Battle continues: Landry files suit

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La. Attorney General Jeff Landry continued his fight with Gov. John Bel Edwards Tuesday when he filed a suit in Natchitoches Parish over seats on the Red River Waterway Commission (RRWC) that is headquartered in Natchitoches. While not in the suit, Landry and other critics of Edwards say that he did not appoint Carolyn Prator of Shreveport to a RRWC vacancy created with the death of Mickey Prestridge because she is the wife of Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, who has been highly critical of the Governor’s criminal justice reform program.

Although Carolyn Prator was a unanimous choice of the nominating entities, Edwards appointed Ronald F. Lattier of Caddo Parish, as an at-large member even though there was no at-large vacancy. When Prestridge died, Lattier was moved to the Caddo Parish Commission seat and Michael Deville of Rapides Parish moved to the at-large seat.

The suit says that Prator was the unanimous selection of the three nominating entities that include the Caddo Parish Commission, Caddo Parish Levee District and the Red River Valley Association. Deville and Lattier are named as plaintiffs along with the RRWC. The suit asks that Deville and Lattier be removed from the commission and Carolyn Prator be named to the spot for the Caddo Parish Commission.

John Bel Edwards

The Office of the Governor released the following statement Tuesday on the latest lawsuit. “All of Gov. Edwards’ appointments to the Red River Waterway Commission were made legally and within his authority as the state’s Chief Executive Officer.  With Gov. Edwards’ appointments, he has restored geographical balance to a commission that is intended to represent the entire Red River, while ensuring that Caddo Parish has the same amount of representation as it has had for more than a decade.  “The governor stands by his appointments and will respond to Jeff Landry’s latest political stunt aggressively,” said Richard Carbo, Office of the Governor.

A factsheet was provided.

• Gov. Edwards has already appointed Carolyn Prator to the Caddo Levee District Board on April 22, 2016.  In that capacity, she serves at the discretion of the governor. Therefore, if the governor were seeking some sort of political retribution, he could remove Mrs. Prator from that board, but he has not and will not.

• The Red River Waterway Commission is made up of 11 members (seven district seats and four at-large-seats. Statutorily, each of the seven parishes within the district served by the commission gets one seat, to be chosen by the governor from nominees from the appropriate local governing authorities. The governor can fill the four remaining at-large seats with someone from any of the seven parishes.

• Gov. Edwards made a commitment in 2017 to return a seat long-held by Rapides Parish and restore balance to the commission once a vacancy became available.  That would not only restore balance to the commission, but it would ensure both racial and geographical diversity.  Politics was never a factor in the governor’s decision.

• For four months, Caddo had three representatives. After the passing of Mr. Mickey Prestridge on Feb. 5, his seat became vacant. The governor filled his seat with Ronald Lattier from Caddo Parish, who had been nominated by the Caddo Parish Commission. Lattier was confirmed by the La. State Senate in the Regular Session. When the at-large-seat became available the governor kept his commitment and appointed a veteran from Rapides Parish.

• For nearly 14 years Caddo Parish has held two seats – one parish and one at-large on the commission and with Gov. Edwards’ appointment that remains the case for Caddo. Caddo Parish is receiving the same representation on the commission today as it has for more than a decade.

• While it is true that Carolyn Prator was nominated to fill the vacant seat, it is also true that her letters were received after the deadline as stipulated by state law, which is 30 days after a vacancy occurs.  In this case, that was immediately upon the death of Mr. Prestridge. Thus, Mrs. Prator was not timely nominated. However, the timing of the letters was not a factor in the governor’s decision, as the reason for his selection was his commitment to appoint someone from Rapides Parish to the at-large position.

• Outrageous and false statements have been made accusing the governor of not appointing Carolyn Prator because her husband, Sheriff Steve Prator, has been vocal in his opposition to the bipartisan criminal justice reform passed by the Louisiana Legislature. The governor’s appointment, Col. Ret. Michael Deville, served honorably in the Louisiana National Guard for nearly 30 years and has years of experience as a military engineer and logistics officer working on issues related to waterways, flooding, building levees and hurricane recovery and relief efforts.

• As outlined in the statute, the governor can select anyone to fill the at-large-seats as long as the person is from one of the seven parishes that fall under the commission. The law is also clear that the governor can receive nominations but is not obligated to select from them. In this case, the governor had made a prior commitment to Rapides Parish and no matter who was recommended the governor was going to keep his word.