It’s standard practice for politicians seeking money from supporters to gloss over any blemishes on their record. Why not leave it to your opponents to point them out?
But Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s recent missive to backers took the usual rosy self-assessment to the stratosphere.
“As your sheriff, I strive every day to make our community safer and to make our Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office a model for other law enforcement agencies,” Gusman wrote. “In my service as sheriff, I work with the surrounding communities to implement the innovative and proactive law enforcement policies that have made the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office (the) model and envy of other police agencies.”
Generally speaking, police agencies that are the “model and envy” of their peers are not required to sign consent decrees with the federal government forcing them to come into compliance with the U.S. Constitution, as Gusman did last year.
Gusman, who has been sheriff for nine years, was re-elected in March after being forced into a runoff by longtime former Sheriff Charles Foti. His letter suggests he’s planning to stay in the office for awhile; he says he is seeking people to serve on a finance committee to help him build a war chest “in preparation for future elections.”
Unless he runs for some other office first, Gusman will next face voters in 2018.
St. Tammany critic settles own debt
Rick Franzo is the high-profile head of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, an activist group that has made its mission the bird-dogging of public officials it feels are wasteful or corrupt.
But in the midst of promising to act as the parish’s unofficial inspector general or offering to allow the parish to aid his group in fighting a proposed oil well in St. Tammany, Franzo neglected one bit of business: paying his property taxes.
A list published by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office showed that Franzo owed $7,278.68 of overdue property taxes on his Lacombe house, which is valued at $488,990, according to the parish assessor’s website. That made Franzo’s house eligible to be sold at a tax sale Monday at 10 a.m.
Reached by phone Friday morning, Franzo said he hadn’t paid the taxes because he disputes his assessment. “I was planning to fight it, to file suit,” he said.
But he told a reporter he would pay the bill Friday to put the matter to rest. On Friday afternoon, he texted a picture of a receipt showing he had settled his debt with the parish.
Still, he said, the broader issue isn’t dead: Concerned Citizens plans to look at the parish’s “unfair” tax structure.
Rival blasts Reed for attacking media
One of District Attorney Walter Reed’s announced challengers for the top prosecutorial post in St. Tammany and Washington parishes blasted Reed this week over his recent statement blaming the news media for his troubles.
Covington lawyer Roy Burns fired off a news release Thursday saying Reed’s attack on the media is a smokescreen.
“The obvious effort to maintain the machine politics of the past and wield the office’s authority as if it were an absolute divine right is glaring,” Burns’ statement said in part.
Burns disputed Reed’s claim that his previous silence in the face of various media inquiries was required by ethics guidelines.
“The written statement to the press doesn’t answer any questions, but only takes a defensive posture to deflect blame,” Burns said.
That posture masks a deeper issue of the “stone wall” Reed has built to “keep questions out and information in,” he added.
Burns and Alan Black, a Slidell lawyer, have announced plans to challenge Reed, a five-term district attorney who hasn’t faced an opponent at the polls since 1996. Other potential candidates, including state District Judge Raymond Childress and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Trainor, have said they are considering a run, but none has made an announcement.
Reed has not confirmed his own candidacy yet, but he did file a campaign finance report in May. His spokesman, Rick Wood, told the Slidell Independent on Tuesday that Reed was not ready to go public with his decision about running.
In Reed’s Wednesday statement, he said Wood speaks only for the District Attorney’s Office and not for Reed’s campaign.
Morgan Stewart, a public relations consultant whom Reed recently hired to handle questions about his campaign and his private business practices, said Reed is focused on running the DA’s Office for now. “When he turns his attention to the race, he’ll let the media and public know,” Stewart said.
Compiled by staff writers Gordon Russell and Faimon A. Roberts III