by Marion Marks
It’s four years since first rumblings to “reign” in Shreveport City Marshal Charlie Caldwell first began. Initial internal complaints pertained to deputies who were rogues, improper terminations, document obstructions, but now finally a runoff may result in cleansing the truly destructive element in the marshal’s office.(several other candidates who didn’t make it would have been far better than Caldwell!) Most deputy marshals work diligently to hold decorum in city court and keep leadership failures from affecting the business required from the marshal’s office. Yet the public has not been spared the costs affiliated with mismanagement Marshal Caldwell has dragged taxpayers through.
Leadership failures have already cost taxpayers expensive settlements that have been reached for wrongful termination of deputies, but that’s just the beginning. Taxpayers have paid dearly for wasteful spending on first-class junkets* the marshal initiated. And, recently disclosed credit card records demonstrate wholesale abuses, yet Caldwell continues to refuse to release all records that would allow a full exposure of the extent of wrongful spending that must be calculated.
Two Public Records Requests (PRR) were initiated by Shreveport attorney Dan Keele to determine the extent of rumored abuses in Fuelman cards issued to deputies. But, Marshal Caldwell has failed to provide complete records, thereby exposing the public to future litigation. Even the limited documentation, processed with modern computer technology, indicates apparent fraud in driver logs that show vehicles are filled multiple times without the odometer really moving. In other cases cards assigned to each deputy and designated to be used by ONLY a single deputy appear to fill multiple vehicles at the same time, even though such practices are prohibited by policy.
Caldwell’s response to general and specific records requested was quite unacceptable. Caldwell was specifically asked for out of town travel invoices in the PRR. His response was, “No Such List Exists!”* Here are known out-of-town travel Fuelman charges which include some travel for almost every deputy.
Most deputy vehicles are limited to local use, as most deputies are expected to live within or near the city. In some cases vehicles, assigned only to court duty, with no outside responsibilities, are filled daily while only traveling as few as two miles. One deputy filled his vehicle well over 500 hundred times in less than a four year period, with almost all fill ups taking place at the city Snow Street station. Only one or two units regularly are around town serving warrants.
Caldwell and some of his deputies have had limited training programs out of state, but select gasoline charges out of the Shreveport area do not seem to coincide with the indicated training or required travel for the city marshal’s office. Prisoner transport records cannot be supplied that would possibly support the volume or cost incurred by taxpayers. Caldwell and select deputies appear to use city vehicles and taxpayer money to supplement personal trips and receive non-taxed benefits that are only documented in expense records. Known Caldwell travel reported in the Fuelman card use appears to document travel totally unrelated to his job that was paid by the public. This does not include his failed educational travel to Boston in the summer where he ceased classes to return to Shreveport to handle a disaster in his office.
Poor oversight of the marshal is also seen in issuing deputy credentials in the manner of badges and commissions where records are, at most, a name signed on a sheet or a scribble indicating a badge was issued. One PRR Addressed these issues. Some deputies are assigned badges with no records on file, and the marshal has no clear policies that provide a clear rationale to the public. Badges issued, with one exception, since 2012 have no records, and the cost to taxpayers has not been provided in the records requested. Clearly the new marshal will clean up this sloppy management tradition.
Troubling to law enforcement elsewhere is the practice of “flashing a badge” by some honorary deputies in the effort to get out of traffic stops for violations. It was reported that on more than one occasion attempts to evade a traffic stops by “flashing a badge” has been the practice of city marshal honorary deputies. Marshal Caldwell should explain the issues of his honorary deputies who represent themselves as anything above the law.
Caldwell deputies regularly perform private services at public expense and these practices should be curtailed. Taxpayers should expect a far more effective and efficient city marshal, and the DARE car debacle and the destruction of other candidate campaign material demonstrate a poor performance record for Caldwell.
The public records kept by the City Marshal really do belong to the public. Records are not private property, and requests to provide documents should be honored in a timely manner. The question now is whether or not voters will recognize the needs of the city and citizens and change the name on the door of the city marshal. Charlie Caldwell has abused the public trust.
Vote Jim Taliaferro Shreveport City Marshal!