Public Records Reveal Complicity of Officials

by Elliott Stonecipher

Former Bossier City State Representative Jane Smith was much more deeply involved in non-public meetings leading to the termination of the Hwy. 3132 extension in Shreveport than her previous comments acknowledged.

The "Real" General Jane?

Smith’s pressure on the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LA DOTD) on behalf of Bossier City Councilman and real estate developer Tim Larkin is revealed in e-mails obtained by the 3132 Coalition through the Louisiana Public Records Act.

Larkin, a long-time friend of Smith, was also aided in his Esplanade residential development by Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover, and to a yet unknown degree by Timmy Teepell, Chief-of-Staff for Governor Bobby Jindal at the time, in 2011.  The political activity on behalf of Larkin culminated in formal action which last year terminated the long-planned Hwy. 3132 extension to the Port of Caddo-Bossier.

E-Mails, Linked:

If you think you're hot now...

Between January 13, 2011 and April 14, 2011, the following e-mails among LA DOTD were exchanged, each of which details Smith’s push on behalf of Larkin.  DOTD and other top governmental officials involved are:

Sherri LeBas  –  Secretary of Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development
Dr. Eric Kalivoda  –  Deputy Secretary of LA DOTD
Gretchen Leblanc  –  assistant to Secretary LeBas
Shawn Wilson  –  LeBas’ Chief-of-Staff
John Sanders  –  Managing Engineer, LA DOTD 4th District Office (Bossier City)
Rhett Desselle  –  Assistant Secretary of LA DOTD
Keith Tindell –  LA DOTD 4th District Office (apparently misidentified as “Mr. Kendall”)
Kent Rogers and Chris Petro  –  Top officials, Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG)
Ron Norwood and Robert Westerman –  Top officials, City Engineering Department, Shreveport

The reader may note that the date of the NLCOG meeting at which the termination of the Hwy. 3132 extension was made official was April 7, 2011.  The e-mails attached are:

#1 –  January 13, 2011
Jane Smith’s first known contact with DOTD on behalf of Tim Larkin (“Larken” misspelling here), describing Larkin’s Esplanade project as “a $200 million development which will be a huge boost to the Shreveport economy.”  Sanders notes that Larkin’s proposal is “very unusual.”

#2 –  January 24, 2011
Jane Smith’s anger with DOTD (LeBas) for not having set up a meeting between Secretary LeBas and Larkin quickly enough is described.  DOTD Chief-of-Staff Wilson then calls Smith to please her with confirmation of an immediate meeting for Larkin, LeBas and others.

#3 –  February 10, 2011
Top-ranking officials at DOTD – LeBas, Kalivoda and Wilson –  exchange e-mails about some development related to Larkin’s project, confirming that communication with Jane Smith is a priority for each of them.

#4 –  March 25, 2011
Kalivoda reports to Sanders, Tindell, Rogers, Norwood, Westerman, Petro, LeBas, Wilson about a telephone call from Larkin.  Kalivoda is communicating to all others about the DOTD agreement with Larkin, and Wilson’s immediate response is to assure everyone he will be discussing the plan with Jane Smith to gauge her – and Larkin’s – reaction.

#5 –  April 7, 2011
Rogers / NLCOG immediately reports to Kalivoda, Sanders, Tindell, Norwood, Westerman, Petro the outcome of the NLCOG meeting in which the 3132 extension was terminated, noting the role of Mayor Glover.  In an e-mail (top of page) to LeBas, Kalivoda notes – with sarcasm, it seems certain – that the NLCOG action means “Our friend Larkin is still at it.”

#6 –  April 14, 2011 
Within a week of the NLCOG / Larkin / Glover, et al, political op which kills the extension, Jane Smith and Tim Larkin are in another meeting with LeBas in her office, waiting for Mayor Glover to be added-in to the discussion by phone.

Party time?

A veteran member of the state house of representatives, Smith was term-limited in 2011, and in an attempt to remain in the state legislature, ran for the 37th District Senate seat of retiring incumbent Buddy Shaw.  Smith was strongly supported in her campaign by Governor Jindal and Teepell, the governor’s political architect and enforcer.  Shreveport businessman Barrow Peacock opposed Smith, and strongly supported any and all action to “save” the Hwy. 3132 extension.  Smith’s support of Larkin was a campaign negative she could not overcome, and it contributed to Peacock’s convincing win.

“Defeat” for Smith, however, quickly proved to be nothing of the sort:  Teepell / Jindal immediately gave her a $100,000+ annual salaried Deputy Secretary post in the Louisiana Department of Revenue and Taxation.  Her professional training and career, however, had been exclusively in public education.

Smith contended throughout the campaign against Peacock that she did nothing for Larkin but arrange a single meeting for him with LA DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas, exactly as she would for anyone.  She added that even that meeting was not one she personally attended.

The Louisiana Hwy. 3132 extension to the Caddo-Bossier Port, a southern portion of the outer loop around Shreveport and Bossier City, has been under construction for decades.  Shreveporters had voted bond issue funds for the final leg of the route in 1996, and property to designate the location of that segment was purchased in 1999.  The formal route had been designated in a 1991-1992 Inner Loop Corridor Study.  None of those facts withstanding, private developers and (very) friendly public officials / agencies acted together, outside public view, to kill the final leg, moving a very heavy and dangerous flow of 18-wheelers and other traffic through the impacted residential area.

An “environmental assessment” for a replacement route is now underway, at a cost of $1,000,000.  The study is highly dubious since any supposed route which might now be designated will be prohibitively expensive to construct.

Public reaction against those who terminated the highway is led by the Finish 3132 Coalition.

Elliott Stonecipher

Elliott Stonecipher’s reports, essays and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest.  No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.