed top cop. Her acceleration through the ranks has been equally impressive. She was promoted to lieutenant on Oct. 27, 2009, just three months before her husband was promoted to major. She made captain on Oct. 25, 2014, and today makes $117,000 per year. That computes to a 95.6 percent pay increase since 2009.

Moreover, the current positions held by Kelly Dupuy and Edmonson’s brother, Maj. Paul Edmonson, did not exist before their respective promotions; their positions were created especially for them to be promoted into in the same manner in which a lieutenant colonel’s position was created last August at the specific request of Mike Edmonson on behalf of Jason Starnes.

If all that is not reason enough to give pause to Edwards in his decision on a successor to Edmonson, consider that Dupuy was Edmonson’s hatchet man when Edmonson literally tried to destroy the career of one of his troopers over a largely manufactured incident in 2010—all because the trooper had been involved in a previous confrontation with Dupuy. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/21/a-word-of-caution-to-state-troopers-dont-anger-the-powers-that-be-if-you-dont-want-legal-problems-like-case-from-2010/

So now the apparent frontrunner for Edmonson’s job is Charles Dupuy. He is being supported by the sheriffs and the sheriffs have the ear of the governor. From our vantage point, it would seem that Dupuy is positioned perfectly to move into Edmonson’s chair and to wreak havoc on those he thinks may have been our sources.

And while it’s a point of some smug satisfaction to know that the people he suspects are not our sources (he’s not even close), it concerns us that he would use his newfound power and his vindictiveness to go after innocent people who have done nothing more grievous than to try to do their jobs in an honest, straightforward manner.

And nothing will have changed. The for sale sign will still be a fixture at LSP headquarters.

So, Gov. Edwards, be very careful. You have already made two serious mistakes in listening to the LSA and by acceding to its wishes in reappointing Edmonson and Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc. The situation there is every bit as much a ticking time bomb as LSP. You can ill-afford another Angola scandal and you certainly do not need to appoint someone at LSP who is just going to be a continuation of the current problems.

Without cleaning house at LSP and without making a wise appointment of a new reputable colonel with no political baggage, you will only be setting yourself up for more political problems that you don’t need and which will doubtless be exploited by those who want to see you fail.