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Opinion

STP Candidate for Sheriff Files Ethics Complaint Against Incumbent

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Nick Tranchina, a candidate for St. Tammany Parish Sheriff, has filed an ethics complaint with the Louisiana Governmental Ethics Committee alleging the misuse of parish resources to promote the re-election campaign of incumbent Sheriff Randy Smith.
Tranchina outlines three specific ethics violations covered under the ethics code in his complaint (see ethics complaint attachment). The first of a four-part video series produced by the Sheriff’s Office on its “Crisis Intervention Team,” was uploaded February 5th to the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office YouTube page, and also posted on the “Re-Elect Smith Sheriff 2019” Facebook and Twitter pages the same day.
Sheriff Smith announced his bid for re-election February 11th and two of the videos were subsequently posted on the sheriffrandysmith.com re-election website and the remaining three videos were posted on the campaign Facebook page shortly afterwards.
“It is highly improper and inappropriate to use videos made and paid for by the Sheriff’s Office to promote the sheriff’s own re-election,” according to Tranchina, who is a first-time candidate for elected office. “Further, the timing of the production and release of the videos to coincide with Smith’s campaign announcement is highly suspect.”
He notes that the Sheriff’s Office during Smith’s tenure has not produced any other videos on department-wide programs or initiatives such as the four-part “Crisis Intervention Team” video which, coincidentally, was one of Smith’s campaign promises. The sheriff even references the issue in the second video, saying: “During my campaign for sheriff I realized that mental health was a very important issue and a hot topic not only here in St. Tammany but throughout our country and I wanted to create this crisis intervention team.”
Elected officials cannot use resources paid for by taxpayers for political purposes, explains Tranchina. “Other states and indeed Congress forbids lawmakers from using resources like House videos for political purposes.”
The Advocate reports a response from Smith’s campaign:
The complaint is a “baseless grievance by a fledgling candidate who is hoping to gain media attention since he doesn’t have the resources to deliver his message appropriately.”
The statement continues: “It is shameful for any candidate, much less a former lawman, to manipulate state rules to force a state agency to review such a thinly veiled, desperate complaint.”
Tim Lentz, former Covington Police Chief and third candidate for St. Tammany Parish Sheriff, has not released a statement about the Ethics Complaint, pending a decision by the LGEC.

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While the social media trollers have already relegated the ethics complaint filed by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff candidate Nick Tranchina to political mud-slinging, it seems fairly clear to anyone with an objective viewpoint that the issue here is keeping public officials accountable.
The parish government is no stranger to skirting ethics laws, as Covington Weekly has reported in the past with legislation written by former Representative Tim Burns exempting parish council members from state ethics laws in place to prevent conflicts of interest.
In the situation of campaign ethics, it appears that the only manipulation of state rules is a public agency using public dollars to produce material for use by a candidate running for public office, but that is for the Louisiana Governmental Ethics Committee to decide. Further, the statement “he doesn’t have the resources to deliver his message properly” implies that it is fortuitous that one has access to high-quality production because of the position they are currently occupying.
In light of the recent track record of high-level parish officials, it is more appropriate for any parish agency to take issues involving ethical violations more seriously, rather than attacking the character of the individual bringing the information to light. Nick Tranchina is not involved in a mud-slinging campaign; he is involved in a water-slinging campaign. Water has the power to erode stone over time. Bringing an ethics violation to light is not a negative tactic, it is balancing out the playing field by ensuring that everyone is adhering to the same rules; that is the reason there is a code of ethics to follow.
The critical and belittling response for someone who is simply alleging that specific campaign rules in place are ignored is disappointing; a more appropriate response would be to acknowledge a commitment to performing one’s duties according to law, including running a re-election campaign. Our public officials are entrusted with the appropriate use of our tax dollars, and the public has a right to know how they are used.
If campaign videos were produced using public resources, then that is a clear violation of the ethics laws in place. We’ll see what the LGEC decides.
CW Correspondent Timothy Gates

Local News Opinion

Journalism Versus Ethics

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I was asked recently if I follow standards of journalistic ethics, to which I replied, “Of course not, there are no ethics in journalism.” Most journalistic organizations do pronounce to have them, at least by their own estimation. Either way, I do not consider myself a journalist. I am a correspondent. I correspond between the “little people” and their beloved local government agencies.
Journalists have resource budgets and people to research for them and things like that. I produce this entire newsletter by myself, every single week. Journalists often work for big corporations that have major advertisers like car lots and hot shot attorneys and high-priced children’s clothing retail outlets. Covington Weekly is owned by Chelsea and we represent downtown Covington, small “mom and pop” enterprises, mostly.
I have a mass communication degree with an emphasis in television production and video editing. I communicate. Sometimes the things I communicate do not jive with what our elected (or, in some cases appointed) officials want to hear. Well that’s too bad, as they say, because in the words of New Orleans’ exiting FBI Director Jeffrey Sallet, Louisiana is about at corrupt as it gets. It takes the people actually wanting change to make the change from corruption to non-corruption happen, and that is where Covington Weekly plays a small role. This is about educating people on what is happening around them, and often with their own money, no less.

I was told recently to get a “real” job. My job is very real to me; I engage people in the business community every single day. I engage members of the public every single day. That information is processed and compared to the official stances, then translated into the words written in Covington Weekly. This is what I do.
When things get out of balance, it is necessary to re-balance them. I worked for a twin broadcast station once. I left that position because of ethical conflicts. Their business practices were questionable with regard to prioritization, but the station(s’) refusal to run a story about the negative impacts of an industrial operation on a local farming community, solely because of conflicting legal representation, made the decision to leave an easy one. Because we do not agree with that type of business practice, Chelsea and I devised the model for Covington Weekly that you are currently reading.

Information that is found in the public realm, that is, publicly accessible through a simple internet search, is in
my opinion as CW correspondent considered Fair Game. Doubly so with regard to public officials. To echo Sallet again, the burden of eliminating corruption also falls on the public, who must demand that the said corruption be eliminated. Information is where the cycle must be broken, because controlled media outlets will yield controlled information. Control of information is the opposite of telling the truth.
“Government works for the citizens, the citizens do not work for government..”- Jeffrey Sallet, FBI, N.O. Division
Timothy Achan Gates, CW Correspondent Email: covweekly@gmail.com Tel: 985-288-9609 covingtonweekly.com

Quote & Word of the Week

Quote and Word of the Week

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Quote of the Week
“The four stages of acceptance:
1. This is worthless nonsense.
2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
3. This is true, but quite unimportant.
4. I always said so.”

(Review of The Truth About Death, in: Journal of Genetics 1963, Vol. 58, p.464)”
– John Burdon Sanderson Haldane

Word of the Week:
opportunism – 1) the policy or practice, as in politics, business, or one’s personal affairs, of adapting actions, decisions, etc., to expediency or effectiveness regardless of the sacrifice of ethical principles.
2) action or judgment in accordance with this policy

The Full Moon Is Monday, August 7, 2017

Featured Posts General

Of Perceptions And Misconceptions

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by Beverly Hobbs Shea
High Road Properties

Rarely does a real estate practitioner start out with this as an initial career; it’s usually reserved as a default profession for a variety of reasons, none of which are necessary to list here. For those of us that are now “seasoned,” we know better. The skill set is second to none: organizational skills, self-discipline, knowledge, negotiation skills, communication skills, tenacity, perseverance, and commitment. There is simply no substitute for hard work and the ability to articulate and execute the necessary steps to success. Unlike textbook guidelines, there is nothing like exposure to situations you just can’t make up, and the insights gained from them. For the few that actually began their work careers in the business and who’ve remained in it through its ups, downs, twists, and turns, the stamina and knowledge base that comes as a result isn’t found in a “how-to’ book.

The good ones don’t have to brag. The emotional payoff comes in the form of self-satisfaction and referrals from a client base and caseload that never diminishes. Flying under the radar is much more fun than you’d think. Success and ability are not measured as advertising boasts might have us believe. Images can be deceiving. Integrity can’t be erased in the spin of deceit – a swirl of jealousies, untruths, and clandestine activities that nervously await exposure – when the façade is ripped away and the naked truth of character and the lack thereof are both uncovered.

The typical visual of a real estate practitioner isn’t very flattering. From Phil Dunphy (Modern Family) to the superficial real estate agent portrayed in American Beauty, the greedy agents and brokers in Glengarry Glen Ross, we are deemed to be just a notch above the proverbial used car salesman. If these unfortunate stereotypes connote that our substance and client interest are just skin-deep and we make no effort to dispel them and raise the bar, we will forever stagnate in the pool misconceptions. But if we are unnerved just enough to want to change perceptions, the opportunities are endless.

Beverly Hobbs Shea
(504) 669-8826

ABR, ACRE, CRB, CRP, CRS, GRI, SRES
Managing Broker
High Road Properties, Inc.
406 Ox Lot Square
Covington, LA 70433
Email: bev@beverlyhobbsshea.com
Licensed in Louisiana, USA

Opinion

Greater Degree Of Transparency Needed In St. Tammany Economic Development

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It’s There, You Just Have To Really Look For It… And Sometimes Rely On An FOIA Request

Helis Oil & Gas Company announced last week that they would not pursue the anticipated project near Lakeshore High School, President David Kerstein reiterating that Helis consistently operated above board and within the parameters allocated in keeping with the public trust.     A day after the announcement, a Lee Zurik investigation revealed that a judge ruling on the case regarding Helis Oil & Gas Company vs. St. Tammany Parish and CCST received campaign contributions in the amount of $3,000 from Helis.  While politicians receive money from any number of industries all the time, a judge receiving money from someone with a case before them more closely resembles graft or bribery than an innocent contribution, which is not consistent with keeping the public trust.

corpor1

In March of 2014, St. Tammany Economic Development Director Don Shea declared that the district had no knowledge of upcoming projects when pitching the new Development Districts to the Parish Council.   Shea stated, there’s “Nothing In The Pipeline.” Unbeknownst to the council (or not), there was “Something In The Pipeline”.  A Freedom Of Information Act Request was obtained by the local group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, and parish government e-mails made public revealed that, not only did the parish have prior knowledge of the Helis project, there was a concerted effort to marginalize public dissent.  The publicized e-mails also revealed disparaging remarks directed at the citizenry, possibly a contributing factor to Shea’s departure from Parish Administration.

Considering that the STEDF (St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation, the “management arm” of the Economic Development District) receives millions of tax dollar derived Go Zone Funds from the Louisiana State Bond Commission for economic development related projects, and the STEDF is listed as a 501C6 Non Profit Organization, it is very confusing how the STEDF performs the following duties without being classified as a public agency, or a “quasi-public agency”:
1) be the “managing arm” of a public body (EDD)
2) raise funds for a public body (EDD)
3) appoint three board members of a public body (EDD)
4) provide one board member of a public body (EDD)
It makes very little sense how this organization claims no accountability to the public, when it is a major component driving St. Tammany Parish economic development.

laws-are-magic
Laws Are Magic  Legislation previously discussed in CW relates to the powers held by the Economic Development District, written by Sen. Donahue (SB617) and the former Rep. Burns (HB252).  The Ethics Law Exemption written for the Economic Development District world is relative to the tax exemptions, governmental authorities and other corporate incentives granted to development districts and bond-holders.  Conflicts of interest do not exist in that world, or at least, they are identified as “exemptions”.
Parish President Pat Brister lamented on the money spent in the fracking lawsuit, stating that changing oil and gas extraction laws requires going to the State Legislature. This sentiment is appreciated, and it is one that CW echoed many times, first stated by Patrick Courreges of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

The St. Tammany Parish Government laid a foundation of Transparency and Accountability, but stories of bribery, conflicts of interest and public deception, all within one failed project that was presumed to happen, indicate that greater Transparency and Accountability can be achieved. Citizens should be able to understand how government works without a law degree or a Freedom of Information Act request, and the public has a right to know how its money is spent.   The reality is that all of the heartache, frustration and money wasted could have been avoided had there been a public referendum in the first place.  Considering the rich history of this parish, as well as its namesake, preservation of the beauty and mystique of this area should be paramount to corporate interest.

 

 

Shop Local

Real Estate Professional Beverly Hobbs Shea of Real Estate Resource Group, LLC

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avatarBev Hobbs Shea is a real estate professional specializing in properties for residential and light commercial real estate in the New Orleans and Northshore regions of southeast Louisiana.  Additionally, she offers consulting and fee-based services to the real estate industry with a special  interest in trouble shooting and remedying issues.  Please feel free to contact Beverly for a list of references and testimonials from her satisfied client base.
“I believe that one’s personal and professional lives should parallel one another.  To that end, and at all times, the highest level of integrity and ethics will be the standard by which my duties will be executed and my behavior conducted. There is not enough compensation or promise that can deter me from modeling the core values I esteem.”
Beverly’s reputation is that of a straight shooter, and while her candor may sometimes get her into trouble, she doesn’t change the formula.  Bev believes strongly in responsibility and accountability, and along with that, authenticity and sincerity in the consultations she provides.  She often goes beyond the typical transaction experience and is always up for a challenge!  Since most of Bev’s business is repeat and referral based, it stands as an expanding and continuing testimony to her service and knowledge.  Clients tell Beverly she is unlike any other real estate professional they’ve dealt with in the past, and she always takes that as a compliment.  With this reputation, Bev will honor and trust the confidence placed in her, and she will not disappoint!      Real Estate The Way It Should Be.
Beverly Hobbs Shea, ABR, ACRE, CRB, CRP, CRS, GRI, SRES     

Managing Broker, Licensed in Louisiana, USA

bevhobbsshea banner
Real Estate Resource Group, LLC
90 Louis Prima Drive, Suite A    Offc.  985-898-5888
Covington, LA USA 70433           beverlyhobbsshea.com

Quote & Word of the Week

Quote of the Week

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John R. Boatright is the Raymond C. Baumhart, S.J., Professor of Business Ethics and Professor of Management in the Graduate School of Business at Loyola University Chicago.  He is the author of Ethics and the Conduct of Business, 4 th ed. (Prentice Hall, 2003), and Ethics in Finance (Blackwell, 1999).  He currently serves as Executive Director of the Society for Business Ethics, and is a past president of the Society.  He has published in the major journals in business ethics and serves on the editorial boards of Business Ethics Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, and Business & Society Review.  His main areas of research are ethical issues in financial services and corporate governance.

John R. Boatright is the Raymond C. Baumhart, S.J., Professor of Business Ethics and Professor of Management in the Graduate School of Business at Loyola University Chicago.
He is the author of Ethics and the Conduct of Business, 4 th ed. (Prentice Hall, 2003), and Ethics in Finance (Blackwell, 1999).
He currently serves as Executive Director of the Society for Business Ethics, and is a past president of the Society.
He has published in the major journals in business ethics and serves on the editorial boards of Business Ethics Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, and Business & Society Review.
His main areas of research are ethical issues in financial services and corporate governance.

“To exploit an agency relation for personal gain is to violate the bond of trust that is an essential part of the relation.” 
–  John R. Boatright