by Marion Marks
The recent federal court case of United States of America vs. Michael Dewayne Williams should have caused Caddo citizens far more pain than apparently I have observed, and it may be that we have accepted broken systems as the norm rather than the exception. I pray not!
I want to make it clear that I found Michael Williams’ use of public monies in the SWAG Nation case both offensive and degrading to a potentially good program and others in the field of juvenile justice, but I felt he was permitted to extend his violations and further harm others by the total failure of the administration of the Caddo Commission.
Judge Maurice Hicks, Jr. properly nailed the violations of the Caddo Commission administration in his opinion of July 21, 2016, but the repercussions of these violations seem to have treated like water off a duck’s back by the public and the media. This is news that must sink in and be properly digested, because it speaks of the ease with which the public is willing to accept abuse by government officials as well as elected representatives.
“… the Caddo Parish Commission’s lack of due diligence, oversight, and auditing of public funds is a disservice to every person in the parish of Caddo. And I realize full well that this is an eight-parish area, but the extent or the lack – not the extent, the lack of due diligence in auditing, in assuming that money appropriated by the Caddo Parish Commission pursuant to what seemed to be on its face a valid ordinance, is appalling to this Court.”
This, even read by a non-lawyer, seems to be a clear case of gross lack of oversight by professional staff who must be held accountable for protecting both the citizens of Caddo and the elected officials whom they are immediately responsible to serve. Not only was there NO oversight and auditing, but at the end of the first year, the chief administrator and legal staff should have made all commissioners aware of the failures in accountability.
The administration further compounded the criminal activities, in my opinion, by failing to require the elected commissioners to vote to renew the program and the funding. Rather than bring the program to the full body, the chief administrator used his discretionary funds to completely pay all expenses for the send year.[SWAG invoices]
If Woody Wilson, Parish Administrator, chose to not require the body of the commission to vote on the second year’s funding for SWAG Nation and granted full funding out of his approved “discretionary funds,” then one of two options seem to have transpired. First, he saw the failure to audit Williams’ program and approved the manner in which it was being run, or two, Wilson knew the program was being improperly run, the funds were not properly accounted for and Williams had some leverage over Wilson that prompted the coverup of the first year records.
“The law requires for a nonprofit corporation to have a resolution on file that in the event of dissolution, that funds on deposit shall be paid to XYZ, and there’s never been anything in writing in the form of a resolution authorizing Ms. Hughes –except through the bank — to have a debit card, and there’s never been minutes kept by that corporation, and there’s never been anything in the record that I’ve seen indicating that SWAG Nation, albeit defunct, has on file a resolution as a nonprofit to do business in Louisiana for the distribution of those funds; therefore, I can eliminate SWAG Nation as a victim. They’re gone.” [Court Opinion]
Regardless of the motivation for the Caddo Parish Administration to continue funding SWAG Nation –CLEARLY NOT a Non-Profit and never properly vetted– after the obvious lack of oversight, there was no will in either the administration or the elected body to force cancellation of an internal investigation into what had transpired. Only after Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator commenced his investigation and brought the US Attorney’s office into prosecute was there any move to seem accountability.
Too many people had too many opportunities to clean up an obvious lack of oversight and a scandalous operation. Reading addition commentary in the court proceedings only gives greater heartburn to an unacceptable manner of carrying out the necessary job of bringing delinquent citizens back into society. There was never a question that the juvenile justice system needed a program funded to assist in remediation, but the SWAG Nation program started and ended as a scam.
I have marked up the opinion with highlighter to note the most salient points that were covered beginning at page#22. I hope more citizens read this and get involved asking and demanding that the Caddo Administration be held accountable and that all future programs carry better audits and notifications to all elected commissioners.
And the parish has no one in court to represent that they are a victim of any crime that was committed!
To function in business and get along in the world today with other people, it is essential to be able to see things from another’s point of view, even if you disagree with them – dramatically. There are no two people, even identical twins who will see everything in life independently and consistently agree on all aspects, unless one is giving in to the other. It just doesn’t happen that way in life or in nature.
I accept that no two people view things exactly the same way. And for that reason, I have not taken exception to casual comments or passing words that normally I might find inexcusable. An example might be taking a stick from a child who is pretending it is a gun, firing at adults on the street as they drive by might be equivalent to speaking out in seeming road rage to an adult who litters tossing out a fast-food wrapper. It may be illegal and completely against my values, but I would be inviting trouble if I felt the urge to be correcting the wrong person on the street.
Being aware of how someone else perceives a matter, even though I find their actions and related character traits reprehensible, will decrease the chances of danger to myself if I just allow them to look like the fool I may believe them to be. So, you might disagree with my belief, but I will continue to take more swipes at the outrageous behavior of some of our public servants.
In this case the Citizens of Caddo Parish have been abused by an elected official, the administrative staff of the Caddo Commission and now it is the whole Caddo Commission’s job to try to make the citizen and the parish whole again. It’s almost as if Humpty Dumpty doesn’t realize how broken he is when you read the transcript and Judge Hicks keeps expecting some acceptance of fact that never seems to arrive. I hate to seem too cheeky, but are we “Waiting for Godot”?