Reposted from a comment I published two days ago:

The Arcade Fire may deny it, but their roots are in The Woodlands, Texas, a three hour drive from Alexandria, Louisiana.

Accusing someone of malfeasance is a serious charge, particularly when the accusation is made in a public meeting by a public official.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that if you’re going to make such an accusation, you should probably have your facts straight, and you shouldn’t be relying on the idle speculation of anonymous bloggers on the Internet or the gossip you pick up from your friends.

Either way, the truth is easy enough to come by, and this issue has already been beaten like a dead horse.

By way of background, for those of you unaware, here’s a (condensed) version of the story:

More than four years ago, two former employees of Cleco alleged that the utility company had systematically defrauded the City of Alexandria. Cleco filed suit against those two employees and EMS, a company created by David Pugh, one of those former employees.

A few months later, the City filed suit against Cleco; that case is currently set to go to trial in February 2010.

Two completely different cases: Cleco versus their former employees (which is actually three different lawsuits), and the City versus Cleco.

Got it?

This all occurred during the previous administration, over a year before Jacques Roy even considered running for Mayor.

Anyway, the other former Cleco employee, Sam Sansing, hired Chris Roy, Sr., who then assigned the case to his son Jacques, to defend him against the employment suit filed by Cleco.

Notably, Sansing didn’t actually have a contract with Jacques Roy; his contract was with Chris Roy, Sr. But either way, prior to being elected Mayor, Jacques Roy represented Sansing.

Sure, it may be a little convoluted, but if you’re tasked with understanding these issues, it shouldn’t be too difficult. The employment dispute, for all intents and purposes, has absolutely nothing to do with the City’s case. Yes, some of the players overlap, and yes, the reason the City is now embroiled in litigation against Cleco is primarily because of the accusations leveled by those former employees. But regardless, the employment dispute deals with a completely different set of issues than the City’s case. The roles are reversed.

Still following me?

So three years ago, Jacques Roy decided to run for Mayor of Alexandria. During the campaign, one of his opponents suggested that Roy was a key player in the City’s case against Cleco, even though he wasn’t. At the time, a top adviser for his opponent’s campaign said this strategy was aimed to “confuse the voters” (and yes, that is a direct quote).

Now I know, some of you may be wondering how such a strategy could possibly gain any traction. The City was dealing with the most significant lawsuit in its history; why would it be a negative if one of the candidates already had a direct role in the suit (even though he didn’t)?

The simple reason: Money.

At the time, the City was primarily represented by attorneys who weren’t interested in having taxpayers pay them an hourly rate or a lump sum; instead, they wanted taxpayers to give them a significant portion of any potential settlement. The whole thing smelled bad, and the public knew it. So the strategy, even though it was patently dishonest, probably made some sense to Roy’s political opponents: If they could paint him as another “pig at the trough,” which is exactly what they did, then maybe they could undermine his credibility and, thus, his electability.

Again, it didn’t matter that Jacques Roy was a defense attorney in a completely different case; they only wanted to advance the meme that Roy was just another fat cat attorney waiting for a windfall from the City’s Cleco case.

Ultimately, the strategy didn’t work, and the public was wise enough to pick up on the lie.

But apparently, his political opponents are still consulting with the same playbook, ostensibly hoping that if they revisit this issue now, something will stick– or, at the very least, that they will earn a couple of articles with the words “ethics probe” and “Mayor Roy” in the same sentence.

It didn’t stick then, and it won’t stick now. Why? Because the whole strategy is based on a lie, a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues; it’s a strategy built on the politics of personal destruction. It’s irresponsible, unfounded, divisive, and counter-productive.

But most importantly, it’s unfortunate for the City. It distracts us from focusing on the issues that truly matter, from the work yet to be done, because, instead, we’re all forced to spend precious time and energy confronting and discussing a ridiculous, easily and already debunked lie.

PS: One more. My absolute favorite song by The Arcade Fire:

3 thoughts

  1. Lamar,

    I’ve read a little online about the row between some members of the council and the Mayor. I’m not going to cover the issue as well as you have here, but I want to add this as a bit of perspective.

    While some on the council want to spend time re-opening investigations of the Mayor, they should, instead, investigate what it’s going to take to bring jobs to the city. Perhaps they’ve missed what’s been going on over the last year, and need a little reminder that the country is in a deep recession. People need jobs. People need a safe city. People need representatives in government to own up to their responsibilities to work on the issues that affect everyday living.

    Until those councilmen can rationally explain to me how re-opening the Sansing investigation actually helps the people of Alexandria, I’ll be left with the opinion that they’re the ones neglecting their responsibilities as officeholders.

  2. The best defense is a good offense. As long as those guys are slinging mud at the Mayor, their own inadequacies and lack of accomplishments are out of the spotlight. CateringGate is still out there though.

    1. Very thorough and spot on analysis. Thanks for the links to the Arcade Fire songs.

      We really need the people of Alexandria to rise up and say enough is enough. The saddest part, which as already been mentioned in previous responses, is this all really hurts the city in many ways. Of course, when you are in the game for your own ego and self interests you can’t let something as small as looking out for the city and citizenry you were elected to serve stand in your way.

      Keep up the good fight Lamar. Honesty and a value system will always win in the end.

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