ICYMI: Ugly campaign for city-parish president has precedent and source

by Walter Pierce and Leslie Turk

When we connect the dots they lead back to an angry real estate developer and his beef with the current LCG administration.

The Independent is not making endorsements in Saturday’s election, yet while we won’t publicly favor one candidate over another in any particular race, we do take strong exception to the despicable rhetoric, half-truths, innuendo and outright lies being thrown about this election cycle, particularly in the races for sheriff and city-parish president.

We thought Lafayette was better than this, but desperation and long-running grudges, we suppose, bring out the worst in some of our residents.

The sheriff’s race we get: Scott Police Chief Chad Leger is a bully and a bigot, and his smears and racist scare tactics are within the realm of expectation; they’re unfortunate but not surprising.

But the race for city-parish president pitting two otherwise decent men — Lafayette Consolidated Government Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley versus term-limited state Rep. Joel Robideaux — who share more commonalities than differences, has many in Lafayette scratching their heads in wonder. While Stanley has in our view run a clean, positive campaign, he has been under unremitting attack by partisans loyal to Robideaux. We’re willing to take Robideaux at his word that he hasn’t been directly involved with the fusillade of invective targeting Stanley, but we’ve also strained to hear Robideaux denounce the attacks. All we hear are crickets.

The attacks against Stanley, it can be argued, are less about getting Robideaux elected and much more about keeping Stanley out of office, because virtually everything negative in the race for city-parish president can be traced back to one source: real estate developer Glenn Stewart and his grudge against Lafayette Consolidated Government’s current administration, namely City-Parish President Joey Durel, CAO Stanley and Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft.

Consider this timeline:

● In an April 2011 cover story titled “Green Acres” (back when this publication was a weekly), The IND exposed a loophole in state property tax law that allows wealthy land owners who own large swaths of land in what otherwise would be commercial corridors to classify their land as “agricultural” simply by having a single bail of hay on the property, thereby allowing them to pay a pittance in property tax on valuable real estate. Glenn Stewart was one of several land owners identified in that story as taking advantage of the loophole despite having purchased the property for his Parc Lafayette project.

● Within three months of the publication of “Green Acres” Stewart launched a very public, very ugly billboard campaign against Independent Co-Publishers Steve May and Cherry Fisher May as retribution for his inclusion in our cover story.

● The anti-IND campaign conducted by Stewart evolved into flyers placed on vehicles parked at IND-sponsored events around town as well as the hiring of homeless people to conduct protest marches in front of The IND’s office on Jefferson Street through the balance of 2011 and into 2012. During this time The IND was forced to ban Stewart from posting to our Facebook page. Many of his posts forwarded a baseless conspiracy theory that The IND was part of a Lafayette cabal that included a rival real estate developer and LCG officials aimed at thwarting Stewart’s Parc Lafayette development.

A photo taken by a bystander shows Glenn Stewart punching Erin May unconscious on Mardi Gras 2012.

● On Mardi Gras 2012 Stewart punched unconscious mother/elementary school teacher Erin May, who with her step-father confronted Stewart at the float-launch area near Pontiac Point over his Mardi Gras float targeting Cherry Fisher May, Erin May’s step-mother. Stewart was arrested on a felony second-degree battery charge, which was later amended to misdemeanor simple battery.

● In March 2012, just weeks after his battery arrest, a major and well-respected Catholic health care group in Lake Charles dissolved its partnership with Stewart to build an upscale assisted living facility, saying in a press release that its “vision for the project was not entirely aligned with that of the project developer.”

● Shortly after the dissolution of the Lake Charles partnership, Stewart filed a civil lawsuit in Lafayette targeting top LCG officials — Durel, Stanley and Chief Craft were named as defendants — alleging “false imprisonment” and that his “good name” was tarnished by the arrest.

Stewart leaves the Lafayette Parish Courthouse in June 2013 following his conviction for simple battery.
Photo by Robin May

● In June 2013 Stewart was convicted of misdemeanor simple battery by Lafayette District Judge John Trahan for the punch that knocked Erin May unconscious. In rendering his verdict, Trahan agreed with the prosecutor representing the state Attorney General’s office that Stewart, over the course of a year of attacking The IND leading up to the Mardi Gras battery, never took responsibility for his actions. That, Trahan said, was a main reason he ordered Stewart to serve supervised probation: “Ordinarily I wouldn’t put this on a defendant with no criminal history,” Trahan said during sentencing, “but the man thinks he didn’t do anything wrong.”

● In early October of this year, according to filings with the state Ethic Board, Stewart was the sole donor ($25,000) to the newly formed Louisiana Victory Fund, which created two websites to attack Stanley. This was also about the time that a slimy telephone push poll targeting Stanley and promoting Robideaux was conducted. Stanley hired an Oregon firm to produce a robocall by his wife, KLFY news anchor Blue Rolfes, countering the misleading claims and lies in the push poll. LVF accused Stanley of using LCG resources to create the robocall and filed an ethics complain against him. (This newspaper has been unable to trace the push poll back to Stewart; it’s the only anti-Stanley campaign propaganda produced so far that does not have Stewart’s fingerprints directly on it.)

Stewart, left, and John Domingue, the sources behind Thursday's full-page ads in The Acadiana Advocate.

● The baseless ethics complaint against Stanley — we say baseless because Stanley produced the receipt for the Oregon company’s services and LCG proved that public-interest robocalls were issued by LCG at the time Victory Fund claims Stanley’s robocall was issued (when in fact it was issued at a later date) — is cited in one of two full-page ads in today’s Acadiana Advocate. Fine print on the ads shows they were paid for by Patrick Henry LLC, and filings with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office show that Patrick Henry LLC’s registered agent is John Domingue, vice president of Stewart’s real estate development company in Lafayette, and Stewart's company, Lake Charles Gardens of Delaware, is listed as the officer (along with his 207 Middleton Road address). Patrick Henry LLC registered with the state Oct. 9.

The full-page ads, like the push poll and websites created by Louisiana Victory Fund, are full of half-truths and distortions. In the ad offering a side-by-side comparison of Robideaux and Stanley, for example, Robideaux is identified as a “Life Long Republican.” In fact, Robideaux was a lifelong independent who switched to Republican just a few years ago in anticipation of his failed attempt to become speaker of the state House of Representatives. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Glenn Stewart, in background at left, attended a Joel Robideaux fundraiser in late September and has donated at least $1,000 to his campaign, according to financial disclosure statements.

If Joel Robideaux truly has no knowledge of what Stewart — who records show has donated at least $1,000 to his campaign — is up to and disagrees with his deceitful tactics, it's time for him to speak up. That's if it's not too late already, considering the election is two days out.