Nov. 30, 2014 05:41 PM
It's Good, it's Bad and it's Just Crazy!As years go, 2014 was almost remarkably average.

We had our share of public officials misbehaving, a legislative session dominated by sheepish lawmakers unwilling to cross the boorish Louisiana Oil & Gas Association or suffer the Romper Room wrath of a governor whose heart resides in 2016; good people doing courageous, innovative things and good people doing stupid things; charlatans, posers and champions; big ideas and farthinking plans. But it was a year dominated, in terms of headlines and the emotional ink this newspaper invested, by Pat Cooper and the Lafayette Parish School Board - a made-for-TV drama with more than enough Machiavelli, Borgia and Inquisition. We've given special consideration to Cooper, for whom so many in this community had such high hopes and who in the end plays the role of hero in a Greek tragedy - fallen by both outside forces and his own fatal flaws. The rest of 2014, well it's just good, bad and plain crazy.

 

NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR: Pat Cooper Long-suffering superintendent canned amid epic board dysfunction.

Cooper fatigue? Us too.It's difficult to say exactly when relations between the talented, capable and at-times mercurial administrator and a school board that once supported him began their inexorable slide toward enmity and rancor, but slide they did. The timeline of Cooper's ignominious demise can be traced at least back to 2013, so by the time the ashen-faced board voted 7-2 to fire him at the end of an Inquisition-esque two-day hearing on Nov. 6, most of his supporters had resigned themselves to this cruel fait accompli.

To be sure, Cooper had his detractors outside the board: namely a small but vocal group of retired teachers and public-ed advocates. They were persistent. They were articulate. And they created a buffer of respectability between the public and a board that often acted irresponsibly and out of personal hostility. Although Cooper's supporters - especially, but not limited to, Gary McGoffin, Greg Davis, Margaret Trahan, outgoing board members Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb and Mark Cockerham; the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and the various groups comprising the Lafayette Public Education Stakeholders' Council - held on until the end, it wasn't enough to alter Cooper's fate.

Here's how 2014 unfolded:

JANUARY - Replacing Shelton Cobb as LPSB's president, Hunter Beasley leads the board into what will become a year consumed by non-education related issues and frequent battles with Cooper.

FEB. 3 - Attorneys for Rina Tikia, the insurance consultant handpicked by Beasley without board approval, submits a letter of demand claiming she's owed $200,000, despite never having signed a contract with the board. The board refuses the demand.

FEB. 5 - Board member Tehmi Chassion calls the police with far-fetched claims of being manhandled by Cooper during executive session. The charges never stick.

MARCH 12 - A federal investigation is launched into the LPSB's insurance-renewal process, putting a spotlight on Chassion and Beasley for their roles in pushing suspect insurance plans for the system. The investigation also involves Beasley's hand-picked insurance consultant, Tikia, and her alleged attempt to bribe certain board members with posh seats to New Orleans Saints games amid the 2013 selection process for the school system's insurance provider.

APRIL 11 - Despite a state law requiring public bodies to provide a list of reasons and an estimated cost before hiring a special legal counsel, the Louisiana Attorney General's Office approves the LPSB's request to hire an outside attorney to investigate Cooper.

JUNE 18 - Cooper receives his annual evaluation, graded on an eight-point scale with eight being "distinguished" and zero meaning "unsatisfactory." The results are almost laughable as 63 zeroes are doled out by five of his biggest antagonists on the board.

AUG. 5 - A federal lawsuit by Cajundome Director Greg Davis attempting to put the kibosh on the Cooper investigation is filed.AUG. 20 - After a mid-morning meeting with Dennis Blunt, the board's special investigating attorney, a highspirited Cooper addresses about 1,000 people gathered inside the Cajundome Convention Center for ABiz's annual Top 50 Private Companies Luncheon telling the crowd he felt good about his interview with Blunt. He shouldn't have.

AUG. 27-29 - During election qualifying, all nine LPSB seats are contested with a crowded field of 20 candidates - a testament to the public's growing distaste with the discord between the board and the super.

AUG. 29 - A lawsuit is filed by a former school system employee against District 7 board member Mark Cockerham challenging his residency in the district. Cockerham will later vacate the seat but is able to (unsuccessfully) seek re-election.

SEPT. 11 - The board votes 6-3 to accept a series of charges presented by investigating attorney Blunt, paving the way for a disciplinary hearing and Cooper's termination.

SEPT. 15 - Cooper's six-month fight over the budget - including 19 meetings, countless hours and dozens of redrafts by Cooper and staff - comes to an end as the board bullishly pushes through its plan for a fiscal year that was already two months in. Despite having a gross surplus of dollars - $73.6 million - stashed away in its rainy day fund, the board, ignoring numerous alternatives presented by Cooper, instead hatches a hair-brained plan for balancing the school system's record $23.5 million deficit by explicitly targeting the district's lowest performing schools, the ones considered at-risk with students mostly coming from our parish's most economically distressed neighborhoods.

SEPT. 16 - The lawsuit from Greg Davis and attorney Gary McGoffin (whois also The IND's attorney) is dismissed by U.S. District Judge Richard Haik. The suit, says Haik, may be valid, just not in federal court, adding that it also should've come from Cooper, not McGoffin and Davis. Yet, despite the ruling, Haik does call out the board for its actions, saying they've set a "poor example" over the last year.

OCT. 2 - Given an opportunity to address a crowd of several hundred gathered for ABiz's annual Women Who Mean Business awards luncheon, Cooper uses the opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of the upcoming school board elections. In one of his classic slips of the tongue, Cooper publicly comes out in support of Erica Williams, Tehmi Chassion's challenger in District 4. In describing the political forces at work in the district, Cooper makes reference to Lafayette's "black mafia" - a comment that would lead to a fury over the next few weeks and countless headlines and letters to editors.

OCT. 6 - Cooper takes the fight for his job and the budget to district court with an unsuccessful lawsuit calling for the court-ordered disqualification of board members Mark Allen Babineaux, Tehmi Chassion and Hunter Beasley from his upcoming disciplinary hearing. The suit alleges bias and includes a long list showing examples of why each board member would have personal issues against Cooper.

NOV. 4 - The long-awaited election to decide LPSB's future for the next five years arrives. The day ends with the election of seven new school board members; voters send only two incumbents, Chassion and Tommy Angelle, back to the board in 2015.

NOV. 5 - Cooper's disciplinary hearing comes to an end after a long day, with the board leaving its final vote for the next day. In all, the two-day process saw about 10 grueling hours worth of witness testimonies and deliberations.

NOV. 6 - The writing had been on the wall for months that this day was coming: Cooper's last as superintendent. It came in a 7-2 late-night vote with the board calling for an immediate termination of his contract.

NOV. 10 - In finding Cooper's temporary replacement, the board goes with longtime school system administrator Burnell LeJeune. In an unexpected but welcome move, the board decides to leave the job of picking a permanent superintendent for the new board coming in January.

NOV. 18 - Cooper files a petition in district court accusing the board of wrongful termination and asking that he either be given his job back or be paid the final year of his contract. The petition says Cooper was "terminated in an arbitrary and capricious fashion for political reasons and reasons of vindictiveness."

NOV. 24 - In an open letter to the community, Cooper vows to remain in Lafayette and help further the parish's goals for public education.

 

PASSAGES

FEB. 10
It was with the heaviest of hearts that we reported in February that the longtime Lafayette banker and IND Media founding partner Jerry Reaux died at the age of 53. Jerry had been beset by a number of medical complications in recent years and collapsed at his home.Jerry was never actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the paper, having lent his thoughtful advice and wealth of financial expertise to the organization over the past 10 years.Rather, for more than three decades Jerry made his mark on this community as a banker, among the most respected in the state.

FEB. 26
Al Berard,
the award-winning multi-instrumentalist and music producer, was pronounced dead at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital after suffering an aneurysm.A founding member of the Grammy-nominated Basin Brothers and a regular on Acadiana stages both as a sideman and featured performer, Berard was a gifted guitarist and fiddler player. As a member of the Traiteurs with guitarist Sonny Landreth, he was also instrumental in helping raise money for the Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music at UL Lafayette, an indigenous music program at the university for which he also served as an adjunct instructor.

APRIL 24
A two-vehicle crash in rural Lafayette Parish ended the life of longtime SLEMCO board member and former president Jerry Meaux, 74, of Duson. At the time of his death, Meaux was chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission. A lifelong, avid horseman, Meaux began training quarter horses throughout Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico in the early 1960s, transitioning to thoroughbreds in the late 1970s. He relinquished his owner/trainer license in 2008 when he was appointed LRC chairman by Gov. Bobby Jindal following a 1996-2004 tenure as a commissioner.

MAY 25
LaPolitics Weekly and LaPolitics.com founder and Publisher John Maginnis died in May at his New Orleans residence.According to LaPolitics protégé and IND contributor Jeremy Alford: From his first foray in the business, delivering The State-Times on his bike after school, to his first journalism job for The Catholic Commentator, John devoted his life to reporting the news. Through his three books, The Last Hayride, Cross to Bear, and The Politics of Reform, he became one of the most recognizable names in Bayou State politics.His syndicated opinion column appeared in 21 newspapers around the state. He was also a featured speaker for civic groups and organizations across the Gulf Coast. In 2000, John was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communications.

MAY 26
Dr. Griff Blakewood, who would tell anyone that he "taught reality" at UL, died after a year-long battle with cancer at the age of 54.Considered a visionary among his pupils, Griff was a force of life with such a passion for imploring people to reconnect with nature, and with each other, for a more beautiful, sustainable future.Under his tutelage and leadership, his students started recycling on UL's campus and at Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, started EarthShare Gardens (Lafayette's first communitysupported agriculture garden) and "Save the Horse Farm."

JUNE 5
The matriarch of the Abdalla family well-known for a legacy of retail success died in June in her home at the age of 100. Irma Belle Poche Abdalla, who was born in Gold Dust on Thanksgiving Day and raised in Arnaudville, moved to Lafayette when she married Edward Abdalla III. Honored by The IND as a Trailblazer in ABiz's annual women's awards, Abdalla was a businesswoman with a keen sense of style and for more than six decades ran the downtown Abdalla's department store with her husband. She was the mother of Brother Abdalla of Brother's on the Boulevard.

JULY 8
Lafayette's arts community lost a brilliant mind and immensely talented artist, and the entire Lafayette community lost a gentle, great man. Surrounded by his family, Fred Daspit died at Lafayette General Medical Center after a brief illness. He was 83. An art education instructor at UL for 36 years, the beloved professor, author and historian emerged onto the local art scene in 2005 at the age of 74, when he first exhibited his exquisite paintings and intricate reliquary sculptures at the University Art Museum and at Gallery 549 in Downtown Lafayette.

JULY 16
R. Jarvis Fortier Sr. was a longtime fi xture among Acadiana's automotive community, spending 69 years with Hub City Ford, where he made a name for himself with catchy advertising and by helping make the dealership one of the most successful in the region.During his nearly seven decades with the company, Fortier helped bring Hub City Ford to among the top 60 Ford dealerships - out of 3,100 - for sales in the country, as well as the No. 1 selling dealership within a five-state area.

AUG. 6
The IND Media family and the entire Lafayette community was devastated by the loss of Vickie Nettles, 50, who died suddenly at Lafayette General Medical Center.The Lafayette advocate for autism awareness was a beacon of hope for many, honest in the challenges facing the autism community and a relentless mother who sought to better Acadiana through her work with the Autism Society of Acadiana.

AUG. 16
The first words Milton "Spider" Guidry ever spoke to IND music writer Nick Pittman were in a crowd at South by Southwest in 2005. "Hey, Nick, you know what they say about me? I'm a little shakey," he said as he laughed and shook a shaker egg - an oval percussion instrument similar to a maraca.A longtime co-host of a popular New Orleans Saints program on AOC, the 61-year-old Spider had family in California but was 100 percent a Lafayette character - even called the "Cajun Kramer" by some for his similarity to the Seinfeld character.

SEPT. 10
If you didn't know Alison Neustrom, Sheriff Mike Neustrom's daughter who died at the age of 42 after battling cancer for less than a year, you missed out on something really special.The research director of PAR, Alison dedicated her short life to helping people who, for whatever reason, were "struggling on the margins of life," according to her obituary. In addition to her husband and her large, loving family of relatives and friends, she left behind a 2-year-old daughter, Ceci, named after Alison's mother.

NOV. 6
Many are the Lafayette residents who know our community's past through L.C. Melchoir, the longtime radio personality who was a walking encyclopedia of Hub City legend and lore. Melchoir died Nov. 6 at 73. Well-known for dark sunglasses and a quirky side belt buckle, "Poppy," as he was known to his grandchildren, was a frequent speaker before Lafayette civic clubs, waxing poetic and prosaic on the folksy history of his lifelong home.

NOV. 9
Orlando Thomas, a former All American safety in the 1990s for the U(S)L Ragin' Cajuns and later a Pro Bowl safety for the Minnesota Vikings, died from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Thomas died two weeks after celebrating his 42nd birthday.He announced the ALS diagnosis in 2007, a few years after being told he had the fatal neuro-muscular disease. Thomas led his high school football team, Crowley High, to a state championship in 1989 and was instrumental in the Cajuns' back-to-back Big West Conference titles in 1993 and '94. He was drafted in the second round of the 1995 NFL draft, led the league with nine interceptions his rookie season - Thomas was named All- Pro that year - and retired in 2001.

NOV. 14
Noted New Iberia chef Lambert Hallman Woods III died at the age of 48. No cause of death was released.In the 1990s, he was well-known as the chef at Le Rosier in New Iberia and garnered national attention for the restaurant in 1995 when he was among nine chefs from New York to San Francisco named by Food & Wine magazine as the "Best New Chefs in America."He was featured in numerous publications and videos.

NOV. 17
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Jerry Lee Comeaux was 70 years old when he died.A lifelong resident of Lafayette and former board member of LAGCOE and Bright Light Foundation, the former professional golfer - Comeaux played on the PGA Tour - helped organize the Louisiana Oilman's Golf Tournament during his 35-year career in the business.

 

C'est Bon

JANUARY

Karma Nightclub & Lounge, capacity greater than the town of Arnaudville and long the bane of many in the Downtown community, closes its doors in early January.

With a capacity at about 1,200, the club actually generated fewer per-patron police calls than many other bars Downtown, but Karma had more violent crime complaints than the other clubs in the district, most of which have much smaller capacity.

The club was the subject of a special hearing in September 2013 in Lafayette by the state office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control at which several Downtown business owners and residents urged ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert to yank Karma's liquor license. The club was also the defendant in a lawsuit filed in December 2013 seeking more than $186,000 in past-due and future rent payments for the term of the lease.

FEBRUARY 

The Green Army, a coalition of South Louisiana groups trying to stop the gross industrial abuse of our state's fragile environment, launches under the leadership of retired U.S. Army Gen. Russel Honoré, who built a solid reputation leading the relief effort in New Orleans in the miserable weeks following Hurricane Katrina.

"There's an expiration date on clean drinking water in Louisiana, and this is because of the acts of men, greed and a failed democracy - a democracy that put the flags of oil and gas companies over our state Capitol," Honoré says during a panel discussion at the Clifton Chenier Center in Lafayette.

Under the leadership of City-Parish Council Chairman Kevin Naquin, a five-member volunteer group - the so-called Future Needs/Funding Sources Committee - is formed to take a look under the hood of Lafayette Consolidated Government's very complex financial structure with an eye toward making recommendations on how to most effectively fund local government. Long overdue.

MARCH

Popular live-music venue Artmosphere finds itself in the crosshairs of the state office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control after an audit finds the bistro was not meeting the mandated level of 51 percent of food sales versus alcohol sales.

Artmosphere was fined $1,000 and given 90 days to get its food sales up to the required amount. Social media went crazy, and the community rallied around owner Berry Kemp and her popular hangout. Artmosphere, we're happy to report, is still open and booking some of the best live music in South Louisiana.

The food kicks gastronomy, too.

The shady dealings of former Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority member and real estate developer Greg Gachassin finally come before a panel of administrative law judges thanks to charges filed by the Louisiana Board of Ethics, which is seeking to recover $1.5 million ($1 million in consulting fees plus 50 percent in punitive damages) along with possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Gachassin's trouble with the Ethics Board - and with ethics in general - stems from his clear violations of state ethics law in the timing of his tenure on the LPTFA and development projects his Cartesian Group did under the aegis of the LPTFA.

APRIL

MoveOn.org, the liberal activist group, buys a billboard on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge satirically chastising Gov. Bobby Jindal's refusal to expand Medicaid in Louisiana, which would benefit more than 225,000 residents at the possible expense of Jindal's nut-job bona fides. The billboard mimics a tourism campaign conducted by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne's office. Dardenne fi les suit to have the billboard dismantled. A federal judge rules in MoveOn.org's favor. The billboard stays up. Medicaid is not expanded. Jindal's quixotic vision quest continues unabated.

State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Self Righteous, scraps a proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official book after fellow lawmakers express concern that legislation proposing it would lead to costly legal challenges from groups who do not love God and should probably live in Iran or something.

Carmody insists his bill isn't intended as a state endorsement of Christianity because Jesus.

Festival International de Louisiane, AKA The Best Damn Thing Ever, is informed by Progressive Waste Solutions days before the fi ve-day extravaganza that the company is withdrawing its donation of providing recycling services. The community freaks out.

"What the hell!" the community exclaims. "I can't throw my micro-fi ltered natural spring water and designer baby sunscreen bottles in a trash can!" This newspaper reaches out to LCG Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley who basically says, "I got this." Stanley makes a few calls. Recycling is restored.

MAY

After years of hand-wringing and legal limbo, Lafayette Consolidated Government fi les suit in small claims court against two individuals and a company over unpaid red-light camera citations.

JUNE

UL Lafayette's School of Architecture & Design, in coordination with the university's Department of Anthropology, embarks on an ambitious summer class/ project to document in detail the more than 600 homes and other structures in Lafayette's oldest neighborhood, Freetown-Port Rico.

The goal of the project is to secure a federal Historic District status for the area, which would make home- and business owners eligible for tax credits up to 40 percent of the cost of restoration.

The City-Parish Council signs off on the Horse Farm Master Plan, putting into action months of public input under the guidance of the nonprofit Lafayette Central Park Inc. Likely by the fall of next year the ribbon will be cut on our 100-acre community asset that will include walking and biking paths, play areas for children, water features and wide-open green spaces for families and lovers to enjoy picnics and stoners to toss Frisbees.

JULY

Under the leadership of Jefferson Street Pub owner Gus Rezende, the Downtown Lafayette Restaurant & Bar Association is announced. The goal of the DLRBA is simple: unite the eateries and watering holes for the good of Downtown.

AUGUST

The Downtown Development Authority, joined by restoration activists and regular folks who appreciate historic buildings, begins an all-hands-on-deck effort to save the 130-year-old Coburn Building at the edge of Downtown.

The state Department of Transportation purchased the building when Coburn's Supply Co. moved out and put the structure on its demolition list to make way for an interchange to the Interstate-49 elevated freeway that (might eventually) roughly follow the course of Evangeline Thruway.

As of this writing it appears that public pressure and DDA's deft touch prevailed.

SEPTEMBER

The administration of City-Parish President Joey Durel gets serious about blight, proposing a suite of deals that would lead to the demolition of the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners as well as the old federal courthouse and adjacent properties Downtown. The former would be replaced by a police substation; the latter by a mixed-use, commercial-residential development.

Concerns over financing the deals and the involvement of the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority throw a bit of a wrench into the works, but at least the community discussion on transforming these liabilities into assets has begun.

OCTOBER

The Vermilion River Alliance, formed in July, begins public outreach to remind everyone that a 75-mile bayou/ river runs smack dab through the heart of Lafayette and we need to take better care of it. In concert with other nonprofits like the Bayou Vermilion District, the alliance aims to ensure the health of the Vermilion and our stewardship of it as a community get the attention they deserve.

DECEMBER

Despite a humbling loss to Appalachian State in the Cajun Field finale, the Ragin' Cajuns football team under fourth-year head coach Mark Hudspeth, will play in a fourth straight bowl game.

 

Pas Bon

 

FEBRUARY

 

Several students at two high schools in Lafayette become ensnared in one of social media's ugliest trends: revenge porn. Authorities investigate the emergence of a number of Instagram accounts offering nude photos of the students. Instagram disables the accounts.

 

C-P Prez Joey Durel ruffles feathers during a Q&A following his annual State of the Parish address with his tone-deaf response to a question about whether an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation is possible for Lafayette: "It's not something that we in local government will ever, ever deal with. It's not important. It's not going to accomplish anything. It's symbolism over substance..."

 

Durel tosses a cherry on his confection by characterizing the idea as "silly."

 

Durel leaves office at the end of 2015. The issue will be considered at some point.

 

Walter Guillory, the former executive director of the Lafayette and Opelousas housing authorities, pleads guilty in federal court to soliciting and accepting bribes from vendors and admits his role in a bid-fi xing scheme that benefited a single local contractor.

 

In June he is sentenced to 28 months in federal prison and one year of supervised release.

 

MARCH

 

Twenty-two-year-old Victor White III, son of a minister, dies under mysterious circumstances in the backseat of an Iberia Parish Sheriff's cruiser from a single gunshot wound to the chest. White's hands, according to testimony, were handcuffed behind his back.

 

Thumbing its nose at logic, the coroner's office would later rule the death a suicide. Federal investigators have joined the probe, which remains ongoing.

 

APRIL

 

Facing possibly years in federal prison for his alleged role in the Curious Goods synthetic marijuana case, attorney Barry Domingue commits suicide in the backyard of his Carencro home by shooting himself in the head.

 

Federal Judge Elizabeth Foote declares a mistrial, natch.

 

The only other remaining defendant in the case who did not plead guilty, high-profile defense attorney Daniel Stanford, has to be rescheduled for trail.

 

Professional political prostitute and former Councilman Chris Williams cuts a deal with the federal Department of Housing & Urban Development and walks away with $30,000 in exchange for dropping a lawsuit he filed against the HUD-run Lafayette Housing Authority.

 

Williams had claimed he was owed the money as back pay, even though no rational person with a second-grade grasp of mathematics would reasonably conclude Williams could have possibly worked the hours he claimed.

 

Under pressure from the Rev. Gene Mills and the Louisiana Family Forum, the Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejects a repeal of the state's antisodomy law, which is unenforceable because it was ruled unconstitutional years ago.

 

Supporters of the legal relic argue its presence in Louisiana statute is a symbolic victory for the missionary position.

 

What were they smoking?

 

Louisiana lawmakers - in the state with the highest incarceration rate in the world - vote down a bill that would lessen penalties for marijuana possession on a second offense and after, which in some cases can lead to a 20-year prison sentence.

 

The rejection of this sensible legislation comes amid pressure from the state district attorney association, which argues that the lengthy sentences are a handy bargaining chip when dealing with criminals. We call bulls**t.

 

State lawmakers also reject legislation that would have raised the minimum wage in Louisiana from the current federal level of $7.25 an hour to $9.50 because ramen noodles and Vienna sausages never hurt nobody.

 

MAY

 

The Cajun Riviera needs some cleaning. Beaches in Cameron Parish are ranked the worst in the world by Nster, one of those kazillion "content provider" websites within the vast, informative interwebs. The non-scientific ranking takes into consideration many factors that contribute to danger for swimmers - from sharks and crocodiles to pollution, trash, high levels of radiation and ugly people in bathing suits.

 

Thumbing his nose at Louisiana's Code of Judicial Conduct, retired District Court Judge Ronald Cox, now serving as an ad hoc city court judge, goes on the campaign trail for his law partner, Charlie Fitzgerald, prompting defense attorney Barry Salinger to file a motion seeking Cox's recusal on all pending cases.

 

The Legislature makes a mockery of reforms to the payday loan industry, ultimately approving "changes" tantamount to diet water and allowing payday lenders to continue charging astronomical interest rates on short-term, small-dollar loans to the poor that serve one purpose: keeping them in a cycle of debt for the sake of a profit.

 

Weak-kneed lawmakers, overwhelmingly male, also couldn't bring themselves to approve bills that would have made it illegal to pay men more than women for the same work. Explain your votes to your mothers, boys!

 

JUNE

 

Frustrated by a discussion with engineers during a meeting, Lafayette Regional Airport Director Greg Roberts "jokingly" pulls out a fake handgun - the type used by the federal Transportation Security Administration as a training device - and points it at one of the engineers. Roberts resigns soon after because fake guns don't kill people; airport directors do.

 

Citing an anonymous source, this newspaper reveals the reason for Roberts' departure before a press conference is held - a presser that doesn't reveal the reason anyway. Lafayette's milquetoast dailies, which don't use anonymous sources because Watergate never happened, report the "revelation" a week later. Meh.

 

Flip-Flopper-in-Chief Bobby Jindal gets into a heated standoff with state Superintendent John White over the Common Core school curriculum. Jindal once supported CC until he figured out the Tea Party hates it, so now he hates it, too, because Obama. The dispute throws into limbo scores of school districts and their curricula- and purchasing plans for the fast-approaching school year.

 

Jindal signs a bill overwhelmingly approved in the legislative session allowing the state to keep brain-dead pregnant women on life support so their fetuses can be harvested, er, brought to term and delivered, even if the patient's family opposes such a measure. "Hey, Billy Bob, so sorry your wife is a vegetable, but as a consolation prize we're going to give you a baby with life-threatening congenital disorders! Don't have insurance but would qualify for Medicaid if the governor would approve expansion under Obamacare? Aw, tough luck, buddy! Next!"

 

Gov. Bobby Jindal signs Senate Bill 250 into law grandfathering corpulent, smarmy Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin, who holds a permit to keep a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger caged as a road-side curiosity at his fumey Grosse Tete business. (The permit had been revoked after a 2006 law prohibiting individual ownership of exotic animals.)

 

An animal rights group continues to try to secure the transfer of "Tony" to a licensed big-cat sanctuary.

 

JULY

 

Chuck Huebner, the veteran anchor and investigative reporter at KLFY TV10, is fired.

 

One source tells The IND Huebner's departure was "a cumulative thing," citing long-running tensions between the savvy newsman and management as well as between Huebner and fellow news staffers. Huebner's exodus is a punctuation mark behind KLFY's inexorable decline over the last decade from market dominance to also-ran against competitor KATC.

 

There is no salve for the wound caused in Acadiana by clergy sex abuse, and an investigative report by Minnesota Public Broadcasting opens it even wider in revealing that one alleged child predator has remained with the Diocese, and currently serves as the pastor of St. Edmond Catholic Church in Lafayette.

 

Bishop Michael Jarrel, implicated in a sex-abuse coverup by a watchdog group when he was head of the Houma Diocese, defends the suspect priest before parishioners, who give their pastor a standing ovation after he defends himself from the pulpit.

 

 

Speaking of the Cat'licks, an anonymous group of parents at Our Lady of Fatima School attempt a coup in an effort to oust Principal Joni Duos. The parents' grievances, detailed in an IND special report, include the countenancing of bullying among students, a teaching staff afraid for their jobs if they speak out and a head priest, the Rev. Michael Russo, who ignores the problems and wears fancy loafers.

 

Sentencing begins for the crew including the coowners in the Desperado's Cabaret drugs- and prostitution-ring case. Owners James and Jennifer Panos, sentenced last - in November - get six and four years in prison, respectively, while co-owner Dipak Vora gets 10 months. Most of the employees arrested in the federal sting operation receive probation and fi nes.

 

The other shoe falls for criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford, found guilty by a federal jury on 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods "synthetic marijuana" case including conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue (AM-2201) and conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

 

SEPTEMBER

 

In a startling-at-the-time deviation from a trend by federal judges, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman upholds both Louisiana's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as well as the state's refusal to recognize such marriages performed in states where it is legal.

 

Couillon

JANUARY

A Buddhist boy attends a Sabine Parish public high school. He gets a science test from his teacher with such questions as "Isn't it amazing what _________ has made!!!!!!" The correct answer is "God" of course. But the Buddhist fails to supply the right(eous) answer and is belittled in front of classmates.

It sounds like the set-up to a bad B movie, but it really happened at Negreet High School in Many, where a portrait of Jesus once hung in the school lobby and Bible verses hung on the walls - until the ACLU of Louisiana filed suit on behalf of the boy, and the public school system agreed to actually conduct itself as a public school system, meaning the little priss can be bullied for wearing skinny jeans but not for being Buddhist.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy will not stand for oil portraits. Nor will he sit for them.

In an effort to burnish an otherwise undistinguished tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, Cassidy sponsors the EGO Act, AKA the Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-Paintings Act. Not only does it scream at the Federal Department of Acronyms, "Boys, y'all better step up your game," it also has the Louisiana State Office for the Prevention of Hyphen Abuse on alert. Most important, however, it addresses a fundamental crisis of entitlement among those within the Beltway: elected officials and cabinet-level bureaucrats sitting for taxpayerfunded portraits. Not in latex, watercolor, charcoal or graphite pencil. In oil!

FEBRUARY

Pity poor Don Briggs. The head of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association felt a stroke a-comin' after being exposed as a high-chutzpah, low-information fraud during a deposition about LOGA's suit against Attorney General Buddy Caldwell over that levee board lawsuit against Big Oil.

Two tenets have long been central to the Briggs Doctrine: "greedy trial lawyers" are behind "frivolous" lawsuits against oil companies, and Louisiana's litigious climate is driving those companies out of the state or preventing them from doing business here in the first place.

But under questioning from attorneys, Briggs' utterly calculated and craven hyperbole blew up like the Deepwater Horizon. The oil industry shill admitted he didn't have a shred of evidence that Louisiana's legal climate affected jobs in oil and gas. He even admitted he hadn't even read the levee board's suit against the oil companies. The humiliation of acknowledging the emperor's nudity reportedly caused Briggs' blood pressure to spike, forcing him at doctor's orders to skip court hearings in Baton Rouge a week later.

MARCH

State Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Fancy Name, withdraws a bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people. New Orleans and Shreveport have such laws on their books. Lafayette will have one some day, too, Joey Durel!

APRIL

Soon-to-be-former District Attorney Mike Harson apologizes for the pay-for-plea bribery scandal that turned his office upside down and led to federal guilty pleas and impending prison terms for a handful of office staffers including an assistant district attorney. Two years after the scandal.

U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, R-French Kiss, asks for constituents' forgiveness after surveillance video is released showing the married congressman kissing a married female staff member who is not his wife. McAllister, a surprise long-shot winner in a special election six months earlier, had campaigned on a family-values platform. He will later be defeated in the November election when voters in the district tell him to "kiss off!"

Three teens whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are arrested in Eunice, the hamlet in St. Landry Parish popularly known as "Belt City U.S.A.," after officers receive a complaint about the scofflaws perambulating about Vine Street in flagrant violation of the city's dress code - specifically Eunice's prohibition on sagging pants.

The suspects share three common features: dark skin, exotic, non- Caucasian first names - Gujuan, Shaiheem and Devacques - and pants so saggy as to reveal the contours of their boxer-shorts-covered buttocks.

Following the cuffing and stuffing of the Pendulous Pants Posse, the Eunice Ladies' Modesty League was able to resume its meeting - this despite the sergeant-at-arms feeling a bit blushy and light-headed.

MAY

UL Lafayette, the university in the heart of Frenchspeaking Louisiana, obtains a registered trademark for "Geaux Cajuns," forever enshrining the sports rallying cry in the Lexicon of Bad French. (En français, "Geaux" is pronounced with a soft "J" sound, as in the name Domengeaux; technically the term should be "Gaux Cajuns." But LSU uses Geaux so we should, too, right?)

JUNE

State Sen. Page Cortez of Lafayette fi les a righteous bill in the legislative session that would stop charter schools from getting dedicated tax revenues from the Lafayette Parish School System.

The bill, however, is fraught with bad luck, including a malfunctioning sound system in the Senate chamber when it comes up for discussion.

Cortez later withdraws Senate Bill 666, telling a daily newspaper, "I think I would have been better off asking for a substitute bill just to get a different number."

Two words: Elbert Guillory. Chicken Boxing 

Six words and an article: Lenar Whitney. "GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX"

AUGUST

When Moses descended the mount with the Constitution, Ray Green was there.

Kidding, but the council gadfly and patriotic curmudgeon, whom we like in a crazy-uncleat-Thanksgiving sort of way, is the driving force behind a resolution up for consideration by the City-Parish Council. The Common Sense Project 3's aim is to encourage the Legislature to require candidates for public office to pass a test demonstrating basic knowledge of the state and federal constitutions.

No big problem with that, except for Green's proposed sample test, which includes questions like "The US Constitution is in direct conflict with the Holy Bible. Why?" and "The Federal Reserve is a true government agency or organization. Why?" In other words, loaded and leading questions that wreak of used tea bags and Ayn Rand's saggy bosom.

SEPTEMBER

Theind.com breaks the news that District Attorney Mike Harson is so upset in 2012 by the pay-for-plea bribery scandal and ensuing retirement of his top prosecutor, Keith Stutes - who will later end Harson's 20-year career as DA in the Nov. 4 election - that he gives himself a raise. A $12,000 bump in salary ($14,000 with benefits) to be exact. And he basically concealed the raise in fine print when he sent the request, which included raises for other employees, to the council.

OCTOBER

Scott Police Chief Chad Leger, scion of a Cajun family that no doubt once spoke only French, complains in a Facebook rant about Spanish creeping into everything - even onto a form he had to fi ll out for a flu shot asking whether he is Hispanic: "This is the United States of America and if you don't like the rules of our land, either learn and follow them, which would include learning to speak English or move back to the country you came from," Leger writes.

We imagine a persnickety schoolmarm telling Leger's great grandmother the exact same thing in 1930.

NOVEMBER

We so wish the runoff for the District 1 seat on the Lafayette Parish School Board were before publication of this issue so we could revel in voters utterly "refudiating" idiotic bigot "Coach" Don Gagnard at the polls.

The former high school coach with a history of bullying and harassing women didn't realize that if you don't set your Facebook privacy settings accordingly, social media is public media. The result: a stream of inane, racist, homophobic rants for all the world (and voters) to see.

A sample: "I am not only racist but I hate faggots, bums, illegal aliens, Veterans mistreatment and most of all : OUR HITLER PRESIDENT WHICH IS TRYING TO RUIN THIS COUNTRY PURPOSEFULLY........................I HATE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE COMMUNIST REGIME SO CALLED OUR AMERICAN CULTURE.. OBAMA, GO AWAY AND BRING YOUR URGANGUTAN WITH YOU" A day after theind.com broke the story on Gagnard's low threshold for understanding the world he lives in and other local media picking up the story, he disabled his Facebook account.