A reader observed to us offline last evening in advance of the Fox 8 report on the Jefferson Parish Personnel Board, this entire affair is taking on a Nixonesque quality. Before I link Val Bracy’s excellent report that ran last night at 10 we first must visit with a comment made by Whitmergate that brings events into a sharper focus:
Mr. Wilkinson’s transgression being that as a parish employee he engaged in prohibited political activity, in particular, conducting the affairs of Tim Coulon’s political committee in and from the East Bank Yenni parish building. deBrief and I yelled with delight; then cursing as Asst. Parish Attorney, Mr. Louis Gruntz mumbled about the due process of his client; all too reminecient of Mr. Broussard’s overly zealous plea for Mr. Whitmer’s due process. Which segues into the ethical question, who exactly is Mr. Gruntz’s client ? Mr. Combs, a gentleman lawyer from the Jones, Walker law firm and an independent appointee by both the Loyola and Tulane Law Schools to the Board opines that he is at a lost as to why Mr. Gruntz is lawyering up for Wilkinson, his boss ? Which again begs the question, who is Mr. Gruntz representing ? The Parish Attorney’s office is mandated to represent the citizens of the Parish of Jefferson, through it’s duly elected officials, the Parish President and the Parish Council.
As the very politically incorrect but apparently connected Tin Lizzy might say, “Indeed my good man, indeed”. With this part so well set up by Whitmergate let’s visit with Val Bracy and Fox 8:
Jefferson Parish attorney Tom Wilkinson is one of three people the parish personnel board is investigating.
The board is looking at his actions as well as those of Aaron Broussard’s ex-wife and a current candidate for judge.
Wilkinson served as the director of former parish president Tim Coulon’s campaign committee. Campaign activity by most employees is a violation of the parish code of ordinances.
The board is also interested in the political activities of former code enforcement director Debbie Villio, who resigned this month to run for judge.
State ethics board documents show Villio accepted two campaign donations last year and also made one to councilman Elton Lagasse. Although that could be considered a violation of the parish rules on political activity, Villio doesn’t believe she broke the law.
“Well, this is an ordinance that was passed by the council, and I consulted with the parish administration before I got involved in anything. That’s kind of been how it occurred in the parish over the past many years, that if employees were gong to get involved in anything they just needed to get approval first and that’s what I did,” said Villio Monday night after participating in a candidate forum for Jefferson Parish judge.
Can someone decipher the Villio speak for me? Is she saying Parish ordinances do not apply if first the would be perpetrator get some sort of backroom waiver from the Boss Hogg de Jure? I have not read the ordinance in question so we’re hoping our readers can shed some light on this. It gets better as Whitmergate pointed out as we continue with Val Bracy’s report:
Tom Wilkinson’s office is preparing to fight the personnel board. Attorneys in his office don’t believe the board has jurisdiction over unclassified employees.
“That the question that’s been asked of me to research that and that’s why I’ve got to confer with my client, with the council, to see what course of action they want me to take. Do they want me to render an opinion, take some other action, whatever,” said Deputy Parish Attorney Louis Gruntz.
“The parish attorney is not going to be the final say on this, if that in fact is his position. He’s never suggested that to me, and I can’t believe that we’re at loggerheads with elected officials in the parish who are trying to get to the bottom of this themselves, certainly that’s our only intent. We have no political ax to grind. And I can’t believe that we’re on different pages,” said personnel board member John Combe.
Combe, who is also an attorney, says the parish’s personnel rules state the board can investigate any employee or parish official who violates the political activity regulations.
This brings us back to the events of Tuesday night where 3 Parish Attorneys were taken to the woodshed by interim parish president Theriot. Anne Marie Vandenweghe was pretty much fired with “Skip” Hand and Steve Mortillaro lined up in the chop shop. Ms Vandenweghe was the person in charge of honoring public record requests and I suspect the myriad of subpoenas that have flooded the Parish since the double-dealing involving Aaron Broussard and Company broke late last year. It has been suggested in the comments these people were taken to task because they were the source of leaks to the media and perhaps even Slabbed. While I’ll admit our traffic includes a great number of visits from Jefferson Parish Government of late not a single one of our commenters has posted from an IP addy associated with Jefferson Parish Government.
Most vexing to me is Theriot’s backing of Tom Wilkinson, whom evidently (as our good friend Sup would put it) must “have pictures” on the powers that be in Parish Government. So while three Parish attorneys were axed in what we now call the Tuesday Night Massacre in honor of that Nixonesque quality so well described by our reader (we’re assuming our newest Jefferson Parish commenter Lizzy is also some sort of modern day deep throat) it also reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”.
Mr Theriot was brought on board via the bums rush to clean things up with the promise that despite his own history of double-dealing such would not get in the way of doing what was right for the Parish. In that old Twilight Zone episode we have 7 foot tall space aliens called the Kanamits arrive on Earth promising to rid the world of hunger and war in the service of mankind. Behind those promises were more sinister motivations such as putting humans on their lunch menu. Does any of this sound familiar? Substitute the citizens of Jefferson Parish and their tax dollars for the human fare on the Kanamits’ menu and that old episode pretty much nails it. I’m sorry Mr. Theriot but here on Slabbed we don’t believe in Santa Claus.
Let’s review: Here we have Tom Wilkinson caught red-handed for conducting Tim Coulon’s political activities from his office in the Yenni Building. Aaron Broussard’s ex-wife, along with a host of others that did nothing for the parish paychecks they collected all shown under Wilkinson on his organization chart which was changed after the shit hit the fan. Wilkinson had to recuse himself from the ongoing probe into parish corruption because, while he was supposedly a full-time Parish Attorney, he also did legal work for the politicians and others. (We’ll be circling back to that Richard Rainey story in another post) The day after three Parish Attorneys are taken to the chop shop, one of Wilkinson’s Deputy Parish Attorneys that was spared, Louis Gruntz, refers to Wilkinson as “his client” on camera while supposedly representing the Parish’s legal interest. Folks there is a Theriot in the woodpile along with the Broussards, Paul Connick an a host of others as again I am reminded of Nowdy’s snarky comment: If not for a conflict of interest, some would have no interest at all.
Mr Theriot has some ‘splaining to do folks. Standing by his man Tom Wilkinson, an at will Parish employee, while giving others without conflict of interest problems the axe, is most telling and exemplifies that while some of the names have changed it remains business as usual in Jefferson Parish.
For your viewing pleasure here is a Youtube snippet of To Serve Man, dedicated to all the Santa Clauses on the Jefferson Parish Council.