- Elliott Stonecipher
Friday, May 19, 2017 … 10:25 A.M.
“Every Commissioner is not crooked, as some people think that they are.”
Caddo Commissioner Lyndon B. Johnson thus shared his thinking in a media interview just after his anything-but-open-and-honest private meeting with three-wheel-car czar Paul Elio.
It is downright cringe-worthy for “LBJ” to bring up Commission misfeasance since he has $16,697.27 of the public’s money in “CPERS” – illegal retirement – pay, which he fully intends to keep.
Public trust in the Commission has been shattered because the body routinely ignores law. Not coincidentally, public trust in Paul Elio and his “car” project is shot, too.
It certainly will be no mean feat to sort out the Elio Motors mess, but some of us are trying.
So, I days ago submitted a Louisiana Public Records Law request to Commission staff boss Woody Wilson.
That law – Louisiana R.S. 44.1 – gives Wilson three business days to give-up the documents. Three days was start-of-business yesterday, but no documents … and no surprise.
It may well be that the Commission is deliberately slow-walking all efforts to find facts and answers … at least as long as it serves their purpose.
The all-hands-on-deck alarm sounded when Elio had secret meetings with select Commissioners. Those are unlawful, and should have been rejected out-of-hand by the Commission.
Perhaps worse, Mr. Elio went so far as to require Commissioners to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements – “NDAs” – before he would meet with them.
Those NDAs, we are told, “force” Commissioners not to tell we the people what went on behind those slammed doors.
On top of that, Elio – or some Commissioner on his behalf – used our very own parish attorney to draw-up those toxic NDAs.
That at least three Commissioners – Lyndon Johnson, Louis Johnson and John Atkins – attended
such meetings is revolting … even for the Commission.
Given all of this, my public records request compels the Commission to produce:
(a) all NDAs signed by Commissioners, and
(b) “… any and all other Commission documents written by any person which in any way relates to said meetings with Mr. Elio in the past four (4) weeks.”
Provocative, and likely consequential, is the role of Commissioner John Atkins.
Media and Commission sources report that Atkins directed Elio’s command performance here, including his selection of which Commissioners were “allowed” to kiss Elio’s ring.
Atkins reportedly arranged how the meetings were held – the use of NDAs included – and was the author of written “talking points” used by Elio and Commissioners in public discussions of any of this.
In his quick response to my questions, the Commissioner comfortably cited his attempts as head of the Economic Development Committee to “… convey the facts surrounding this situation, as I see them.”
In answer to one question, Atkins did stress that he has “… no financial interest in IRG (Industrial Realty Group) or Elio Motors.”
Atkins may not see that his extraordinary intervention in this matter is, to many, an endorsement of the project.
On the other hand, that may be his exact purpose.
Without question, Atkins’ prominence implies far, far more than publicly available information explains … especially since his arrangements necessarily blacked-out such facts and answers.
Victoria Shirley, KSLA-TV investigative reporter, likely spotlighted what all of this is about.
By July 1st, the Racer Trust – the federal government entity which can pull the plug on this project – will act to do so … or not.
As Ms. Shirley reports, Racer Trust has granted extensions before, but it is now stressing that this time it will “ask the Commission.”
That Commission decision is likely the ballgame.
Clearly, Elio Motors is far, far too deep in debt – almost $400 million – to continue, especially since investor confidence is shattered, and a three-wheel car now has no market, if it ever did.
Thus, a re-up for this project by Commissioners would be yet another huge mistake, if not – as some of my sources posit – something far worse.
My bet is that some folks here have a lot to lose if Racer Trust pulls the Elio / Lichter plug.
Bets, however, are no substitute for facts.
That brings us back to Commissioner Lyndon Johnson, Commission crooks, CPERS pay, and all else which has shattered public confidence in the body
… people – particularly repeat offender public officials – hide things from us for only one reason.
© 2017 Elliott Stonecipher … ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
My sincere “Thank you!” to Victoria Shirley and Shon Gables, KTBS-TV, for their reports: