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For those of you living in Livingston and surrounding parishes, please don’t forget to drop by Cavalier House Books beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday for the signing of my latest book, Murder on the Teche: The True Story of Money and a Flawed Investigation. It’s the true story of the murder of a respected New Iberia orthodontist in 2010 and the botched investigation of his death by both the Iberia Parish District Attorney and the Iberia Parish Sheriff.

I also will be signing three other of my books, as well, though the emphasis will be on Murder on the Teche – because it is my most recent book.

The others are:

Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption (a true story of otherwise unbelievable exploits of many of Louisiana’s sheriffs, both past and present);

Bordello on the Bayou (a fictional account based on the Baton Rouge Madam of a couple of decades ago – with several events of the book occurring right here in Denham Springs);

Vieux Carré Vengeance (a ghost story novel set in New Orleans).

I hope to see you there.

Certain retired Louisiana state employees were given a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase to their retirement benefits but the bill granting the increase was so restrictive that out of several hundred thousand retirees, only about 800 or so qualified, according to Frank Jobert, Legislative and Governmental Affairs Director for the Retired State Employees Association of Louisiana.

Otherwise, state retirees will have to wait until at least Sept. 30 to learn whether or not they will qualify for similar increases.

“The bill (SB24, signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards as Act 37) that was passed was for the benefit of those living below the poverty line,” Jobert said. “It (the bill) put so many restrictions in place that only a few qualified. For example, there was a maximum income a retiree could be making ($1450 per month). Plus, he had to have 30 years of service, be retired at least 15 years and could not have participated in DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) or IBO (Initial Benefit Option, whereby the retiree takes a partial lump-sum settlement and a reduced pension).”

He said the way SB24 was structured only served to make some retirees angry. “But it was written to help those in the greatest need,” he said.

“State retirees haven’t received an increase since the Robideaux Bill of 2016 (HB1225 by then State Rep. Joel Robideaux, actually passed in 2014 and implemented in 2016),” Jobert said.

Under provisions of that bill, the percentage of COLA adjustments is tied to the return on investment of retirement funds and the percentage of funding of the retirement system. If a system, for example is funded by 55 to 65 percent, retirees would receive adjustments limited to 1.5 percent. Once the system is funded by 65 percent (or the unfunded liability reduced to 35 percent), the increase would be 2 percent, gradually increasing to 3 percent with 85 percent funding of the system.

Jobert said COLA increases also are reliant on the rate of return based on a five-year average of at least 8 percent. “The investment had a great year in 2020,” he said. “We had a return of 30 percent.” But the bottom line, he said, is that the five-year average wasn’t that robust. “The bottom line is there hasn’t been enough return on investment to justify increases,” he said.

We’ll be taking another look in September at our annual meeting,” he said. If there is no permanent increase then, we will push for an annual 13th monthly check.”

Mississippi currently offers state retirees an annual increase or a 13th check.

It was on March 22, 2016, less than two months after taking office as Louisiana attorney general that Jeff Landry posted on his webpage CAJUN CONSERVATISM the message that there was “a new sheriff in town” and that he, Jeff Landry, was the one-man citadel of ethics, morality and straight-shootin’.

The headline to the post noted that Landry had moved to end the “Buddy System,” a not-so-subtle jab at his predecessor, Buddy Caldwell, whom Landry said had awarded no-bid legal contracts to his top campaign contributors, primarily attorneys contracted to defend state agencies in multiple litigation cases.

Landry noted that he had “put an end to many of those ‘good old boy’ deals, cancelling dozens of legal contracts that benefited two of Caldwell’s top campaign contributors and nearly 50 contracts with the private law firms of district attorneys around the state.” He also announced a new policy that prohibited attorneys on his staff from doing private legal work on the side, a step that will help avoid even the perception of impropriety.

Just three months earlier, on Dec. 16, Landry announced following his defeat of incumbent Caldwell that Republican super-donor Shane Guidry would chair his TRANSITION COMMITTEE. Guidry will be discussed in far more detail presently.

In the FIRST PRIMARY in 2015, Landry trailed Caldwell by two percentage points. Caldwell polled 35 percent to Landry’s 33 percent. Geraldine “Geri” Broussard Baloney of Garyville in St. John the Baptist Parish finished third at 18 percent.

On Nov. 2, three weeks before the Nov. 21 runoff, Landry posted another story in which he quoted BALONEY as saying, “After meeting with Jeff Landry, followed by prayerful consideration with my family, I have decided to endorse Jeff Landry because of his willingness to embrace forward thinking policies, his desire to actually transform and change the way the Attorney General’s office does business…”

But in Louisiana, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While Landry was running around boasting that he had restored some semblance of respectability and ethics to the attorney general’s office, he apparently had cut a deal with Baloney to HIRE BALONEY’S DAUGHTER. Quendi Baloney as a consolation prize in exchange for her endorsement.

Quendi was hired at $53,000 per year despite the fact that at the time of her hire, all potential employees of the AG’s office were required to sign a form agreeing to background checks. They were also asked, in writing, if they had in any criminal record.

In her case, she did. In 1999, she was charged with 11 felony counts of credit card fraud and theft, eventually pleading guilty to three counts, according to court records from Henrico County, Virginia. She was sentenced to six years in prison, all of it suspended.

Her new job? Well, irony of ironies, it was in the AG’s fraud section.

Fast forward to February 2020 and we find that Landry, who railed against so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect illegal immigrants, was in fact, AN OWNER, along with his brother, of firms that imported undocumented workers with assistance from a convicted felon who had violated immigration laws.

Three months later, the Baton Rouge Advocate REPORTED that Landry had (a) put political crony and one-time legal client Guidry on the AG’s payroll as some sort of “special agent/investigator” at $12,000 per year, though it was never quite clear just what Guidry was supposed to be investigating. As if to defend the expenditure of taxpayer money for such questionable purposes, it was said the money paid Guidry was given to charity. Well, that certainly is all the explanation Louisiana taxpayers are due.

But wait. That same story reported that Landry had received a spot on the board of Guidry’s oil services firm, Harvey Gulf at a remuneration of between $50,000 and $100,000, according to Landry’s FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE REPORT.

What was that again about the “Buddy System”?

Besides being a major contributor to Donald Trump, Guidry has poured tons of money into the campaigns of people like Steve Scalise, Landry, Jeb Bush and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Let’s take a closer look at Harvey Gulf and some of Guidry’s business and political connections to people like former Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

In a seemingly unrelated move, Newell abruptly announced that he was stepping down in 2017 after 37 years with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, the last ten as sheriff, to move into his new career as a talk show host for a New Orleans radio station. Making his announcement on July 25, he set his retirement date as August 31. Normand insisted the timing of his announcement was “a coincidence at best,” and had nothing to do with the federal indictment of his veteran chief deputy Craig Taffaro.

Taffaro, Nungesser’s father-in-law, was indicted by a federal grand jury just five days earlier, on July 20 for tax evasion and filing a false tax return in connection with CTNN, an offshore supply company that he co-owned with Normand. His indictment in turn, came a little more than a month after his retirement following nearly 50 years with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

CTNN (Craig Taffaro, Newell Normand) apparently did little but collect commissions on sales between two other companies. Equipment and goods were actually purchased by Harvey Gulf, the billion-dollar marine transportation enterprise owned by Guidry. They were purchased from a company called Pelican Marine which was owned by Nungesser, Taffaro’s son-in-law, who upon his election as lieutenant governor, placed Pelican’s assets in a blind trust assigned to….Taffaro.

Normand and Guidry contributed $5000 each to Landry’s 2015 campaign and Harvey Gulf chipped in another $5000 in 2020. In addition, Guidry contributed $100,000 to a super PAC that supported Landry.

All of which may seem apropos of nothing but now we learn, to no one’s surprise, that Landry’s not above using state resources to intervene on behalf of political allies who experience legal troubles – especially allies who open their purse strings to him.

Take the most recent case involving Guidry, as REPORTED by Advocate writter John Simerman, for example.

How many hard-working Louisiana citizens earnestly believe they could pick up the phone and convince Landry to dispatch agents from his office to a neighboring state to track down an individual who has offended them in a strictly civil matter?

Well, apparently Shane Guidry has that kind of stroke and obviously, he’s not above calling in his chits.

When the birth mother of his adopted daughter contacted her, apparently in violation of some sort of agreement at the time of adoption, Guidry went running to Landry and Landry responded – with the full force of the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, even to the point of sending agents to Mississippi to talk to the woman’s brother to find out where she was.

That’s the kind of abuse of office that we found in the days of Huey Long – not in the 21st century.

Even for Louisiana, with its ethics-lite laws, that kind of heavy-handedness is verboten.

The next statewide election isn’t until 2023, but Louisiana voters should keep in mind until then that there’s a new sign out front at the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office:

Cosco 098070 22" x 16" "For Sale" Sign with Numbers

“The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists.”

—Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

“We are very likely to see many more shoes dropping over the foreseeable future – and Trump knows it. He has never more desperately needed top legal talent, and that’s not who he has representing him.”

—Former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich, on the myriad legal problems facing the former guy.

“Critical Race Theory goes against everything Martin Luther King Jr. taught us – to not judge others by the color of their skin. The Left is trying to take America backward.”

—House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, twisting logic to the extreme in the face of ongoing Republican efforts to restrict voting rights of minorities.

“There’s not another legislative bill… that can get passed and has the kind of support of the American people if you don’t fundamentally deal with the right to vote. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you pass another infrastructure bill, it doesn’t matter if you pass all these other bills, because back at home, those citizens are watching their constitutional right – not your constitutional right to have a pothole filled, but your constitutional right to have a vote stripped away systematically by the minority party. And you’re either going to step up and push back against that and shut it down, or you’re not. And that’s what the Texas legislators are saying… ‘y’all need to shut this down now’” 

Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, on MSNBC

“He loved what happened on Jan. 6th because it was all about him. These people were fighting for him ― and fighting against democracy and against free elections, to be sure ― but they were fighting for him, and that’s what he cares about.”

–Longtime Trump critic George Conway, saying that Trump uttered “one fundamental truth” about the Jan. 6 insurrection when he told rioters he loved them.

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