Port Allen recall drive organizer faces contempt hearing

The West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office is asking a state district court judge to hold a Port Allen man in contempt for failing to turn over to investigators a copy of the failed recall petitions collected last year against city Councilman R.J. Loupe.

The signed petitions that by law should still be in the possession of petition drive Chairman Larry Profit are needed as part of the Sheriff’s Office’s ongoing investigation into possible voter fraud during the special Port Allen mayor’s race earlier this year, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. Richie Johnson said Friday.

Johnson, however, would not say how the Loupe recall petitions would fit into their voter fraud investigation. Most of the other court records related to the investigation have been sealed by the court, he added.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” he said. “Just know we’re not looking into Loupe’s recall.”

Profit and Gizele Thompson filed paperwork on Sept. 4, 2013, to initiate the recall petition drive against Loupe — just days after a separate group filed paperwork to initiate a recall drive against former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter.

Profit and Thompson, who were named as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Loupe recall drive, were staunch Slaughter supporters.

But their attempt to oust the 30-year City Council veteran failed when they couldn’t amass the 1,285 signatures needed by the March 4 deadline, 180 days after the initial filing, to put the recall on the ballot.

Sheriff’s investigators are now seeking the court’s help in getting Profit to turn over the petitions as their voter fraud investigation continues.

“Because it’s a public record, he must maintain it for three years following the initiation of the recall effort,” Johnson said.

The probe into allegations of voter fraud was launched in late March after the Sheriff’s Office received complaints about hundreds of mail-in and faxed requests for early voting ballots that did not match voter information on file with the parish Registrar of Voters Office.

Johnson said previously at least one individual trying to submit an early ballot was told by workers in the Registrar’s Office that his ballot could not be accepted because he had already cast his vote via mail-in ballot. However, the individual told authorities he hadn’t voted yet.

At least one of the ballots that was under review in the special election was tied to the Slaughter re-election campaign.

Slaughter was vying to get her job back in the special election after she was recalled from office on Nov. 16. She lost to the city’s current mayor, Richard Lee, in the April 5 election.

According to a motion for contempt filed in the 18th Judicial District Court, Profit was personally served a subpoena on July 9 ordering him to turn over a copy of the Loupe recall petition to Johnson within three business days.

While being served the subpoena, Profit told the deputy he thought “them people” had already got that, the motion reads.

Lt. Glynn Scalise wrote in his report Profit accepted the subpoena and said he would take care of the matter.

Profit visited the Sheriff’s Office five days later, according to the contempt motion, and told Johnson he did not have the recall petition and said, “Those people that was behind all these trickerations have it.”

Johnson then asked Profit who “those people” were and Profit replied: “The other person on that paper you gave me” — referring to Thompson.

Johnson said Friday that Thompson was not served a subpoena to produce a copy of the petition because, according to state law, the chairman of the recall committee is the designated custodian of the document.

A court hearing in the matter is set for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 11.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.