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.
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.