Speech to Jefferson Parish Council Feb 23, 2011
About the Paralegal Scandal
by CFGG Vice-Chairman Margie Seemann
Today I am going to speak about Jefferson’s Paralegal Scandal, which is back in the news. Citizens for Good Government has been extremely distressed for some time about the Jefferson Parish paralegal scandal. As a matter of fact, tomorrow it will be exactly one year since we sent a letter to then Interim Parish President Steve Theriot with the SUBJECT: What do you intend to do about the apparent public payroll fraud in the “paralegal” scandal? We sent a similar letter a year ago to all of the members of our Jefferson Parish Council, asking them to conduct their own investigation if President Theriot did not take action to punish current Parish employees who were complicit in the paralegal scandal. By the way, we had no response from Mr. Theriot or from any of the Councilmen to these letters.
Our letter to President Theriot a year ago on February 24th, 2010 started as follows:
You are to be commended for the many actions you have taken to clean up and prevent corruption in Jefferson Parish government since you became interim Parish President. However, we have been waiting to see what action you take to punish current Jefferson Parish employees who facilitated the “paralegal” scandal, which was recently uncovered. Unfortunately, it appears that you have not taken disciplinary action against current Parish employees who participated in this scam, although the phony paralegal employees were fired or resigned and are no longer employed by Jefferson Parish.
One year later, Citizens for Good Government just wrote essentially the same thing in letter dated February 15th to Parish President John Young, since current Jefferson Parish employees who facilitated the paralegal scandal have still not been punished.
President Young, we thank you for your prompt response to our latest letter on the paralegal scandal. Citizens for Good Government is happy that you have taken further action in the paralegal scandal by terminating the remaining non-certified paralegals. Interim Parish President Steve Theriot had previously fired individuals who were hired with the title of “paralegal” without the proper credentials, but were not even working for the Legal Department.
However, President Young, you have apparently not taken any action yet against the officials currently holding positions in our Jefferson Parish government who were actually responsible for the paralegal scandal by hiring or supposedly supervising unqualified individuals, and having them paid out of the Legal Department budget, while they were actually assigned to other departments. In our opinion, these government officials are even more guilty than the individuals who merely accepted jobs offered to them by these public officials, in some cases because they were friends or were politically connected.
President Young, in our most recent letter, we quoted RS 14:138(A), the public payroll fraud statute, and we stated:
Public payroll fraud was committed not only by the individuals who received pay for work they were not doing, but by the Jefferson Parish officials who were responsible for hiring these individuals. In addition, the officials who were supposed to be supervising the paralegals, even though they were not actually working for these public officials, but were assigned to other departments, are also apparently guilty of public payroll fraud, since they permitted these individuals to be carried on the payroll of the Legal Department.
Although we did not indicate this in our letter to you, President Young, we also have conclusive evidence of the altering of a public record having to do with the paralegal scandal by an official of the Legal Department. I believe that you, President Young, and the members of our Jefferson Parish Council have also had access to this information. If not, I will be happy to provide this documentation to you.
Doesn’t this concern anyone in our government? Does our government only fire low level employees, while higher level officials are given a pass when they violate our laws and even are alleged to have committed felonies such as public payroll fraud and altering public records?
President Young, as we said in our letter to you, you have made it clear that you want a transparent, honest administration, and Citizens for Good Government is counting on this. If you really mean what you say, then you will follow through on the paralegal scandal to its just conclusion by taking the appropriate action against the perpetrators of the paralegal scandal who are still in our government. These individuals need to be punished—there would have been no paralegal scandal without them. They should not be a part of our Jefferson Parish government any more than the unqualified individuals who were hired as paralegals.