We only need to look at former Plaquemine Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle’s sentencing yesterday — nearly 46 months for accepting bribes from contractors anxious to do business with his parish — to quickly realize that being a Louisiana sheriff with millions of dollars to dole out to greedy contractors and consultants can be a very slippery slope.
One Sheriff who never made a major misstep and could be coming back around for another term is former Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti. Now, in the private practice of law, Foti is bombarded by people every day who are asking him to take on his former protégé, Sheriff Marlin Gusman. It’s even possible that Foti’s cousin, Mitch Landrieu, is one of those speaking with him.
Gusman would not be Sheriff today had it not been for Foti’s support. Foti chose Gusman over his Chief Deputy who also ran for the seat. Foti ran a much larger jail than Gusman runs today but he ran it like a family with Foti, playing the role of father who ran his empire with a strict hand. Everyone who worked for Foti knew the rules and dared not break them. Escapes by inmates rarely took place. No videos exist of inmates drinking or doing drugs. No deputies fell asleep in the quads, or if they did, they were soon ex-guards. Foti did have some problems regarding prisoner health care, but after he created a partnership with LSU, his medical operation won awards.
Foti — who never married — lived and breathed the Sheriff’s office. His goal in life was to creative innovative programs like Aquaculture, the Young Marines, the Prison Gospel Choir, Work Release, GED and computer training, the Prison Chaplain Program, and Small Companion Animal Care, that would add value to prisoner’s lives and to the community. Foti was loved by New Orleans voters – black and white – because he was always out helping churches, non-profits, seniors, youth groups, delivering meals to the elderly and the less fortunate, and caring for seniors at more than 20 Thanksgiving Day banquets. Danae has known Foti for more than 30 years and Allan goes back 45 years with Foti, who was starting his career as a Moon Landrieu appointee as an attorney for the NOPD. Allan and Danae spent many a Christmas and Easter with Foti delivering baskets or toys while serving as his PR consultants.
If Foti wants to be a serious contender for the 2014 Sheriff’s race, he will have to start moving quickly. Although Gusman is said to have raised $600,000, Foti is a millionaire many times over and could easily fund his own campaign if need be.
WILL JUDGE YOLANDA KING SURVIVE THE PROBE OF HER DOMICILE?
Channel 4 did two bruising stories this week about newly elected Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King involving information from individuals who claim Judge King really lives across the lake and not in a home she purchased after Katrina in Orleans Parish. Domicile issues can be very difficult to pin down. There is a widely held belief that Judge King could be ousted over the residency issue. But in the past, some members of the judiciary didn’t view residency as a major issue.
49TH ANNIVERSARY OF SIGNING OF CIVIL RIGHTS LAW CELEBRATED THIS WEEK.
Tuesday, July 2nd, marked the 49th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing the law that granted equal rights to all regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. Though the occasion was not greatly celebrated in New Orleans this year, next July 2-4, a group led by WWL’s Dionne Butler called Liberty ’64 are planning a multi-day celebration involving dozens of organizations in the community. It will be an opportunity to educate our youth about Freedom Riders, sit-ins at Woolworths, and UNO’s unique role as Louisiana’s first integrated college. Few remember today that the late Dr. Homer Hitt, then LSUNO Chancellor, expelled white students who tried to bar African-American students from the campus. It was a big deal and very controversial at the time. Next year, the commemoration will be a weekend to remember. Happy July 4th. Let’s all celebrate that we live in the greatest country in the world!!
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City Councilwoman Stacy Head, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and council candidate Dana Kaplan.