Joe Lopinto (left) and John Fortunato

Joe Lopinto (left) and John Fortunato

Candidate for Jefferson Parish Sheriff John Fortunato didn't pull any punches in a response to a report on Joe Lopinto, referring to him as a "deceitful politician" and accusing him of lying to the public.

The remarks came in a statement the day after an internal investigation showed the sitting sheriff was aware of the effort to obtain a coffeehouse video of Fortunato, despite Lopinto's initial response. 

“If I were the sheriff, I would have fired someone like Joe Lopinto on the spot for lying to the public,” Fortunato said in a statement, according to a report from WWL-TV. “Sheriff is, by its nature, meant to be a position directed by truthfulness, fairness and accuracy. The mission of the JPSO is for ‘everyone to be committed to integrity.' "

The internal probe, obtained by The Advocate, said Lopinto asked one of his deputies to obtain surveillance footage of a coffeehouse meeting between Fortunato and two other retired lawmen — contradicting the sheriff's repeated claims that the deputy obtained the footage of his own accord in a misguided attempt to assist Lopinto's campaign.

Lopinto has insisted in recent weeks that he was not even aware of the existence of the video before the Sheriff's Office late last year received a public-records request from a local television station requesting a copy of the video and any records relating to its collection.

The records show Lopinto and his chief deputy, Tim Scanlan, were the subjects of the internal investigation, even though the sheriff said three deputies involved in the collection of the video would receive "counseling."

Fortunato, who retired from the Sheriff's Office to challenge Lopinto in the March 24 primary, had been meeting at the cafe in mid-October with Walter "Tom" Gorman and John Thevenot about a week before Fortunato formally kicked off his campaign.

“The hypocrisy of Joe Lopinto is epic," Fortunato's statement continued. "He threw his own deputies under the bus, lied to the public and media, issued a memo to try to cover his tracks, and now calls it all a ‘non-issue’ because he was caught in the act of being deceptive, irresponsible, and reckless.”

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Lopinto insisted he had not lied to the public or the media, adding he still has not seen a copy of the surveillance footage. Calling the matter a "non-story," he said he did not know the deputies had successfully copied the footage from the cafe until his office received a public-records request.

"It's not misleading," the sheriff said. "I opened up an investigation into myself."

For the full report from WWL-TV, click here. For the original story from The New Orleans Advocate, click here. 

Another election, another case of political shenanigans inside a Jefferson Parish coffeehouse. 

Jefferson Sheriff Joe Lopinto said Tuesday that three of his deputies are under investigation for improperly obtaining surveillance footage from an Elmwood cafe that showed John Fortunato — Lopinto's chief opponent in the March 24 primary — meeting with two other longtime lawmen who recently retired from the Sheriff's Office.