Having Capella vouch for Barton was not exactly what I was expecting or hoping for. And I would venture to guess that his trite comment did not assure anyone that the Parish Attorney’s Office had been purged of the decadent influence of Tom Wilkinson. This snippet from the Times-Picayune story Jefferson Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson resigns by Paul Rioux illustrates:
Despite the upheaval, parish officials said the law department remains in capable hands.
“I have full confidence in Peggy Barton,” Councilman Tom Capella said. “We’ll continue moving forward doing the people’s business.”
Of course Capella in referencing the “people’s” business, most likely means his people: his family, cronies and contractor, consultant, lawyer campaign contributors. That would account for his “confidence” in Peggy Barton to carry on Wilkinson’s legacy of facilitating the corruptive conduct of those she depends on to keep her job.
My question to Mr. Rioux: What “upheaval” are you imagining? Barton is Wilkinson…where have you been! Haven’t you been covering the “Gretna Mentality” circus over on the west bank for several years now? Sorry, but your thinly veiled attempt at comforting the citizens of Jefferson Parish announcing that the appointment of Peggy Barton as Parish Attorney would somehow suddenly invest that office with professional competence and ethical standards failed miserably.
With such resounding support of Capella and the other Council members who chimed in by voting to confirm Barton as Parish Attorney, it is apropos that I segue into yet another current Barton (JP) vs. Seeman/Baird(CFGG) ‘tete a tete’.
Unslabbed, myself and now the Citizens for Good Government, Margie Seeman and Magaret Baird, have brought to the forefront an issue that encapsulates the taxpayers disgust and frustration with the systemic and rampant corruption by and of Jefferson Parish Officials, both elected and appointed, that is presently being investigated by Federal authorities. The question is whether the Council members are required to comply with a particular ethical standard set forth in the Jefferson Parish Code of Ordinances, and is as follows:
Sec. 23-132.1. – Abstention or statement by certain elected officials relative to campaign contributors.
Whenever any member of the Jefferson Parish Council, in the discharge of an official legislative duty, is called upon to vote on a matter which would economically benefit any person who has made campaign contribution(s) to said council member during the forty-eight (48) months prior to the date of the vote, which contribution(s), in the aggregate, exceeds the sum of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), the council member shall abstain from the vote on the matter affecting said person or shall submit to the parish clerk immediately prior to said vote a statement signed by the council member stating the reasons why said member’s vote would be fair, objective and in the public’s interest. The parish clerk shall cause the council member’s statement to be recorded in the official journal of the parish or in the minutes of the parish council. For the purposes of this section, “person” shall mean an individual, partnership, association, labor union, political committee, corporation or other legal entity, including their successors and assigns. (Ord. No. 18702, § 2, 3-10-93)
The article posted on ClickJefferson.com by Citizens for Good Government (Margie Seeman and Margaret Baird) is complete with the particulars of the most recent votes by Council members that violate this provision cited above. Ms. Seemann also sent a follow up letter requesting that Barton provide answers concerning the illegal voting of the Council. I found it interesting to note that up to this instant letter there has been no mention by the Parish Attorney about some “heretofore unknown” opinion allegedly given in the mid 1990’s by the Parish Attorney’s Office (more on that later).
In Barton’s reply, dated Sept. 28, she sarcastically suggests that Ms. Seemann and Ms. Baird are ignorant, and writes: “…It is clear from your email that you have a misunderstanding as to the obligations of the Parish Attorney’s Office.” She infers that this Office is somehow separate and apart from the public that pays for its operating budget and her over inflated salary. The fact is that Barton is a PUBLIC SERVANT; and all of the political entities that she states the Parish Attorney is accountable to are filled by individuals who are PUBLIC SERVANTS! God forbid that private individuals or entities who pay the taxes that pay the salaries for these retirement junkies, who repeatedly treat them with the utmost contempt, should ask for public information that would be of help in debating this, and other issues, intelligently, fairly and openly.
Again Barton recites the yada, yada, yada…blah, blah, blah of some pasted authority that gives support to her expected response in defending the indefensible. As though this pointed insult by Barton isn’t enough, she further states, “…If the documents you request are not afforded an exception in the public records law, then they will be provided to you in due course. ” Right! In essence, FUCK YOU Margie and Margaret, go away, don’t bother me.
And now enters the GATEKEEPER, Deputy Assistant Parish Attorney Louis Gruntz (29 years and soon to reach the rainbow’s end…a Jefferson Parish retirement!)
This tug-a-war over what is right and what is wrong is fluid…so much so, that the Times-Picayune dropped in with a story posted by Paul Rioux Wednesday afternoon. So here is what Gruntz came up with in defense of the Council, that year after year, casted illegal vote after illegal vote:
“In a legal analysis conducted in response to Seemann’s concerns, Deputy Parish Attorney Louis Gruntz wrote that after the ordinance was adopted, filing affidavits before each vote quickly “proved to be cumbersome, ineffective and costly and had no practical effect.”
In the mid-1990s, the Parish Attorney issued an opinion that signing a blanket objectivity statement would be sufficient to comply with the ordinance’s “spirit and intent,” Gruntz wrote in the two-page analysis. He said this 15-year precedent carries “great weight” in determining the intent and meaning of the ordinance.
Gruntz also said that technically no violations could have occurred because campaign contributions are made to “campaign committees” and not the council members themselves as stated in the objectivity ordinance.
Gruntz recommended that the ordinance be either “amended or repealed” to resolve the ambiguities.”
I have questions. Why wasn’t this “heretofore unknown” Parish Attorney’s opinion from the 1990’s produced and used by the Council at the meeting on Sept. 22 to justify their actions ? Who has possession of this document? Really, I want to know all about how this document came into existence…why was it written…who authorized it to be written…who wrote it…when was it written…any minute entry in the Council Journal that gives reference to this “heretofore unknown” opinion, etc, etc, etc.?
Gruntz’s cited extract above is black and white evidence of a seriously dysfunctional Parish Attorney’s Office lacking in grounded ethical standards and professional legal acumen. “Gretna Mentality” on public display again; and it’s only been a couple of weeks since the Porteous Impeachment Hearings ended. What can’t you understand Margie? That this is the way it’s done, no matter if it’s in direct violation of the law; the law here in Jefferson Parish is what I say the law is. Mumbo, Jumbo, Gumbo… a rigmarole!
Quoting from the above cited T-P article, Councilman Chrissy Roberts, injecting a bit of humor into what is a rather serious quagmire he and his colleagues find themselves in, opines:
“If we have violated the ordinance so has every prior sitting council and council member over the last 15 years,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “If something needs to be changed, I’m open to discussions. However, at this time the council has based our actions from legal guidance.”
I can only surmise that Chrissy is in the early stages of formulating some variant of the “Pied Piper” defense…I only illegally did what what other councilman have illegally done…that’s what Tom Wilkinson said we could illegally do !
Now they listen to Peggy Barton…
QUESTION: Will John Young have the balls to exorcise Wilkinson’s ghosts who continue to whore the office out for political patronage and personal gain? This Parish Attorney’s Office is in dire need of restoration: moral, professional, and legal competence.
Slabbed commenter Whitmergate is a member of Citizens for Good Government and is a resident of Jefferson Parish.
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