Opinion by John Settle
With the October 24 primary election fast approaching, many key questions should be answered by candidates seeking votes. Some questions are new; others have been ignored by candidates.
The new question for Caddo DA candidate Stewart concerns the funding of over $37,000 by the Louisiana Safety & Justice PAC money paid for TV advertising on KTBS. This PAC is chaired by Lee Jeter of Bossier City; Shreveport attorney Herschel Richards is the treasurer and Sherry Kerr is listed as an officer. These ads run through October 19; whether or not this PAC will purchase more ads for Stewart before the October 24 election is unknown. What IS known is that this is the largest purchase by a local PAC of TV advertising by a local candidate in Shreveport’s history; what other campaign expenses the PAC is underwriting for Stewart is not known at this time.
The significance of funding by a PAC—political action committee—is that the names of the donors and the amounts of their donations are confidential until a finance report is filed; it is not due until after the October 24 primary. Additionally individuals who have made a maximum contribution of $5000 to Stewart (several defense attorneys are on this list) can also make additional contributions to the PAC that benefits Stewart. Many observers believe funds from out of state donors have been contributed to this PAC – – and that “outsiders” are trying to control the DA race.
The $64 question that Stewart has failed to answer since his August 13 announcement still remains unanswered: did he violate Judicial Canons of Ethics by staying on the state payroll to the tune of $10,000 plus after announcing for DA? A second question dealing with taxpayer dollars and Stewart concerns his travel expenses as judge. He spent four times the average of the other judges on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals—over $57,000. Stewart even spent a week in Los Angeles in late July before his August 13 announcement.
A new question for John Escude, who is seeking re-election to the Caddo Commission, is why he has not paid an outstanding lien by the Louisiana Department of Revenue for $3776 plus accrued interest; the lien was filed in Caddo records on September 16, 2010 and it has not been paid.
Escude has yet to explain how he got a job at the GM plant after its purchase by the Caddo Commission; Escude was one of the leading cheerleaders for this venture in capitalism by the Commission. He also has not provided an opinion from the Louisiana Ethics Board or the Louisiana Attorney General that “OK’d” his employment. And as expected Escude has not provided substantive answers to the 6 pay raises he voted for himself (over $2800 per year), the vote for $15,000 per year unmonitored travel expenses for Commissioners as well as participation in the illegal retirement plan (CPERS) as well as spending Parish funds to defend the plan in court.
A new question for Matthew Linn , who is also seeking a third term on the Caddo Commission, concerns a tax lien filed by the Louisiana Department of Revenue for $16,758 in Caddo records on February 24, 2014 that remains unpaid. The lien was filed after the restaurant Columbia Café closed and a new restaurant STIR opened in the same location; Secretary of State records indicate that all or part of the ownership of the Columbia Café, LLC may have changed before the lien was filed. An open question is whether or not the new owners of the LLC obtained a new liquor license which is required by state law, or if they operated illegally under the permit pulled by Linn when he was the sole owner of the LLC.
Linn has yet to explain why he needed to spend almost $15,000 of public funds in the fall of last year to go to a school at Harvard—other than a week in New England in October is a good time. Just like Escude (and James Smith who is also seeking reelection to the Commission), Linn has failed to explain votes for pay raises, the travel expense bonanza and the retirement plan.
Lynn Cawthorne , who is seeking election to the Caddo Commission, should explain why he has not paid an outstanding judgment of over $1800 to Midland Funding in July 2012. Cawthorne should also explain how much time he really spends in Shreveport since he has an office in New Orleans and his cell number is still a NOLA area code.
Eric Hatfield’s campaign for Caddo Sheriff against incumbent Steve Prator has raised many eyebrows for many reasons. A new question can be asked if he is current on the child support payments to Natalie Dawson Holley including the arrearages of over $32,000 listed in a October 2013 judgment.
Hopefully all of these questions will be answered by the candidates before the October 24th primary.