Caddo Commission Meeting, and Our $88,002 CPERS Hit

February 19, 2016

For the first time in several years, yesterday’s Caddo Parish Commission meeting netted us some gains. It is too bad that some rotten Commission news hammered us last night, too.

First, let me dispatch that bad news.

Caddo Commissioners CPERS Scam Still Nailing Taxpayers: Legal Tab Now at $88,001.50

The Commission “CPERS” heist of taxpayers isn’t over. Again: this is official malfeasance … and, yes, I intend that in the context of Louisiana criminal statute, R.S. 14:134, Official Misconduct and Corrupt Practices (SEE here).

The research I did to determine that the Caddo Commission’s retirement benefit is illegal and unconstitutional spanned months in 2014 and 2015. I went public with my first article January 27, 2015, after a meeting with Commissioners Mike Thibodeaux and one of the original CPERS do-ers, John Escude.

The Commission immediately hired Shreveport attorneys Tom Arceneaux and Jerry Edwards to fight to keep the taxpayer hijack. Within days, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor wrote to the Commission to alert them that CPERS was, to him, illegal and unconstitutional (a take on which he expanded in a November 2015 audit). In response to Arceneaux’s lawsuit, I filed one with attorney Whitney Pesnell in March 2015. The Arceneaux suit was soon rejected.

In addition to two staff attorneys, plus Arceneaux and Edwards, Commissioners, who we sued individually because they have our taxpayer money, hired attorney Michael Lowe. In response to a Public Records request, we learned last night that Arceneaux / Edwards have hit Caddo taxpayers for $60,941.04, and Lowe, supposedly being paid by Commissioners individually, for another $27,060.46.

So, on top of the nearly $300,000 Commissioners illegally, unconstitutionally, and, for some of them, knowingly, scammed from taxpayers, the total legal bill to keep what was stolen is $88,001.50.

Mr. Pesnell and I have worked pro bono throughout all of this.

Now, Much Better News

As you read these items, please remember this Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter parish law on the subject of Commissioner pay other than salary, Sec. 3-05. (D) – Compensation:

“No commissioner shall receive any additional compensation, benefit or privilege, direct or indirect, because of his office.”

Health Care for Commissioners … At Taxpayer Expense

In an October 19, 2013, parishwide election, Caddo voters rejected Commission proposals to increase their term “limits” to 20 years, that is five terms of four-years each (SEE may related article here), and to renew a 1.75-mill property tax. The controlling cabal at the Commission was incensed, unleashing a retributive attack on Caddo citizens reportedly led by Commissioner Ken Epperson and then-Commissioner, now Shreveport City Councilwoman, Stephanie Lynch. To get even, they set about lining their pockets with our money.

An early such attempted larcenies was health care for Commissioners – 100% paid by taxpayers – health care benefits, first set to go into effect in 2015, later set to hit us beginning January 1, 2016.

Yesterday, via Ordinance No. 5562 of 2016, Commissioners killed the benefit with a vote of nine (9) against it, two (2) for it, and one (1) abstaining. Voting to kill the benefit were Commissioners John Atkins, Jerald Bowman, Lynn Cawthorne, Mario Chavez, Doug Dominick, Stephen Jackson, Matthew Linn, Mike Middleton and Jim Smith. Still driving the stuff-Commissioner-pockets wagon was Ken Epperson, with Commissioner Lyndon Johnson riding shotgun, and Commissioner Stormy Gage-Watts abstaining.

Notably speaking against the benefit were Commissioners Mike Middleton, Mario Chavez and John Atkins.

Commissioner Travel

The most immediate citizen butt-kicking by Commissioners in their early 2014 raging against those who elected and pay them was a $15,000-per-Commissioner-per-year travel benefit.

Foolishly and immediately spotlighting the taxpayer kick, Commissioner Matthew Linn a three-week paid vacation to Boston, supposedly to take a class at Harvard to be a better “government executive.” His junket cost taxpayers $14,577.12. That Linn was not and cannot be a Commission “executive” – only a lowly legislator / commissioner – somehow failed to compute. He was far more attentive, photo evidence of which he proudly shared, to Boston Red Sox games.

Given that our lawsuit against the Commission includes prohibition of such benefits, the “new” Commissioners are attempting to neutralize the money-in-their-pockets work of Commissioners Ken Epperson and Lyndon Johnson. They and perhaps a few other Commissioners are hell-bent for taxpayers to pick up their yearly tab for Washington Mardi Gras, one of the worst signals the Commission can now send to taxpayers.

Led by Commissioner Doug Dominick, a delay for one more meeting cycle was approved. The public lobbying against the Mardi Gras provision – which Epperson and Johnson tried to bury in confusing generic language – has a bit more life.

Matthew Linn Continues to Embarrass

For those who are following the bizarro actions of Commission Linn since he ascended to the Commission throne last month, it comes as no surprise that his attempt to remove Commission Administrator Woody Wilson from the NLCOG (Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments) was ended with a stake in the heart yesterday.

In Tuesday’s work session, Linn crashed and burned, then publicly apologized, after failing in his bid to have Wilson suspended / fired from his Commission job. The only, and very lame, move left to Linn was a Commission vote to put himself on NLCOG in Wilson’s place. The vote was 11-1 against the move, with Linn voting for himself.

To boot, Linn insulted Commissioners in a pre-meeting letter to each, feeling it necessary to tell them they were “viscerally ignorant” about NLCOG.

Matthew Linn is many things in his political life, but a good, contributing Caddo Commissioner is not included among them.

… more later …
Elliott Stonecipher

(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered “Other,” or Independent. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)

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