Williams Convicted, Prator Invisible on CPERS

Former Caddo Commissioner, Michael Williams, was convicted of wire fraud after jury deliberations for about an hour on Thursday (read here). The Williams scandal was straight forward as well as politically safe and easy for the local media to cover, so it generated headlines. Arresting an unpopular, black, crooked Caddo Commissioner for pilfering around $2000 from a non-profit he basically controlled (due to an informant serving up all of the information to the sheriff’s office) was the only way to get Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator to perform his job in this case. Aiding in motivating Prator’s year of investigation into Williams was the sheriff’s relationship with William’s nemesis on the Caddo Commission, John Escude. Escude has at least two siblings that have been confirmed to work on the payroll for the Caddo Sheriff’s department.

Meanwhile, most Caddo citizens are at least somewhat aware of the self-pay scandal going on amongst the Caddo Parish Commission (well documented here). Williams, Escude and a host of other former Commissioners (some like Commission President Matthew Linn still currently on the Commission) looted cash amounts now over a combined one million dollars; much more than the roughly $2000 that Williams pilfered. As the Louisiana Legislative Auditor reported for a second time in November 2015, the Caddo Commission had over a decade and a half of abuse in self-pay of taxpayer dollars for a benefit system called CPERS. Elliott Stonecipher, in a complete vacuum of any authority figure being willing to take any action to correct the matter, filed a lawsuit challenging the CPERS benefits and other self-pay mechanism the Commission was caught abusing. That lawsuit is advantageously being slowly dragged through the Caddo district court system in former Keith Hightower City Attorney Ramon Lafitte’s courtroom.

In spite of a preponderance of evidence, two reports by the LLA and complaints to his office about the self-pay scandal, Sheriff Prator will not investigate the matter or make public comment (this site has requested more than once). The sheriff is virtually invisible in all matters of public corruption, only taking action when politically expedient for himself.

Prator often blames his impotence as a matter of having no support from the District Attorney’s office or the US Attorney’s office, so he is somehow excused from performing the duties of his job What is clear though is that Prator’s relationship with other white Commissioners, many being the central actors in the self-pay scandal, is causing him to pick and choose who he investigates. Prator even recently showed his willingness to protect Caddo Commission President, Matthew Linn, from a ridiculous Facebook “threat” by using one of his investigators to intimidate a middle aged female attorney for her crass social media jest (See here).

What else can explain the double standard applied here? Michael Williams abused non-profit money for personal gain under the hidden cloak of privacy and was competently investigated and competently convicted. A score of Caddo Commissioners illegally abuse taxpayer money in open and public records, with the cover of the reports by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, and Sheriff Prator does nothing.

Sheriff Prator does not appear to be any friend to the citizens of Caddo Parish by using the most powerful office in the Parish to keep accountability and integrity in local government, rather he appears to be a friend to those who abuse public funds. He is invisible to the hundreds and thousands of concerned citizens who want justice in the Commission’s self-pay scandal. He is visible in being an enforcer for corrupted officials that are his political and social allies.

It is time to begin asking, is our sheriff compromised by someone or something and unable to perform his job? Can the rule of law be re-established in Caddo Parish without the enforcement of law? Call him invisible, or call him an enforcer for the corrupt, but don’t attempt to call him for help in cleaning up the Caddo Parish Commission.

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