Feeds:
Posts
Comments

With a flurry of (count ‘em) 37 bills dealing with gambling gaming, there is probably none more interesting to the folks in Tangipahoa Parish than identical bills introduced in the Senate (SB-417) and House (HB-438) that would facilitate the move of a Bossier Parish casino to property along the Tangipahoa River.

Brent Stephens is owner of the current license for Diamond Jacks in Bossier City. He and his company, Peninsula Pacific, acquired the license for Diamond Jacks in June 2016 after Legends, the previous owner, was released from bankruptcy the previous year. Stephens operates at least two other gaming properties in Louisiana—the Amelia Belle in Amelia in St. Mary Parish following Hurricane Katrina, and Evangeline Downs in Opelousas in St. Landry Parish.

His first choice for relocating Diamond Jacks was Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish but he encountered a couple of insurmountable snags: he couldn’t get political support and he couldn’t find any landowners willing to sell.

He then turned his attention to Tangipahoa Parish and was initially looking at sites around Manchac adjacent to I-55 but abandoned that idea for reasons known only to him.

He then settled on an area south and west of Hammond along I-12.

And though the governor has made a point of staying out of all the gaming legislation (with the exception of two: a non-gaming-related proposal involving Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans and one to permit gaming on land within 1200 feet of an authorized berthing site, both of which he supports, he has said he would sign the Tangipahoa Parish bill if it made it to his desk.

And that is one great big IF—as in, not likely.

Despite strong support from Parish President Robby Miller, the parish council, and 48 percent and a large contingent still undecided among Tangipahoa Parish voters, there remains two chances—slim and none—that the Tangipahoa River will become a Mecca for casino gamblers.

That’s because of the formation of a rather unique alliance against the proposal: Tangipahoa Parish churches and video poker.

Whoever coined the phrase that politics makes strange bedfellows was dead right. There can be no stranger bedfellows than fire-and-brimstone-breathing protestant ministers and video poker operators.

And while ministers can exert considerable influence, video poker operators are every bit as powerful, if not more so. That’s because while casino operators are prohibited from making political contributions, there are no such restrictions on the video poker industry.

Video poker interests are well-represented on both sides of the legislative aisles, meaning they spread a lot of campaign money around and enjoy substantial influence at the capitol.

Throw in State Rep. Sherman Mack and you have some formidable opposition.

  • Mack, from the Livingston Parish town of Albany, just happens to be Chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee.
  • Mack is casting a lustful eye at the district attorney’s office for the 21st Judicial District which includes the parishes of Livingston, St. Helena and….Tangipahoa.
  • That office is currently occupied by four-term DA Scott Perrilloux who is considered vulnerable.
  • Mack does not want to be labeled as a “pro-gaming” legislator should he decide to challenge Perrilloux.

HB-438 was introduced by Rep. Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula) and SB-438 by Sen. Bodi White (R-Central). Only White’s bill has made it out of committee (on March 20) and it now awaits debate on the Senate floor. Should it pass the full Senate, it will then be sent to Sherman’s committee where in all likelihood, it will die an ugly death.

And therein lies the real political story.

The bill does two things:

  • It authorizes the Tangipahoa River as a designated waterway on which gaming may be conducted, and
  • It calls for a parish-wide referendum.

But in case it passes the full Senate, makes it out of Mack’s Criminal Justice Committee, and gains approval by the full House, then and only then does the proposal move onto the State Gaming Board which would have to approve the move.

Because the Tangipahoa is barely large enough to entertain tubers and the occasional Bateau boat, it ain’t about to accommodate a full-blown floating casino. The alternative would be a “free-standing” casino and the odds of that getting approved are pretty long.

Just another example of the interesting political issues that color Tangipahoa Parish.

 

Advertisements

“Extending the doctrine of judicial immunity to include civil liability for alleged criminal conduct, as in this case, risks undermining the public’s trust in the judiciary, which I cannot countenance.”

—First Circuit Court of Appeal Judge William Crain, in his dissent in Wednesday’s decision that 4th JDC judges were entitled to “absolute judicial immunity” even though a lawsuit said all five judges were complicit in protecting a court clerk who was said to have destroyed court records.

“Judicial immunity is of the highest order of importance in maintaining an independent judiciary, free of threats or intimidation. But it is a judge-created doctrine policed by judges.”

—More of Judge Crain’s dissent.

Anyone remember Allyson Campbell?

If not, that’s understandable. After all, it’s been a couple of years since we had a STORY about her exploits in the 4th Judicial Court in Monroe. She’s the Monroe News-Star society columnist who showed up occasionally at her supposed full-time job as law clerk for 4th JDC Judge Wilson Rambo (gotta love that name; wonder if they have a judge named Rocky?).

On Wednesday, 12 of the 13 judges of the First Circuit Court of Appeal (only Judge Curtis Calloway did not hear arguments) dealt the self-promoting columnist/clerk a major setback when it ruled in an en banc (full court) decision that she does not enjoy “absolute immunity” from her actions in destroying court files and that a lawsuit against her may go forward.

But it was the dissenting opinion of one of the three judges who gave written opinions that makes for the best reading.

The ruling comes nearly two years after Louisiana Inspector General STEPHEN STREET found there was no “sufficient cause” to bring charges against Campbell for what witnesses said were repeated instances of her destroying or concealing trial briefs. For that matter, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Attorney General’s office also declined to pursue the matter, leaving only one state official, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, with the integrity and courage to call Campbell out for her actions.

She was also the central figure in:

  • The controversy that erupted when the Ouachita Citizen made a legal request for public records from the court—and was promptly sued by the judges for seeking those same public records.
  • The filing of a lawsuit by Judge Sharon Marchman against four fellow judges and Campbell over Campbell’s claiming time worked when she was actually absent—including time when she was in restaurants and/or bars for which she claimed time—and the four judges who Judge Marchman said were complicit in covering for her.
  • A complaint by Monroe attorney Cody Rials that Campbell had boasted in a local bar that she had destroyed Rials’ court document in a case he had pending before Judge Carl Sharp so that Sharp could not review it. One witness interviewed by Judges Sharp and Ben Jones quoted Campbell as saying that she had “taken great pleasure I shredding Rials’ judgment” and that she had given Rials a “legal f—ing.”

Now a DECISION by the First Circuit Court of Appeal, in overturning a lower court’s 2015 decision, has held that a lawsuit by Stanley Palowsky, III, against Campbell for damages incurred when she “spoliated, concealed, removed, destroyed, shredded, withheld, and/or improperly handled” his petition for damages against former business partner Brandon Cork may proceed.

At the same time, the First Circuit ruled that the five judges he added as defendants—Stephens Winters, Sharp, Rambo, Frederic Amman and Jones—for allowing Campbell “free rein to do as she pleased and then conspiring to conceal (her) acts” enjoyed “absolute immunity” from being sued and were dismissed as defendants despite their repeated denials that any documents were missing from the Palowsky file.

Palowsky argued that Campbell undertook her acts with malice and to obtain advantages for his opponents in the lawsuit. Moreover, he argued that Campbell’s supervising judges, Amman and Rambo, “did not just sit back quietly and let Campbell commit such acts, they actively worked and schemed to cover up her actions.”

Palowsky also said that Campbell’s wrongdoings “have been reported time and again by different attorneys in different cases and investigated time and again by defendant judges but have nevertheless been allowed to continue. It is now painfully apparent that not only has Campbell been unsupervised and uncontrollable for years, but defendant judges have actively schemed to allow her conduct to continue unabatedly (sic).”

Campbell, who doubles as a society columnist of sorts (if one really stretches the definition of the term) for the News-Star, is obviously her own biggest fan—unless you count her stated infatuation for Cork’s attorney Thomas Haynes, III, about whom she wrote in one of her columns that he…had the “IT” factor, “a somewhat undefinable quality that makes you and everyone else around stand taller when they enter the room, listen a little more closely, encourage you to take fashion or life risks, make each occasion a little more fun and generally inspire you to aim to achieve that ‘IT’ factor for yourself.”

If they taught that method of courtroom coverage in my Louisiana Tech journalism classes, I must have been absent that day.

Needless to say, the First Circuit upheld the lower court in expunging that paragraph from Palowsky’s petition.

In fact, the lower court struck 46 paragraphs from his lawsuit against Campbell and the five judges, but the First Circuit restored 21 paragraphs to the petition. The 25 it allowed to remain removed involved matters not directly related to Campbell’s alleged destruction of files, the judges said.

In 2014, Campbell published a column entitled, “A Modern Guide to Handle Your Scandal,” in which she wrote, “Half the fun is getting there, and the other half is in the fix.” She then went on to advise her readers to “keep the crowd guessing. Send it out—lies, half-truths, gorilla dust, whatever you’ve got.” She told readers, “You’re no one until someone is out to get you.”

(There’s a line in there somewhere about Trump, but it’s just too easy.)

In July 2015, she wrote in her column, “It’s not cheating if it’s in our favor.”

That paragraph was removed from Palowsky’s petition as was one that noted that on one occasion, 52 writ applications went missing for more than a year before it was discovered that Campbell had used the applications as an end table in her office.

Say what?!!?

One paragraph left in the petition was one in which Palowsky pointed out that the five judges might not be out of the woods yet, if the Louisiana Judiciary Commission does its job. The Louisiana State Constitution provides as follows: “On recommendation of the judiciary commission, the (Louisiana) Supreme Court may censure, suspend with or without salary, remove from office, or retire involuntarily a judge for willful misconduct relating to his official duty, willful and persistent failure to perform his duty, persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, conduct while in office which could constitute a felony, or conviction of a felony.”

It would appear in consideration of the judicial protection of Campbell, a case could be made that the judges are guilty at least of slipshod management at best and criminal malfeasance at worst.

All the judges in the 4th JDC recused themselves when Palowsky sued and his case was heard by Ad Hoc Judge Jerome Barbera, III, who cited in his Dec. 11, 2015, ruling dismissing the five judges as defendants an 1871 ruling that said, “It is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”

Even though Palowsky was claiming that the judges protected Campbell despite their full knowledge of what she had done, Barbera said, “Allegations of bad faith or malice are not sufficient to overcome judicial immunity.”

Another way of putting it is that the judges are untouchable and that their edicts, like those of the Pope, are infallible, divinely inspired.

Barbera extended the immunity to Campbell but the First Circuit opinion, written by  Judge Page McClendon, overturned Barbera on that point. While two of the Appeal Court judges, Vanessa Whipple and Guy Holdridge upheld immunity for the five district court judges in their written opinions, all three rejected the idea of immunity for Campbell and all three voted to reinstate 21 of the paragraphs in Palowsky’s petition.

But it was that third judge, William Crain, who wrote that none of the defendants deserved immunity from events in the 4th JDC.

“Judicial immunity is of the highest order of importance in maintaining an independent judiciary, free of threats or intimidation. But it is a judge-created doctrine policed by judges.” (emphasis mine)

He also said that when judicial actors “perform non-judicial acts, they are not protected by this otherwise sweeping immunity doctrine.

“The duty to maintain records in cases involves many non-judicial actors and can only be considered a ministerial, not judicial act,” he wrote.

“For the same reasons (that) the law clerk is not immunized for her non-judicial acts related to maintaining court records, the judges are not immunized for allegedly aiding, abetting, then concealing those acts. Failing to supervise a law clerk relative to a non-judicial act is not a judicial act for purposes of immunity.

“The doctrine of judicial immunity does not shield judicial actors from civil liability for criminal acts (and) while later cases suggest judicial immunity extends even to judicial acts performed with malice, those cases do not immunize judicial actors from criminal conduct grounded in malice or corruption.

“Extending the doctrine of judicial immunity to include civil liability for alleged criminal conduct, as in this case, risks undermining the public’s trust in the judiciary, which I cannot countenance.”

So, how, you might ask, has Campbell managed to withstand the barrage of charges of payroll fraud, absenteeism, records destruction, and critical audit reports and still keep her job?

And continue to flaunt her actions in a newspaper column?

That can be explained in one word: Connections.

Campbell’s father is George Campbell, an executive with Regions Bank. George Campbell is married to the daughter of influential attorney Billy Boles who was instrumental in the growth of Century Telephone and who is a major contributor to various political campaigns.

Allyson Campbell is also the sister of Catherine Creed of the Monroe personal injury law firm of Creed and Creed. Christian Creed, Campbell’s brother-in-law, contributed $5,000 to Attorney General Jeff Landry’s 2015 campaign, which could explain, in part, why the AG backed off its investigation of Campbell the following year.

In a town the size of Monroe, those connections are sufficient, apparently.

Where to start.

There are so many inconsistencies and short circuiting of the system by the State Ethics Board regarding those four state troopers who went sightseeing to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas en route to San Diego in October 2016 that one has to wonder if the board exists in some sort of parallel universe.

The ethics board last month CLEARED the four troopers of any wrongdoing even though they knowingly went several hundred miles out of the way to make their side trip—for which they claimed to be on the clock and were paid overtime.

First of all, the board concluded that they four were instructed by their then-boss, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson to take the “northern” route in their drive to San Diego, the route that took them on their taxpayer-paid sightseeing vacation.

But regardless of whether Edmonson so instructed or not, the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Policy and Procedure Manual addresses the very issue of carrying out orders that are contrary to state law.

It’s right there in black and white on page 360:

  • “A commissioned officer shall promptly obey and execute any and all lawful orders of a superior officer. A “lawful order” is any order or assignment issued either verbally or in writing by a superior or ranking officer.” (emphasis mine)
  • “A commissioned officer shall not obey any order which he knows, or should have known, would require him to commit an illegal act. If in doubt as to the legality of an order, officers shall request the issuing officer to clarify the order.” (emphasis mine)

Of course, the decision—or perhaps non-decision would be a better description—sets up the four for a strong appeal of their discipline imposed by Edmonson’s successor, Col. Kevin Reeves.

In demoting Rodney Hyatt and Derrell Williams and reducing their pay, Reeves admonished them for “indifference” to what he called the “common sense notion” that it is not proper to claim pay for time when they were sightseeing or sleeping. Hyatt was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant and Williams from major and head of LSP’s Internal Affairs, to lieutenant.

Their appeal claims that their discipline was improper on procedural grounds because LSP took too long to complete its internal affairs investigation. They say the agency violated its owns policies by failing to request an extension of the internal investigation within 60 days.

But wait.

Back on June 8, retired state trooper Leon “Bucky” Millet appeared before the State Police Commission and advised commissioners of his belief that LSP was not adhering to commission rules regarding timely conducting investigations.

That was during the time that the commission seemed to be deliberately dragging its feet in its investigation, presumably on the pretense that there were vacancies on the commission and it was desired that new members coming onto the commission should have an opportunity to participate in the investigation.

In response to Millet’s concerns, Lt. Col. Mike Noel specifically said it was permissible for an employee to agree to an extension of time in accordance with the police officer’s Bill of Rights—and that the employees in question (Hyatt and Williams) “have agreed to the extension,” (emphasis mine) according to OFFICIAL MINUTES of that June 8 meeting published on the commission website.

State police are in a unique position in that they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the State Civil Service Commission but instead come under the moribund State Police Commission which is more prone to rubber-stamping recommendations to not investigate political activity by the Louisiana State Troopers Association.

Millet was told by the Board of Ethics on April 24, 2017, that the board declined to investigate as activity by two commission members because the LSTA “is not a public entity subject to the ethics code which includes the whistleblower statute.”

Yet, the ethics commission fined LSTA and its executive director David Young $5,000 for the LSTA’s action of funneling political contributions to political candidates, including but not limited to Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards, through Young’s personal bank account.

Some observers might call the claim that it had no jurisdiction over LSTA because it “is not a public entity” and the $5,000 fine inconsistent.

But hey, to be fair, consistency has been the hallmark of both the State Police Commission and the Ethics Board. They both have been consistently weak. Consistently able to avoid doing their jobs. Consistently ineffective and irrelevant. Consistently useless.

Folks, if you believe in what LouisianaVoice is trying to do, please don’t forget our April fundraiser.

It’s imperative that an effective electorate be an informed electorate and that’s where we come in. LouisianaVoice does not track policy-making to a great extent because I’m a one-person operation and to try and monitor every committee meeting, every Senate and House debate and floor vote is simply impossible.

But what I do is to peel back the veneer and look beyond what elected and appointed officials say to see what they actually do. After all, it’s one thing to sit back and pay lip service to equal pay for women, equal justice for all, clean, honest government, and all the wonderful things we were taught about democracy in civics class. It’s quite another to see how those theories are put into practice.

 

My job is to see how equal treatment for all is disregarded in favor of personal enrichment of our so-called public servants. An individual should never go into public service as a means of increasing his or her own wealth, position and power. After all, the very term public service implies–or should imply–just that: service.

Unfortunately, we have legislators who, instead of listening to their constituents, turn instead to lobbyists for special interests who pour money into their campaigns for advice and direction on important issues. And their interests far too often run counter to ours and taxpayers—women, minorities, teachers, and environmentalists, to name but a few—end up holding the short end of the stick.

Regulators favor big oil, big banks, big pharma, and big everything else with big tax breaks that have to be made up by the middle class. College students end up with back-breaking tuition costs because the legislature has failed to adequately fund higher education. TOPS, intended to ease the burden for families with college-bound kids has instead become a financial windfall for speculators throwing up student housing around college campuses.

LouisianaVoice revealed the abuses of state regulatory boards like the Board of Dentistry and the Louisiana State Medical Licensing Board. It was here that you read about a dentist who tried to reveal the problems with dental implants that ended up costing the state millions of dollars. But the dentist who tried to warn his bosses had his career ruined by those trying to protect their investment. There is no real protection for whistleblowers.

As evidence by the two stories beneath this plea for contributions—and by earlier stories about the Louisiana State Police (LSP)—law enforcement has been allowed to go unchecked. Abuses have abounded in local sheriffs’ departments across the state and the previous administration at LSP was reappointed by the governor despite ample evidence of mismanagement at the top—just because the sheriffs’ association wanted him reappointed. In hindsight, it’s clear that was a major blunder by our governor—but you know what? We at LouisianaVoice told him so before he ever took office.

When my book Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption is published, you will be disgusted at the manner in which many of our local sheriffs abuse basic civil rights, misuse departmental funds and personnel, and roll roughshod over anyone who gets in their way.

LouisianaVoice took on Bobby Jindal. We showed how he favored contributors with huge contracts. Now it appears that he may be attempting a comeback of sorts. I don’t know whether he plans to return to the governor’s office or some other public office like U.S. Senator, but he keeps churning out those Wall Street Journal op-eds and he’s not doing that for his health.

Please help us to keep telling these stories. They are important and the mainstream media simply is not doing it. Because of budgetary cutbacks by newspapers, real investigative reporting is all but dead and buried.

Please contribute to our efforts by clicking on the yellow DONATE button above the advertisement for my Bobby Jindal book to the right of this post. Or you can mail a check or money order to:

Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice

P.O. Box 922

Denham Springs, Louisiana 70727