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Where's the DA's Audit?
District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. may sign a multi-party deal as early as Wednesday (Sept. 12) that would fulfill his promise for an independent management audit of his much-maligned office, our sources say. Bob Stellingworth, executive director of the private New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation, which will pay for the $25,000 study by the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), was guardedly optimistic in his assessment of the proposed deal. "We have reached a consensus and hope to get an agreement signed very soon," Stellingworth told Gambit Weekly. Jordan, the Police Foundation and the NDAA signed a memorandum of understanding late last month, facilitated by Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association. Once the deal is done, the NDAA will assemble a team of experts who will report to the public on Jordan's office within 90 days, one source says. Amid increasing calls for his resignation, Jordan on July 12 shuffled his middle management and agreed to an audit by the NDAA -- a recommendation of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission. The New Orleans Crime Coalition, a new network of a dozen anti-crime groups that includes the MCC and the Police Foundation, supports the audit. -- Johnson

 

Junior vs. 'Tee-Junior'
Generational politics is nothing new in Louisiana, but a son challenging his father for political office is a novel take. Henry Joseph Rodriguez III said last Thursday that he still hadn't spoken with his father, Henry "Junior" Rodriguez Jr. , since qualifying to run against him for St. Bernard Parish president. The elder Rodriguez is the incumbent in the race; his son is a 49-year-old dealer at Harrah's Casino in New Orleans. Both men are registered independents. "It was very difficult to qualify to run against my own father," the younger Rodriguez says. "And I don't want anyone to think this is some kind of political ploy I'm doing with my father. I'm planning on running a positive campaign. I love my father more than anything in the world. He is the best father a son could have. I'm just exercising my right to run." Henry Joseph Rodriguez says he will spend about $4,000 of his own money on the bid. He says he is running because he has seen little progress in the parish under his father's administration, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While Tee-Junior is promising to keep it clean, he also says his campaign will be lively. After all, it's in his blood. "We've always had different points of view, my father and I," he says. "But he's a real character, and that's what people are expecting. Well, you know, the acorn don't fall far from the tree." The elder Rodriguez told reporters that he had no idea his son was going to run against him. -- Alford

 

BESE Member Owes $14K
Alesia Ardoin, an attorney for the Louisiana Ethics Commission, says she will not seek the removal of BESE member Louella Givens from the Oct. 20 primary ballot -- even though Givens owes the state Ethics Board $14,100 in fines. Givens, who represents parts of Orleans and Jefferson parishes as the District 2 member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, qualified for re-election last week. The fines were imposed for past violations of the state Campaign Finance Disclosure Act. Like dozens of other candidates who qualified last week, Givens apparently signed a sworn affidavit indicating she did not owe the state "any outstanding fines, fees or penalties." In fact, Ardoin alleges, Givens owed a total of $14,100 for five late reports from two previous campaigns, including her election to BESE in 2003 and an unsuccessful run last year for the City Council District D seat. However, Ardoin says, the Ethics Commission has not yet taken a judgment against Givens for the debts, a necessary step before seeking her removal from an election ballot. "I am not seeking Ms. Givens' removal from the ballot," Ardoin said in an email, adding, "Her candidacy will not be contested." Givens is seeking a rehearing on the fines this Thursday (Sept. 13). Ardoin says she will ask state Judge Tim Kelley of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge for a judgment against Givens at an Oct. 9 hearing. Until then, Givens will face additional civil penalties if she spends any money on her campaign before resolving her debt to the state. Givens did not return several calls for comment by press time. An attorney and chair of a BESE committee on legislative policy, Givens' duties include drafting legislative recommendations for reforming public education. -- Johnson

 

Keeping Our Guard Up
Gov. Kathleen Blanco has committed to keeping 300 National Guard troops and 60 State Police troopers in crime-weary New Orleans through the end of her term, says Blanco press secretary Marie Centanni. However, questions about the Guard's tenure apparently flared anew last month when New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley reportedly told visiting news media he'd love for the Guard and State Police to stay past Mardi Gras 2008. Centanni says the governor can only commit the troops, through the end of her term. "Jan. 14 [2008] is the inauguration and her last day in office," Centanni says. "She can't make any commitments past then." At Mayor Ray Nagin's request, Blanco last year expedited deployment of the state-funded troops that Chief Riley requested to help the beleaguered NOPD manage a rising tide of violent crime. -- Johnson

 

Wanted: Temp Top ADA
Who will fill in as "The Hat's" right hand? First Assistant New Orleans District Attorney Gaynell Williams has taken a leave of absence from her job to campaign for the Criminal Court Section "A" seat vacated by the forced retirement of Judge Charles Elloie. Williams' absence has District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. looking for someone to take her place, at least temporarily. Although she had been campaigning for weeks, Williams officially qualified as a candidate on Sept. 4. "No one has been appointed in the interim," says Jordan spokesperson Dalton Savwoir Jr. The primary election is Oct. 20. A runoff, if necessary, will be Nov. 17. Our sources say Jordan will probably promote from within his troubled office because of the uncertain duration of Williams' absence. Top prospects for interim First Assistant include two veterans -- Bob White, an assistant DA who recently worked as a prosecutor in the New York City area, and Val Solino, an executive assistant DA who has performed a wide rage of management tasks under Jordan and his predecessor, Harry Connick Sr. -- Johnson

 

Lege Hits Pedestrian
State Rep. Carla Dartez, a Morgan City Democrat, was given a summons for improper lane usage last week after hitting a pedestrian with her vehicle. While she failed parts of the field sobriety test that was conducted on the scene, Dartez passed a Breathalyzer test soon afterward with a "0.00" score, says Trooper Gilbert Dardar Jr. , a spokesperson for Louisiana State Police Troop C. The pedestrian suffered a broken arm, and Dartez escaped further scrutiny -- she was not asked to take a blood test. "That decision is always at our discretion," Dardar says. The accident occurred in northern Terrebonne Parish and Dartez, who is facing re-election, says she "feels horrible" about the situation. "I didn't even see her," Dartez adds. "Thank God she was okay." It isn't Dartez's first run-in with accidents -- or the law. In 2003, she suffered four skull fractures and a dislocated shoulder from a motorcycle accident during Mardi Gras. In 1998, she was booked with a first-offense DWI in addition to driving without headlights, improper lane use and speeding. -- Alford

 

'Ethics Fest'
Think of it as a festival without music and probably not much food or drink -- but one that can save a campaign thousands of dollars in fines and headaches. The Louisiana Ethics Commission will offer free public seminars this week on all those new (and old) state campaign finance laws that can get a candidate in trouble if they are violated. By press time last week, 25 people had signed up for the local lecture. "The old law treated your personal money as a campaign contribution," a spokesperson for the Ethics Commission said of the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act. "The new law exempts contributions from certain candidates for low-level offices to his or her own campaign, up to $5,000." Kathleen Allen, general counsel for the Baton Rouge-based ethics board, will hold forth on the proper completion of campaign reporting forms and other topics from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 11) at the East Bank Jefferson Parish Council Chambers, 1221 Elmwood Plaza Boulevard, Second Floor. Attorneys get two hours of Continuing Legal Education credit for attending. For more information, just show up or call (800) 842-6630 or (225) 763-8777. -- Johnson

 

Elections Past and Present
There's nothing like an election to tell you how much things have changed. Just over a year ago, City Councilman at-large Oliver Thomas was one of the most popular officials in town. Now, he's heading to prison after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges, and his seat is up for grabs in a special election on the Oct. 20 ballot. Thomas won re-election to his council at-large seat in the April 22, 2006, primary, polling 39 percent of the total vote -- the best of 11 candidates in the pick-two race. Numerically, Thomas pulled more votes that day -- 66,374 -- than any candidate except for three other re-elected incumbents who ran citywide races that day: Civil Sheriff Paul Valteau, who won with 77,964 votes, Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who got 71,439 votes, and Civil District Court Clerk Dale Atkins, who received 76,651 votes. Thomas won his at-large seat by finishing almost 30,000 votes ahead of Jackie Clarkson, who took second place but later lost a runoff to third place-finisher Arnie Fielkow. Meanwhile, District E City Council incumbent Cynthia Willard-Lewis beat eight challengers to win re-election in the April 2006 primary with 71 percent of the vote in her district. Last week, Willard-Lewis and Clarkson both qualified for the at-large seat Thomas first won in the 2002 primary. -- Johnson

 

Changing Channels
New Orleans reporters bid farewell to three of their own recently, hoisting 15-cent mojitos at a hotel bar in the Warehouse District. Belinda Hernandez, a native New Orleanian who worked as a producer at both WWL-TV and WDSU-TV before taking a position as assignment editor at CNN's Gulf Coast bureau here, has been promoted to the cable network's Atlanta headquarters. Rich Lenz, who joined WDSU-TV as a sports anchor in 1994, starts a new job Monday (Sept. 10) as morning anchor for Griffin Communications at KOTV in Tulsa, Okla. A musician as well as a sports anchor, Lenz and his wife have two children, ages 14 and 10. Lenz's family lost their Lakeview home to Hurricane Katrina. WVUE-TV news anchor Patrick Evans, a naval reserve lieutenant, leaves this month for Baghdad, where he expects to work as a public affairs officer. A native of Harrisburg, Pa., Evans has worked in various media and public relations jobs in New Orleans since 1995, including a stint as Mayor Ray Nagin's press secretary. Evans plans to keep a blog overseas -- talktopatrick.blogspot.com -- Johnson

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