When Causeway police stopped Mandeville Mayor Eddie Price for using his vehicle as a battering ram to break through a Causeway tollgate, the mayor offered a plea.
"Don't make this a big deal, OK?" he asked.
Caught on a police cruiser's dashboard-mounted camera, the mayor's tipsy late-night jaunt last April wasn't his first political fender bender of 2008; it wasn't even the biggest headline Price and fellow Mandeville employees would rack up in the following months.
In March, a Louisiana Legislative Audit revealed Price accepted gifts purchased using the Mandeville Police Citizen Service Fund — informally known as Toys for Tots, which was overseen by Mandeville Police Chief Tom Buell. The fund gathers monetary donations for emergency relief and gifts for needy children, but during the last six years, the mayor and 20 other city employees received gift cards from the fund with a total value of nearly $10,000.
A month later, Price barreled through the Causeway toll plaza. As police tried to remove him from his city-provided SUV, they asked if he worked in Mandeville, to which Price replied, "I'm the mayor."
With a phone call to Price's son, the police sent Price on his way home. The officers were eventually fired for not following proper procedure. Causeway Police Chief Felix Lociano resigned following an investigation of the incident.
In August, the state Office of the Attorney General found Price racked up personal expenses on a city-provided, taxpayer-funded credit card and gas card, including an across-the-border vacation cruise and expensive meals. Price also accepted gifts from city contractors — hunting and fishing trips and a golf "business trip" in Pebble Beach, Calif., where Price claimed to be "observing architecture and public facilities and attending local council meetings."
Metropolitan Crime Commission president Rafael Goyeneche called for Price to resign, as did Gambit Weekly ("The Price is Wrong," Commentary, Aug. 19) and The Times-Picayune. He didn't.
"I have done nothing to warrant my resignation, and do not believe that would be in the best interest of the city at this time," Price said on www.cityofmandeville.org.
Price's misappropriation of a publicly funded Web site as a sounding board for his defense only rubbed it in more to taxpayers' faces.
To conclude the public raspberry blown to the citizens of Mandeville, city attorney David Cressy, WVUE-TV anchor John Snell and Mandeville City Councilman Marty Gould fired their three-man salute to the mayor's greatest hit with their own alcohol-related mishaps.
After he abandoned the scene of his collision with a motorcyclist, Cressy popped into a restaurant down the road for a glass of wine, and, like magic, made a breath analyzer test impossible. Police wouldn't have been able to determine if he had been drinking before the crash. Not that it mattered — Cressy didn't report the incident to his superiors until the following day.
And for a final bow, both Snell and Gould were booked with driving while intoxicated. Gould earned extra points with a blood-alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit, but Mandeville's luring of a beloved New Orleans news anchor may have been the last straw. After its strong showing in 2008, Mandeville is in the running as a serious contender to the confederacy of New Orleans' political duncehood.