Local Media, District Attorney Actively Ignoring Criminal Conspiracy in CPERS
Elliott Stonecipher began to make Caddo Commissioners aware that he had found a problem in early 2015. His discovery? That Caddo Commissioners had been receiving pay and benefits outside of the legal restrictions placed in the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter (“HRC”). The HRC very specifically states in Section 3-05 that the Commissioners are entitled to pay of $700 per month ($100/month more for the Commission President) with strict guidelines of how to enact pay raises. The apparent intention behind this wording was that Caddo Parish voters would likely get to vote for when they felt like Commissioners deserved pay increases.
The HRC also goes on to specifically prohibit that “no commissioner shall receive any additional compensation, benefit or privilege, direct or indirect, because of his office.”
Instead, Commissioners conspired to give themselves pay increases via ordinances and create at least three other mechanisms to increase monetary receipts for themselves. The Legislative Auditor even wrote two scathing reports outlining with great detail how much the Commissioners took in retirement benefits for themselves using the Caddo Parish Parochial Employee Retirement System (“CPERS”). According to the Legislative Auditor, CPERS is a benefit that is also unconstitutional per the Constitution of the State of Louisiana.
As Elliott Stonecipher has published often, his study of the facts of the case point to a conspiracy by the Caddo Commission (over the course of many terms) to not only create illegal revenue streams such as CPERS, but to also protect themselves from having to pay any money back to Caddo Parish taxpayers.
What is notable is that all Caddo based media outlets have given very light coverage to this scandal. Watchdogs in the community have often and consistently called for law enforcement and local prosecutors from the Caddo District Attorney’s office to pursue charges of criminal malfeasance in office against the Commissioners. To date, not a single media outlet (until this one) has even taken up the issue. At most, the local media requested comment from Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator and the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office. Both stated that they had not been notified of the need for a criminal investigation. Although, we can report that Steve Prator was asked why he was not pursuing criminal charges back in August of 2015 after the first Legislative Auditor’s letter. The Legislative Auditor’s second letter on the matter was published on November 30, 2015. In August 2015, Prator noted that he had engaged in at least some form of investigation, but was declined by the District Attorney’s office on the matter. When asked why he did not report the matter to a higher authority, or use the local media to call for prosecution, he commented that in spite of his efforts, Mr. Stonecipher was “not very popular” for all the work he puts into his local watchdog activities and that Prator “wore the pavement out between [his] office and the District Attorney’s office.” When pressed on how he could be more effective in his pursuit of the matter in spite of his claims that the DA office and US Attorney’s office would not take up the matter, he declined to comment. It is worth noting that Mr. Stonecipher has a popular following via social media and is often interviewed and quoted in media throughout the state and country for his political analysis.
RealShreveport.com now offers to Sheriff Prator the use of this forum and format to call for his investigation to move forward. RealShreveport.com is also willing to provide any assistance needed to other local media outlets to understand the full story and scope of the malfeasance in office conspiracy to preserve illegal monies by the Caddo Commissioners. Quite possibly, now the community can begin to have the growing concern voiced in more than one media outlet. The media is likely to pick up on the coming week’s Commission meeting due to an agenda posted that will include a vote to eliminate the Commissioners from CPERS, in spite of the stark silence in coverage of the criminal aspect of the scandal.
Worth noting: The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has published many similar findings of corruption throughout the state that resulted in immediate arrests and prosecution within two weeks of the CPERS audit advisory. Read the full Legislative Auditor’s report here.