'O.T.' to Jail; Barre Free
Disgraced former City Council member Oliver Thomas reports to federal prison authorities Thursday (Jan. 3) to begin serving a three-year sentence for his public bribery conviction. Meanwhile, Stanford 'Pampy" Barre, the politically connected businessman who admitted engaging in corrupt activities with Thomas and other public officials, will remain free. Barre was scheduled to be sentenced in January following his guilty plea in the Johnson Controls scandal during the administration of former Mayor Marc Morial. But prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier for yet another extension. The government seeks to continue Barre's sentencing based upon his 'continued cooperation," according to a spokesperson for local U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Barre and businessman and codefendant Reginald Walker are now scheduled for sentencing on April 16. Businessman Terry Songy will be sentenced April 30 by U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance. In a separate case, former School Board President Ellenese Brooks-Simms, who is cooperating with a federal probe of political operative Mose Jefferson, will be sentenced on April 10 by U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman. 'I believe we are in the process of beginning to turn the corner in the battle against endemic and entrenched corruption," Letten said last week. 'There is a tsunami of support for really good government" in post-Katrina New Orleans. " Johnson

Normand Conquest
In his first major campaign filing as the new sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Newell Normand reported a war chest of more than $1 million " after his landslide Nov. 17 primary election victory. Normand replaced his old mentor, Harry Lee, who died Oct. 1. The Normand campaign raised $715,554 during a one-month period ending Nov. 25, according to the report filed by the sheriff's campaign chair, state Sen. Danny Martiny, and treasurer, businessman Henry Shane. The campaign spent $460,205 during that time, leaving Normand with plenty of cash on hand " $1,051,167. And, talk about the proverbial spit in the ocean, state Treasurer John Kennedy reports that Normand's 1995 campaign committee can come claim a $210 utility deposit. " Johnson

'07 Killings Continue
There were 218 homicides as of Dec. 27, 2007, including two people killed in a Christmas night shooting in Central City that also wounded four people, according to John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office. Peter Scharf, a criminal justice expert at Texas State University, said last week that New Orleans was on pace to repeat as the nation's per capita 'homicide capital," even with the optimistic city population estimates of more than 311,000. 'No other city comes close," Scharf said of the dubious distinction. Earlier in 2007, the professor predicted the city would end the year with 210 killings. Despite being labeled the harshest critic of NOPD and the city's crime-fighting strategy, Scharf admits that he has consistently underestimated the city's volume of violence during the more than 10 years he has tracked New Orleans homicides. Meanwhile, local U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said last week: 'As long as homicides remain high, we should consider ourselves in a crisis. Even if we bring it down somewhat, it's still a crisis." " Johnson

'Incubators' of Crime?
Are public housing projects 'incubators of crime," as demolition supporters allege? 'It's hard to say," says U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. 'I'm not a sociologist. I cannot say that with any degree of authority that public housing projects are incubators of crime." After conferring with NOPD brass, Letten says that of the more than 200 homicides in the city through Christmas Eve, less than a dozen took place in the depopulated housing projects in 2007. 'Chief (Warren) Riley and [Deputy] Chief (Marlon) Defillo say it was definitely less than a dozen. It could have been as few as six, seven or eight," says Letten. The figures are estimates. Crime " or rather fear of crime " fueled debate over HUD's plans to demolish four conventional housing developments in New Orleans. HUD officials and other critics have called the old developments havens for drugs and violence that should be torn down and replaced with smaller housing units. Demolition opponents note that homicides have persisted since Katrina, even though most of the developments are closed. Letten says that both the city's failed public education system and grinding poverty contributed to the 'revolving door" of crime pre-Katrina. He added that 'there is no one silver bullet" for stopping crime. The issues are complex and often interrelated, he says. For example, public corruption in New Orleans has long robbed private investors (who were seeking government contracts) of 'a level playing field." As a result, prospective employers and businesses shunned the city, denying residents (including those in public housing) much-needed job opportunities. The tide against public corruption is turning, Letten says. " Johnson



Election Changes Sought
Although poll workers received a pay increase this year, some are still complaining about the long, sometimes unproductive hours they have to work. Some are even taking their grievances directly to the top, asking Secretary of State Jay Dardenne to make a push for fewer hours, which would require a change in state law. Mick McIlwain, a poll commissioner in New Orleans, contends that even though the polls are open 14 hours (from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.) on Election Day, commissioners are on duty for at least 15 hours setting up machines and performing other duties. 'My experience is that there is very little voter turnout during the first and last hours of voting, and those voting at those times could easily vote during the reduced voting hours," he says. 'In my opinion, the long hours required are the main problem in recruiting new commissioners. A change is long overdue." Earlier this year, commissioners-in-charge saw their pay jump from $150 to $250 per day, while other workers saw their pay of $50 or $100 double. " Alford



Barham to Lead WL&F
Term-limited state Sen. Robert Barham will serve as the next secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. On paper, Barham's credentials appear to be a good fit. Besides being a Republican, like the incoming governor, Barham previously chaired the powerful Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee and currently is a member of the Senate committee that oversees practically all wildlife and fisheries issues. But geography, more than anything else, likely factored into Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's decision to appoint Barham, whose selection comes after north Louisiana howled about Jindal's early appointments from the southern part of the state. Barham is a man of contrasts. He hails from the piney woods of Morehouse Parish, but he has old ties to the coastal swamps. Barham was mentored by late Terrebonne Parish Sen. Claude B. Duval and as a young boy spent summers at the Duval family home in Houma. 'I still feel like Terrebonne Parish is my second home," Barham says. 'Even though I might be a redneck, I've always had a real affection for the coast." Barham was among the few north Louisiana lawmakers who grasped coastal issues, even personally sponsoring legislation in concert with others from the bayou regions. As the new department secretary, Barham says that passion will continue. His main issues include regulating imported seafood and rebuilding recreational facilities after the 2005 storms. He adds that he hopes a longstanding feud between recreational and commercial fishing interests doesn't become 'a line in the sand." As for administrative changes, Barham says the department is 'working just fine the way it is," and he doesn't see any need for dramatic changes. " Alford



'Unclaimed' History
Our continuing check of 'unclaimed property" on the state treasurer's Web site ( has turned up money for several political campaigns, both old and new. For example, a $217 check for the campaign of the late U.S. Rep. Hale Boggs, D-New Orleans, has apparently gone unclaimed since May 31, 1973. There is also a $44 check for attorney Herbert Christenberry's 1977 campaign for mayor of New Orleans (won by the late Dutch Morial). Judge Gerard Hansen, magistrate of Criminal District Court, can claim a $132 check made out to his campaign " in 1978. Hansen faces re-election in the fall. Former Mayor Marc Morial's campaign committee can claim $4,385 from Smith Barney. U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson, who ran for governor in 1995, has a utility deposit for $150 to claim for his old Monroe campaign headquarters; former state Senate President Sammy Nunez, D-Chalmette, can claim $200 for a 1995 campaign; and Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, who is expected to become the new Senate President, can claim a $250 check from AT&T Corp., made out to his campaign six years ago. The campaign of Judge Terri F. Love of the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, can claim a $250 refund check from an insurance company. " Johnson

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