Understanding how “the system works” in terms of investigating, prosecuting and convicting public officials who abuse the public’s trust is often like tending a pecan orchard. With every good intention of electing citizens who will be true to their oath of service, we seasonally listen to candidates who chose to run for office, work in some campaigns and finally vote in hopes of electing the best qualified candidate to serve in making the community a little better at accomplishing the tasks required.
Too many citizens focus all their energy on electing a candidate, when in reality, although little can be accomplished by the unelected, the real work begins after the election. Just as planting a pecan tree does not guarantee you will have pecans, we all to often have found that elected officials all too often fail to accomplish most of the items they plan and also fail to live up to the oaths they swear.
Shreveport and Caddo Parish have too long been step children to south Louisiana, and the expectation that solutions will grow for the state from seed planted here is practically non-existent. South Louisiana easily forgets that Huey Long, for all his faults, began his political career in Shreveport. And many other pivotal Read more
I was fortunate enough last night to observe the interaction of law enforcement, prosecutors, elected officials and average citizens during a public forum concerning the general topic of “Public Corruption.” Sadly, not a single member of what we normally refer to as “the mainstream media” was there to observe and report, much less record the event for general public review.
The interchange of ideas and thought was often heated and, at times, anger and frustration was evident in some of the words of citizens who posed questions. However, the demonstration of patience and respect for law and the rights of citizens who chose to step up for public office was commendable. The temperament of the country in frustration with the presidential election was evident behind some comments and aspersions.
But what came out of the forum can best be described as “some steam was released from the local pressure cooker” for some officials, while others appear to have added new fuel to the public clamor for justice. Locally, claims by many
The Shreveport Commons plan seems too full of comparisons to the New York plan Jacobs fought that demand greater study and transparency. Just like the New York plan Jacobs opposed, “city planners” came to the table with plans and a cobbled together timetable to use public funding to create change that would seemingly fit the federal guidelines and mollify Read more
The Caddo Commission recently named the Charter Review Committee which is mandated to review the Commission’s Home Rule Charter every 4 years. The Committee, which may have its first meeting this week, has 6 members—Liz Swaine, Melva Williams, Rob Broussard, Billy Wayne, Ronnie Festervan, and Alex Washington. The Committee can make recommendations to the Commission—and then the Commission can place the recommendations for Charter amendments on the ballot for voter approval.
Unfortunately, problems have already surfaced. Commission attorney Donna Frazier has set the first meeting for Read more
Should an individual with an outstanding judgment to the State Board of Ethics for campaign fines be appointed to a local commission? Or an outstanding judgment to the credit bureau? How about a conviction for simple battery that involved an alleged sexual encounter with a young lady who he had hired? And should Commissioners advise the board if the suggested appointment is a fellow church member? How about a person before the commission, should they be asked if any embarrassing revelation will be revealed should they be chosen? The nature of these should not only be embarrassing to Caddo citizens, but it is embarrassing to have to even discuss them for a candidate to serve on a public board.
Unfortunately these issues were not addressed at the recent Caddo Commission meeting on March 17 when the Commission chose a candidate to fill an open seat on the MPC. Theron Jackson was voted over other qualified candidates to the Caddo Shreveport Metropolitan Planning Commission to fill that open position.
Jackson has an outstanding civil penalty of $4,000 to the Louisiana Ethics Board for failure to file campaign finance reports; this is now a 2011 judgment filed in Caddo records that would be easy for any citizen to research. Jackson also has a 2010 judgment for $2,540 filed in Read more
It came as no surprise to courthouse observers that former Caddo Commissioner Michael Williams was recently found guilty of all 11 charges of wire fraud by a federal court jury in Shreveport. The only real surprise, other than the fact that Williams did not accept a plea deal, was how fast the verdicts were returned—in less than 90 minutes. Basically that meant the jurors took a restroom break, got a drink of water, voted SEPARATELY on each charge with practically no discussion, and then returned to the courtroom. In legal parlance, that’s called a slam dunk by the prosecution. Williams will be sentenced on June 13; the maximum sentence is 20 years and it is anticipated his sentence will be at least 5 years.
So what can be learned by this unfortunate chapter in the history of public officials who got greedy—and were caught? Several things! Initially, remember that the U.S. Attorney’s office does not mess around once it files charges; locally they rarely, as in very rarely, lose criminal prosecutions.
Secondly—plea offers should be seriously considered; Williams could have plead to one charge of wire fraud with a probated sentence, i.e. no jail time. He should have Read more
It’s always good to follow a political body when there has been a changing of the guard—and such is the case with the Caddo Commission. To date, there have been 5 meetings of the Commission this year; other than the ceremonial first meeting for swearing in the new term, both work sessions and both regular meetings have been entertaining, to say the least! In this short interval major progress has been made for good government; unfortunately the actions of Commission President Matthew Linn have also provided major distractions.
Initially, high praise is due for substantial progress on issues that have stuck in the craw of the majority of informed Caddo citizens: the retirement plan participation by Commissioners (CPERS), the pay raises for Commissioners along with rank and file Commission workers (COLA), and subsidized health insurance for Commissioners and their families. At the first regular meeting of the Commission, CPERS and COLA were suspended for 2016 and forward. At the second meeting the Commission voted to require Commissioners to pay full premiums for the Commission health insurance—which due to the size of the group is a bargain compared to individual policy rates.
The last battle to be fought—and undoubtedly it will—deals with the travel/education expenses for Commissioners. Commissioners Matthew Linn, Ken Epperson and Lyndon Read more