Commissioners in CPERS: La. Legislative Auditor Says “… Appears Unconstitutional”


Pictured: Elliott Stonecipher
By: Elliott Stonecipher
Originally Published: February 13, 2015

At the same time Caddo Parish Commissioners yesterday sued taxpayers to somehow keep their Caddo Parish Retirement System (CPERS) haul, Louisiana State Auditor Daryl Purpera notified the Commission of his determination that such “… appears to be unconstitutional.”

In the course of researching and reporting on the issue (SEE articles, here, here, and here), I appealed to Mr. Purpera, along with many other investigative and prosecutorial officials.

In his letter to Parish Administrator Woody Wilson (read the letter here), Purpera in no way asserts that the CPERS plan is illegal or unconstitutional, but explains why Commissioners cannot legally participate. Even though the state auditor cannot legally sue to block the Commission (the Attorney General’s office can, and should), Purpera’s letter directly states what he can legally do:

“Therefore, based upon the Constitutional Amendments cited above and the AG Opinions cited above, it appears to us that for Caddo Parish to continue to contribute public monies on behalf of Commissioners … is improper. I urge you to reconsider your position and to determine whether (Commission) Ordinances 3762 and 4343 should be repealed.

… Given that under Louisiana Law, the constitution provision is presumed constitutional until finally adjudicated otherwise by the Louisiana Supreme Court, I will be assigning auditors who will review this matter carefully for compliance with the law.

The conclusion reached by the State Auditor is precisely the same as that of every attorney and other specialist I have consulted, or who has otherwise publicly offered an interpretation. Only attorneys for the Commission have disagreed.

While the Caddo Commission’s in-house attorneys could have done the job, Shreveport attorney Tom Arceneaux was hired on an hourly basis to do so. He filed suit yesterday in Caddo’s First Judicial District Court against the State of Louisiana, i.e., taxpayers, so Commissioners can continue receiving taxpayer money for retirement.

Commissioners receive a stunningly high taxpayer contribution percentage into their accounts, as high as 16.75% in 2013 and 2014. In the period 2006 to date, fifteen (15) current and former Commissioners have received $235,000 in taxpayer contributions. Documents revealing the remaining taxpayer contributions, from March 2000 through 2005, continue to be withheld from the public by parish attorneys.

With the guidance and expertise of the Pesnell Law Firm, also on a pro bono basis, I will be among those who will intervene in opposition to the Commission’s lawsuit. Other statewide public interest groups are expected to do so as well. Some of those groups are most directly responsible for the successful passage of the 1996 Constitutional Amendment which bars the participation of part-time elected officials in taxpayer-funded retirement plans.

Any and all Caddo property owners who care to sue in opposition to the Commission lawsuit are legally entitled to do so.

Elliott Stonecipher

(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party. 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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