The current rendition of Louisiana family feud occurred when Landry announced the filing of a lawsuit.
Fighting for fairness and the rule of law, Attorney General Jeff Landry today filed a lawsuit against the Red River Waterway Commission and its two unlawful office holders.
"Today's legal action was done to ensure proper representation on the Red River Waterway Commission as dictated by law," said General Landry. "The law commands every region has a voice on this Commission; so my office and I are fighting for fairness to Northwest Louisiana."
The lawsuit, filed in Natchitoches Parish, details how Governor John Bel Edwards upset the Commission's balance when he unlawfully filled the vacancy created by the death of Mickey Prestridge. Despite the unanimous nomination of Carolyn Prator by the applicable nominating entities for the Caddo Parish vacancy – the Governor appointed Michael DeVille, a resident of Rapides Parish, as a member-at-large of the Commission; even though there was no at-large vacancy to which DeVille could be appointed.
General Landry brings this action in the name of the State of Louisiana as authorized and mandated by La. R.S. 42:76. Also named as an interested party is Prator, a long-time officer of the Caddo Levee Board who oversaw flood control during two floods of the Red River and the sole nominee submitted by the three nominating entities for the aforementioned vacancy. La. R.S. 42:79 requires that, when the suit is brought by the Attorney General under La. R.S. 42:76, the name of the person (Prator) shall be joined with the State as a plaintiff.
"While many have made this issue political, I remain consistent that this is solely about fairness and the rule of law," concluded General Landry. "Northwest Louisiana must be treated fairly and the law must be followed."
Among other remedies, the lawsuit requests orders from the court prohibiting the Red River Waterway Commission from recognizing DeVille as a member of the Commission and from recognizing and treating Ronald Lattier as the Caddo Parish member of the Commission.
Additionally, the lawsuit requests the court direct the Red River Waterway Commission to take all actions necessary and advisable to secure Prator's appointment to the Commission as the Caddo Parish member.
Later, the Office of the Governor released the following statement on the latest lawsuit filed by Attorney General Jeff Landry:
“This is typical Jeff Landry. He shoots first and aims later, except this time, he’s wasting taxpayer resources. It’s clear from reviewing his latest lawsuit that he has his facts wrong. 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.” – Richard Carbo, Office of the Governor
A full factsheet is available below:
- 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 (7 district seats and 4 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.
- Governor 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 a brief period, four months to be exact, Caddo had three representatives. After the passing of Mr. Mickey Prestridge on February 5, 2018, his seat became vacant. The governor filled his seat with Ronald Lattier from Caddo Parish, who had in fact been nominated by the Caddo Parish Commission. Mr. Lattier was confirmed by the Louisiana State Senate in the 2018 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 a total of 2 seats – 1 parish and 1 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.
- The applicable statute is Louisiana Revised Statutes 34:2303(D) which provides the pertinent part:
[W]ithin thirty days after occurrence of a vacancy prior to the expiration of the term of office of any member, the aforesaid respective nominating bodies so entitled shall, in the parish where appropriate, designate a nominee for the new term or to fill the vacancy.
- The nominating organizations include: Caddo Parish commission, the Red River Valley Association, and the Caddo Levee District.
- 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.