The Atrocious Epidemic of Caddo Commission Secrecy
May 30, 2016
Edward Teller, the physicist best known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb,” knew a lot about official secrecy. His work on the Manhattan Project fascinated me as a teen, as did details of how that World War II effort at the Los Alamos National Laboratory was kept secret. Years later, and in a broader context, he made a point I have never forgotten …
… “Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction.”
Given that we in Caddo Parish live in a time and place of government of, by and for government, we the people be damned, secrecy has become a disease. As it runs that government, the Caddo Parish Commission puts on a non-stop clinic in its use.
The primary crop planted for years by many at the Commission is abuse of taxpayers through illegal self-pay. It is a crop nurtured by official secrecy. Whether the old or “new” Commission, members and other bosses routinely devise, employ, and demonstrate an array of hidden, illicit practices to enrich themselves. Two crucially important examples now stand out.
1. A heavy dependence on bogus “executive sessions.”
Anytime they wish and thus vote, commissioners move their supposedly public meetings into a very non-public “executive session.” There, secrecy – and the typically resulting malfeasance – rules.
Specific laws exist to greatly limit what can be discussed in these funerals for good government, but their very nature means honest brokers are virtually never in the room. Zero official accountability is the goal … and near-guaranteed result.
The Caddo Commission’s most recent such attack on citizen protections was a recent session held to make sure their fix stays in on “CPERS” and other illegal commissioner self-pay (related article here).
But, for the first time in our battle against the Commission, multiple sources in attendance spoke with me afterward. We therefore know the session was run by attorney Tom Arceneaux, one of five staff or outside attorneys who are working to preserve the illegal “CPERS” take by many commissioners and top staff.
After the lawyers’ whip-cracking was over, Commissioner Mike Middleton’s attempt to force straight-up Commission votes on three related resolutions – in favor of public interests – was dead.
The three outside lawyers have cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 … money we paid them to specifically work against our interests. Neither has any one of them been deterred by either of the two written warnings against all of this by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. In fact, those are routinely referred to at the Commission as nothing but “one man’s opinion.”
Such speaks loudly of commissioners’ worship of self, and malice toward law.
To be certain all appropriate investigative and prosecutorial authorities have related facts before them, I have copied them on a letter to Commission Administrator Woody Wilson. My letter asks him to explain how the deliberate defeat of public will and interests in these “executive sessions” can be justified. (See letter here.)
2. Denial of “legal discovery” in litigation … official protection of Commission secrecy.
Somehow, the aforementioned lawyers have been able to use the legal process in our parish court to defeat even the most basic protections against governmental secrecy.*
In March 2015, I filed a lawsuit with the help of also-pro bono attorney Whitney Pesnell. We filed it to compel commissioners and top staff to return to public coffers the money netted by CPERS offenders. The suit was also intended to provide us “legal discovery,” mainly public records the Commission will not produce via Public Records Law requests.
To this day, no such “discovery” has been allowed. Not one document has been obtained. Not one question answered. No one with whom I have spoken can explain this. Given how the mystery necessarily forced us into appellate court, the goal of the Commission was achieved: the lawsuit was effectively halted, with guilty Commissioners further rewarded.
Yet again, Commission secrecy in opposition to public interests has been protected and preserved.
Another powerful point concerning government and secrecy is credited to Daniel Schorr, a CBS, and later NPR, journalist who experienced the damage explicitly traceable to such secrecy:
… “I have no doubt that the nation has suffered more from undue secrecy than from undue disclosure. The government takes good care of itself.”
To me, no truer words were ever spoken. Government, ever increasingly, is the enemy of honest people. Most Caddo Commissioners prove this as they diligently, and often illegally, serve themselves at our expense.
* Since January 2015, I have written and published a series of highly detailed and sourced articles on the subject of the Caddo Parish Commission’s illegal retirement and other self-pay. Those and other related articles 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.