News » I-10: News on the move


Jeremy Alford|Clancy DuBos|Allen Johnson

Jr. Ex-Civil Court Judge Faces Criminal Trial
Former New Orleans Civil Court Judge C. Hunter King is scheduled to stand trial next month on criminal charges of public salary extortion and perjury. King is expected to appear before Criminal Court Judge Julian Parker at 9 a.m. on Dec. 12, says Dalton Savwoir Jr. , spokesperson for District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. King's defense attorney, Jack Martzell, declined comment. The charges stem from a judicial misconduct probe that led the Louisiana Supreme Court to remove King from the bench in 2003. The High Court determined King coerced his court staff into engaging in "impermissible campaign activity" and then lied twice to investigators about his misconduct. The Supremes also barred King from qualifying as a candidate for judicial office until 2008. In a separate case, King last month paid a $5,000 fine to the Louisiana Ethics Commission and restored more than $25,000 to his campaign fund, which he admittedly drained for his personal use, according to records and ethics officials. On Dec. 31, 2004, King made separate illegal payments of $12,737 for "storage fees" to his mother, Creasie P. King, and to King and King Management LLC, a company the judge owns with his wife, Alexis Joseph-King. On Oct. 12, 2006, the ethics board concluded that the former judge's expenditures were an "intentional and egregious" violation of campaign finance laws. King, who could have been fined up to $10,000, has agreed not to appeal the ruling. -- Johnson

Request for Arrest
At the request of the Louisiana Ethics Commission, New Orleans Civil District Court Judge Piper Griffin has issued a "no-jail" bench warrant for the arrest of Orleans Parish School Board member Jimmy Fahrenholtz. Ethics board attorney Alesia Ardoin says she asked the judge to haul Fahrenholtz into court after he failed to appear last month for a Civil Court hearing related to Fahrenholtz's failure to pay thousands of dollars in fines for violations of campaign finance laws. The order states Fahrenholtz has until Friday (Nov. 10) to explain to the judge why he missed the "judgment debtor examination," which would allow opposing attorneys to explore his personal finances. The ethics board alleges that Fahrenholtz owes more than $41,000 in fines for violating state campaign finance reporting laws -- more than any other elected official in Louisiana. Fahrenholtz has admitted he owes at least half that amount. However, he has failed to resolve the debt, despite previous orders from a state judge in Baton Rouge and the garnishment of a small portion of his $10,000 annual school board salary since January 2005. Ardoin says state law prohibits Fahrenholtz from qualifying for future public office as long as he still owes fines to the ethics board. His school board term ends in 2008. He could not be reached for comment. -- Johnson

Separated at Birth?
columnist Chris Rose penned a lively interview last week with displaced School Board critic Sandra "Eighteen-wheeler" Wheeler-Hester, which ethics board officials say they have clipped and saved. Rose reminisced how Hester, who is African American, used to call white School Board member Jimmy Fahrenholtz "Fahren-honky." Meanwhile, ethics board officials note that Wheeler-Hester, who reportedly lives out of state since Katrina, still owes the state board more than $10,000 in fines and fees for late reports from her failed 2004 campaign to unseat Fahrenholtz, who himself owes more than $41,000 in fines. "They are pretty much alike to us," said one official at the Baton Rouge-based ethics board. -- Johnson


Never in the Middle
Now that the negative political ads are fading -- until the gubernatorial election gears up, that is -- here's a tip for future viewing. It's well known that congressional candidates are now required to personally approve their ads on air. But what might not be known is how and when that line is delivered has become an exact science. For instance, some pols have been changing the words around to make it sound more natural, or to fit their message. Take Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd's most recent ad: "I approved this ad because the people of West Virginia deserve the truth." Or U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, with his wife watching in the background: "I guess I better approve this ad." Where the statement takes place, however, may be the most important decision, according to Dr. Kirby Goidel, director of the Public Policy Research Lab at LSU. "If it's a positive ad, you do it at the end so they remember you and your face," he says. "But if it's an attack ad and you're going after your opponent, you want it in the beginning so the attack lingers and the viewer possibly forgets who put forth the spot before it ends." -- Alford


Looking for New Rides
Barring any election snafus, most members of Congress are preparing to return to the Beltway for what promises to be a lame-duck session. As for Louisiana's agenda, all eyes and ears will be on the outcome of the legislation seeking to get a greater share of offshore oil and gas royalties. Congressman Bobby Jindal, a Kenner Republican, says a select committee is trying to hammer out a compromise between his very generous version and the much more tapered alternative by Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat. In the end, depending on the mood of the new Congress, both bills could die on the vine, Jindal says. If that happens, and it is likely, Jindal says the state's delegation will look to other measures. "When we get back, there will be 11 different appropriation bills being considered and a number of other bills that require action," Jindal says. "And that's a good thing, because that gives us more legislative vehicles." Aside from the royalties bill, Jindal says not enough importance is being placed on the Water Resources Development Act, which could be another "huge opportunity." While the water bill could be a vehicle for increased royalties, it also holds authorizations for several flood protection projects, including Morganza-to-the-Gulf, an aggressive project spanning the bayou region with 72 miles of levees, 12 floodgates, 12 water control structures and a lock on the Houma Navigation Canal. Of course, WRDA doesn't have the best track record, and even Jindal remains a skeptic. "That bill hasn't passed the Senate in six years," he says. -- Alford


Out With a Whimper
A storm of controversy that undercut the reform administration of former Orleans Parish Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Amato died with a whimper after a hearing before the Louisiana Ethics Commission. Kathleen Allen, general counsel to the ethics board, said that "due to a lack of evidence," the board dismissed charges that Steve Freeman, the school district's director of facilities, illegally ordered an employee to board up Amato's private residence (on the taxpayer's clock) as Hurricane Ivan bore down on New Orleans in September 2004. The allegation tarnished Amato and cost him the moral high ground in his long battle with some members of the Orleans Parish School Board, most of whom voters removed in the 2004 elections. Amato himself resigned in April 2005, before Hurricane Katrina devastated the troubled school system at the beginning of the 2005-2006 academic year. -- Johnson


Ligi Raises $50,000
Tony Ligi, who plans to run next year for state representative in Kenner's House District 79, says he collected more than $50,000 at his first fundraising event on Oct. 26. Ligi, a Republican, hopes to replace Republican state Rep. Danny Martiny, who cannot seek re-election because of legislative term limits. Among those in attendance at Ligi's fundraiser were U.S. Sen. David Vitter, state Sen. Ken Hollis, state GOP chairman Roger Villere, state GOP vice chair Polly Thomas, and more than a dozen local officials and politicos who served on Ligi's host committee. Ligi is a former chairman of the Republican Party of Jefferson Parish. The statewide elections are set for Oct. 20, 2007. -- DuBos


Scoring the Scorers
When Republican Jerry Jones dredged up the voting record of state Rep. Cedric Glover, a Democrat, last week in the Shreveport mayor's race, the chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party fired back and brought up what has become a controversial topic amongst some lawmakers in recent years. Jones had referred to a voting scorecard compiled by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), one of the most powerful lobbies in the state. After each session, LABI releases scorecards for every member of the Legislature, grading lawmakers on their support of certain business- and industry-sponsored bills. Over the years, some lawmakers have complained that LABI doesn't include every single business issue that comes up -- and the exclusion of some votes can skew the results, some say. Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington picked up on this perceived discrepancy. "His 'facts' are based on a scoring scale by LABI, which is slanted at best," he says of Jones' use of the LABI scorecard. Brigitte T. Nieland, LABI's vice president of communications, was contacted for comment, but she didn't take the bait. "We are not going to comment on the statement," she says. -- Alford

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