The findings of that investigation were released earlier this year, and they weren't pretty. Louisiana Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot's report found that Langlinais directed public funds to improve private property; was inappropriately reimbursed for meals already paid for with parish and state monies; entered into contracts in violation of the parish charter; used public funds for charitable donations and to pay for employee meals and social events; and pressured parish employees to solicit donations and work on his campaign fund-raising golf tournament during parish work hours.
Those charges were so disturbing and widespread that The Independent Weekly called on the Iberia Parish Council to impeach Langlinais and remove him from office ("Impeach Will Langlinais," March 14). Langlinais decried the audit and subsequent investigation by 16th Judicial District Attorney Phil Haney as nothing more than a political witch hunt and steadfastly maintained his innocence.
In a surprise about-face, Langlinais pled guilty last week to one felony count of malfeasance in office and resigned from his elected position, bringing to an end one of the most unfortunate chapters in Iberia Parish history.
The deal was sealed last Tuesday night during an executive session of the Iberia Parish Council. There, DA Haney, Assistant Attorney General Butch Wilson and Iberia Parish Council special counsel Edward Landry presented a choice to the Iberia Parish Council. Its members had the option of holding out for Langlinais' trial or accepting a deal hammered out by its counsel and Langlinais' attorneys, Gerald Block, Lester Gauthier and Paul Hebert.
Langlinais is fortunate that the plea bargain was accepted. Councilman Bernard Broussard, who led the initial push to audit Langlinais, would have preferred a trial. There are many, many questions still unanswered: the clandestine contract signed by Langlinais and Mosquito Control president Glenn Stokes, giving MCCI a sweetheart 10-year contract extension; another illegal contract between Langlinais and attorney Shane Romero for unauthorized risk management services; and numerous billing discrepancies scattered throughout other contracts and departments. "We had a serious problem in our government of misspending and mismanagement and abusive policies," Broussard says. "We need to make sure everybody understands what was going on."
Langlinais' supporters stood by him. Councilman Naray Hulin has been a staunch defender of Langlinais from the beginning of the investigation and says he approved the plea bargain to avoid further attorney expenses to the public. He also believes the $100,000 restitution settlement was too much and unfair to Langlinais. "I think Will did a great job as parish president," Hulin says. "If Will is guilty of anything at all, it's trying to help the taxpayers too much. Maybe he went astray in doing so, but it was all in an effort to help."
Ultimately the council reached consensus that Langlinais' guilty plea and resignation from office was the best way for government and the community to move forward. Langlinais has also lost his right to vote and to run for office. In return for his plea bargain, Langlinais has been granted immunity from further prosecution.
His fate is now in the hands of 16th Judicial District Judge John Connery, who can send Langlinais to state prison or parish jail for up to five years. Or he can offer him standard probation, set special conditions or simply send him home, facing no more punishment than he has already received. Connery stated from the bench last week that he welcomes input from the council and victims of the crime regarding Langlinais' sentence, which is scheduled for this Thursday, Aug. 2.
There will undoubtedly be friends and family in court on Thursday to defend Langlinais' character. Hulin will speak on Langlinais' behalf. "I don't feel he should serve jail time," Hulin says. "Probation is enough. Will is not a criminal." Broussard, on the other hand, wants to reiterate that the public trust has been violated. "I think when you take the oath of office, it is an honor and you should not represent your own needs and desires," he says. "We asked to hold office and promised to do the right thing. We need to be clear about Will's actions. This was not accidental mismanagement. The withholding of the information was not an oversight."
Louisiana has for too long offered a wink and a nod regarding political crimes ' but there is nothing funny about the abuse of public funds. In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the state has paid a heavy price for its history of corruption and leniency, as national politicians and pundits have used that history as an excuse to withhold or stall recovery funding. We will never recover from our position at the bottom of the list as a place to do business if we treat corrupt politicians with kid gloves. "We need to send a message by demanding justice," Broussard says ' and we agree.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
American companies export smog; UN calls for cease-fire in Gaza; fist bump keeps germ transfer down and more national and international news for Monday, July 28, 2014.
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.