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In 2016, her first year as a member of the Louisiana Legislature, Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) successfully sponsored Senate Bill 466 which provided a procedure for the LSU Board of Supervisors and the Commissioner of Administration to seek approval from the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget and the legislature to proceed with the sale of a state hospital.

The bill, which may have stymied Bobby Jindal’s privatization blitz had it been in effect at the time he jettisoned state hospitals to private contractors, passed the House, 97-0 but met resistance in the Senate before passing by a 25-11 vote.

That same year, Hewitt sponsored Senate Concurrent Resolution 84 which, in a classic example of bureaucratic redundancy, requested the Division of Administration “to provide a report of all the reports required of the executive branch by statute and resolution.”

Inexplicably, in 2018, she voted against SB 117 by Sen. J.P. Morrell that would have required any state contractor to comply with the Louisiana Equal Pay for Women Act.

Typical of the backwater mentality of the Louisiana Republican Party and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) that has kept this state from entering the 21st Century, the bill failed by an 18-20 vote.

The resistance to legislating equal pay for women parallels the Louisiana Legislature’s stubborn insistence on beating back repeated efforts to raise the minimum wage in Louisiana. Even Arkansas has recognized that a person simply cannot subsist on $7.50 an hour.

But now Louisiana. I wonder if it has ever occurred to our political leaders that the determination to keep wages low might just have a little to do with the state’s perpetual bottom ranking in everything but poverty, obesity, crime and football?

That vote probably contributed in large part to her selection as “National Legislator of the Year” by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization noted for its rigidly conservative political positions that favor the privileged over those who actually get the work done.

ALEC has long been in lockstep with the Republican Party that promotes tax breaks for the wealthy and valuable incentives and exemptions for corporations while placing the tax burden on the working class.

ALEC likes to describe itself as non-partisan but that description is about as far from the truth as possible. The organization has a long and sordid history of supporting big oil, big pharma, banking and insurance companies over the rights of injured workers, minorities, the environment, affordable prescription drugs and public education.

And it opposes equal pay for women.

Was I being overly harsh in describing LABI and the Republican Party of obstructing progress in Louisiana? Perhaps, but consider this: In Louisiana, the earnings gap between men and women just happens to be the largest in the nation.

Progressive? Hardly.

Women in this state make 69 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same job, according to the Association of American University Women (AAUW).

But Hewitt apparently navigates on a level that puts her out of touch with reality. She holds a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from LSU and put that degree to good use managing major deepwater assets in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell Oil.

Chances are she received comparable pay as male engineers at Shell and I can only say good for her. She earned it.

But she seems to forget that not everyone can be so fortunate. Perhaps it never occurred to her as her career advanced that other women deserve equal pay for equal work as well.

There can be no rationalization for not recognizing that fact.

It reminds me of an old television commercial by Eddie Chiles who said, “If you don’t have an oil well, get one.” Which is just a cute way of saying, “I got mine; it’s too bad if you didn’t get yours.”

Just a touch of arrogance there. Personally, I’d rather own the Boston Red Sox or the New York Times. But you see, lofty aspirations like that are simply out of reach for the unwashed masses.

Equal pay should not be.

ALEC, which bestowed its “National Legislator of the Year” honors upon Hewitt, has among its membership corporations hit hardest with penalties for employment discrimination. ALEC member CSX Transportation was recently fined $3.2 million for employing unfair and unnecessary tests designed to steer women into lower-paying occupation. In 2005, ALEC member Federal Express was fined $3.4 million fir discrimination against a woman.

But be proud, Louisiana. A woman legislator just got a national award from ALEC.

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It was back in 1966 that a young telephone installer-repairman realized that climbing telephone poles was not his cup of tea. The hot summers and cold winters perched atop some utility pole in rural Union Parish attempting to resolve repeated outages in the Truxno community held no real appeal for him.

That, coupled with the fact that he was a terrible telephone technician and more than a little put off by real work, prompted him to start looking elsewhere for gainful employment.

It was about that same time that The Ruston Daily Leader was looking for an advertising sales rep. So, with zero experience, the 23-year-old man walked into Publisher Tom Kelly’s office and applied for the position. Kelly, at the time only 36 himself, gave him the job at a whopping $65 per week—a $5 cut from what he was making with what was then Southern Bell.

It didn’t take Kelly long to realize he’d made a grave mistake. It turned out the kid couldn’t sell mittens to an Eskimo. But he had been dabbling with writing a sports column on the side and Kelly spotted something, some quality still unknown to this day, and as a consolation prize, offered him the job of sports editor.

And that’s how my journalism career was launched. A few months later, while I was sitting at my desk, I got a call from then-Louisiana Tech assistant football coach George Doherty. “You want to take a ride with me tonight?” he asked.

“Where’re we going?”

“We’re going to Shreveport to sign a future NFL number-one draft choice.”

And that’s how I came to be sitting in the living room of one Bill Bradshaw when his son Terry signed his grant-in-aid scholarship with Louisiana Tech. I ran a photo of Terry signing his scholarship, beating The Shreveport Times in its own back yard. I wish I still had that photo. He had hair then.

And, of course Doherty was correct. Terry was the first player selected in the 1970 NFL draft and went on to win four Super Bowls as the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.

Earlier, in 1968, I left The Daily Leader for a job as news reporter for the Monroe Morning World where I worked for an outstanding editor, the late Jimmy Hatten. It was the same year I married my wonderful and beautiful wife Betty and sitting in the church during the ceremony was Tom Kelly. Hard to believe it’s been half-a-century.

Kelly would soon bring me back as city editor of The Daily Leader and while there, I wrote a short booklet about outlaws Bonnie and Clyde to coincide with the showing of the movie of the same name starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. It was also during that time that I made the decision to go back to school. I’d flunked out of Tech in 1962. Seems the importance of going to class didn’t really register with me then. But Tom Kelly taught me something that they didn’t teach in Tech’s journalism curriculum and that is, to paraphrase former House Speaker Tim O’Neill, all journalism is local. Tom drilled into my head that there are three critical times in a person’s life that must never be ignored: his birth, his marriage, and his death.

While pursuing a degree in journalism, was recruited by The Shreveport Times to run the north Louisiana bureau for The Times and Morning World in Ruston. Both papers were owned by the Ewing family and were good, solid publications, not the sorry excuses for newspapers they have become under the mismanagement of Gannett. (The Morning World has since consolidated with its afternoon sister publication and taken on its name, The News-Star.)

From there, my journalistic odyssey took me to Baton Rouge to work under the tutelage of Jim Hughes at the State-Times, the now-defunct sister publication of the Morning Advocate.

But Tom Kelly wasn’t quite finished with me yet. In 1976, he brought me back home to work as Managing Editor. I’d barely been there a week when there was an awful pipeline explosion in the Jackson Parish community of Cartwright that killed a retired couple and a mother and three of her children. As I walked up to the crater created by the blast, I could see a group of first responders about 200 yards away frantically waving and shouting to me. The heat from the ground around the massive hole in the ground began melting the rubber soles of my shoes, so I moved away quickly and started walking toward the group of men to learn what they were trying to tell me. And their message was there was another 30-inch gas line right next to the one that exploded. My knees immediately turned to something akin to Jell-O.

For New Year’s Day 1977, Tom Kelly sent out special invitations to the inaugural All-American Redneck Male Chauvinist Spittin’, Belchin’, and Cussin’ Society and Literary Club’s All-Day Poker Game and Dinner on the Grounds.

There were few rules but some of the most important ones:

  • Lots of music by Willie, Waylon, and Hank Williams;
  • No guns, knives, or other sharp objects allowed at the poker table;
  • The only hand to beat a Royal Flush was a real good redneck bluff;
  • Wimmenfolk was invited to do the cookin’ and bridge playin’, but they was forbidden to come into the poker room, sigh heavy, roll they eyes or say it was time to go.

At the time, The Daily Leader had an editorial writer, Rudolph Fiehler, PhD, a retired Louisiana Tech English professor.

Doc Fiehler knew nothing about poker, so he remained in the dining room playing bridge with the wimmenfolk. At one point, he got up and wandered into the poker parlor and stood watching us gambling away our life savings in nickel-ante poker.

Tom Kelly, spotting Doc, got up and offered him a seat at the poker table. Doc initially refused, saying he knew nothing about the game.

“We’ll tell you,” the five of us volunteered at once, smelling fresh blood for our game.

Doc did finally consent to sit in for a few hands. He was so foreign to the rules that we had to tell him when he had won.

And we had to tell him that far too often. Before the session was over, he possessed every nickel, dime and quarter at the table. We were busted he was $17.85 richer. One player threatened to ambush him on his way home. I still hold fast to the conviction that we were sandbagged.

As it is with life, we all moved on. I moved back to the Baton Rouge area, settling in nearby Denham Springs and Tom Kelly ended up back in Winn Parish where he had begun. A native of Gaar’s Mill, his first job was with the Winn Parish Enterprise. It was only natural that the yellow dog Democrat (a phrase coined by Harry Truman’s mother, who said she’d vote for a yellow dog before she’d vote Republican) would return to his roots. He founded The Piney Woods Journal in 1997. The monthly publication was geared to, but certainly not restricted to, Louisiana’s timber industry.

Earlier this week, I received an email that Tom sent to his correspondents:

This is to notify you officially that The Piney Woods Journal will cease operations under my ownership with the edition of May, 2019, completing 22 years of continuous publication. As of now, there are no buyer operators waiting in the wings to take over, and unless one steps up in the meantime, we will be closed.

This decision has not been made lightly. The Journal has become a part of the landscape in the region, largely because of your commitment to writing on subject matter that is of particular interest to a readership that has grown and remained loyal from the beginning. However, after several false starts, there appears to be no ready buyer waiting outside our door, and I am not able to do the things that I once did to contribute to the news/editorial/advertising mix that has made The Journal a unique media presence in what many continue to say is a dying industry. I would make a point that if it is dying, it is due to many self-inflicted faults (think Gannett, etc.) by a generation that believes that nothing is real except Google and Facebook.

This month, if I live to see it, I will be 88 years old. I have continuing health issues that prevent me from doing things I used to do on behalf of the paper, and which others are not in a position to do, for various reasons. My wife Miriam is entirely home bound with her own ailments. We have been at this together for thirty-five years. We live with pills and potions by the hour, and spend our most creative energies seeing after ourselves and, of course, our current “family” of growing puppies and their mama.

As the saying goes, it’s been real. And now our participation will end; unless there is a knock on the door down at 104 North Third, the Piney Woods Journal’s residence, with someone bringing a check to purchase our operation, we’ll see y’all in the funny papers.

 Good luck, good writing, and good life to all of you.

Needless to say, the announcement was like a punch in the gut. It caught me by surprise and produced an instant wave of nostalgia. The two of us had been through too many battles together and too many battles with each other for his message to be dismissed lightly.

I immediately fired off this message to Tom:

Tom, this truly saddens me on so many levels. Obviously, I share your sentiments about the death throes of news publications and I, too, place much of the blame on the Gannet and Facebook mentality. It’s an industry that I literally grew up in—as a man and as a journalist. But more than that, you and I have a connection that goes back more than 50 years and nothing can ever replace that. You took me under your wing and taught me about journalism. How you managed to have enough patience to do that I will never know, but know this: I will be forever grateful for that education and your tutorship and guidance. You are one of only a handful of people whom I admire and look up to and you will always be an inspiration and a source of encouragement to me. At the risk of sounding too maudlin, your announcement makes me feel as though I’ve lost something very personal—and I have.

Take care, my friend.

az

This was his response:

My greatest pride in the personal achievements in this profession that we follow are not in the words I write, but in the people I have been fortunate enough to bring in and help to grow as practitioners of our craft. Bill Davis. Eric Mahaffey. Nick Drewry. Jerry Pye. Derwood Brett. Buddy Davis. David Widener. David Specht. Several whose names have slipped my mind. And a brash, talented, industrious achiever of the writing arts named Tom Aswell. We called him Az. If I have left anything behind, it is in the talents of those who carry on even now. They all made me look better that I could have been alone.  Several of a new generation joined up as contributors for this latest enterprise, which has provided me a new level of satisfaction. 

Keep the faith. 

TK 

What you leave behind, Tom, is a legacy that no journalism class could ever hope to teach. You taught integrity, dedication, and a love for the written word to dozens of fortunate reporters, editors and interns who had the good fortune to walk through the door of the Ruston Daily Leader. I was one of those and I will be forever richer for the experience.

Just the good ol’ boys
Never meanin’ no harm
Beats all you never saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born

                                  —Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard by Waylon Jennings

The recent actions of State Rep. STEVE PYLANT (R-Winnsboro) most probably were not the intended consequences of the CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMS passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2017.

Pylant represents House District 20 which includes all or parts of the parishes of Caldwell, Catahoula, LaSalle, Tensas and Franklin.

In 2013, Pylant was one of only two members to vote against a bill to give special consideration to veterans of the armed forces who are arrested or convicted of a crime: “I support veterans 110 percent,” he sniffed at the time, “but when someone violates the law, we should be fair and impartial, no matter who they are. Everyone has problems … I don’t think it’s fair to be more lenient on some than others because of their military background.”

He currently serves a vice chair of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice and in 2015, he voted against reducing the penalties for the possession of marijuana.

The following year—and again in 2017—he voted against Senate Bill 180 (Act 343) which provided exemptions from prosecution for anyone lawfully possessing medical marijuana.

In 2017, he voted in favor of Senate Bill 70 (Act 108) that make misbranding or adulteration of drugs under certain circumstances a felony.

He also supported drug testing of welfare recipients and the right of concealed carry in restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages;

That seems about right for the man who, before entered the Louisiana Legislature in 2012, served for 16 years (1996-2012) as the high sheriff of Franklin Parish.

So, with all those law and order credentials, how did it come to be that Rep. (formerly Sheriff) Pylant would come galloping in on his white horse to secure a property bond of $90,000 to spring four convicted felons from jail in Catahoula Parish in December 2018?

Perhaps they weren’t members of the military, thus earning them greater consideration for leniency.

Or perhaps one of those arrested is the brother of a member of the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office and the judge, a tad more adherent to the law than those seeking to exert political influence, noted that he could not grant bail to one and not the others.

All or none, in other words, so Rep. Pylant obligingly ponied up the $90,000 property bond for all four defendants, each of whom had prior drug convictions as well as other assorted convictions spread among them.

The four were said to have been hunting on private property in Tensas Parish and were originally booked on promises to appear in Catahoula court on bonds of $5,000 each as set by Judge John Reeves. But Seventh Judicial District Attorney Brad Burget said when he reviewed the clerk’s file that showed the four were all convicted felons, he determined that “an appropriate bond” had not been set.

Booked on Dec. 8 were Jamie Dewayne Roberts, 45, Michael S. Linder, 49, and Trampas Barton, 43, all of Wisner, and Steve Drane, 50, of Gilbert.

Roberts, at the time of the arrests, was armed with a CVA Elite Stalker 35 Whelen rifle and in addition, had a concealed .22 magnum North American Arms revolver in his front pocket. Barton had a Model 7400 Remington 30.06 rifle. Linder had in his possession of CVA Elite Stalker 35 Whelen rifle, and Drane had a Browning A bold 325 WSM rifle.

Convicted felons are prohibited by law from possessing firearms.

Catahoula Parish Sheriff Toney Edwards said that after the four were booked, he received a call from Bryan Linder who asked that his brother, Michael Linder, be released on a PTA—promise to appear in court.

Bryan Linder works for the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office, the office once headed by Rep. Pylant, so it’s pretty easy to connect the dots on how things went down from that point.

But, for the moment, let us examine those felony conviction records of the four.

  • Jamie Dewayne Roberts: possession of methamphetamine in 2010; theft of anhydrous ammonia (used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, or meth) in 2016, an indication he didn’t learn much from his first conviction.
  • Trampas Barton: Distribution of methamphetamine in 2016, five additional convictions for burglaries and two more for drugs.
  • Michael S. Linder: Manufacture of methamphetamines.
  • Steve Drane: Manufacturing meth and on parole until 2021.

At least they weren’t involved in the possession or distribution of marijuana. That’s something Pylant, as your basic law and order representative, just couldn’t abide.

So thank your lucky stars you’ve got protection
Walk the line and never mind the cost
And don’t wonder who them lawmen was protecting
When they nailed the savior to the cross

                            —The Law is for Protection of the People, Kris Kristofferson

 

 

Rampant drug deals, police officers taking McDonald’s lunches to the police chief’s son at school, a fundraiser that reportedly raised $50,000 for a wounded officer which he never received, and termination of a department officer who only tried to do his job.

Just another day at the Jennings Police Department.

But every now and then, the good guys win one.

Christopher Lehman, a retired Navy veteran and a resident of Jennings, has reached a confidential SETTLEMENT believed to be in the six-figure settlement range with the City of Jennings and its former Police Chief for wrongful termination.

Lehman, who also is a retired federal government civilian employee, joined the Jennings Police Department in June 2013 as a community services coordinator after having reported suspicious activity on his street beginning back in 2011.

His duties with the Jennings PD included overseeing the city’s Neighborhood Watch program.

And his troubles began when he started watching his own neighborhood as a representative of JPD.

And someone didn’t like it so, in December 2015, he was suspended.

Generally, law enforcement officials are quick to tell you, “If you see something, say something.”

But it appears others don’t want people rocking the boat or airing the city’s dirty laundry, i.e. the proliferation of illegal—and unrestrained—drug activity. In short, upstaging the local police chief. And saying something can sometimes get you fired.

Remember: Jennings is in Jefferson Davis Parish and Jefferson Davis Parish is where the murders of eight prostitutes between 2005 and 2009 remains unsolved to this day. The victims were said to have been heavily involved in the area’s drug culture, the issue that was—and remains—at the center of Lehman’s termination.

Lehman, you see, took his duties seriously and when he began reporting suspected drug trafficking on Isabelle Street, his days as a member of the Jennings Police Department were numbered.

It just so happens that Lehman resides on Isabelle Street, so he had an up-close look at the activity on the dead-end street. Some days, as many as 100 vehicles made their way to the end of the street where a couple resided in a dilapidated mobile home that, it would turn out, was in violation of a number of local building codes.

None of the cars turning into the driveway of the trailer stayed more than a few minutes and when a suspicious Lehman installed a high-tech surveillance camera to record the comings and goings, his career at Jennings PD went south in a hurry.

Add to that atmosphere the fact that then-Police Chief Todd D’Albor, who referred to Lehman as his department’s “token nigger,” according to the sworn CLAUDE GUILLORY AFFIDAVIT, a 27-year veteran of the Jennings PD, and you have a department with internal problems.

Former officer Debbie Breaux testified in her SWORN DEPOSITION, that D’Albor would make her shuttle his son to and from school and to take his lunch to him at school each day. She also would take the city mower to the chief’s home so he could cut his grass (at least he didn’t have her perform that chore).

“I knew it was all wrong and I shouldn’t have been doing it,” she said in her deposition of Oct. 29, 2018, “but what was I supposed to do? He was the chief, he told me to do it. I have no protection. I’m not civil service. He could have fired me on the spot.”

And then there is the case of officer RICKY BENOIT, shot in the neck while responding to a domestic disturbance call in 2014..

Chief D’Albor spearheaded a skeet shoot and silent auction on Benoit’s behalf and reportedly raised about $50,000.

Problem is, Benoit says he never received a penny of the benefit money.

But it was the deposition of Jennings officer CHRIS WALLACE that proved to be really eye-opening. His testimony, along with that of Debbie Breaux and the affidavits of Guillory and Priscilla Goodwin, most probably convinced the city to settle Lehman’s case before it got to an open courtroom. It was Goodwin who revealed that D’Albor’s attitude toward Lehman changed after complaints that he was photographing vehicles on his street he suspected of being involved in drug dealings in the trailer at the end of the street.

Negotiated settlements in the conference room of a law office, after all, can keep a lot of embarrassing testimony from the public’s eyes and ears.

And a confidential settlement, as this was, helps keep the lid on the actual amount of the settlement and keeps any admission of fault out of the official record, as well.

Which is precisely why we’re seeing more and more confidential settlements of lawsuits that should be very public. It is, after all, public money that is being negotiated in these settlements and the public has a right to have every cent accounted for.

Instead, realizing it was about to get burned severely, both financially and in a public relations sense, the city decided to capitulate—as it should—with a confidential settlement—as it should not.

And the settlement amount does not even include the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on Douget Court Reporters for no fewer than 10 sworn depositions, attorney fees for Baton Rouge attorney Erlingson Banks, representing the city, as well as the cost of numerous court filings—all because D’Albor, who displayed a sign on his desk that read, “I am the alpha male—I am the Lion,” told Guillory when Lehman persisted in trying to expose suspected drug deals on his street, “I’m getting rid of our token nigger.”

D’Albor is no longer heading up the Jennings Police Department. He is now Police Chief of New Iberia, a city with its own law-enforcement problems, thanks in no small part to Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

Meanwhile, the drug deals continue, the murders of the Jeff Davis 8 remains unsolved, and the benefit money raised for officer Benoit remains unaccounted for.

And the circle just keeps going ‘round.

There are those like a certain former governor who see no good in any state employee. Perhaps that is why efforts were exerted to privatize every state government agency in sight and even to the extent of destroying one of the better teaching hospital systems in the country.

And gutting higher education’s budget only brought higher tuition costs, putting a college education out of reach of thousands of Louisiana students.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons Louisiana is the SEVENTH-FASTEST shrinking state in the nation, according to 24/7 Wall Street, a research organization that routinely publishes lists of the best and worst in a wide array of subjects.

Of course, another reason steeped in Louisiana tradition is the sordid history of CORRUPTION that has permeated the political culture of this state for longer than anyone reading this has lived.

And when you have a state legislature that ignores the well-being of the state’s citizens in favor of the corporate interests of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the oil and gas industry get first consideration, it’s no wonder that folks are a tad jaded.

Yet, thousands of state employees report to work each day to do jobs that go largely unnoticed—until something goes awry. Then, of course, all hell breaks loose. A civil servant gets fined for receiving an unsolicited Christmas ham from a vendor (that really happened), but another employee, an administrator, gets caught claiming time on the job while actually on vacation and nothing gets done.

Let a few rank and file state troopers drive across country for a conference at the direction of the State Police Superintendent and they are punished while the superintendent is allowed to retire—with full benefits.

Let another agency head trade sex with the manager of a restaurant in exchange for a permit to operate and nothing happens. But that same agency head dished out arbitrary punishment and fired employees for no cause and it took civil lawsuits to bring some measure of justice. And not even all of the lawsuits produced satisfactory results for the fired employees.

I write all that to say that while little seems to get done much of the time, there is one agency that has uncovered nearly $6.3 million in criminal violations, initiated investigations that have resulted in 51 criminal prosecutions that have resulted in produced 57 terminations or resignations.

A hard-charging, politically ambitious, headline-seeking prosecutor?

Nope. Just the work-a-day numbers-crunchers working for Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

From Jan. 1, 2015, through Nov. 13, 2017, Purpera’s office has submitted 108  investigative audits of local and state government agencies, boards and commissions and quasi-public entities. From those 108 investigative audits came 72 actual reports with 200 findings reported and 555 recommendations made.

summary of projects

An investigative audit, by definition, is far more serious than routine audits that agencies undergo on a regular basis. Before embarking on an investigative audit, there must be a reason for the auditor’s office to suspect some kind of wrongdoing.

The dollar amount covered in those 118 investigative audits was $148.96 million dollars with almost $6.3 million in alleged criminal violations turned up.

Some of the more high-profile investigative audits performed during the 22-month period included:

  • Misappropriation of funds by an employee of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • Misapplication of funds at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches;
  • Improper payments and tickets to athletic events at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette;
  • Improper expenditure of $268,000 by the Institute for Academic Excellence in New Orleans;
  • Improper expenditure of $360,000 by the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System;
  • Nearly $800,000 in seized cash assets was not deposited in the account of the 9th Judicial District Attorney in Rapides Parish;
  • Employees of the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Office improperly paid for 51 days that they did not work;
  • Numerous violations by management at Angola State Penitentiary which resulted in the resignation of Warden Burl Cain and others;
  • Nearly $200,000 in seized cash assets was not deposited in the account of the District Attorney’s Special Asset Forfeiture Fund as required by the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • Mismanagement and missing state equipment from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries;
  • Improper use of state vehicle, hotel rooms, personnel, meals and training facilities by management personnel of Louisiana State Police;
  • Improper use of $164,000 of state funds by two employees and a student worker, unauthorized use of student identification cards, unauthorized free meals totaling more than $12,600 and improper advances of financial aid to students at Grambling State University.
  • Failure of the Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority in New Orleans to collect more than $600,000 in boat slip rental fees.

So, while it’s easy to criticize civil servants, it’s important to understand that while the public perception may be one of “deadheads,” they are people just like you—people with mortgages, student debt, family illnesses, and myriad other concerns (again, just like you). They are your neighbors, your friends and your relatives and they show up for work every day—just like you. And they struggle to make ends meet—just like you.

Given that, it’s a little difficult for me to understand how someone like autocrat Trump can pretend to say he relates with 800,000 federal workers who are facing the second pay period without a paycheck.

It’s puzzling also that daughter-in-law/adviser Lara Trump calls the government shutdown during which federal employees have to resort to food banks to eat, hold garage sales to pay the rent, or worse, be ordered to work without pay thus preventing them from taking part-time jobs that do pay, “a little bit of a pain.” This privileged, self-centered little rich girl has never known “a little bit of a pain.” so, how the hell can she relate?

And how can Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett even dare to suggest that idled workers are better off because they’re benefiting from “a free vacation”? That’s unsurpassed arrogance.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took the prize by suggesting that federal workers simply run out to the corner bank or credit union and float a loan.

Perhaps Ross was trying to encourage them to borrow from the Bank of Cyprus that he once headed as it washed the money of Russian oligarchs.

All of this just so Trump can try to score some kind of vague point in order to say he’s a winner.

But my question to all those I’ve talked to who suddenly think a wall is of the utmost importance to the continued existence of a free and pure America is simply this:

Did you ever—even ONCE—consider the crushing need for a wall before Trump tossed the idea out as a throw-away line during a campaign stop in 2016? Did you know he was instructed to do that by his handlers only as a means of keeping him on topic?

Neither Trump, you, your mama, my mama, nor anyone else had ever given a wall a fleeting thought until then. Suddenly, it became the holy grail for all his followers who were unable to come up with an original thought of their own. And so, they fell in lockstep and followed, like so many sheep.

But there was another part to his promise that he has quietly dropped.

Mexico ain’t paying for it.

So, that’s my tribute to public employees, both state and federal and I hope to hell every one of them remembers our two U.S. Senators and five of our six U.S. Representatives who blindly support Trump’s every asinine utterance, tweet, and stumbling, bumbling, fumbling action.