- Elliott Stonecipher
- Elliott Stonecipher
In a key hearing in Caddo Parish District Court, Judge Ramone Lafitte has issued important rulings in the lawsuit local attorney Whitney Pesnell and I filed in March 2015 (pro bono).
The purpose of our suit was and remains the ugly and unyielding self-pay scandal at and by the Caddo Parish Commission.
In a June article, I wrote to explain how attorney Tom Arceneaux, the Commission, and our local government-in-hiding – the group which has driven the pro-Commission effort from the beginning of this litigation – had filed a Motion for Summary Judgment to secure portions of guilty Commissioners’ self-pay going back to at least 1993. Here is the link to that article posted on RealShreveport.com:
(I note again, Mr. Arceneaux and two other private attorneys have been paid over $125,000 in taxpayer money to fight our lawsuit. It is our purpose to recover the taxpayer money taken in the subject malfeasance.)
Now, Judge Lafitte has ruled against Arceneaux, et al, in the most substantive parts of the Motion for Summary Judgment. He has ruled that C.P.E.R.S. pay, Commissioner salaries, and life / health insurance pay to them will proceed to trial, if the Commission and its handlers so decide.
Judge Lafitte has ruled as well that auto mileage reimbursements and travel pay are not “benefits” as are the other categories of epic Commissioner self-pay (Mr. Pesnell’s is further researching those issues).
Of MOST importance, Arceneaux’s comments in open court included his admissions that:
…C.P.E.R.S. was, and has been since January 1, 1997, explicitly barred for Caddo Parish Commissioners (in state law, our Constitution, and the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter), and
…the illegal process used for Commissioner salary increases (back to 1993, at least) has been remedied by recent Commission action.
That admission – that the method of salary self-pay for at least two decades has been ILLEGAL – is of immeasurable importance.
Soon, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments on Judge Lafitte’s initial ruling many months ago that neither I nor any other Caddo Parish taxpayer has any right under law to sue the Commission / Commissioners for the return of taxpayer money.
That ruling, if left to stand, would mean neither I nor any other taxpayer could sue the Commission or Commissioners…for anything (In fact, the record proves that the Caddo Commission has been sued many, many times before…and successfully so).
As the litigation now stands, this battle would end with Commissioners out not so much as one penny of their own money. The many hundreds-of-thousands of taxpayer dollars the guilty ones among them have in their personal accounts would be preserved, as would the pay to attorneys working for them (instead of for taxpayers).
Mr. Arceneaux took this hearing as an opening to attack these articles I write.
Let me be clear, and I hope his friends will share this with him:
“Mr. Arceneaux, please convince Commissioners and those who are directing all of this to do the right thing. These articles go away when Caddo taxpayer money illegally taken from us – commonly viewed as ‘stolen from us’ – is returned to the public coffers. You can rest assured that neither Whitney Pesnell nor I are having fun, much less being paid for the work.”
On behalf of Whitney Pesnell and honest Caddoans, I commend Judge Lafitte for rulings in favor of Caddo taxpayers. We certainly need his help and the help of all others here who will work with us to save our place.
© 2016 ELLIOTT STONECIPHER ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
* Since March 2014, I have written over 50 articles about corruption within the Caddo Parish Commission. The articles written since January 2015 may be read on RealShreveport.com.