- Elliot Stonecipher
- Elliot Stonecipher
How does an acronym come to trumpet – to mean – some very important thing? How is it possible that the first letters of any combination of words can name both the disease consuming a place, and its potential cure.
Here and now in Caddo Parish, the subject acronym is “CPERS” – referring to the Caddo Parish Employee Retirement System. “CPERS” is now code for systemic corruption in and surrounding the Caddo Parish Commission.
If the corruption embedded within it years ago by culpable parish officials is stomped out, “CPERS” might well come to refer to when and how Caddo Parish began its recovery.
Put the other way, if the corruption which is the subject of our CPERS battle wins, and the Caddo public is thus openly savaged by its very own government, there will be no hiding the fact that corruption owns this place.
For any who do not know, almost twenty years ago Caddo Parish Commissioners were permanently banned from receiving taxpayer-funded retirement benefits. The banning of such benefits to part-time elected officials – specifically including parish commissioners – went to a statewide constitutional amendment vote in the fall of 1996, with 69% of Caddoans and 70% of Louisianans voting to cease all such benefits, effective January 1, 1997.
Thus, the people spoke … but the Caddo Parish Commission did not give a hoot in hell.
Three years later, in March 2000, our Commission voted unanimously to give themselves that which was explicitly prohibited: retirement benefits, by putting themselves in CPERS.
That 2000 action was wildly illegal and wrong, but a change they voted themselves in March 2005 screamed malicious intent. That ordinance amendment supercharged their take of public money, rigging the annual taxpayer match rate as high as 16.75% in some years.
As it turned out, CPERS was the tip of the Commissioners’ self-pay iceberg. As far back as the early 1990s, we learned, they have voted or otherwise handed themselves many other categories of self-pay, each one of which is banned, also explicitly, by the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter, our constitution.
The help we needed last year to make our case came, but was also officially ignored. Our Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s two reports to the Commission, each of which was intended to remedy all of this, have been completely, totally, utterly disregarded by the Commission and all other local authorities.
The lawsuit I filed against all of this early last year is stalled – not by us. But, that doesn’t matter. Commissioners & Friends can end all of this right now: give the public its money back. Put the now nearly $300,000 Commissioners gave themselves back in the Commission general fund. No court action is necessary. Each Commissioner holding CPERS payola need only give it back. It is ridiculous to proclaim, as Commissioner Matthew Linn recently, publicly did, that such cannot be done.
Commissioner Mike Middleton’s Try
Only one Caddo Parish Commissioner, newcomer Mike Middleton, has taken a stand against the corruption. I regret that this public “Thank You” will be held against him by many Commissioners and their outside handlers, but at least he knows to expect that.
Mr. Middleton’s effort last week to force an open vote on three CPERS-related Resolutions – #40, #41 and #42, included here – never made it to “GO,” much less past it. The parish attorney first urged him not to even try it, but he went ahead. Then, Commissioner John Atkins took the lead to effectively kill the effort by moving the discussion into the secrecy of an executive session where lawyers – lawyers WE PAY – run the show. The public and news media were shut out.
That executive session was direct action against public interests. Such never, ever happens when right is being done. Thus, when the conniving was finished, Commissioner Middleton’s resolutions were kaput … with no public discussion or vote.
Spin and smoke from the black hats notwithstanding, commissioners – except for Mr. Middleton – along with their attorneys (who we pay) and their outside sponsors, are hard at work against the law and the public.
… to be continued …
* Since January 2015, I have written and published a series of highly detailed and sourced articles on the subject of the Caddo Parish Commission’s illegal retirement and other self-pay. Those and other related articles may be read on RealShreveport.com. Click first on “CPERS Timeline,” then begin reading the first article at the bottom of Page 2. Articles are chronologically arranged from there, forward.