Dear Caddo Commission: “Where’s Our Money?!


August 6, 2016

The following definition is included in an article I recently read by Michael J. Hutter for the American Bar Association, “Prosecuting Public Officials / Figures for Corruption: The Approach in the United States“…

“Public corruption is any form of the misuse of a public or government office for private gain.  Its existence is an indication that something has gone wrong in the management of the government office, whether it be federal, state or local.  In that regard, it is a basic tenet that government is not to be used for personal enrichment and the extending of benefits to the corrupt.”
Obvious, huh? So how can it be that Whitney Pesnell and I fighting at our personal expense, in two local courts, with no help of any kind from any parish investigative or prosecutorial authority, to force a public body to cease being corrupt?

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For those who missed it, our Caddo Parish Commission met last Thursday.  Without fanfare or discussion, it accepted the report of its own Caddo Parish Charter Review Committee.

The Committee was chaired by Liz Swaine, Director of the Shreveport Downtown Development Authority (DDA), charged by Commissioners with reviewing the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter for possible amendments.  Commission doers and sponsors planned to have changes up for a required public vote on the November presidential election ballot.

A majority of Commissioners hope this process will preserve and legitimize self-pay, while allowing those prominent outside sponsors to credibly claim they have thus and magically cleaned-up the Commission.  (These leaders, we have learned, do not see the Commission’s epic self-pay gluttony as public theft, or corruption … to them it is more akin to a workplace accident.)

Needless to say, with all the evidence the public has consumed of unmitigated self-pay fraud at the Commission – whether for travel, salary or “CPERS” retirement – this Charter Committee had no chance of improving the image of the body.

Since the DDA, for its various plans and programs, needs / wants Commission money, Ms. Swaine may have felt she was in no position to reject this gig.  Such is, after all, the way the Commission works:  “We give ‘you’ money for ‘your’ deal, then you salute and say ‘yes’ when we tell you to.”

As if to prove this study was an insider job, the “citizen” committee boldly included as participants Commission administrator Woody Wilson, Parish Attorney Donna Frazier, and Commission President Matthew Linn.  Citizen complaints to Ms. Swaine spiffed-up their open fiddling a bit, but the damage to Committee credibility and final product was already done.

Later, waving a red-flag to mark evidence of the Commission’s institutional dishonesty, President Matthew Linn made this comment about commission self-pay in the July 18, 2016, meeting:  “… There is not a single Commissioner that (Linn) knows of that’s in it for the money.

In fact, the official record of the Commission since 1993 dramatically documents how the very opposite is fact.  While some members over the years no doubt felt that way, they have always constituted a very small – and silent – minority.

Bottom-line?  There is no need to consider anything but the end result of this charter review.  The Commission will now have its way with these “recommendations.”  We should be surprised only if taxpayers are not somehow dishonored.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit I filed with also-pro-bono attorney Whitney Pesnell in March 2015 winds through our Caddo Parish state district court, as well as our 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal.  Hope does, after all, spring eternal.

On the other side in all litigation are three local attorneys to whom we have already handed over $100,000 to oppose our interests, and preserve the self-pay haul of Commissioners.  CPERS losses total some $300,000, and multiples of that have been paid to Commissioners in illegal salary increases over many years.

Elliott Stonecipher

*  Since March 2014, I have written and online-published 50 articles about corruption within the Caddo Parish Commission.  The articles written since January 2015 may be read on RealShreveport.com.  Click first on “CPERS Timeline,” then begin reading the first article at the bottom of Page 2.  Articles are chronologically arranged from there, forward.

©  2016    ELLIOTT STONECIPHER    ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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