Former St. Landry parish president faces lawsuits, arrest in financial woes _lowres

Don Menard

Since leaving office almost four years ago, former St. Landry Parish President Don Menard has faced a slew of legal troubles that, in one case, led to his recent arrest.

Menard, who’s facing criminal prosecution for issuing a more than $12,000 check in 2012 without the funds to back it, has been sued six times since then for unpaid debts.

“It’s a terrible situation for me,” Menard, 59, said in a Tuesday phone interview. “It’s not something that I’m proud of. It’s something that I’m gonna take responsibility for and handle it.”

About 4 tons of unpaid meat products are central to a charge of issuing worthless checks lodged in October 2013 against Menard, who was booked on a bench warrant Friday into the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center after missing a July pre-trial hearing in the case.

At issue is a $12,769.53 bill from Scariano Brothers, L.L.C., a Hammond-based meat distribution company that supplied Menard’s shuttered grocery store, Don’s Country Mart, formerly on Veterans Drive in Carencro.

After Menard defaulted on the April 2012 check and had not paid a year later, Scariano Brothers filed suit in September 2013.

“It’s a business situation that I got into and it didn’t work as well as I was hoping,” said Menard, who will go to court March 26 on a reset pre-trial hearing in the matter. “I’m in the process of handling it now.”

Acadia Wholesale & Tobacco Co. Inc., which does business as Church Point Wholesale, sued Menard in May 2013 on an open account for Don’s Grocery Mart totaling $18,362.65.

Menard said he’s “in negotiations” to pay that debt, but he could not recall whether two unpaid sales tax bills he was court-ordered in 2012 to pay the Lafayette Parish School Board were ever settled.

“I have no idea. I’ll have to check with my CPA,” Menard said.

Bob Simpson, director of the sales tax division for the Lafayette Parish School Board, was not available Tuesday afternoon for comment on the suits.

The board sued Menard twice in September 2012 for two unpaid sales tax collections: one for $37,699.30 from Don’s Country Mart and another for $14,652.89 from Don’s Depot II, another Carencro grocery business Menard owned.

Don’s Depot II was seized and sold by the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office in summer 2013 after the property’s former owner sued Menard for missing four mortgage payments in 2012.

Court records show Menard’s bank account was also garnished in 2014 to cover a $22,463.41 debt to American Express.

“I’m trying to resolve all the issues,” Menard said, adding that he’s “absolutely not” planning on opening another business — nor running for another public office.

Menard served two terms as St. Landry Parish president from 2004-11 and lost a bid for the state Legislature in 2011 to Rep. Stephen Ortego.

Menard was cleared of wrongdoing in 2013 after a state legislative auditor’s report revealed he made more than $16,000 in undocumented charges over a two-year period on a parish-issued credit card. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell reviewed the audit and opted against pursuing the case.

Menard said he’s been working in sales since his time as parish president, although he declined to divulge further information.

He also said it’s “a crying shame” the media have given attention to his arrest.

“It’s been almost four years since I left office,” Menard said. “When is it ever gonna stop?”

Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.