It’s really a bit amazing that it’s been three years since the fraudsters and thieves at the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging managed to insert an $8 million-per-year hosepipe into the wallets of the parish’s taxpayers, which came courtesy of what we now know was a rampage of violence done to the state’s campaign finance laws.
And that rape of the taxpayers, which passed in a close ballot initiative, came just before the chief executive of the EBRCOA Tasha Clark Amar got caught attempting to steal from a wealthy woman in her charge, resulting in a messy court case and a public furor which exposed the corruption of the North Baton Rouge political machine and its victimization of the black community it’s supposed to serve.
What shouldn’t be forgotten amid that history, and our bet is it won’t be forgotten by voters particularly in the southern past of East Baton Rouge Parish, is that the EBRCOA’s success at getting $8 million in tax dollars to fuel a get-out-the-vote operation for that North Baton Rouge machine disguised as services for the elderly – it was at EBRCOA’s meeting hall, after all, where Maxine Waters alighted to demand the impeachment of the President of the United States on Friday – came courtesy of a vote by the Baton Rouge Metro Council.
Before that tax to fuel the Council on Aging could go into effect, it had to pass the Metro Council – as the ballot issue merely empowered the Council to levy it. And it did, thanks to a deciding vote by a member who now faces the voters in an attempt to become a state legislator. From 2017…
Metro Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg says it was the threat of a lawsuit that caused her to come off the fence at Wednesday’s meeting and cast the deciding vote to levy a dedicated 2.25-mill property tax that voters approved roughly seven months ago.
Freiberg, a Republican representing areas south of LSU, had abstained from several votes on the COA, citing concerns over the agency’s leadership and seemingly endless series of controversies. But after the Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson warned council members the city-parish could be sued if they delayed levying the tax again, Freiberg cast the seventh ‘yes’ vote required for the measure to pass.
“It was a very very hard vote,” Freiberg says. “When it was confirmed that we would be sued if we didn’t take an action to levy something, and we had three minutes left, I felt that was the route I needed to take.”
So if you threaten a frivolous lawsuit, she’ll vote to screw taxpayers out of $8 million a year in perpetuity rather than fight for fiscal sanity and reeling in rampant corruption.
This was the compounding of a mistake, mind you. The Metro Council blew it when the tax was allowed to go in front of the voters in the first place, and it passed thanks to every dirty trick in the book being played on the voters – including the mixing of funds earmarked for regular COA business with the campaign to pass that tax. By June of 2017 when the vote to levy the tax came to pass it was already known that the COA was rife with misappropriation and mismanagement, not to mention Clark’s attempted theft from one of her clients, and Freiberg still voted to levy the tax.
There hasn’t been an election in Baton Rouge since in which any consequences could be laid down on anyone for the Council on Aging mess, which was one of the most blatant middle fingers to the taxpaying public this city has ever seen.
Not until now.
Freiberg has a Republican opponent in Michael DiResto, who has been endorsed by several business groups. There is an insane left-wing Democrat in the race, an LSU professor named Belinda Davis who is part of the Together Baton Rouge crowd.
It would seem like the voters of District 70 have a relatively easy choice to make on Oct. 12. One would hope, out of simple political hygeine if nothing else, that they choose wisely.