A day after two reports cleared Burl Cain on Tuesday of alleged misconduct, the former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola showed up at a news conference he called Wednesday only to leave a few minutes later, saying he couldn’t speak about his situation and wouldn’t answer questions.
But he alluded to Gov. John Bel Edwards as being the force behind his resignation — which he said came a few years before he would have liked to retire — and added that given the “scandal” surrounding himself, Cain would have made the same decision he claims the governor did in ousting him.
Edwards, through a spokesman, denied that he had a role in Cain’s resignation.
Cain, who has twice retired from the state and is collecting a salary through August, added he’s looking for a job.
In a three-page news release issued late Tuesday night, Cain said he would address questions in front of the State Capitol at noon after being “vindicated” by reports from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the state Inspector General’s Office, both of which said no evidence was found to verify allegations of Cain’s misconduct.
The claims ranged from allegations that Cain ordered Angola employees to do construction at his personal houses on state time and that Cain had a role in removing an incriminating disciplinary document from a favored inmate’s file.
None of the claims were confirmed.
A parallel criminal investigation by the State Police looked into alleged payroll fraud by one of Cain’s former subordinates and found no probable cause to support the claims.
Cain told reporters on a walkway just off of Spanish Town Road and North Fourth Street that his attorney, L.J. Hymel, urged him to call off the news conference after finding out about it Wednesday morning.
“You can’t say anything and you can’t answer any questions … You have been investigated. You have been vindicated. Everything is OK with you right now, and all you’re gonna do is you’re gonna make my job harder,’ ” Cain said, paraphrasing Hymel.
Cain’s news release blasted The Advocate’s reporting on his business relationships with family and friends of inmates, saying the paper was “fabricating stories on lies and hearsay from a political enemy,” who he did not name.
The internal corrections review issued Tuesday did not take issue with the newspaper’s findings about Cain’s real estate ties but indicated that those partnerships still didn’t violate the corrections policy barring employees from having “non-professional relationships with offenders or with offenders’ families or friends.”
The reason given in the review was that the rule is interpreted to refer to sexual or clandestine personal relationships.
But the review panel recommended changing the policy to bar business relationships resembling the one Cain had as outlined by The Advocate.
Cain entered into an expensive West Feliciana Parish real estate deal in 2009 with Charles Chatelain, the stepfather of double murderer Jason Lormand, a onetime Angola inmate. Two years earlier, Lormand had been transferred to the State Police Barracks, a different facility.
The proposed rule would read: “Prohibit knowingly entering into business relationships with offenders or offender’s families when that offender is under the direct purview of an employee or housed at the employee’s institution.”
Yet since the revision hasn’t been applied yet and isn’t retroactive, it would stand regardless that Cain would not be in violation, said corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde.
Cain said in his news release that the controversy around him smeared his reputation and cost him his job.
He added that corrections officials from Wisconsin and Canada have canceled visits to Angola as a result of the controversy and are headed to Texas, a state he says has modeled its correctional system after Louisiana’s. Cain has often touted Angola’s rehabilitation program as a model that draws officials from all over the world.
The newspaper stories, he said in the statement, “caused the new John Bel Edwards administration to make a very bad decision at just the time we’d gotten a handle on the biggest such prison operations in the entire world.”
Edwards reappointed Cain’s former boss, corrections Secretary James LeBlanc, who was Cain’s supervisor.
Yet Cain said he agreed with Edwards’ purported decision to pressure the warden to resign.
“You have this warden that’s got all this scandal about him … if I were (Edwards), I wouldn’t keep me around either,” Cain said Wednesday.
Richard Carbo, a spokesman for Edwards, said “there is no merit” to claims the governor recommended that Cain quit.
“The governor had no hand in that,” Carbo said.
Cain said Wednesday he had faith in Angola’s new warden, Darrel Vannoy, and said Vannoy plans to keep all the rehabilitative programs Cain helped institute at Angola.
“The three investigations now prove that nobody at the prison was engaged in any kind of corruption,” Cain wrote in the statement.
Results from a parallel probe by Louisiana’s legislative auditor into Cain’s alleged misconduct have not been released.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.