by Marion Marks
Knowing governmental attitudes, concepts of administration and most of all the reality of our surroundings allows citizens to live our daily lives. When we encounter someone with broken bones, our expectation is that they go to the emergency room for help, and when we encounter a pothole we expect a call to local government to result in someone coming out to fix the streets. We defer to those we expect to have knowledge and ability and we expect to really have a fix for the issue.
Our problem is that Shreveport streets remain broken and a “Fix” seen in today’s news is not the one we really expected. The “Fix” appears to be a simple back-room deal based on whose problem it really was. “Fixes” today are a correction in attitude concerning how the problem was really defined. It’s similar to finding someone on the street who is really depressed whose life we respect, and the “Fix” suggested is to give them a pat on the back and tell them things aren’t as bad as it seems. Our concerns have been marginalized.
Walter Lee was someone citizens felt had been a successful superintendent of Caddo Parish Schools who retired, under pressure, and took the parallel job in Desoto Parish as was elected to the BESE board. He was the longest-serving member of BESE, and is expected to plead guilty today to a reduced charge in exchange for resigning from his elected post and making restitution in connection with grand jury indictments accusing him of double-dipping. Lee was also indicted in Desoto on felony theft, malfeasance and public contract fraud charges. Another grand jury in August indicted Lee on four misdemeanor theft counts.
Lee Zurik, New Orleans reporter known for exposing abuses, nailed Lee and other public officials for similar criminal acts continues to stay of this case. Zurik followed the Ray Nagin plea deal as the best deal the government could get.
Lee appears to be following the path of other public officials, slapped on the wrist and the way is cleared for others to walk into their position. But the real crimes against the public have not had a real “Fix.” Not being a lawyer, I only know what the appearance is that since the charges were first made, Lee has failed to show remorse for his actions, and punishment seems to be negligible.
The “Fix” seems to be a minimization of the serious charge of abuse of office, something the public should understand. Many other public officials have clearly “Double-Dipped” in a similar fashion, as disclosed in press revelations during the recent election process. Some to the extent that they chose to make restitution, but no charges were ever filed.
The public should make note of the real crime that there seems to be no standard we demand consistently of our public officials. We catch them sometimes. We try to publicly call out the need for correction, but nothing is dome to correct the failures. Power appears to drive only the weak and the poor into court for prosecution. We can’t seem to demand and obtain justice or receive even-handed treatment because justice seems to only be blind if you can’t afford a good lawyer.
Lesson officials learn: Steal BIG and have a good defense fund!