DONALDSONVILLE — Contractor Glenn L. Price, a leading challenger to incumbent Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, is awaiting a jury trial on a two-year-old felony theft charge in West Baton Rouge Parish and, if elected this fall, might even take office before a jury determines his guilt or innocence.
The charge is related to an alleged scheme by former employees of Louisiana Scrap Metal Recycling of Port Allen and Price to collect inflated, illegal payments for scrap metal that Price's company sold to the Port Allen business, West Baton Rouge prosecutors and sheriff's deputies said.
Prosecutors have accused Price of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the business through the alleged scheme involving his defunct Donaldsonville recycling business, Green Gobbler, and others.
Price, 63, a Donaldsonville native who formerly lived in Texas and Georgia but lists a city address now, is one of two candidates challenging Sullivan, who is seeking his fifth four-year term in municipal elections Nov. 3.
Price maintained his innocence and called the allegations unfounded.
In interviews and a statement, he asserted that he was wrongly implicated by former Louisiana Scrap employees who actually were part of the alleged criminal plot and added that, with one of his other companies, he has been able to win local government demolition contracts and finish them without problems.
"I'm a very honest person. I really am. If anything I'm honest and, my businesses, I've always run legitimate businesses in Louisiana," Price said in an interview.
For more than two years, Price has been out on $10,000 bail since he turned himself in to authorities on April 3, 2018, court records show.
Ruth Franklin, director of the Donaldsonville Housing Authority, backed up Price's claims of honest business dealing. One of his companies has received two demolition contracts to remove old Housing Authority units and performed the work without significant problems, she said.
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The winner of the mayoral electoral contest will lead the government of a western Ascension Parish city of nearly 8,500 people and manage an annual budget of about $6.5 million to $7 million per year.
The other mayoral challenger is Travis London. Sullivan and Price are Democrats; London has no party.
Price is one of a slate of candidates affiliated with the Donaldsonville Community Care Committee challenging longstanding incumbents in the mayor's office and the City Council. The group recently led a march and rally in the city calling for improvement of economic conditions; nearly 40% of the populace lives at or below the poverty line.
Two of the committee's council candidates are facing residency challenges, and Price suggested on Monday that the challenges and publicity around his case are a part of election-time maneuvering by his opponents.
Price is a scheduled for jury trial on Oct. 19, two weeks before the election, but the trial has had several delays since prosecutors first brought the charge against him by bill of information in August 2018.
Prosecutors in West Baton Rouge said Friday that it's not likely that Price will appear for a trial until sometime next early year due to delays in other jury trials caused by the novel coronavirus. A trial date next year would happen well after the election occurred and after the winner of the mayoral race took office.
A pending but unproven charge does not bar Price from qualifying or holding office, state elections officials said. His candidacy faced no court challenges by the deadline Friday, parish records show. Criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty.
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State election officials pointed to sections of the state constitution that show that, even if Price did go to trial on Oct. 19 and was convicted, he could remain on the ballot Nov. 3 and potentially even take office if he is allowed to stay out on bail while an appeal is pending.
State law barring convicted felons from qualifying or holding office doesn't apply until a conviction is final, having run through the first round of higher court appeals.
Serving a state prison sentence also prevents candidates from holding office under the law, but judges sometimes allow people who have been convicted to remain out on bail during appeal.
In interviews, Price insisted that prosecutors had promised him verbally that they were going to drop the charge against him, but West Baton Rouge Assistant District Attorney Scotty Chabert said Price is the lead defendant in the case on the customer side of the alleged scheme.
Chabert said investigators have collected enough information through video recordings and receipts from Louisiana Scrap to show Price illegally pocketed more than $57,000 from the business, where Price often sold scrap through Green Gobbler.
Chabert called the claim that prosecutors would drop Price's charge "absolutely, 110% false."
"He's actually the third main culprit in this whole matter," he said, adding the first two were former employees of the scrap company.
A 2018 sheriff's report obtained by The Advocate quotes three former Louisiana Scrap employees as implicating Price, along with themselves, in the scheme. Price would split the scrap payments with them after they had printed out bogus pay vouchers that were either duplicates or had inflated scrap weights, the report says.
The scrap company paid by the pound.
The sheriff's report also says the scrap company's general manager had documented, through pictures, scrap tickets and video recordings, 243 instances of improper overpayments to Price between Nov. 1, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018.
The video documentation was so voluminous, the report says, that a DVD disc didn't have enough electronic memory to hold it all.
Price said his company only made deliveries to Louisiana Scrap and had "absolutely nothing to do with anything else."
"I look forward to clearing this misunderstanding up as soon as the courts reschedule the matter which has been further delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic," he said in a statement. "My focus is on doing any and everything I can to improve the conditions in my community. This type of distraction won’t deter that!"