For Derrick Shepherd to denounce “fake local news” is like shooting himself in the foot, for the fake in the local news right now is him.

He cannot, perhaps, match the fraudulence of his heyday, when he was laundering large sums through his law-practice bank account for a crooked, disqualified insurance broker, and getting arrested on charges of beating up women. But he still does not come across as a straight talker.

Shepherd was forced to resign his seat in the state Senate and sentenced to 37 months in prison 10 years ago. Now, as he seeks employment and tries to get his law license back, he is rushing around town reminding all who care to listen that ex-cons deserve a second chance.

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No doubt about that. Shepherd has done his time and society shoots itself in the foot when citizens are not permitted to make full use of their abilities. Shepherd, a major in the Army Reserve until his conviction, clearly has a broad range of talents and should still be able contribute somewhere.

He wouldn't have risen so rapidly in the political arena if there were any hint of the shrinking violet in his makeup, but state legislators were somewhat taken aback when he showed up at the church the other week where they were having breakfast with New Orleans mayor-elect Latoya Cantrell.

Now, after staying uncharacteristically mum for a bit, Shepherd is back to his most bumptious in a TV commercial and interviews with the media he claims falsely accused him of angling for a job with Cantrell when he was merely helping to “cater a breakfast.” His range of talents is even broader than we thought.

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Still, even without consulting his rap sheet, it may be unwise to take his word for anything. He still insists he did not turn up at the breakfast in hopes of a gainful post at City Hall, for instance, but notes that he is available to become director of the Sewerage and Water Board. Although that does not quite amount to a contradiction, it is safe to assume that he had more than grits and grillades on his mind when showing up at the pow wow.

When Cantrell at the breakfast assured Shepherd of her belief in second chances, legislators naturally took that to mean he was in line for a job. That was all the more plausible because she certainly needs to do some hiring pronto. Although she was elected Nov. 18, Cantrell has not bothered to name a transition team. It is unheard of for an incoming mayor to wait so long before starting to lay the groundwork. Such a curious lack of urgency is disconcerting; an unprepared administration can hardly avoid faltering.

Neither Cantrell nor Shepherd was in any hurry to set minds at rest either. More than a day passed while the media speculated on what Cantrell and Shepherd were plotting; he referred all inquiries to her, she said nothing and her flack, though averring that Cantrell had assigned Shepherd “no defined role,” declined to rule out the possibility of one.

It was already past breakfast time on day two before Cantrell declared that she had not arranged for Shepherd to be at the meeting and he would never work for her. The delay could only mean that Shepherd was under consideration until the reaction proved too negative.

Although Shepherd evidently still holds out hope of a plum appointment, he is also considering a run for election. He did try a couple of years ago to contest the seat he once held in the House, but was thrown off the ballot because an amendment to the state constitution barred felons from running for 15 years after they have served their time.

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The state Supreme Court subsequently ruled that that amendment unconstitutional because one of its incidental provisions was omitted from the wording on the ballot approved by the voters. So far the legislature has made no move to correct its error.

Shepherd would certainly not be starved of publicity if he did run. He may be an old faker, but he's real news.

Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.

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