Cartoonist Brian Spellman once wrote, "Don't hold grudges. Life's too long." Gov. John Bel Edwards might disagree. The governor seems fond of a little revenge now and then.
The latest target of Edward's vengefulness is Carolyn Prator, the wife of Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator. Sheriff Prator's been a critic of the bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation signed by Edwards.
The governor recently rejected the appointment of Carolyn Prator to the Red River Waterway Commission after one of its members died.
The 11-member commission represents seven north Louisiana parishes including Caddo. The commission decides, among other things, how to spend flood control money. Each of the seven parishes has a representative, along with four at-large members.
By statute, parish vacancies on the commission are to be selected by the governor from names submitted by the Caddo Levee Board, the Red River Valley Association and the Caddo Parish Commission. All three nominated Prator. But the governor ignored those recommendations and instead moved an at-large member, already on the commission, over to fill the vacant spot. He then filled the at-large position. Prator says the governor clearly violated state law by rejecting her nomination.
"There is no one in the state more passionate about flooding and flood control. My husband and I lost our 70-year-old home in the Red River flood of 2015. The home was destroyed, and we have since relocated at great financial loss," said Prator.
Prator says Caddo Parish officials were stunned at Edwards' decision. She says it will cost Caddo Parish a vote on the commission even though it funds 40 percent of the budget. That's more than twice as much as any other parish.
Prator believes Edwards' refusal to appoint her is revenge for her husband criticizing the governor over criminal justice reform legislation.
"Steve (Prator) has been so vocal that he has been summoned to meet with the governor, who, according to Steve, was extremely angry to have been criticized about the initiative and demanded an apology. Steve remains a critic and the governor remains angry, " said Prator.
The sheriff agrees with his wife.
"I have no doubt in my mind that it's retribution for being critical of the governor's justice reinvestment initiative," he said.
Edward's communication director, Shauna Sanford, denies revenge is a factor in the governor's decision. Sanford says Prator's recommendation letters were not sent in within the required 30-day window and that's why the governor didn't appoint her. The former commission member died on the Feb. 5th, but it took close to three weeks after his death before the three statutorily appointing authorities were notified. Eight days after being notified, the first authority sent in a letter of recommendation with the second authority following suit a few days after that. Two weeks passed before the third authority sent in its letter of recommendation. All three statutorily appointing authorities nominated Prator.
This wouldn't be the first time Edwards retaliated against those who criticize or oppose him. Close to two-thirds of capital budget projects he vetoed this past year impacted Acadiana. State Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, says Edwards targeted Acadiana because House Speaker Taylor Barras and other conservative Acadiana legislators opposed the governor's tax increases.
“It’s disappointing to see the governor pick politics over people,” Miguez said.
Playing politics with commission appointments is not new to Edwards. He appointed three members to a commission regulating the salaries of Louisiana river pilots. Edwards got the names and résumés of his three appointees directly from an organization representing river pilots. But state law requires the members to be independent and have no ties to river pilots or the industries they serve. Edwards was rewarded with six-figure campaign contributions from river pilots, their families, attorneys and lobbyists.
Edwards' playing politics with commission appointees comes with a price. Caddo Parish residents are now underrepresented on the Red River Waterway Commission. That could lead to inadequate flood protection for their homes. It all could have been avoided if only their sheriff, with close to 50 years of law enforcement experience, would have kept his opinions to himself and not had the audacity to openly criticize the governor.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org.