Caddo Commission Disdain for Law Again Spotlighted

February 27, 2016

As the new Caddo Parish Commissioners settle into their jobs, I offer this sobering article. I take no pleasure in writing it, just as I doubt any good and decent citizen will take any in reading it. There are two subjects, each demonstrating the distance between the Commission and respect for the law.

“Washington Parish Official Stole Public Money”

Thus blares the headline in an Associated Press national news wire story this morning (see it here), and which was published in our very own Shreveport Times, but only for subscribers. Yes, another public official bites the dust of law … well, another one not in Caddo Parish.

This public official stole only $128,000 and change, while a gaggle of our Commissioners took just under $300,000 from us in CPERS retirement money … which a Caddo judge has since tried to preserve for them. Local attorney Whitney Pesnell and I set about more than a year ago, pro bono, to get Caddo taxpayers money back, but civil lawsuits here are rarely in the justice business.

No criminal investigation has ever been conducted here.

Guilty Caddo Commissioners knew very well CPERS was (a) illegal under state law, (b) unconstitutional in Caddo Parish, and (c) unconstitutional in Louisiana. No human being knows that fact better than I – other than the ones who stole our money and the many officials, attorneys and others here who help them.

No one who studies the thousands of pages I have can honestly doubt that there was a criminal conspiracy to defraud Caddo taxpayers. What was done was cold-blooded from its jump in 2000, and worsened by a second, related fraud in 2005.

In fact, a lawyer who worked in the first phase of this outrage in the 1990s is one of three lawyers Caddo taxpayers have so far given $88,000 to help CPERS hijackers keep our money. I hope Commission attorneys Tom Arceneaux, Jerry Edwards and Michael Lowe will someday explain to us what how they can believe offending Commissioners are victims – guiltless – and are entitled to their haul.

The work to date of this phalanx of lawyers strongly suggests it is political connections – their own and those of some Commissioners – which are far more potent than law.

Caddo Commissioners Don’t Even Cast Their Votes Legally

Given the CPERS caper, we should not be surprised to learn that Commissioners do not even vote legally in their meetings.

Remember as you read this: we pay a good-sized staff of administrators and lawyers to “help” Caddo Commissioners legally perform their duties. Over and over again, evidence tells us that is wasted (tax) money.

Thanks to a tip from a friend of mine who serves on a state board and knows the subject well, I looked into that most basic of Commissioner duties: voting. My friend noted, as I have in my CPERS research, that Commissioners often and obviously hide-out by abstaining rather than voting “Aye” or “Nay.”

As most of us know, Commissioner abstentions completely – unlawfully – defeat accountability.

When I asked the parish attorney to educate me, I was directed to the Commission’s Rules and By-Laws, a part of our Home Rule Charter. As set out in “Article III. Rights and Duties, Rules 3 and 4,” (see here) I learned that Commissioners do NOT vote legally. Here are subject facts:

Rule 3: Voting shall be by roll call on ordinances or upon motion of two or more Commissioners, and the ayes and nays shall be recorded in the minutes of the Commission by the individual vote of each of the Commissioners. …

Rule 4: Any member requesting to be excused from voting may, when his name is called, and before the results shall be announced, make a brief statement of the reason for making such a request, and the President shall excuse from voting any member who wishes to be excused. After a vote is taken, no member passing or abstaining shall be allowed to vote on the issue.

In direct experience, the Caddo Commission uses a handy-dandy electronic tote board, not roll-call votes. It is notable in that many in the audience or watching on television cannot read it. Without roll-call voting, the process related to vote abstentions is wrecked. Abstentions must come up during the roll call.

The lawful process as set out in our Charter would spotlight the use of abstentions, while the Commission practice does the opposite, and defeats the intended, pointed accountability set out in law.

Now, let’s see if Commission President Matthew Linn corrects these abuses of law. Such would be a shock, though. Linn’s taxpayer haul of CPERS money is $22,418.97. He certainly hasn’t given it back.

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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