One of the consequences of the long spell New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell must spend waiting in the wings is that her honeymoon period will evidently be over before she takes office.
True, her supporters have so far managed to play down Attorney General Jeff Landry's investigation of the charges she ran up on the credit card she was issued as a member of the City Council. That she reimbursed the city to the tune of thousands only after qualifying to run for mayor may be tantamount to an admission of misuse, but, shoot, they say, everyone else does it, if not quite on the same scale.
Any taxpayer who is not greatly reassured to know that it is standard practice for council members to play fast and loose with the public dollar is invited to give Cantrell the benefit of any doubt anyway because she is a Democrat and Landry is a grandstanding Republican.
According to that theory, Landry would stop at nothing to get elected governor. It is not the most far-fetched idea to come down the pike.
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Meanwhile, Cantrell is embroiled in a brouhaha that suggests it will not be easy to believe anything coming out of City Hall when she is running the show. She and her mouthpieces have failed to quell doubts about her discretion and veracity that arose after a meeting she held with state legislators a week before Christmas.
Legislators arriving for the meeting were surprised to find Derrick Shepherd helping to set the tables for breakfast. The meeting was held at a church, but it was not eggs and hash browns that seemed out of place. It was the very presence of Shepherd that raised eyebrows, for, once a state legislator himself, he was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and has been arrested a couple of times on domestic violence charges.
That was all a few years ago, and redemption was certainly a suitable topic for discussion in such a setting. Indeed, Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, reported that Cantrell did make a reference to second chances, while Shepherd sat there and said nothing. Several legislators in attendance, however, were alarmed by the intrusion and wondered whether Cantrell planned to give him a job at City Hall.
Her spokesman, David Winkler-Schmit, asked why Shepherd was at the meeting, just did the old flack shuffle. Shepherd had “no defined role,” he said, but Cantrell was meeting with many “community members,” and the future looked “bright as we move forward together as a city.” Evading the question was as close as Winkler-Schmit could come to an explicit confirmation that Cantrell had invited Shepherd to the meeting because he was destined for rehabilitation in the new administration. Nothing happened to change that perception until more than a day later, during which time the meeting was widely reported.
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Evidently it dawned on the transition team that Winkler-Schmit's bromides had merely added to the consternation, and an outside consultant was called up. In a statement issued by Karen Carvin, Cantrell averred Shepherd “did not accompany me to that meeting, nor was he invited to participate.”
As to why Winkler-Schmit did not say so in the first place, why so much time had elapsed before the denial was issued and how Shepherd knew the meeting was scheduled, even such an old pro as Carvin was stumped for an explanation. Nobody, however, would ever suggest that Shepherd lacked the chutzpah to gatecrash any gathering. Two years ago he tried to run for the state house but the courts ruled that his felony conviction disqualified him.
In the statement issued by Carvin, Cantrell vowed that Shepherd has no future with her, but the public reaction to the prospect had been so hostile that she clearly had no choice. If this is a foretaste of her executive style, maybe we'll have to head for the hills for the first disaster to hit when she is mayor.
Shepherd was put under house arrest when booked with assaulting a woman while awaiting trial for money laundering in 2008. Two years later, before he was sentenced in the money-laundering case, his bond was revoked when he was picked up on another domestic charge. Imagine finding this guy at your breakfast table.
Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.