A group of ex-New Orleans police officers got together at Ruth's Chris Steak House recently to encourage one of their own to run against District 5 state Sen. Diana Bajoie, a Democrat and 12-year incumbent. Attorney Eddie Rantz, a former NOPD homicide division commander who arrested killer cop Antoinette Frank in 1995, will run as a Republican, supporters say. Rantz's run may show what a small town New Orleans can be.
Attorney David Napoleon, who shares office space with Rantz, also is planning to run for the same Senate seat as a Democrat, says Harry Tervalon, a lawyer and ex-cop who shares offices with both announced candidates. Tervalon, who has run for public office himself in the past, admits it's been a little tough picking one officemate over the other.
"Both men are good men, but my adult life has been with Eddie," says Tervalon, who graduated with Rantz from the same police academy class in 1972. "People tried to kill us. That's something that sticks."
Joining Tervalon to support Rantz's candidacy are former officers Gary Quaintance, attorney Jim Hall (who also was in the 1972 police academy class with Rantz) and Danny Denoux, who is now a private investigator.
Bajoie could not be reached for comment by press time.
Qualifying for the fall statewide elections is only six weeks away. And already present and former candidates and political organizations in the metro area have run into trouble with the Louisiana Board of Ethics for alleged violations of state campaign finance laws. Board officials say the purpose of timely disclosure of campaign finance reports is to show the public who is contributing to the candidates' campaigns.
Among the cases the Baton Rouge board will consider at its regular monthly meeting this week (July 10-11) are:
· Jefferson Parish District 5 council member John T. Lavarine Jr. is appealing a $200 late fee for filing a campaign report two days late -- and arguing that he is in some sort of political Twilight Zone. "The Jefferson Parish Councilman-at-large position I'm seeking doesn't currently exist and may not ever be created," Lavarine told the board in a letter dated May 8. Lavarine related the ongoing convoluted dispute over the make-up of the seven-member parish council (See "A River Runs Through It," July 1). And he indicated he may ultimately seek another seat if the council is forced to offer only one at-large seat as opposed to two parish-wide seats. Lavarine has since decided to run for the Division B at-large seat. However, a federal judge may eliminate the second at-large seat later this month.
· Stephen Rue, a Kenner attorney and candidate for lieutenant governor, is asking the board to waive $400 in fees for filing an electronic campaign finance report four days late. "As a first-time candidate, I was unaware that this report had to be filed electronically," Rue said in a written request dated June 3. Rue said that report has since been re-filed and he has acted in "good faith."
Meanwhile, the ethics board also will have a say in which candidates can -- and cannot -- qualify for office this fall. Board staff attorney Kathleen Allen, citing a state law enacted in 2001, says candidates who owe the ethics board outstanding fines or fees from previous elections are barred from qualifying for future contests.
Among the area former candidates and political groups seeking waivers are:
· Larry Bagneris, the appointed director of the New Orleans Human Relations Commission and an unsuccessful candidate for House District 93 in the fall elections of 1999, is appealing $600 in late fees for filing a campaign report 17 days late. The board rejected his written waiver request in which he blamed the U.S. Postal Service for losing his report. Bagneris has asked the board to reconsider his request.
· Dwight Jarrett, chair of New Orleans East Leadership, a political group, is scheduled to personally appeal to the board for a waiver of $6,000 in late fees. Jarrett says the fees are "the result of a misunderstanding of the rules associated with campaign finance disclosure reporting and some reorganization challenges with our organization."
· Franz Zibilich, chief deputy city attorney for New Orleans and an unsuccessful candidate last October for Orleans Parish district attorney, is appealing a total of $4,100 in fines for several tardy reports, including one that was 138 days late. "Without getting in to any of the gory details, there was turnover in the campaign personnel ... and we had a problem obtaining bank records for the report," Zibilich told Gambit Weekly. "We didn't have any intent to violate any laws." Zibilich also says there were notification problems on the part of the ethics board. Zibilich, who now is considering a run for the Criminal Court seat vacated last month by the death of Judge Patrick Quinlan, will need to resolve his dispute with the board before he can use his campaign funds for any future races, an ethics board attorney says.
· Jeff Hand, a lawyer and unsuccessful candidate last October for judge of the 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish, is seeking a waiver of his $60 fee for being one day late. Campaign supporter and tax consultant Dennis Geraci told the board that Hand's campaign report was late because the campaign had called the board's old phone number for filing information -- only to later learn the campaign office had moved and its phones were "not active."
Elsewhere, in recent letters mailed out by board attorneys to former candidates and campaign representatives, board attorneys said that if the board does not receive the late fees owed the state treasury by July 14, the board will consider "further action."
· Troy R. Keller, an attorney and unsuccessful candidate for House District 82 in Metairie in 1999, reached a settlement with the board on his $600 late fee. The board accepted his offer to pay a $250 penalty and to contribute the $350 balance to a charity, which also is due July 14. Keller reportedly acknowledged he filed his post-campaign report 15 days later than the Feb. 18, 2003, deadline, but blamed the delay on the ensuing confusion since the birth of his child in December 2002.
· Civil Court Judge Rose Ledet, who was elected last October, allegedly owes the state $2,500 for filing a campaign finance report 64 days late. The board rejected a waiver request by the judge's campaign, which attributed the tardy report to clerical error.
· Rory Verrett, an unsuccessful candidate for House District 95 in 1999, allegedly owes $600 for filing a supplemental campaign report 106 days late. The board rejected his waiver request, in which he wrote: "Because the funds paid to the outstanding obligations were paid out of my personal funds and because I have not raised any additional money post-election, I was under the impression that I did not have to continue to file a campaign finance report."
· Kara Williams, an attorney and unsuccessful candidate for Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge in the April 2001 elections, allegedly owes $1,000 for filing a post-election campaign report 10 days late. The board rejected Williams' waiver request, in which she stated she was unaware that she needed to file the report because there had been no activity since her last filing.
In addition, the ethics board has voted to assess late fees against four New Orleans political organizations for tardy filings of campaign finance reports after the Feb. 2 citywide elections. African-American Voters League, Concerned Citizens Coalition, Mid-City Democrats and the Treme Improvement Political Society (TIPS) all face fees of up to $3,000 for alleged late filings from previous elections. Qualifying for the fall elections is Aug. 19-21.
Why NORD Pools Close Aug. 9
A total of 19 swimming pools operated by the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) are now open for the enjoyment of thousands of kids -- until Aug. 9. Why do the pools shut down so early in the hottest month of the year?
"The reason we close Aug. 9 is because most of our lifeguards are college students and our pool managers are school teachers, and local public schools open Aug. 21," city spokesperson Tanzania Jones says. "Teachers usually go in one week early. College students need time to prepare for their schools, too."
In addition to staffing, money is another concern for the cash-starved city. It costs NORD $3,000 per week to operate each pool, including five lifeguards for each pool, a pool manager, chlorine and maintenance. Three pools, meanwhile, are open year-round: Gert Town Facilities, Treme Community Center and Joe Brown Memorial Park.
City communications director Patrick Evans
says anyone interested in making a donation to keep the pools open longer may
contact the Friends of NORD or Evans' office (565-6580). "If you know someone
out there who wants to help, I will match them up with up with [NORD] director
Donald Royal," Evans says.
The Singin' Ex-DA
Since Harry Connick Sr. retired in January after nearly 30 years as district attorney, he's become hard to keep up with -- impossible without a map. He's enjoying retirement and traveling to wherever his agents can book him. In the last five months, Connick -- the father of renowned musician Harry Connick Jr. and known locally during his tenure as the "Singin' DA" -- has crooned with swing bands at an airport hangar outside Detroit, on a river barge in the Mississippi River and a concert auditorium in Florida. And he is scheduled to end the year singing on a cruise ship to the Caribbean, accompanied by the Nelson Riddle band.
"We recently did a '40s dance in an airport hangar in Birmingham, Michigan," Connick says. "There was a B-17 right there." He sang Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman hits and raised "a lot of money" for senior citizens' charities. Back home, Connick performed on a river barge at Crown Point before heading to Ruth Eckert Hall in Clearwater, Fla., for a tribute to Frank Sinatra.
"One of my best gigs," he says.
Asked what his fellow retired district attorneys are doing, Connick, 77, replies: "I have no idea."