Commission Put on Notice Regarding Further Illegality of CPERS


At today’s Caddo Commission meeting, I had the privilege of submitting a letter that I wrote to Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera. The Commission is considering furthering their illegal activity in the self-enrichment scandal in spite of Mr. Purpera’s strongly worded report (read the report here). The letter is self explanatory, and gives a full legal reason why the Commission’s actions cause issues regarding ethics, criminal malfeasance in office and a host of other problems. The reason for writing this letter is simple. I want the Commission to fully know that they are in open question of violating many laws in spite of their commitment to the Legislative Auditor that they would wait for a judge’s decision in the lawsuit that Elliott Stonecipher filed almost a year ago. The Commissioners claimed ignorance to no end before. Now they have absolutely been notified. There is no hiding. They are on the record. We are watching.

READ THE LETTER BELOW:

January 21, 2016

Mr. Daryl G. Purpera, CPA, CFE Louisiana Legislative Auditor 1600 North Third Street Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9397

Re: Caddo Parish Commission

Dear Mr. Purpera:

On behalf of the taxpayers of Caddo Parish, I would like to thank you and your staff for taking the time to investigate the Caddo Parish Commissioners’ (“Commissioners”) participation in CPERS and for issuing your Advisory Services Report dated November 25, 2015 (“Final Report”). Although the Final Report – and the Louisiana Constitution – clearly state that the Commissioners’ participation in CPERS is unconstitutional, it appears the Commissioners do not care. The taxpayers bear the cost of the Commissioners’ legal fees and the district court has dismissed them individually from the pending civil litigation. As you know, prior to the Final Report, you provided the Commissioners with a draft report of October 22, 2015 (“Draft Report”). The Commissioners responded to the Draft Report, stating, among other things, that: It is Management’s intention to pursue, through this still pending lawsuit, a judicial determination regarding the conflict between the ordinance and state law. Once a final judgment is rendered, we will comply with the finding of the court regarding the legality of the ordinance in question. (“Response Letter”). Dr. Woodrow Wilson Jr. went on to state “you are reminded that we are awaiting the outcome of the District Court’s decision concerning a legal ruling on the Caddo Parish Commissioners’ participation in the organization’s CPERS system.”

In light of the Final Report, one would expect that the Commissioners would simply follow your recommendation and seek “to recover the improper contributions and establish a constitutional retirement system for Caddo Parish.” At a minimum, one would think that they would at least follow their own Response Letter and wait for a final ruling from the Court prior to acting. Although this may come as no surprise to you, the Commissioners are neither following your recommendation (i.e. by acting to recover the improper CPERS contributions), nor following through on what they promised (i.e. to wait for a judicial determination). Rather, they are plowing ahead with the below ordinances and resolutions.

Proposed Ordinance 5559 of 2016 – (CPERS)

During their January 19, 2016, work session (“Work Session”), the Commissioners voted to place Ordinance 5559 of 2016 on the agenda for the full meeting of January 21, 2016. A copy
Mr. Daryl G. Purpera, CPA, CFE January 21, 2016 Page 2
of proposed Ordinance 5559 is attached hereto as Exhibit A. As you will see, proposed Ordinance 5559 removes the Commissioners from the list of unclassified employees eligible to participate in CPERS. It appears to have prospective effect only, and there is no indication of any effort on the part of the Commissioners to follow your recommendation to “recover the improper contributions.” From the perspective of a Caddo Parish taxpayer, the intent of proposed Ordinance is simple: create an appearance of “doing the right thing” while, in effect, taking no action to recover our money.
Proposed Ordinance 5560 of 2016 – (SALARY)

In the Work Session, the Commissioners also voted to place Ordinance 5560 of 2016 on the agenda for the full meeting of January 21, 2016. A copy of proposed Ordinance 5560 is attached hereto as Exhibit B. As you will see, proposed Ordinance 5560 would bring to an end the annual automatic salary increases currently bestowed upon the Commissioners. However, proposed Ordinance 5560 offers no indication of an intent to recover the illegal salaries (that is, those over $1,200 per month) and suggests that the Commissioners may continue to participate in CPERS so long as the Parish does not contribute matching funds. Proposed Ordinance 5560 appears to take effect immediately.

Proposed Resolution No. 7 of 2016 – (TRAVEL)

Finally, in the Work Session, the Commissioners voted to send proposed Resolution 7 of 2016 to committee. A copy of proposed Resolution 7 is attached hereto as Exhibit C. As you will see, proposed Resolution 7 would decrease the limit on compensation Commissioners receive for “education and training” opportunities from $15,000.00 to $8,000.00 per calendar year. Again, it appears there is no intent to recover the prior travel compensation paid to Commissioner; rather, the Commissioners will continue to accept such forms of compensation. Proposed Resolution 7 appears to take effect immediately.
Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter 3-05(B). – Compensation.

Section 3.05(B) of the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter states:

The parish commission may periodically review the compensation paid the commissioners and may change same by ordinance which much be approved by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the commission, provided that no ordinance changing such salary shall be passed during the last year of a term and further provided that a salary change shall not become effective during the current term of the parish commissioners adopting the ordinance.
Section 3.05(B) of the Home Rule Charter states:

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

Comparing the proposed Ordinances and Resolution with the Home Rule Charter, it appears the Commissioners are acting to not only protect the illegal gains of Commissioners past, but also to continue several illegal acts going forward. Certainly, their plan to change their compensation for the current term is a clear violation of 3.05(B). A salary change (whether increased or decreased) “shall not become effective during the current term of the parish commissioners adopting the ordinance.”

In addition, it is noteworthy that these “public servants” may be participating in transactions in which they have personal substantial economic interests, not only in their official capacities as Commissioners but also in their capacities as beneficiaries of taxpayer money. It is unclear whether the Commissioners have considered the ethical implications of their actions and/or analyzed whether they should recuse themselves from voting on these issues.

In conclusion, it appears that the Commissioners answer to no one – they ignored your Final Report, threw their own Response Letter in the trash, and now plan to act in clear violation of the Home Rule Charter, again. Since originally voting themselves into CPERS on March 23, 2000 (just three years after the statewide passage of a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting such participation), the Commissioners have engaged in a systematic pattern of conduct of self-enrichment at the expense of taxpayers. Whether through CPERS, illegal and hidden salary increases, or unrestrained “travel allowances,” the only winners are the Commissioners. The proposed Ordinances and Resolution are nothing more than a continuation of the prior pattern of conduct. Who, other than the Legislative Auditor, will protect the taxpayers?

If the Commissioners proceed with the proposed Ordinances and Resolution, it will be with the full knowledge of the Constitutional and statutory prohibitions against such actions. The Commissioners will set a dangerous precedent that parish governments across our state may ignore the law, unjustly enrich themselves, and work to cover their tracts (without paying restitution). It is my sincere hope that those copied hereto will follow in your footsteps, investigate the actions of the Caddo Parish Commission, and come to the aid of the citizens of Caddo Parish.

Sincerely,

Will Broyles

Mr. Daryl G. Purpera, CPA, CFE January 21, 2016 Page 4

cc: (via hand delivery at the January 21, 2016 Commission meeting) Mr. Douglas “Doug” Dominick Mr. Lyndon B. Johnson Mr. Steven Jackson Mr. Matthew Linn Mr. Jerald Bowman Mr. Lynn Cawthorne Ms. Stormy Gage-Watts Mr. Mike Middleton Mr. John Atkins Mr. Mario Chavez Mr. Jim Smith Mr. Kenneth Epperson Commission Staff

(via US Mail)
Mr. Jeff Landry Office of the Attorney General P.O. Box 94005 Baton Rouge, LA 70804

Louisiana Board of Ethics P.O. Box 4368 Baton Rouge, LA 70821

Sheriff Steve Prator Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office 501 Texas St., Room 101 Shreveport, LA 71101

Mr. James E. Stewart, Sr. Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office 501 Texas Street Shreveport, LA 71101

ORDINANCE NO. 5559 OF 2016
BY THE CADDO PARISH COMMISSION:
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING AND REENACTING SECTION 2-52 OF THE CADDO PARISH CODE OF ORDINANCES PERTAINING TO UNCLASSIFIED PARISH EMPLOYEES ELGIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CADDO PARISH EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM, AND OTHERWISE PROVIDING WITH RESPECT THERETO.
BE IT ORDAINED by the Caddo Parish Commission in due, regular and legal session convened, that Section 2-52 of the Code of Ordinances of the Parish of Caddo be and is hereby amended and reenacted to read as follows to-wit:
Sec. 2-52. – Authorized membership.
Unclassified employees of the parish are eligible to participate in the Caddo Parish Employees Retirement System (CPERS). Unclassified employees are defined as:
(1) Parish commissioners;
(2)(1) The commission clerk;
(3)(2) The parish administrator;
(4)(3) The parish administrator’s secretary and the parish administrator’s assistants;
(5)(4) The parish attorney;
(6)(5) The assistant parish attorney and the parish attorney’s legal assistant;
(7)(6) The director of departments and one principal assistant for each such director;
(8)(7) The parish engineer; and
(9)(8) Any former unclassified employee, allowed by law, who made an irrevocable election.
BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED, that if any provision or item of this ordinance or the application thereof is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions items or applications which can be given effect without the invalid provisions, items or applications, and to this end, the provisions of this ordinance are hereby declared severable.
BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED, that all ordinances or parts thereof in conflict herewith are hereby repealed.
Approved as to legal form:
Parish Attorney
Date
ORDINANCE NO. 5560 OF 2016
BY THE CADDO PARISH COMMISSION:
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING AND REENACTING SECTION 2-28 OF THE CADDO PARISH CODE OF ORDINANCES PERTAINING TO THE COMPENSATION OF COMMISSION MEMBERS, AND OTHERWISE PROVIDING WITH RESPECT THERETO.
Sec. 2-28. – Compensation of commission members.
(a) Each member of the parish commission shall receive a salary as established by the parish commission, from time to time, and shall be made effective with the beginning of the term following the one in which voted and no change shall be voted during the final year of anyterm.
(b) The president of the parish commission shall receive an additional $100.00 per month.
(c) Each parish commission member’s salary shall be increased by the same percentage as any percentage cost of living increase granted to parish employees on an annual basis.
(c) Starting with the January 2016 term, each parish commissioner, at the beginning of his term, may make an irrevocable election to participate in the Social Security System or any 457 deferred compensation plan offered by the Parish, at the minimum prescribed IRS rate or more, and which does not include the contribution of matching funds by the Parish.
BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED, that if any provision or item of this ordinance or the application thereof is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions items or applications which can be given effect without the invalid provisions, items or applications, and to this end, the provisions of this ordinance are hereby declared severable.
BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED, that all ordinances or parts thereof in conflict herewith are hereby repealed.
Approved as to legal form:
Parish Attorney
Date
RESOLUTION NO. 7 OF 2016
BYTHE CADDO PARISH COMMISSION:
A RESOLUTION AMENDING THE RULES AND BY-LAWS OF THE CADDO PARISH COMMISSION, AND OTHERWISE PROVIDING WITH RESPECTTHERETO
WHEREAS, Caddo Parish has long beena member ingood standing inthe NationalAssociation of Counties (NACO) and its various committees, and affiliates; and inthe PoliceJuryAssociation of Louisiana (PJAL); and its various committees and affiliates; and
WHEREAS, Caddo Parish Commissioners have historically been active in all aspects of NACO and PJAL efforts and activities, with numerous Commissioners serving on various committees and in affiliate organizations as members or in leadership positions; and
WHEREAS, members now serving on the Caddo Parish Commission are eager to continue this tradition of involvement and service; and ·
WHEREAS, the level of training and education necessary to support a dynamic, progressive, innovative, andthriving parish should also include the elected members of the Caddo Parish Commission, in addition to staff.
Article XII Travel Policy
RULE 1: AUTHORIZATION
Each Commissioner shall be authorized to may attend education and training opportunities arising out of their elected duties in an amount not to exceed $15,000.00 $8,000.00 per calendar year. This amount is subject to review by the Commission every other year so as to maintain a stableamount for a two (2) year period.
No other travel will be approved by the Commission in excess of this amount, and no portion of said amount is transferrable among Commissioners. Additionally, Commissioner travel shall not be paid out of any other department’s budget during a calendar year.
Travel by Commissioners on official Caddo Parish business such as bond sales, financial consultation, economic development, or in support of federal or state grants, shall be included inthe$15,000.00 $8,000.00 except incasesoftheCommission PresidentorVicePresident, or his or her designee.
Furthermore, the same exception applies in the case of a Commissioner currently serving on the Executive Board of Directors of the Police Jury Association of Louisiana traveling within the State of Louisiana to and from official functions of said association.
Whenever all or a portion of a Commissioner’s travel expenses are reimbursed by a third party any further reimbursement of such expenses by Caddo Parish shall be limited to the difference between the expenses reimbursed by said third party and those authorized by current parish policy.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if any provision or item of this resolution or the application thereof is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions, items or applications which can be given effect without the invalid provisions, items or applications, and to this end, the provisions of this resolution are hereby declared severable.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution shall take effect immediately.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all resolutions or parts thereof in conflict herewith are hereby repealed.
Approved as to legal form:
_____________________ Parish Attorney
________ Date

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