Even when Jefferson Parish President John Young and parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts agree on something, it seems, they find a way to squabble about it.
This week, they agreed that it would be for the best if Jefferson Parish Inspector General David McClintock started keeping an eye on the negotiations involved in leasing the parish’s public hospitals, just to make sure nothing went awry with the process.
But whose idea was it? That debate ended up playing out in a chain of emails between the two men over the past few days — on which the media, council members and hospital officials were all copied.
Roberts apparently did not appreciate Young telling reports that he had asked the IG to get involved. In an email to Young he wrote that “Inspector General indicated his office decided to get involved long before speaking with you.”
Roberts added, “Let me be clear I welcome the involvement. Nonetheless, I question the need to publicly claim credit for the review and what is more suspect is the obvious pandering.”
Young disagreed, recalling that he and his chief operating officer, Chris Cox met with the IG and asked for the extra oversight.
“At that time, he responded that he would like to think about it and get back with us,” Young wrote.
As of Friday evening, Roberts had fired the last shot. “Simply put, if your concern was about transparency and the best interest of the public you wouldn’t need to act as if you were the one to motivate the IG and contact every news channel in the process,” he wrote. “This was nothing more than a publicity stunt.”
Entities spar over talks about lawsuit’s effect
Another he-said, he-said skirmish broke out late last week between state officials and the East Bank levee board, this time over whether the Attorney General’s Office and the board’s attorney had discussed how a massive lawsuit against oil and gas companies would affect the ongoing BP trial.
How those suits could intersect has been a point of contention between the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. Representatives of the levee board including John Barry, its vice president, have said they checked with the Attorney General’s Office before filing the suit to make sure there wouldn’t be any interference. Besides, they argued, the BP trial will be over long before the board’s suit ever makes it to a courtroom.
The Attorney General’s Office took issue with that characterization Friday morning.
“Mr. Barry’s statements are totally untrue,” according to the release “What did happen was that Barry’s attorneys contacted (Allan Kanner, the trial counsel on the case) by phone and asked if he would like to be co-counsel in the SLFPA-E’s lawsuit. Mr. Kanner immediately declined and informed them that he had a conflict of interest regarding their suit.
“Absolutely no representation was ever made by Mr. Kanner that Mr. Barry’s suit was not detrimental to the state’s B.P. litigation. It never happened.”
That’s not how Gladstone Jones, the flood protection authority’s lawyer, viewed the discussion.
“Mr. Kanner knows what we discussed and my recollection is very different,” Jones said in an emailed statement. In a phone conversation he later added that he though Kanner was “a fine lawyer who would hold BP responsible for the damage it caused to the state of Louisiana.”
Jones also said he would be “happy” to discuss the two cases, and any possible conflicts, with Kanner at any time.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on the central issue at hand: whether the new suit would, in fact, create a problem for the ongoing case.
This is not the first time the levee board and state officials have sparred over exactly what was said about the suit in private.
Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves, who has led the Jindal administration’s opposition to the lawsuit, trumpeted the attorney general’s release on Twitter. After promising more “revelations” to come, Graves added a tag not fit for a family newspaper suggesting the board or its attorneys had “made that” stuff “up.”
St. Tammany sheriff gets a refund from rival
St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain scored a victory over two of his most persistent antagonists earlier this week when a federal judge ruled that Sherrie Manton and her attorneys would have to pay the sheriff’s legal expenses in a failed civil lawsuit.
Manton has sued the sheriff twice, saying that he wrongly has kept various religious items, including a Bible and rosary, along with a shotgun that belonged to her late son, that were seized during a 2008 search of her home.
Both lawsuits have been dismissed. The sheriff’s office acknowledges taking the shotgun — which they maintain was done during a legal search — but deny taking any religious mementos.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance ordered not only Manton, but also her attorneys, to pay $22,382 after dismissing the case before it got to trial. One of Manton’s lawyers is Danny Abel, who has made a raft of audacious accusations against Strain’s office in a separate, ongoing criminal case.
Vance rejected the second lawsuit, finding that it essentially duplicated the first one. In her order awarding legal fees, Vance noted that “counsel had unreasonably and vexatiously multiplied the proceedings.”
Abel said he planned to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit.
Compiled by Jeff Adelson and Faimon A. Roberts III.