As more than a half-dozen members of her family looked on, longtime City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, adorned in her signature red, mouthed “Wow” as a proclamation outlining her decades of public service was read aloud Thursday, her last day as a member of the City Council.
Clarkson said she “enjoyed and respected” all of the people she’s worked with over the years and loved “a lot of them.”
Clarkson, a term-limited, at-large member of the council, lost a March runoff to Nadine Ramsey for the District C seat Clarkson had occupied years ago.
She said Thursday that she was looking forward to spending time with her husband, Arthur, more widely known as Buzz.
“I’m going home to take care of a good man,” she said.
Clarkson is one of three council members for whom Thursday was their last meeting.
Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell also are leaving the dais, Palmer voluntarily and Hedge-Morrell because she lost her bid for an at-large seat to Jason Williams.
Hedge-Morrell said she hasn’t figured out what she will do next but that she has recently returned, at least temporarily, to an early love. She said she is a licensed racehorse trainer and has spent the past three weeks caring for a yearling.
Palmer did not hint at her future plans.
Gusman faces novel penalty for delays
Newly re-elected Sheriff Marlin Gusman has, at times, seemed to brush aside the various federal lawsuits he’s faced over the abysmal conditions at Orleans Parish Prison. But now a federal magistrate judge has threatened him with a unique penalty if Gusman continues to miss deadlines for providing court-ordered information to inmates seeking compensation for hardships they faced inside the violent lockup: the timeout chair.
This week, a frustrated U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan wrote a scathing order warning Gusman that she would no longer tolerate his attorneys’ inability to comply with her deadlines in a civil case brought by Terry Smith, a schizophrenic man who was seriously injured while being held at OPP. And she came up with a punishment familiar to any parent dealing with a stubborn toddler.
“Monetary sanctions will not serve any purpose,” Shushan wrote. “If Sheriff Gusman ignores the undersigned’s discovery orders and his responsibilities to respond to reasonable inquiries from counsel for plaintiffs a third time, Sheriff Gusman will be required to appear in an assigned courtroom in the Hale Boggs (federal courthouse building) where he will remain for one hour without access to cell phone or other mobile device or anything else to assist him to pass the time.
“No other person will be permitted in the courtroom during this time. Each time thereafter that similar conduct occurs, Sheriff Gusman will be required to appear in an assigned courtroom on the same terms and conditions. The time will be doubled on each occasion in an arithmetic progression.”
Shushan’s exasperation was fueled by Gusman’s sluggishness in meeting deadlines in another civil proceeding, a lawsuit filed by an inmate forced to perform oral sex on Dejuan Thomas, a former Sheriff’s Office deputy who was sentenced to five years in prison for sexual battery and sexual malfeasance in prison. Shushan already had cautioned Gusman — in bold-face type — in that case, saying he and his attorneys “will not be given a second chance” to meet deadlines.
“This is tantamount to a timeout in the corner while wearing a dunce cap,” Miranda Tait, an attorney with the Advocacy Center, which represents Smith, said in a statement. “While we would have preferred the sheriff be ordered to spend some time on the tiers of his own prison, we appreciate Judge Shushan’s attempt to force the sheriff to pay attention to the cases of those people injured at OPP.”
Blake Arcuri, an attorney for Gusman, said the sheriff did “not mean to delay or hinder these proceedings in any way” and made “a good faith attempt to provide all the requested information which was available.” In the Smith case, Arcuri said, Gusman and his staff “worked diligently on gathering the information ... much of which was extremely voluminous and (covers) an entire year.”
Slidell voters were placed in wrong district
Slidell voters in the 1500 block of Englewood Drive didn’t get to vote in the City Council District E primary on April 5 because a mapping error mistakenly placed them in District C on the voter registration rolls, St. Tammany Parish Registrar of Voters Dwayne Wall confirmed this week.
The municipal elections were the first in Slidell since reapportionment, Wall said, and the mistake was the result of human error.
It came to his attention when District E candidate Pete O’Connell called the Monday after the election to find out why two voters who contacted him had not been able to vote in his race.
Wall said the mistake potentially affected 44 voters, a substantial number for an election in which only 648 voters cast ballots. The Registrar’s Office sent letters to them April 11 informing them of the error and apologizing.
O’Connell, who got 205 votes in the primary, will face off in a May 3 runoff against incumbent Councilman Sam Caruso, who got 309 votes.
Candidates have a nine-day window in which to challenge the results of an election, according to Meg Casper, spokeswoman for Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler. That period ended April 14, she said.
Caruso said he learned of the problem about 40 minutes before the deadline elapsed and chose not to challenge the results. But he pointed out that he captured 70 percent of the votes in the affected area — his own neighborhood — and missed winning the primary outright by slightly more than 2 percentage points.
The worst part, Caruso said, “is simply the deprivation of these people’s right to vote. It seems to me that’s even worse than what happened to us (the candidates).’’
“We understand that mistakes happen and that technology fails, and we’re glad the registrar has taken appropriate steps to rectify the error,” said James Hartman, O’Connell’s campaign consultant. “Whether any of the affected voters choose to pursue the issue further and question the validity of the primary will be up to them.’’