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Hollis vs. Lee 

State Sen. Ken Hollis, R-Metairie -- a possible candidate for governor in 2003 -- says he is "surprised, disappointed and shocked" at remarks Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee made in Gambit Weekly last month. In a lengthy article about Lee's running feud with the Metropolitan Crime Commission ("Harry Lee's Private War," April 17), Lee also said he wanted to settle an old political score with Hollis, adding, "It's payback time." We withheld the sheriff's harsher remarks from publication in our April 17 editions in part because Hollis was unavailable for response until late last week. A fuller account of the sheriff's comments and Hollis' response appear here for the first time.

During the April 11 interview, the sheriff said that even though the JPSO has made more drug arrests and drug seizures over the last 20 years than any other law enforcement agency in the state, his office is not represented on the Louisiana Drug Policy Board, a statewide agency. The reason? "Ken Hollis blackballed me from being on the Louisiana Drug Policy Board," Lee said. "You think I got a lot of respect for him? Let me tell ya something, when he runs for governor it's going to be payback time."

Lee says that he had served on the board since its inception. And although Gov. Mike Foster had re-appointed the sheriff to the board, Hollis blocked Lee's confirmation by the Senate.

"Call and ask him why he blackballed me," Lee said. "Tell him I have very strong feelings about it. You know what he's going to tell you? It's because I didn't go to the meetings. And I didn't go to the meetings. I had the head of my narcotics division represent me at every meeting. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office was never absent from any meeting.

"The good work we do in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, we cannot share with the rest of the state because of asshole Hollis. But he had reasons for doing what he did and when the time comes, I'm going to have reasons for doing what I had to do."

Contacted on the floor of the Senate late last week, Hollis said he thought he and the sheriff had mended political fences.

"I am surprised, disappointed and shocked to hear those remarks by Sheriff Harry Lee," Hollis said. "I thought we had patched things up and that we had been more than gracious."

Contradicting Lee's account, Hollis says his difficulties with the sheriff actually began in 1994 during Senate confirmation hearings over the nomination of JPSO contracts officer P.J. Hahn to the East Jefferson Levee District. Hollis said Lee wanted Hahn appointed president of the levee board. The senator says Lee threatened to issue an arrest warrant for Hollis and Sen. Art Lentini, R-Kenner, on public intimidation charges in connection with Hahn's nomination.

Lee denies that his feud with Hollis began with the levee board blow-up.

Hahn offers a colorful account of how the feud between the senator and the sheriff mushroomed: Hollis was concerned over the longstanding vacancy of the levee board's directorship. Hollis did not like the sheriff's nominee for the patronage plum; the senator had a different person in mind. Hollis and Lentini then wrote a letter to board-nominee Hahn (which was faxed to The Times-Picayune) giving Hahn an ultimatum: hire a levee board director with flood control experience by a certain date or Hahn would not be confirmed.

"When I read it," Hahn recalls, "I called the sheriff and read the letter to the sheriff who said, 'Man, that's extortion. They can't do that to you. He said you tell them to shove it up their ass. And against my better judgment, I did just that."

Hahn's remarks were delivered in an interview with T-P reporter Bob Ross. There were repercussions. "Obviously, [the senators] shoved it up my ass, and I was not confirmed [by the Senate]," Hahn recalls, chuckling. At the same time, Lee threatened to have the senators arrested for public intimidation. Hahn says he later made peace with Lentini and Hollis and then set up a recent meeting between the senator and the sheriff, which Hahn did not attend.

"I went to see [Lee] about Mr. Hahn within the last six months," Hollis says. "I thought we'd put this behind us. I said I would pledge my support to Mr. Hahn if there was a vacancy [on the East Jefferson levee board]."

Hollis recalls that Lee said he did not want Hahn to become president this time around if the transition meant the forced ouster of current levee district president Glenn Bergeron, a close friend of state Rep. Danny Martiny, a Lee ally. Hollis said both he and Lee agreed to support Hahn for president, should the levee board presidency become vacant. "[Lee] and I have been fine ever since then," Hollis said.

Or so the senator thought.


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