Tucker, as an elected official, did win competitive tax credits totaling $1.89 million to rebuild two New Orleans apartment complexes that he owns, but he never used them. He claims the allegation against him was a political smear initiated by his enemies to derail his ascendant career.
Even after the Ethics Board cleared Tucker, Chris Whittington, chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, dredged up the charges once more when Jindal gave his imprimatur. In response, Tucker threatened to sue Whittington and the party for making libelous remarks.
Tucker donned a Teflon exterior when he dealt with the much-ballyhooed tax credits, but now he faces another legal problem ' just in time for the Jan. 14 speaker's election. Tucker did not grant an interview for this story, refusing to comment on pending litigation. A mountain of legal documents in two parishes and interviews with other lawmakers help fill in the blanks.
During the 2007 regular legislative session, Tucker proffered and spoke in favor of House Bill 501 (now Act 99) at a May meeting of the House Civil Law Committee. He sold it to lawmakers as a way to help aggrieved hurricane evacuees change venues for child support and custody hearings to parishes where they had taken up residence following the 2005 storms ' but only if their former spouse lives outside Louisiana.
Judges already had the discretion to grant change-of-venue motions ' and relocation after a hurricane certainly presents solid grounds for such a change ' but the law pushed by Tucker strips the courts of their discretion on such matters and, in theory, allows evacuees to "forum shop" if they prefer the judges where they now live over those in the parish where they previously argued their cases.
With Tucker arguing in favor, the bill passed the Civil Law Committee with little debate and was eventually signed into law by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
On Sept. 18, roughly one month after the new law took effect, Tucker's wife, the former Marisol F. Lannes, filed a motion to change venues in an ongoing child support battle against her ex-husband, who now lives in Illinois, proposing to move it from Plaquemines Parish to Orleans Parish and citing the very law her new husband helped pass. Tucker married the former Mrs. Lannes (now Marisol Tucker) in July of last year, and she moved from Belle Chasse to Algiers not long thereafter. The move covered a distance of just six miles, but that was enough; it brought her across parish lines ' fitting neatly into the parameters of the new law.
David Hufft, a Belle Chasse attorney who represents Marisol's former husband, David M.D. Lannes, claims that Tucker helped create the bill. He says Tucker violated the Louisiana Constitution, ignored an obvious conflict of interest and intended to "affect ongoing litigation" through legislation, which is nothing new to the Louisiana Legislature. Hufft also argues in court documents that Tucker's wife shouldn't be allowed to take advantage of the law "because the parties do not fall into the protected class, victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita, who relocated to a new parish a further distance from the current venue." (Hufft notes in court documents that Mrs. Tucker's new residence in Algiers is still closer to the Plaquemines Parish courthouse than it is to Civil District Court in downtown New Orleans.)
Hufft adds that prior to the motion to change venues being filed in September, the former Mrs. Lannes had received an "unfavorable ruling" in Plaquemines Parish and was therefore hoping for a more favorable venue. She has since appealed those rulings against her.
In Tucker's defense, he was not the official author of the legislation. That title goes to Rep. Jeff Arnold, a New Orleans Democrat who once lived a few houses away from Tucker and who remains a close friend of the speaker-apparent.
Arnold says it's not unusual for Tucker to handle a bill for him in his absence, as was the case during the May hearing of the House Civil Law Committee. Yet Arnold maintains that Tucker did not ask him to file the bill; rather, the request came from constituents. "But [Tucker] did let me know later in the process that the bill would affect his own situation," Arnold adds.
David W. Birdsong, a Metairie attorney who represents Tucker, issued a press release on the litigation. He points out that David M.D. Lannes had previously "been found guilty of a criminal physical attack on his ex-wife" and accuses the Illinois resident of trying to plant blemishes upon Tucker's public service career. "This whole thing is a smoke screen by Mr. Lannes, who is trying to threaten Mr. Tucker and his standing as a legislator in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage in a child support case," Birdsong says.
Hufft, who could not be reached for an interview, isn't backing down. He has filed a motion to compel testimony from a dozen members of the House Civil Law Committee. He wants to question them about Tucker's possible involvement in the legislation beyond his testimony for it during the committee hearing. Rep. Shirley D. Bowler, a term-limited Harahan Republican, says she received a certified letter informing her of the situation, but she doesn't think anything will come of it. "I truly do not think we passed this bill to benefit any one person," she says.
Other committee members, like Rep. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, immediately recognized merit in Arnold's bill and Tucker's arguments during the May hearing. "I have a couple of clients in a similar situation," Morrell says. "Some judges are quite unreasonable."
Bowler, however, adds that she did originally have concerns that the bill would be used to "forum shop," but an amendment she added on the House floor addressed her concerns.
A hearing to decide whether the committee members should testify had not been scheduled by press time, but Bowler says the House will likely have House Clerk Butch Speer argue that lawmakers should enjoy some type of privilege with regard to their legislative decision-making process. "I just don't know how it came to this," Bowler says. "In all my 16 years in the House I have never seen a committee involved with a motion to compel testimony, especially with regard to what might have happened behind the scenes."
Ultimately, Tucker's new wife might get the forum she wants, but this controversy couldn't come at a worse time for him.
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.