by Elliott Stonecipher [Part ONE HERE]
Origin of the Cover Story?
In attempting to explain his leadership of the City Council in giving developer Tim Larkin what he wanted at the June 10th Council meeting, Councilman Corbin said,
“I’m not willing to put the citizens of Shreveport on the line for a $10 million lawsuit that we’re going to have to pay if we don’t come up with an amended motion.”
That sounds to us like a cover story agreed to by the do-ers before the vote. Regardless, it smacks of an attitude which disqualifies a person for Council service. If the threat of a lawsuit is all that is needed for a council member to fork-over millions in taxpayer goodies, without so much as a lawsuit, the City becomes nothing more than a shakedown management outfit.
After all, Arceneaux / Larkin have been threatening Shreveport and its people with financial calamity, plagues and pestilence for two years, so why did Corbin cave now, taking four other members with him?
In an email exchange with City Attorney Terri Scott two weeks earlier, on May 26th, Corbin comes across as an arranger for Larkin:
(SEE email here, with enlarged print on the second page. Corbin’s email was sent to Scott first, at 4:21 PM, and Scott responded at 6:37 PM.)
“Art (Thompson, Council Clerk) indicated there would be reason to call an Executive Session if Mr. Larkin expressed a desire to take legal action against the City if the MPC decision was upheld. Would that desire need to be written or is a verbal statement enough?
Terri Scott responds that she had spoken with Larkin attorneys Tom Arceneaux and Scott Sinclair on May 14th to discuss, for the umpteenth time, the Larkin / Arceneaux lawsuit threat. The City Attorney ends the email by saying she will call Corbin the next day to give him the scoop. We the People would very much like to have been in on that phone call.
We believe Corbin’s plan, throughout, was to find a way to move the deliberative process out of public view. We also believe he demonstrates, here and again, a pronounced likelihood to serve Larkin’s interests. He was, as we have said, the only Council member who had ever before voted for Larkin in any of the developer’s previous such trips to the Council.
On June 4th, nine days after this email, Corbin met with a group of our Coalition members, at our request. He affably and proudly volunteered that he would back the MPC action of May 7th with his vote in the June 10th Council meeting. As he uttered the words, he was actually leading the City Council in doing precisely the opposite.
The record thus far made available to us proves, we believe, that the spirit of our Louisiana Open Meetings Law, if not its letter, has again been violated in this latest Larkin op. At the heart of the matter is the state constitution’s Article XII, Section 3 guarantee:
§3. Right to Direct Participation
Section 3. No person shall be denied the right to observe the deliberations of public bodies and examine public documents, except in cases established by law.
In the Open Meetings Law (statute), the public right to observe government’s deliberative process is further explained:
La R. S. 42:12. Public policy for open meetings; liberal construction
A. It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. Toward this end, the provisions of R.S. 42:12 through 28 shall be construed liberally.
Along with the Public Records Act, this is at the heart of good government. It is as logical and simple to understand as it is poisonous to political corruption: make public officials do everything, if possible, with the public (closely) watching. Every step away from that standard increases the risk of all that is bad in politics and government.
Corbin and Larkin needed all of this hidden from public view. Whenever and wherever the deliberative process leading up to the pro-Larkin vote on June 10th occurred, it was not with the public watching and listening.
Those present on June 10th witnessed a three-hour-plus presentation by a long list of speakers – all of them pro-3132 Extension except Larkin, his lawyers and his five City Council members. Then, there was a lightning-fast vote after Councilman Corbin introduced his “Motion to Modify,” written by Larkin attorney Tom Arceneaux.
No discussion, no debate, no deliberation … an immediate vote. Larkin wins, and the possible 3132 Extension to the Port takes the hit.
As to the remedy, the Open Meetings Law is clear and direct:
La R.S. 42:24. Voidability
Any action taken in violation of R.S. 42:12 through R.S. 42:23 shall be voidable by a court of competent jurisdiction. A suit to void any action must be commenced within sixty days of the action.
A successful lawsuit, of course, delivers us back to a City Council meeting in which Larkin’s friends inside and outside the Council and city government dispose of this issue again, precisely as they did on June 10th. The developer and his club of wealthy backers and buds will remain staunchly opposed to the completion of the 3132 Extension to the Port.
Too, Shreveport can rest assured, a majority of those in City Hall will continue to serve Larkin’s interest, not ours.
Finish 3132 Coalition