Shepherd's Woes
When it rains, it pours — especially on state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero. The Louisiana Board of Ethics has voted to hold public hearings on separate charges that Shepherd violated campaign finance laws by failing to report contributions, expenditures and other campaign activity in a timely manner for two of his campaigns. Shepherd could not be reached for comment at press time. He allegedly failed to file reports on time for his 2007 re-election campaign in Senate District 3 as well as supplemental reports related to his 2003 race in House District 87. Shepherd faces up to $2,000 in fines in each case. The ethics board also may impose up to $10,000 in additional fines. Shepherd's campaign had $29,185 in "cash on hand," according to his latest filing. The ethics hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 10 in Baton Rouge. Shepherd last week pleaded not guilty to federal money-laundering charges. A day earlier, his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary C Committee killed his signature bill to criminalize the wearing of saggy pants. In early April, Shepherd resigned as chair of the Senate's Committee on Local and Municipal Affairs after his multi-count federal indictment. — Johnson


Dardenne Out — For Now
Following months of speculation, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne has finally ruled out running for the U.S. Senate this fall. The Baton Rouge Republican played it coy for most of the year, choosing to tiptoe around the race and blush at the urging of supporters. Now he's off the fence. "I am grateful for the encouragement and support of so many people across the state, but my family and I believe this is not the right time for another statewide race," Dardenne said in a prepared statement. His decision eases the nerves of the race's two major contenders: incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and GOP Treasurer John Kennedy. As for which politico gets his support, Dardenne says he's sitting this one out — but not because he doesn't like the candidates. State law prohibits the secretary of state from endorsing candidates. Meanwhile, looking ahead, 2010 looms as the year in which embattled U.S. Sen. David Vitter, also a Republican, faces re-election. Vitter continues to take his lumps for being linked to a D.C. madam, and many conservatives are looking for an alternative. Could Dardenne be the one, or will he hold out in hopes of becoming governor one day? "I doubt he's even thinking of that," says spokesperson Jacques Berry. — Alford


Ethics Bills Moving
Lawmakers are lining up behind bills that would bring more transparency to the gubernatorial transition process and make politicians use their own money to pay campaign and ethics fines. After failing to gain support for the idea during the special session on ethics reform in January, Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard of Thibodaux, who has no party affiliation, is back with House Bill 277, which could make officials use their own money to pay ethics and campaign finance fines. "When people give me money for my campaign, they don't want me paying for campaign violations with that money," Richard says. "They expect me to use it to win an election." Richard told the House last week that his measure would add a new level of accountability to the system. House members agreed, sending it to the Senate for further debate. Still waiting on House action at deadline, though, was legislation by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, that would require gubernatorial transition teams to disclose all donations and expenditures. Gov. Bobby Jindal will have the final word on both measures, as they require his signature to take effect. — Alford


Another Obstacle for IG?
City Inspector General Robert Cerasoli has run into so many obstacles setting up his office at City Hall that he has wondered aloud if some barriers were the work of obstructionists. But his latest setback seems more like bad luck: He was recently called home to Boston for jury duty. "They had six trials going on but they didn't pick me," says Cerasoli. The IG says he has been "up-front" about his ties to his native state since beginning work as New Orleans' inspector general last August, but his travels have not been as well publicized as those of city recovery czar Dr. Ed Blakely to Australia or Mayor Ray Nagin to his "hurricane home" in Dallas. "I'm still a legal resident of Massachusetts," Cerasoli says. "I vote there and do all my legal things there. I live here and I have an apartment here. I got this appointment for four years. I'm not commuting. I voted in the presidential primary up there and vote absentee in (Boston) city elections." There is good news for his watchdog office, he adds. Recent advertising has yielded more than 1,000 resumes, which were "weeded down" to 200 applicants for civil service-protected positions and required testing procedures. — Johnson


Calm Amid the Storm
Police Chief Warren Riley often appears unflappable, which is partly why Mayor Ray Nagin tapped him for the job 28 days after Hurricane Katrina. But, with citizens rattled over a citywide rise in armed robberies, the chief apparently felt compelled to explain his "just-the-facts" tone. "My demeanor may not be that harsh," Riley said at a recent news conference, "but take my word, criminals should be very afraid right now. We have some very positive things going on. We are pulling murderers off the street more quickly than I've ever known us to [do]." He said citizen cooperation is high, despite the murder of a witness in a high-profile case. "We're being very assertive," he added. "I could do the John Wayne thing, but that's just not me. But take my word, there are some things happening on the street that citizens would be very, very proud of." Not long after Riley's comments, the city was rocked by seven murders in four days — and a spate of robberies by juvenile suspects as young as 13. — Johnson


Prisoners of Fame
Jefferson Parish has only two accused killers in its home incarceration program, and both have celebrity status — renowned rap artist Corey "C-Murder" Miller, 37, and former local radio talk show host Vince Marinello, 70. Miller is charged in the shooting death of fan Steve Thomas in a now-closed Harvey nightclub in 2002. He is scheduled to stand trial June 9. Judge Martha Sassone recently denied Miller's unspecified request for a weekend trip to Jackson, Miss. The rapper has been under house arrest for more than two years as a condition of a $500,000 bond. Meanwhile, Judge Conn Regan will preside over Marinello's trial in Lafayette next month for the murder of the radio host's estranged wife, Mary Elizabeth Marinello, 45. She was shot twice in the face on Aug. 31, 2006, in the parking lot of an office tower on Metairie Road. Marinello was arrested a week later. He posted a $750,000 bond, but house arrest was a condition of his release in December 2006. Marinello, who has gone through several lawyers, is restricted to his 94-year-old mother's condo, which overlooks the parking lot where his wife was murdered. — Johnson


Fish Farm Oversight OK'd
Louisiana's coastal parishes have long flourished from offshore oil production, but a new deepwater economy is in the offing. Rep. Jerry "Truck" Gisclair, D-Raceland, has advanced legislation that would increase scrutiny of aquaculture projects in the Gulf of Mexico. House Bill 488 would require offshore fish farms to seek approval of biologists with LSU, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana University Marine Consortium. "This bill controls development in offshore waters with some legitimate oversight," Gisclair says. "This will verify that everything is in line." Gisclair's legislation includes an ethics safety net, stating, "No reviewer shall have ties to any permit applicant, nor shall a reviewer be involved in any grant or exercise that would directly benefit from the results of the review." Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council has devised a regulatory scheme calling for the farms to be contained in large underwater cages, probably lumped together between three and 200 hundred miles off Louisiana's coast. Stocked full of live fish, the cages would be located on or near oil and gas rigs — so far without restrictions as to the exact locations. Gisclair's bill has been approved by the House and is awaiting action by the Senate. — Alford


In "Taxing District Envy?" ("Scuttlebutt," News & Views, April 22), we erroneously stated that proposals to create special neighborhood security districts require citywide voter approval. In fact, only voters within each proposed district vote on such measures.

Add a comment