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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.