SADOW: Bossier Backyard Brawl Brings Risky Endorsement

The ripples from Louisiana’s attorney general wading into the cesspool of Bossier Parish politics are washing up on the shores of next year’s election for that office, at some political risk for Republican Bossier-Webster District Attorney Schuyler Marvin.

The Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District for years has courted controversy on a number of matters as it chronically has run a deficit and cut services. But perhaps it garnered the most headlines over the dual officeholding of one of its five commissioners, Robert Berry an appointee of the Bossier Parish Police Jury, also serving as its executive director and drawing a salary that represents over a sixteenth of the entire expenditures of the quasi-state agency.

Over two years ago, Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry’s office warned Berry it would act if he continued to hold both offices, as the Board appoints the executive director, following state law. Days later, Marvin did, suing to have Berry removed from one office or the other, if a violation existed.

But this is Bossier, and the vibes the AG’s office picked up weren’t reassuring that the DA’s office would pursue seriously the matter, so it filed its own suit a month later. That concern seemed especially trenchant when a couple of months later the DA agreed with Berry’s defense to put the matter up for summary judgment without seeing the inside of a courtroom. So, the AG’s office moved to intervene to force a trial, while also maintaining its separate suit.

As to the initial joined suit, Republican District Judge Charles Jacobs – now the city attorney for Bossier City – rather inexplicably ruled Berry didn’t violate dual officeholding law in observing his was just one of five votes to appoint, not understanding that one vote could be crucial in deciding an appointment. The separate suit then ran afoul of a double-jeopardy condition and then on appeal earlier this year both results were affirmed, dictated by minutiae in statute and code, shielding Berry from any further attempts to dislodge him from one office or the other.

Essentially, Landry got caught out by Bossier old school political elites unenthusiastic about his rocking the boat in their little neck of the woods, and able to use the legal system to keep Berry’s political position unmolested. However, repercussions of the matter persist.

Earlier this summer, Lincoln-Union Parish no party DA John Belton announced formally a bid for attorney general next year. Belton has risen to fame for his willingness to pursue whether criminal charges should come against members of the Louisiana State Police for the death of black motorist Ronald Greene, including potentially LSP administrators and elected officials for impeding investigation of the matter. He claims action will come soon, although Greene’s family sees Belton as part of a conspiracy to soft-pedal the entire matter.

That announcement countered a statement made months earlier by Belton that he would run only if Landry, widely anticipated to run for governor, officially desisted. Apparently, he couldn’t wait, as Landry still hasn’t announced, but his office’s solicitor general Liz Murrill already has launched a bid for his office, with Landry’s blessing.

And at Belton’s debut, there was Marvin, endorsing him. This means you have a Republican DA not only endorsing way in advance the election of a non-Republican candidate for AG but in the process also eschewing a quality Republican candidate allied with the current GOP AG who has a significant chance of becoming the next governor. To say this is going out on a political limb, if not additionally sawing it off between you and the tree, is an understatement.

As well as explainable as a consequence of Landry rattling Bossier cages. Ultimately meaning that if early favorites Landry for governor and Murrill for attorney general end up triumphing, Marvin can’t expect he’ll receive many favors from the state’s chief executive or top prosecutor for at least the next four years.

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